The Skyclad or Naked Initiation

In this type of ritual common to covens which practise the goddess-oriented variety of witchcraft, the ceremony is performed by the high priest if the candidate is a woman, the high priestess if it is a man. As in the previous ritual, the circle should be cast by watchtower, and the candidate blindfolded at the perimeter, challenged by the initiator at sword or Athame point, and the passwords of "perfect love and perfect trust" given. The candidate is then pulled into the circle backwards by his initiator, who has her left arm around his waist, her right arm around the neck, and given the third password, a kiss. The breach created in the circle is then repaired with the Athame, and the candidate bound with a cingulum and ankle cord as previously. He is then led round the circle and proclaimed to the east, south, west, and north Watchtowers as a prospective candidate for admission. At this point the charge of the goddess is made to the candidate by the high priestess. It is claimed to be traditional, and because of that, I shall quote it in full:

Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who was of old called among men Artemis, Astarte, Dione, Melusine, Aphrodite, and many other names. At mine altars the youth of Lacedaemon made due sacrifice. Once a month and better it be when the moon is full, meet in some secret place and adore me, who am the queen of all magics.

There assemble, and to those who would learn sorcery, I will teach things yet unknown. And you shall be free, and as a sign that you be really so, be naked in your rites, dance, sing, feast, make music and love. All in my praise, for I am a gracious goddess, who gives joy upon earth, certainty, not faith, while in life; and upon death peace unutterable, rest and the ecstacy of the goddess. Nor do I demand aught in sacrifice, for behold, I am the mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the earth!

The candidate, still clasped by the waist, is then led around the circle with a skipping step and, south of the altar after eleven knells on a small bell have been rung, has the fivefold kiss bestowed upon him or her by the initiator.

Kissing the feet: "Blessed be thy feet that have brought thee in these ways." Kissing the knees: "Blessed be thy knees that shall kneel at the holy altar."

Kissing the phallus or vagina: "Blessed by thy organ of generation without which we would not be." Kissing the breasts: "Blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty and in strength." Kissing the lips: "Blessed be thy lips that shall utter the sacred names."

The candidate then kneels at the altar, and the cable tow is tied closely to a ring set therein, thus forcing him or her over into a crouching position. The feet are also bound together at this point, and he is asked whether he will always be "true to the art." If he answers affirmatively, a knell of three, seven, nine, and twenty-one strokes is rung, and the candidate is then "purified," or flagellated with forty strokes of a whip made of cords, the scourge of art. After he makes an earnest promise to always help and defend his brothers and sisters of the art, the oath is then administered; this oath does not differ substantially from the one outlined in the first ritual.

The candidate's feet and eyes are then unbound and the triangle consecration is performed, anointing the phallus or vagina, right breast, left breast, and genital organ again, first with Sabbat oil, then with consecrated wine, and finally with a kiss, naming the candidate priest or priestess and witch in the process.

Finally, the new initiate's hands are unbound, the working tools are presented in turn, with a kiss for each, and he is presented to the four quarters, saluted at each in the name of the gods as newly made priest or priestess and witch.

A second degree or grade is sometimes bestowed to elevate the witch in the coven hierarchy and enable him or her to form his own coven, which differs only from the first in that the candidate, though bound, remains unhoodwinked, gives no passwords, and joins in the initial ceremonies and chants. After an oath on "his mother's womb," he or she is consecrated by the pentacle as opposed to triangle; this involves anointing with oil, wine, and lips the genital organ, right breast, left hip, right hip, left breast, and genital organ again, in that order; an inverted pentacle, in fact. The new initiate, after being empowered by the laying on of the initiator's hands, is then instructed in the use of the magical implements and also in the mysteries of the return-in-threefold witch law, whether it be used for good or evil, blessing or cursing. By dint of this, the ceremony concludes with the new initiate scourging his initiator with thrice as many blows as he himself received, namely, one hundred and twenty in all. He is then presented to the powers at the four quarters as a duly consecrated high priest and wizard, or high priestess and queen of the Sabbat, whichever the case may be.

In the second ritual, instead of the progress of the aspirant through the four elements, the myth of the goddess is implied, where the witch goddess Andred, Aradia, Habondia, or whatever other name you may care to know her by, descends into the world of the dead somewhat like Persephone in Hades or Ishtar in the realm of Ereshkigal, and receives the scourge and fivefold kiss of the Horned God of Death and subsequent conferment of power. Sometimes this myth itself is enacted during the initiation rite, in the manner of a mystery, but this is a supernumerary addition, the myth itself being implicit in the entire initiation ceremony.

As you can see, both rituals have many things in common, as well as their considerable differences, all or any of which can be incorporated into an initiation ceremony by the resourceful practitioner; he should also include any additional coven symbolism required. As always, it remains a matter of personal choice and intuition as to what is included and what left out, what bias the ritual should have -knowledge and power with its Hermetic overtones or love and joy with its Dionysian ones.

Evolve your coven emblems first, and the rest will follow naturally. The central idea to adhere to is one of the purification and regeneration of the candidate, symbolized by the impositions and removal of the blindfold and ligature, leading to his enlightenment and acceptance by the leaders by and for the entire coven.

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Responses

  • Rita
    Do covens require you to get naked for initiations?
    2 years ago
  • Belba Bolger
    How to do a skyclad ceremony?
    1 year ago

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