Traditional Witchcraft and the Occult: What is Initiation?
by Sophia diGregorio
There are two basic types of initiation:
1) Initiation into a group, religious or secular in which you learn more about the organization, more responsibilities or degrees. This kind of initiation is largely symbolic of information and knowledge that is to come.
2) Initiation by the acquisition of knowledge about the occult – includes personal research, study and experimentation. This kind of initiation does not involve a ceremony, but it is a true initiation into the occult.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is a very good example of how initiation works in free masonic groups, covens and other secret societies. We can see how it worked because the Golden Dawn was intentionally transparent unlike its predecessors or most other such contemporary organizations.
In the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn’s original organization, initiates were both ceremonially initiated into the order and subsequently initiated to various levels of it, however, they were, also, expected to undergo a specific course of study in order to graduate to each level. But, you do not have to be an ceremonial initiate into the Golden Dawn, any other Hermetic order or a coven to become an initiate into traditional witchcraft and the occult.
You can do it yourself.
Now, when I say you can do it yourself, I don’t mean this the same way Raymond Buckland meant it when he said it. (Buckland was an earlier Wiccan author who advocated self-initiation into the Wiccan religion.) You can skip right over any ceremony and right onto true initiation by making your own personal study into the occult.
All true initiation is self-initiation because study, research and experimentation are the only ways to truly know the truth about witchcraft and the occult. This is not something that can be conferred in any ceremony or by any coven leader, master or guru.
The Meaning of the Word “Profane”
The word, “profane,” is derived from the Latin words, “pro fanum,” meaning “outside the temple.” This word has evolved to mean a lot of different things, but in witchcraft it simply means a non-initiate or a person who lacks the knowledge to understand the true meaning of something.
To the profane certain works read differently than they do to the initiate. For example, as you make your personal study of the Kabbalah and initiate yourself into that knowledge, you will find that works by authors who belonged to Hermetic organizations read very differently than they did before you had that knowledge. As another example, the Bible used by the Christians, especially the New Testament and some of the last books of the Old Testament, also, reads differently after a study of the Kabbalah, which may explain why it seems so contradictory with just a superficial reading. The purpose of the book does not seem to be what most religious folks think it is.
Your understanding of the tarot, astrology and things related to Western alchemy, also, appear completely different to someone who has initiated himself or herself into the esoteric sciences. Things that once appeared arbitrary or nonsensical now appear to make logical sense.
Importance of True Witchcraft Initiation
Unfortunately, a lot of ego is often involved in the concept of initiation and degrees of mastery in formal organizations. Covens and other initiatory orders can become playgrounds for narcissists and more often than not the social dynamics of such organizations often gets in the way of a person’s true witchcraft initiation, which cannot be conferred by another person and can only be attained through diligent study and personal experimentation.
For this reason, independent study is usually the best method of attaining true witchcraft initiation. The leadership of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, who recognized the dawning of this new age and the easy availability of published material to a relatively educated public, rendered most of the functions of initiatory orders irrelevant.
Now, anyone can find the writings of the Hermeticists and study witchcraft and occult subjects entirely on their own. There is no need to find an order or coven or look for a master or guru because this is literally a new age. You how have the power and ability to initiate yourself through the acquisition of knowledge, once held for only a select few, which is now readily available to anyone who seeks it out.