Once a person has been studying Wicca long enough to have a feeling of having found home - a feeling of belonging, comfort and a sense that this is probably going to be a life-long study, then they may begin to think about conducting some type of ceremony or ritual to make this decision to commit themselves to Wicca official. If they are studying alone the ceremony may be done alone. If they have been studying with a few friends, the friends may create a ritual where, as a group, they declare their intentions to the gods. This ceremony is called a rite of Self Dedication and is a celebration of the rite of passage of officially declaring to yourself that you are following the path of Wicca.
New Wiccans may be anxious to be initiated but this is a much more serious step which should only be considered when the seeker has studied long enough (usually a year or more) with a group with whom they feel completely at ease and compatible. Initiation is like a marriage between the student, the gods and the group who conducts the initiation. It is intended to last a life time. It is not merely an acknowledgement of joining a group but also an opportunity for mysteries to be revealed to the student.
We acknowledge that there is some confusion and disagreement on the use of the term initiation. As a traditional Wiccan coven, Blue Moon Wicca maintains the traditional, accepted use of the term as do all other traditional covens and groups. A coven initiation is performed on and for the initiate by a High Priest and/or High Priestess along with other initiated members of the coven who were, themselves initiated in the same way. We hear many self-taught and eclectic Wiccans declare that they are initiated by the gods so they do not need to be initiated by a group in order to be declared an initiate. Acceptance by the gods is definitely an important part of the growth of every Wiccan. Sometimes a student does go through an experience where they meet with a god and/or goddess and their relationship with deity begins. It would not, however, be properly called a Self Initiation because, again, this is not a rite that can be performed by you on yourself.
There is a third use of the word initiation and that is as it relates to intiation into the Mysteries - which is the purpose of an initiatory, mystery path such as Wicca. See our page on Enlightenment and Magic for further information. Initiation into the Mysteries is an ongoing process, not a one time event.
Rituals for Self Dedication can be found in many books. Scott Cunningham offers a good, simple one in his book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. You can read several different Self Dedication rituals and combine elements to create your own, or design it completely from scratch using those in the books as a guideline.
Following are some elements which have been included in Self Dedication rituals:
Preparation - You may want to make tools, an altar cloth, a robe or other special items for your Self Dedication ritual. None of this is necessary but will add to special feel the experience. There may be parts of the ritual you want to memorize, but if this is difficult do not feel bad if you must write some or all of it down. We suggest that you write it by hand on nice paper rather than bringing a computer printed page into ritual. The way we achieve a feeling of being outside of time and space in ritual is by leaving those things which mark our ordinary, everyday existence. You may also want to choose a new name for yourself which you will use only in ritual. Do not feel pressured to pick one that will be perfect for you forever. People often change magical or circle names as they progress through their studies. Having a special name which you use only in ritual helps add to the special, magical feeling. Do not be tempted to use your magical name in your e-mail or on-line communications, nor should you use your on-line nick name as a magical name. Again, the idea is to leave behind the everyday world as you enter the special space of a magical circle.
Purification - This can include purifying and defining the space in which the ritual will take place, purifying yourself, and purifying the clothes, tools and other items which will be used in the ritual. Suggestions for spiritual cleansing and purifying can be found in any basic Wicca book. Do not over look physical cleaning though! Take a bath, polish your tools, sweep and dust the room (or, if working out doors pick up litter). The idea is you are making a fresh start in your life and also, you want to show the gods that you are serious.
Introductions - The main point of Self Dedication is to introduce yourself to the god(s) and goddess(s). At this point you do not have to have chosen a particular god and goddess to work with. You may not even be clear on who or what they are. What you will be declaring in your Self Dedication ritual is a desire to get to know them and to understand what you can do for them. You may also want to take this opportunity to introduce yourself to the elementals (Air, Fire, Water, Earth). Again, you do not need to have a full understanding of the nature of the elements at this point. You need only to have a desire to get to know them better.
