PRE-INITIATORY DEDICATION RITUAL by Ashta'ar-Arthura and Cleindori for the Proteus lineage

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PRE-INITIATORY DEDICATION RITUAL by Ashta'ar-Arthura and Cleindori for the Proteus lineage and anyone else who wants to use it. premise: "Every Witch is a Pagan; not every Pagan is a Witch." There are many ways to honor Nature in our lives. For some, regular participation in Pagan circles is a way to stay attuned to seasonal rhythms, an enrichment and support for their real work in the world, a way of finding community. An artist, a doctor, a mother, a counselor - such people may find joy and sustenance in Pagan celebration eight times a year, or even at each Moon, but wish to pursue it no farther. They are the Earth Mother's children, as fully as are Her priests and priestesses. Their lives contribute as much as ours to the re-creation of Pagan community, the restoration of ecological sanity. A window is not opened by lifting one side. Others of us find in active priesthood our life's work, our art form. We will dedicate a larger proportion of our time and energy to the religion itself. We are the producers of ritual and ceremony, not the consumers. Not because we are better, holier, or more devoted; but because this is where our talents, and our delight, seem to lie. In our observation, people often spend some time exploring the community, reading, attending public circles or festivals, perhaps creating personal rituals or meditations for themselves. For some, this time of exploration fosters a hunger. They wish to study more formally, explore more systematically, aim for initiation into the priesthood of the Goddess. In the old days, such people would have been initiated before being taught anything of importance. The need for secrecy was so dire that even the simplest information was withheld. Indeed, no public festivals or Pagan circles existed as places of exploration and discovery. Probably we lost many potentially talented leaders by having no adequate channels in; but however much we diminished, this is how we survived. The time for simple survival, thankfully, is past. Now is the time for re-seeding. At the very end of the initiation, the candidate is declared to be "a Witch and a Priest/ess." We were not willing in Proteus to make this declaration before the Gods until the person had demonstrated to us their skill and capacity as a ritual leader. Nor were we willing to allow a candidate to make the commitment involved in accepting initiation until s/he had experienced ritual leadership. We ask for a minimum year and a day of study, and demonstration of competence by creating and conducting a Circle for our group. There is enough material publicly available now that we can easily provide this training without going into the oathbound rituals in our Book of Shadows. This decision created its own problems. By withholding initiation for a year, we were leaving an equally important life passage unmarked - the point at which a person decides and formally begins to study for the priesthood. That moment should surely be celebrated! Moreover, there are commitments short of the initiatory oath that are appropriate at this point. What follows is our first approximation of a pre-initiatory dedication ritual. We more than welcome feedback from our family on this one. We plead for it! logistics: In this model, one coven elder agrees to enter into an apprenticeship relationship with the candidate. While this would most typically be the coven leader of the opposite gender to the candidate's, there may be good reason to choose some other elder instead. The decision is made by four people: the candidate, the elder who will be primary teacher, and both coven leaders. We recommend consulting with all elders of the coven if at all feasible. We strongly recommend giving the candidate a list of the questions s/he will be asked several days in advance, so s/he will know what commitments are required before entering the Circle. We also recommend encouraging the candidate to respond as fully as possible, rather than with a simple yes or no. Elegant language is less important at this moment than giving the candidate the opportunity to state her or his feelings and values within a Circle and before the people whose company s/he aspires to join - and the exercise in personal clarification that inheres in deciding what to say. The ritual here presented can be elaborated, and we recommend it, as time and inclination allow. Some examples: in addition to the ritual welcome, each coven member might offer the candidate some advice, or a blessing, or some personal statement about Witchcraft and the process of learning involved. Small gifts - a crystal, a homemade dream pillow - might be offered as talismans for the voyage of discovery now beginning. Cakes and wine, with toasts to the new student, might follow. ritual: [in Circle, with all coven members present, and teaching elder at altar, candidate steps to center carrying athame or other working tool] elder: (c's name), what do you seek? candidate: I seek to study Witchcraft. I ask you to teach me. elder: Do you understand that Witchcraft is the priesthood of the Old Gods and Old Ways of Nature, and that every Witch is a priestess or priest? candidate: [respond] elder: Do you understand that initiation into that priesthood will change your life forever, in ways that you cannot now foresee? candidate: [respond] elder: Do you understand what priesthood