Thursday, October 1, 2009

First Degree Initiation; Part One

Earlier on this blog I posted a series of dreams that I had that reflected strongly my call to pursue initiation in my Wiccan Pagan community. (see tags : dreams, initiation) About two weeks ago I received my First Degree. I will be posting some blog posts on the Initiation and how it went, what it has meant, and what comes next...So this particular post might aptly be sub-titled:

Part One: "In Which We survive planning the blasted thing!"

I want to give an account of some of the craziness leading up to the initiation itself. There is a degree of humor here as was a little nuts in places! Perhaps it will give hope to others on this path who are dealing with the process...that even if it looks insane, not to give up.

Three people were involved in my degree process...Dreamweaver (of course), my friend Priestess - who was present at all of Dreamweaver's degrees, a nice piece of continuity, and she ran the Circle - and my friend Hermit - third degrees all in their spheres and traditions.

I had let be known that, while my first degree was vastly important to me, going all out for "high church" ceremony was not expected (the term "high church" being a bit of a joke on my being Episcopalian as well!). I know how tight every one's time and finances are - Hermit literally has no circle garb at all. For her comfort level alone I would have been perfectly content to have stood there in my blue jeans. However, Priestess has a life time of robes and circle garb in her closets - Hermit was promptly be-robed the second she walked in the door!

There were funny moments - originally, Priestess had called me the week before on Thursday, and asked when did I want to do my First, as she was completely satisfied with work I have put into a long preparatory past heading for the moment. My schedule being such that it is - insane, particularly if you factor in Dreamweavers schedule (goes to work a 4 am and it goes down hill from there!) I thought about the way the month was to play out and said, OK....Saturday. She said "Great!" So we talked a minute about some nuts and bolts type scheduling and it suddenly became evident she was thinking "Saturday a week from now". I broke in and said, "No, no, THIS Saturday."

(Long extended silence on the phone)
Very small voice from my Priestess "Why do you hate me?"

After some back and forth on dates and schedules, at that moment we went ahead and decided for THAT Saturday, 2 days away. Priestess now in full blown panic mode. Then we started discussing some points of the ritual. She trotted out a few things she was going to throw in. And I balked.

Me: "Absolutely not!"
Priestess: "But..."
Me: "NO!"

(Irresistible force meets immovable object - tickets on sale, one day only, get your popcorn here.)

She wanted to include my being bound and blindfolded for the ritual - which I was opposed to.
After a fair go around on the subject, we finally got out of head butting mode - friendly, it wasn't a fight - and calmed down enough to discuss it. After hearing her reasons for including certain things, and after she heard my reasons for NOT including them, she actually dropped those elements from the ritual. She viewed this as symbolizing my leaving the past behind, whereas I felt that since I was not leaving my "past" behind, but was to continue walking a dual spiritual path (Episcopalian/Wiccan) that the binding and the blindfold were not appropriate for me. So...that got resolved all right!

Huge sigh of relief on my part...and then was more than a little guilty. One simply does not dictate to ones Priestess. It's not respectful! I was embarrassed. On the other hand, said elements ran counter to what I am, and truly did not fit, which to her everlasting credit, once we got out of the "But-NO!" mode, she instantly saw what I was saying and agreed with me. I did apologize to her very humbly.
We got some ground work laid and got off the phone.

20 minutes later my phone rang again and it was Hermit. I answered and was IMMEDIATELY greeted with - not "Hello..." or "Priestess called and told me about your degree ceremony and asked me to participate..." No, I hit answer on my phone and started to say, "Hi, Hermit!" when I was blasted off my seat by:


Picking up my now slagged and melted phone I tentatively and intelligently said "Um...what?"
Turned out there was no way Hermit could make it on such short notice. Period. After calming her down, and texting Dreamweaver as I talked to see if our schedule could be re-manuvered - it could - I caved in and set it for the less convenient date of the following Saturday. I then spend the next few hours trying to get Priestess back on the phone before she stroked out planning everything out for 2 days later to let her know I was bowing to the inevitable and agreeing to Saturday a week away. It turned out to truly be easier on all involved, despite the scramble on our schedule, so I am glad I did so. I do occasionally let my enthusiasm get the better of me. And there is another factor involved...most Circles, even big ones, that I have been in have been unscripted, or loosely scripted, which has worked very well. Priestess profoundly prefers a tightly scripted Circle with everything written out, for even small Circles. You can see how we wound up tangled! For that matter, as good as I am on my feet in circle without a script, *I* would probably script a Degree Ceremony of any level to some degree. her the week was a lot kinder. Altho, once they forgave me for raising their blood pressures so profoundly, it has been a point of high hilarity among us. So that all worked out OK in the end.
Truthfully, giving myself the week to meditate, think, journal and prepare was very necessary, and I would have shorted myself profoundly if I had insisted on the first date.

I was required to find 4 things to bring to the circle that for me represented, symbolically, the four elements. I found over the course of the week a beautiful river stone that had 3 striated lines in it that represented earth. For air, I chose a huge red tailed hawk feather. (for about a week on my college campus this summer I kept finding these enormous hawk feathers, in roughly the same spot. Do not know why...hoping nothing happened to the hawk, but I kept having this mental image of a naked hawk very embarrassed somewhere! Hope they were simply sheds!) For water, I went through the beach shells we have collected, mostly off the coast of N.C. and found a beautiful spiral shaped shell! And for fire, I chose a piece of obsidian - the molten glass cooled from volcanic lava. I was very excited about this.

