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Author Topic: Initiation Offer - Advice  (Read 1445 times)

Nymree

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Initiation Offer - Advice
« on: December 07, 2019, 06:04:24 am »
I’d like to preface this post by saying that I suffer from (minor) diagnosed social anxiety, and have noticed a slight paranoia when it comes to other people – some of the situations mentioned here might be coloured in this light, though I’ll apply as much self-awareness where possible in regards to this.

I joined a new pagan moot this last summer. They’re private, not pagan federation. I’ve posted about them before, and we differ in some views and approaches but otherwise seem to get on fine. However, at our last meeting initiation ceremonies came up for discussion. The general consensus was that initiation ceremony is essential for practising as a Pagan, which I take issue with but understand the value of to some extent. Others in the group also took some issue with it. Then I brought up my concern that, due to my isolated living place, I may not have the opportunity for an initiation for a long while. I was surprised when some of the group offered to train and initiate me themselves.

This, of course, is an amazing and unsought opportunity that I can’t help see as Spirit giving me a nudge to get active again – I’ve been in a bit of a hibernation of practice for a long time now. However, I really wanted to run this all by some other pagans, as I felt some red flags raised that are perhaps subjective and specific.

For one, I’m very new to this group. This is a smaller issue, because I do respect and trust most of them. There’s one individual who gives me off vibes, but most of them are lovely and supportive people.

The other was the intensity with which they valued initiation. I can’t take fault with that, but my vibe from it was that they might undervalue me as an individual for not undergoing that kind of training. I now feel that some kind of guidance is important, but I was planning to take the OBOD course. I’m now considering just starting the OBOD course, as I do trust them quite a bit and have heard good things. This brings me to my next concern.

They seem to practice a kind of paganism perhaps not right for me. They’re quite literalist in approach and practical, whereas I’m very much a day-dreamy meditation type more interested in peace-on-earth type work, rather than overt practical witchcraft. I’m concerned I’ll be focusing on a type of practice I’ve already had experience with and ruled out as not my cup of tea. They said it wouldn’t be path-specific training, but I can’t see how their approach could be alienated from training such as that. Maybe I’m approaching witchcraft totally wrong, but it seems to me more heavy, structured and maybe more intense than I’m used to. In reality, I may well be overthinking it and get along fine with that practice, it being a regional variation and different from what I’ve previously experienced.

In general, I feel much less encouraged or inspired by being in this group, than I have in previous ones. It’s not that they aren’t inspiring people, but they’re not as connected I think with modern approaches to paganism and so tend to value traditional ways of being. One of the early texts I read in paganism was feminist witchcraft books, whereas one of the members recently sort of denied the gender-based issues previously extant in pagan circles in the 80s (which I only know about because one of the women there talked about it).

I’m also very cautious of bringing myself into too heavily literalist approaches, because I have certain mental illnesses in my family that I’m always careful about. There’s nothing wrong with literalism, but I know my own mental space and how delicate it can be. When I brought up the issue between my OCD and religious ritual, where I have to draw the line for my health and wellbeing, one of the members heavily downplayed my concerns and seemed condescending to me, but again that may be my social paranoia reading into it.

I get along well enough with the group as friends, however I’m not sure I feel comfortable with something this intense. The tone, however, is that it makes no sense to call myself pagan without this training. It’s a tone I’m sceptical of, yet to a certain extent I agree that having a stable structure would give me both more confidence and power as an individual. I also can’t deny that I’d benefit from having a teacher in-person, as opposed to seeking the OBOD course and having an online mentor.

To a certain extent this is a personal decision. But I wanted to run this by other pagans because it would be valuable to see if others feel those concerns to be red flags too, or if I’m overthinking things. I might well be projecting my own insecurities about having the right to call myself pagan, when I practice so little. They’re a really friendly group who celebrate variety and difference in practice and belief like any group I’ve been in. They know I’m interested in Druidry and would never ask me to practice anything else. I think they’re just trying to be helpful, and the second initiator I get along with just fine and admire quite a bit.