Promises - At the very least a Self Dedication rite will include a promise to the god and goddess that you want to get to know them and that you want to understand what it fully means to be Wiccan, and that you will do your best to learn how to honor them and the Earth. Sometimes more specific promises are made during a Self Dedication ritual such as a vow to recycle, do volunteer work, read a certain number of books, meditate on a regular basis or anything else which seems appropriate to you. You may also want to made promises to each individual Element. See Class 5 for a chart of elemental correspondences which may give you some ideas for promises you can make to each Element.
Offerings - Many rituals, including one of Self Dedication, will include an offering of food and drink which is shared between the gods and the participant(s) in the ritual. This is usually in the form of wine or juice and some type of cookie, bread or cake. Fruit or nuts are good alternatives. Sometimes milk or water are substituted for the wine or juice. Incense is also considered an offering to both the gods and the Element of Air. Those offerings or parts of offerings which are not consumed by you can be placed outside under a tree, buried in the ground or placed into a stream or the ocean. If circumstances make it impossible for you to place parts of your offerings outside you can offer them symbolically by holding them in your hands and declaring that you are offering them, and then consuming them yourself so that nothing is wasted.
Journaling - If you have not yet begun to keep a journal of journey into Wicca or have not yet begun a Book of Shadows, your Self Dedication ritual is a good time to begin this discipline. You may want to keep track of such things as when you do rituals, the books or other information which inspired you, what you did, the tools and incense you used and how you felt about what you did.
In this section we will focus on initiation into a coven. If you are working as a solitary and believe that you have been initiated by the gods themselves you may be able to verify if your experience is the same or similar to that of coven initiation by discussing your experiences with an open-minded High Priest or High Priestess of a traditional coven. Of course you are also free to simply enjoy your experience whatever it is. You do not need to feel you have to explain or justify it to anyone else.
Joining a coven is something which should not be undertaken lightly. We suggest reading all of the following pages thoroughly if you are contemplating making this move: What is a Coven?, Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Craft, How to find the right coven or teacher, Responsibilities of the Initiator, and How to start a Coven.
A few points to consider when joining a coven and proceeding with initiation:
The High Priest and High Priestess should answer all questions about their back ground (including who their teachers are/were) and the rules of the coven happily. They can not be expected to answer specifics on rituals but should be able to answer general questions.
There should be an air of mutual respect among the members of the coven. While in a traditional coven the High Priest and High Priestess have the final word they should not appear to wield this position with glee at having power over others. They should have the respect of the members if they have earned this respect. If you find members talking behind each other's backs or behind the back's of the High Priest and High Priestess then this is not a healthy coven.
Non-initiates should not be invited to attend initiation rituals. Nor would a first degree initiate attend a second or third degree initiation, etc. If the coven you are investigating does not adhere to this custom then the High Priest and High Priestess have a lack of training and understanding on the degree system.
Initiation rituals are not discussed except among initiates. Covens which talk freely about the particulars of an initiation ritual are lacking in the knowledge of the import of the ritual.
An exception to all of the above will be found in newly forming (non-traditional) covens where the High Priest and High Priestess have initiated each other then proceed to initiate other people. While this is irregular, and their initiations would not be considered to be true initiations by traditional standards, this is a common custom and is acceptable as long as the High Priestess and High Priest are honest about the origins and customs of this new coven.
Ask if there is a written guide book to coven rules. Not every coven will have one, but those who do avoid a lot of argument and confusion among the members.
There should be no one under 18 initiated into the coven. You may find younger members who's parents are initiates but no ethical coven will initiate under-age people.
You should have no doubts or reservations about joining or proceeding with the initiation. Trust your instincts and common sense. You may be very anxious to be part of a coven and the coven you are contemplating joining may be the only one in town - but this is not a reason to join! Do not contemplate proceeding with initiation until you are sure you understand the philosophy of the coven. Be sure that you agree with the rules, the gods worshiped and anything else which is important to you. Do not join a traditional coven expecting to persuade the High Priest or High Priestess to change or bend the rules at a later date. This will not happen and could get you ejected from the coven (refer to the page on, Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Craft). Remember: joining a coven is not like joining a club - it is more analogous to a marriage - it is meant to be a life-long commitment. If you want a great deal of flexibility consider joining an eclectic group or starting your own coven.