Your initiation ritual will mark the ceremonial request for admission and consequent acceptance of a prospective member into the coven. As such, it is a type of ritual common to all secret societies, and indeed most of them generally have many elements in common. The magical reasons behind such a ritual are those of acceptance of the individual into the coven group mind. Inasmuch as the candidate's individual interests fit into harmonious rapport with the aims and ideals inherent in the coven, so in the same measure will he be able to draw from the coven "energy pool."
Those ceremonies performed at Esbats are just as valid however, though usually of a less spectacular nature.
In accord with the magical orientation of the coven, so will the initiation ritual, and indeed all the other rites, differ. Because of this factor, coven initiation ceremonies such as they exist today contain many divergencies from one another. In fact, it would be almost true to say that there are as many different witch cults as there are covens!
Some covens follow formal Cabalistic and Hermetic patterns of ceremonial, while others advocate the more exuberant "cult-of-freedom-and-love" approach of G. B. Gardner and his followers, concentrating on naked worship of the goddess seen as the Great Mother. Still others return to the medieval preoccupation with the Horned One and all his attributes, while yet another group will return to Celtic fundamentals, concerning themselves with ancient Druidic lore. (Druidic in the sense that W. B. Yeats understood the word, as a shaman or wizard rather than priest of a solar cult.)
Here are the rudiments of two types of initiation ceremony. The first is of the sort used by those covens who work "robed" and concentrate more on matters of knowledge and power directing their energies toward the more "male" aspect of the godhead. The second represents the type used by those covens who work naked, directing their energies to the healing and love aspects of the cult, concentrating more upon the goddess. You may use which you wish and incorporate those elements you feel to be most in accord with the basic attitude of your coven entity.
The first initiation process is one which holds more in common with the witch cult as it existed in medieval Europe. It should take place at one of the eight Sabbats, ideally one of the grand Sabbats, Beltane or Hallows. The idea behind both this and the following process is one of purification and release of the candidate from mundane ties, in much the same way as you would exorcise an object before making magic with it.
This first process, which is performed robed, uses the device of ceremonial purifications of fire, air, earth, and water. However, the second, performed naked, makes use of that of scourging, or flagellation, likewise as a symbol of purification. I am bound to add, however, many tradition-minded witches feel that this second method, though peculiar to certain aspects of later Roman versions of the Greek mysteries, seems to be more bound up with English "public school" and "spankers' club" traditions than any inherent in the craft itself. To be beaten, whether symbolically or in actuality, does not by any means arouse in everyone the same feelings of glowing inner cleanliness or spiritual tone-up that it apparently did for a Nordic warrior, cloistered medieval monk, English public school boy, or sky-clad witch.
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