I’ve tried to keep the details of this as anonymous as possible for obvious reasons.
Thanks to anyone with advice or insight.

Blessings,
Nym

Dynes Hysbys

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2019, 06:57:30 am »

They seem to practice a kind of paganism perhaps not right for me. They’re quite literalist in approach and practical, whereas I’m very much a day-dreamy meditation type more interested in peace-on-earth type work, rather than overt practical witchcraft.

Blessings,
Nym

This says it all for me - I would not accept you for formal training into my witchcraft tradition at the moment as it wouldn't be a good fit for  either of us.  We are practical and literal in as far as yes I'd expect you to be prepared to come to the crossroads at night for a working.  In fact tonight we'll be hiking part way up a mountain for a ritual.

You don't need to be initiated to practice as a pagan but you do need to be initiated to practice certain types of witchcraft but that type of witchcraft can be very intense indeed and demands a lot. 

OBOD may well be a better fit for you. There are often local groves which could supply the human mentorship (although my local one is so oversubscribed that the waiting list to join is closed). When I did the course years ago there was a self initiatory/dedication ritual quite early on in the series. It must have been early as I gave up after the first 11 lessons! It wasn't for me at all.   

If I was you I would heed those red flags and hold fire for awhile until you all know each other a lot better.  OBOD is hard work if you want to keep up with the weekly classes ( although you can set your own speed) so that would be an excellent excuse for declining the offers of training or the time being without jeopardising your social membership of the group.

Anon100

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2019, 07:14:55 am »
I’ve tried to keep the details of this as anonymous as possible for obvious reasons.
Thanks to anyone with advice or insight.

Blessings,
Nym

Everything Dynes said.

Paganism isn't one path so there isn't one way.
Bearing in mind I'm not part of a group and only at the stage in my life of learning and living. That said, take your time and learn from your differences but don't go being pressured into following a course that ( from what you said ) obviously isn't for you.
Also, you know your limits so if someone starts underplaying what you know about yourself and your mind that's concerning.

Jenett

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #3 on: December 07, 2019, 09:16:53 am »
Let me start with a couple of smaller points, before giving some 'so what does one do here' comment.

The other was the intensity with which they valued initiation. I can’t take fault with that, but my vibe from it was that they might undervalue me as an individual for not undergoing that kind of training.

For what it's worth, I intensely value initiation, and it is important to my specific tradition (and my personal path). However, I don't think less of people who aren't initiated. I do think we're sometimes doing different kinds of things at a fairly deep level in some specific ways. Sometimes that matters a lot (like if we're doing certain kinds of ritual work together), a lot of time it doesn't.

(And I've certainly met a number of initiated witches whose actual training and breadth of experience really weren't great, and a few who were people I absolutely do not want to be anywhere near.)

I'm actually working on a local project with people from a handful of other initiatory traditions - there are definitely things we have in common because of the initiatory aspect that are helping us work together more easily, because even though our initiations were different, the experience of going through them in a witchcraft context has some similarities. But again, that doesn't come up an awful lot of the time. (This is the second time in 20 years it's been particularly relevant to community projects for me.)

So, what does that mean you might want to think about now:

It's a fine thing to ask some more questions.

If you are not sure what's on offer, it is fine and appropriate to ask more about it. Saying something like "I was a little startled by the offer of initiatory training. Before I make any decisions, I'd like to learn more about what you're thinking" would be a good place to start.

And then you could ask about the differences between their approach and yours. You could ask what that would mean for long-term work (for example, there are situations in which people find that learning the very literal practical witchcraft isn't the thing they end up focusing on - but *learning* it was useful, for the habits of practice it helped them develop, or the skills they can use when they need or want to - they just end up doing that a lot less than some other people in the tradition.)

You could ask what kinds of activities the training would involve, and what kind of focus in your learning. You could ask what kind of reading they'd be suggesting you do.