requires: that, if you become a Witch, you serve the Lady and the Lord by serving Their People, to the fullest of your ability? candidate: [respond] elder: Knowing these things, do you want to study Witchcraft and its related arts until you know enough to decide whether this is truly your Path? candidate: [respond] elder: Do you understand that Witchcraft is one of many means to serve the Old Gods and awaken the Old Ways, and that even this is not your way after all, you may learn and grow while you are here? Can you accept that the decision may be no? candidate: [respond] elder: Teaching what I love is a great joy. But I can only teach in joy if I know that what I love will be used and shared with care and honor. Before I am willing to teach you, there are three things and a fourth that you must promise to me: Will you respect and protect the confidence of all who you meet in the Circle and all who seek our aid, revealing their identities to no one except by their explicit permission? candidate: [respond] elder: Will you practice and teach the Craft for love alone, using this knowledge or teaching it only as a free gift, as I give it now to you, never accepting payment for it in money or goods or labor? candidate: [respond] elder: Will you promise never to use what I teach you to affect another person, avoiding not only baneful magic but all well-intentioned meddling, unless you have that person's explicit permission? candidate: [respond] elder: And if time brings fullness, as all here hope and expect it will, when you teach new students of your own, will you require these three pledges of them, along with their pledge to similarly bind their own students, so that all that spring from this line may be so pledged? candidate: [respond] elder: [ONLY PROCEEDING IF ALL RESPONSES HAVE BEEN AFFIRMATIVE] This being so, I consent to teach you. This is how I value my labor - that I will plant only good seed in good soil, to become fruit both sound and sweet. I will teach you, I will learn from you, I will learn with you. So we begin by exchanging our pledges. Place your hand on this athame and repeat after me: I, (name), here and now pledge To you (name), to the Gods, to all in this Circle And, most truly, to myself, That I will explore the Path called Witchcraft Its lore and its symbols; its rituals and its deeper meanings Sharing with you my joy in discovery and all my doubts and qualms. Exploring all questions with open mind and heart. Until I know surely whether or not I am for the priesthood and Witchcraft is for me In token of this pledge I swear on this tool of my power To devote myself, from this moment on, to learning the ways of Witchcraft [cover candidate's hand on tool with own hand] And I make this pledge to you in return For the lesser knowledge, which can be taught, I will be your teacher. For the greater knowledge, which must be discovered, I will be your guide and your friend. For the questions and perplexities of the path, I will be your companion. To answer when I may; or simply to be silent as you seek your own answers And when the time comes to choose whether you will enter the priesthood, I will share with you all I have observed and thought. And may the Gods prosper our work together. Know that although I am your primary teacher, this Circle is not made of the two of us alone. All here are dedicated to the Old Ways and each has unique knowledge. All of us learn from and with each other. You, too, bring the learning of a lifetime and the fresh insight of a beginner's questions. Together we are more than the simple sum of each of us alone. Go around the Circle, now, and accept each person's greetings. coveners: [embrace candidate in turn and say] I am _______. I am your friend. In time, I may be your sister (or brother). candidate: [respond with same formula] elder: [bless the athame or other working tool that candidate brought into Circle]. I return this working tool to you with my blessing. Accept it, as I have accepted your pledge. Use it now, as your first ritual act. candidate: [go to each quarter and salute in any way s/he knows] Powers of the East (South, West, North) I, ______, call on you to witness my pledge and ask you to bless my time of exploration. [silent salute in East]. elder: -------, be welcome in the Circle! [embrace, almost certain to be followed by group hug]. all: SO MOTE IT BE! STUDENT'S PLEDGE - alternative versions from Coven Risingstar #1 And the need cannot be denied, for I am the Mother's child And have come back to the forsaken ways Teach me, Lady Queen*, Child of our Mother, The words of respect She would have us know, The rituals by which we worship Her Who birthed us of Herself. Guide me in the Way That nurtures all and harms none As I seek to regain that which was lost so long ago. And, finally, walk beside me as Sister, (or Brother) for we are both children of the Mother #2 And the need cannot be denied' for I am the Mother's child, and have come back to the Ways of Old Teach me, Lady Queen*, Child of our Mother, The words of respect She would have us know The rituals by which we worship Her who birthed us out of Herself Guide me as I seek what no other can teach me, that which is mine but so long denied. And, finally, walk beside me as Sister (or Brother) We are both children of our Mother. * I think I would substitute something like "Teach me, Elder Priest/ess" or, better yet, simply "Teach me, friend" for this line. - Judy


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