Then the next funny conversation occurred between me and my priestess.
Priestess: "Anything that you want to put on the altar that has meaning for you, particularly circle tools, please bring them. Do you have an athame, by the way?"
Me: "Oh yes, white handled deers antlered for the, should I bring the swords?"
(Long silence.)
Priestess: "Well, you shouldn't be using swords."
Me, suddenly feeling very nervous: "Um...but I already have..."
Priestess: "When have you have two!? Are they consecrated?"
Me in a small voice: "Uh...yeah...the big one I used in the warlocking you ran that I backed you and Truthteller up in. Dedicated that one for that purpose, and then cleared it completely, re-dedicated it, and have used it ever since in circles. And I used it to ward with in your Croning..."
Priestess: "Oh...I remember that sword...what about the other one?"
Me: (in an even smaller voice) "The other one is the one I used when I Priest-ed the Winter Solstice Circle with Dreamweaver as Priestess, for Star's were there...I drew the Circle with it."
Priestess: "Oh. Um. Yes, you did, didn't you...(another long silence, deep sigh) Ok, bring the swords!"

I think, at this point I am lucky my priestess did not throw me back for being a big pain in the ass, however unintentional! *head desk thud* (note: in many traditions, swords are only allowed to 3rd Degrees. Part of the situation is that I have been functioning as a 3rd Degree Priest for a number of years, without the Degree ceremonies. Hence why I need to go ahead and get this done!)

The next interesting moment was the conversation on my dual path. I am Christian and Wiccan - Episcopagan as we term it. My Priest at my Episcopal church knows this. It was discussed before I was confirmed as an Episcopalian, and Father M. has been wonderful about acknowledging that duality, even at times referring to Deity as Goddess from the pulpit! Dreamweaver wears her pentacle to take communion. And in the pagan community I have come up through, my fellow Pagans/Wiccans have made likewise efforts to include Christianity in Circles when I have been present. I felt strongly that both my paths should be acknowledged. It's important to me. So...we wound up having a triple wick candle on the altar to represent my Christian path, and I did the invocation for that as a part of the Circle.

The point where my poor Priestess finally hit her "Absolutely NOT!" moment was the inclusion of a Fey call. The group I was in some years back that I circled with included a candle for the Fey, and an Invitation to them in Circle. The premise is that they ARE going to show up...freaking invite them! The fairytale of Sleeping Beauty ( and no, not the Disney Version, although it has the same point to it!) has a good point. Don't stint on inviting the Fey. You can set a Circle to deal with both the Seelie and the Unseelie, but but not inviting them can for the unpredictable! (remind me to post the tale of when Dreamweaver and I got Pixie led all the way off our map after a big Gathering....we wound up in an all night McDonalds at about 3 am with our useless map spread out on the counter, beginning with the words, "Ok, what STATE are we in?" We finally got home about 5:00 am. LOL! Hear my lesson - don't stint the Fey folk! ) This is not a part of Priestess' traditions though and frankly, as she told me, completely weirded her out every time we used to do it. We worked out a compromise - the Fey had an offering placed out side the house for them, and we did not do a Circle fey call. My priestess graciously gave in on what was weirding me turn!

The final visit from the screw up Fairy came the day of the ceremony (hastily moved inside to Priestess's gorgeous altar room due to pouring rain) when I realized that at the last moment, before leaving to go over guessed it. We had forgotten something. (this is not surprising - with our combined insane schedules, I have days when I have to check what year it is!) And of course the forgotten item was the Initiatory Cord for my Degree - a Green Cord. In the pouring rain I slogged off to a hobby store (after Walmart failed to have the blasted things). My intention was to get all 3 Cords at once so that as I go through my other 2 initiations, the cords will match in type, size and length and color shade.

Well...the hobby store had only one cord, that fit what I needed and it was green, but they had nothing else I could pick up for the other two. I grabbed it anyway, now getting close to being late. Please understand - I am not known for running on Pagan standard time and tend to be fairly punctual. Got back on the road in the downpour, wishing that I had a small boat as other cars bobbed by me in the next lane! And of course, I had chosen the hobby store above Priestess house with the idea that it would save time and I would just drop down the road and over to where I was heading.

I underestimated the level of traffic snarls and sheer weight of metal sitting bumper to bumper between the rows of strip malls and shops. This is September. NOT December! It's pouring rain! There is an economic down turn - you people aren't supposed to have money to shop! Where did you all come from!? After inching my way down the road to the next traffic light for awhile, I realized I was now officially late to my own First Degree Ceremony...

Cell phone communication occurred, several times. Everyone else was already there. I inched another fifty feet. It is still pouring rain. The nearest car has hoisted a small sail and a school of fish swam by, as the light changed....repeat for several miles of stop and go traffic....

I did eventually get there...soaking wet and looking like a drowned red-headed rat.

And that will be the subject of the next series of posts.

Seriously, anyone out there who is getting their degrees, or joining the (fill in the blank) or any life transitioning event - don't let craziness and snafu's get you down. You will survive it - and the joy is worth every minute!


  1. LOL wish I could have been there.

  2. I wish we could have been there too! We had an interesting time at Mabon with the Druids, though. Boo was absolutely fascinated with the fire!