In the Beginning (Remembering My First Ritual)

Jul 26th, 2018 | By | Category: Articles

Everybody remembers his or her first time, right? That first kiss, magickal or not. The first time you drove a long-distance trip without your parents. Right? Well, this post is about one of those first-time moments, and for me, it was definitely not one of those “magickal” moments. This is about my first group ritual and it is honestly not a flattering aspect in regards to me. However, it is a nice showcase of where I have come from since that late 1987 moment. First, let us set up some of the backgrounds to all of this.

The idea for this came about from a Facebook status post. Cat Treadwell had mentioned something about a first-time ritual, and I accepted the challenge of writing my own version of that. I will admit, I had been searching for a topic to write about, and this came up unexpectedly. I usually take that as a potential sign from the Gods (or a challenge, if you will), and stepped towards the idea without thinking about where I was headed. Moreover, as memorable as a first that it could be, I had to retrace many steps to get there because it is a part of my past that I tend to overlook. Granted it is quite a few years in the past, and at fifty-two (nearly fifty-three), my memory is not all that it is meant to be.

Additionally, as I thought about all of the parts that make up this journey, it dawned on me that I would be talking about an initiation ceremony. Therefore, in writing this, I have been quite careful not to reveal details of the overall ceremony. You see, a mystery tradition is mean to have mysteries. Openly discussing those mysteries, such as initiation ceremonies, spoils that aspect for future initiates. Even though I am not sure if any mystery tradition does practice what was utilized in the ceremony, there is also the aspect of keeping secrets as secret. Know what I mean? Thus, there are some aspects that I have completely eliminated from the overall narrative.

Photo by John Beckett during 2018 Hearthstone ADF Imbolc Retreat

Going into the ceremony, I was aware that it was going to happen – after all I had been told it would. This was a Wiccan initiation, by the way. I knew that my High Priest and High Priestess would be there. I was comfortable with them. I knew them. Still, I had the typical feelings of nervousness. Was I about to be sacrificed to some evil God or Goddess, like the Southern Baptists that I had come from to this Path had told me would happen in ceremonies like this? No. I knew better than that. Still, it did come up in the back of my mind. Could I be rejected for not saying the right things at the challenge? I had read about the challenge process in a couple of books, and while I didn’t know it would be there, I knew it was a possibility. How would I know how to answer the challenge question? No one had told me what it would be or even if there was a challenge. My apprehension on that point grew. I felt like I needed to know some secret handshake to enter – one that I would not be taught. I either knew it instinctively or I didn’t. Maybe it was a popularity contest at the door? My High Priest and High Priestess would deliberate over my worthiness to enter. How would I know whether or not I passed that kind of muster?

When I arrived at their home, I was ushered to a back bedroom/study and told to have a seat on the floor. Then I was told to ground and center myself to prepare for what would come. I did as I was told, except I had no idea what grounding and centering was. My mind panicked, thinking this was the test. If I did not ground and center, they would know – and I would be out. After a few minutes, I told my brain to ‘shut the eff up’ and proceeded to just sit quietly while trying to calm my nerves. And I sat. For what felt like a lifetime. With no clocks in the room, I had no smart-phone or cell-phone in 1987, and I wore no watch. What was likely a 15-minute wait felt like the steady melting of a glacier.

At last, another coven member that I vaguely knew approached me. I thought this odd because I knew my High Priest and High Priestess were going to be in this ceremony. Neither had mentioned anyone else. She asked me to stand, grinned widely, and blindfolded me. ‘That’s just great,’ I thought to myself, ‘There are going to be other people in on this.’ My anxiety level shot up several hundred-fold. I had not been around the other coven members often, so my familiarity with them was not that great. All I could think of now was looking like a buffoon to people that were strangers to me, as I was lead through the hallways of the house.

When she finally laid a hand on my chest to stop my forward progress, I was told that my shirt would need to be removed. That was an odd request to me. I was unprepared for that, but I was determined to go through with the initiation. I nodded my consent. I was then told, actually whispered into my ear, that my hands had to be restrained behind my back. Another odd request; however, it was their ballgame. I had not been advised of the rules. Then I had two whispers – one in each ear. “Don’t worry,” in the left ear from my coven-mate, and “Trust us,” in the right ear from my High Priestess. A short moment later, I felt my belt-buckle on my jeans loosen, and scant seconds later, I was starkers. I was told, much later, that I turned an extreme beet-red in my face. No one had told me that the coven did their rites skyclad. My anxiety went over-the-hill at that point.

The rest of the ceremony, I will say went quite well. Especially for an initiate who knew nothing about where and what he was about to do. Merely that he was about to make a change in his Spiritual life that was radically different from where he had been before. Later, my coven mate told me there was a slight debate over how they were going to get me to disrobe. “You’re such a prude,” she commented in the conversation. Moreover, thinking about it, she was right. I was an extremely shy 21-year old, who had been taught the same Victorian principles of body-shame when it came to the nude form as anyone else had. Maybe more so with my upbringing in all-boys Catholic schools. The initial idea was for her to show up skyclad when she came to get me from the bedroom/study and ask me to disrobe. It was discarded because no one knew how I would react to that. I, honestly, would have been scared straight out of the door if that had happened. The second point was to do as they had; though, they were equally afraid that I would have viciously protested. Honestly, I was too shocked to even realize that I would have protested otherwise. Furthermore, to place it out of anyone’s mind – nothing of any sexual aspect happened nor would it have been allowed to, as I found out when I was given a part in two other initiations. Anyone thinking that such a thing would have happened needs to check their dirty mind at the door.

Looking back, a lot of the anxiety had a purpose behind it. I was taking a step into an unknown direction. That change was a foreign moment to me. The Path where my steps would fall next was something I couldn’t fathom directly nor should I have been able to. Walking barefoot on the Path, I will feel the sharp edges of stones half-buried in the ground. I will feel the soothing, sun-warmed sands underneath the bottom of my feet. That same sun-warmed sand will burn under other circumstances. Parts of my Path has led me through the depths of the forest, where no Path is found. Sticks, pinecones, and nettles have bruised and battered my steps as the obstructions that they are. Just as the soft caress of ferns have helped sooth those same steps where they are found. Cool streams are available from time to time for me to soak my tired feet – allowing for rest along the journey. But not one bit of that will be known until I took those first hesitant steps through the initiation.

All I can really say is that initiations are always different – even when performed at the same time as others. That is because the experience is individual, even when a group is involved. The initiate’s experience will be unique while having similarities to others. I have had quite a few initiations of my own. I have had the pleasure of being part of the same experience for others as well. Each has been unique, yet with the similar structures that are there. Each initial step by an adherent is unique to them and is kept so through the perspective of the mysteries of the initiation. I cannot stress enough how important it is to keep mysteries a mystery. Because initiations are those special “firsts” that happen on a Path. Moreover, those “firsts” are lifetime memories. What I have shared here goes right up to the start of the initiation process for this Wiccan tradition. To share more of that experience would spoil what is their initiatory mystery. I would hate to steal that experience from anyone. Even when I am unsure if this tradition is even practiced anywhere.

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