(Note that people may suggest books for a variety of reasons, even if those books are not considered uniformly great books right now - sometimes there are things in books that describe a particular piece well, or that turn out to be really helpful in learning a specific set of approaches, that open up new options. Sometimes they're just 'this is a thing that was important to the founding of the tradition, and knowing it reasonably well helps with understanding some of our roots'.)

You could (and should) also ask specifically what training would involve - how much time, how often, would you primarily be working with one person as a mentor (and if so who) or would it be a small group all together? In a lot of initiatory training situations, it's common to interact with all of the group members, and benefit from their particular takes

It is also fine (and standard practice in many groups - frankly, as a teacher, I want to do this even more than the prospective student) to have a couple of discussions/rituals/classes that are very much in the form of how training would go, on topics that aren't oathbound, private, or depend on a lot of previous background. That gives everyone a chance to see how it goes in that context, before making any ongoing commitments to this.

It's also fine to ask if there are more recent initiates you could talk to about their experience learning, and if the person who was dismissive about the OCD issues is someone who would be significantly involved in your training (not just in the group), it would be fine to say "I need to sort this out and be sure it won't be ignored before I make a commitment."

In many cases, it might also be fine to say "I think I want to focus on the OBOD training right now, if I wanted to come back and ask about training in the future, would that be an option?" (Often the answer is "It depends on a bunch of factors, but quite possibly, yes, you'd just come ask.")

Maybe after all of that, you'd find out that this group isn't right for you, even as a group of friends to talk to things about - but honestly, if that's the case, it's a thing you'd likely figure out anyway, and better to know earlier than later. If it's the case that there are some things you really like, and others you don't, maybe everyone can adapt a little. And of course, maybe you do find that there is a way forward with training that does work for you and for them. You can't figure out the options without a bit more detailed discussion.

Beyond that, I will say that my top advice for considering initiation is "Look at the initiates of the group. Do you want to be more like them in the ways they are like each other?" Initiatory lines (because of the energy of the initiatory connections, the ritual experiences involved, the training that leads up to it, the work they do together) tend to either attract people who have specific things in common, or even more so, to shape them in specific ways. It can take a while to figure this out.

It doesn't mean you have to like them all the same way, or need to find them inspiring, or want to be like them in all ways, just that you should pay particular attention to the ways in which they are most similar. It's more about attitudes to how they deal with life.

(For example, my initiatory line produces some particular tendencies in how we roll with change, even really significant change, as well as producing initiates who have a particular preference for certain kinds of ritual thoroughness. The method matters less than that there's a solid, well-considered reason behind the methods we're choosing.)
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Kylara

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #4 on: December 07, 2019, 03:24:25 pm »
To a certain extent this is a personal decision. But I wanted to run this by other pagans because it would be valuable to see if others feel those concerns to be red flags too, or if I’m overthinking things. I might well be projecting my own insecurities about having the right to call myself pagan, when I practice so little.

Others have brought up really good points, but I wanted to touch on this bit right here.  Firstly, you can absolutely call yourself Pagan if that is what you are, full stop.  You don't need to be initiated to be Pagan, there are lots of Pagans who practice in a wide variety of ways, who have not been initiated.  I also think that the amount you practice is a thing that is very personal, for some people a small amount is enough (or that is all they can manage due to personal concerns or family time or whatever....life).  I don't feel like you need to clock in X hours to call yourself a Pagan.

As to the red flags, I think that we all have personal levels of comfort, and from reading your post, it sounds to me like you have serious reservations about this whole initiation thing.  Just because someone else might be fine with it, or they are friendly people, or trying to be helpful doesn't change the fact that you may not feel right about it.  I would say, that if you aren't sure you want to be initiated (or that you don't feel you need it), then maybe you don't (or at least not right now).  It's not something I would do (or suggest someone else does) if they don't actually want it.

Personally, I know that I sometimes pull back from things due to anxiety, that I actually would like to do or would have fun doing, so for me, I have to really dig deep and examine whether or not my reservations are legitimate or just my anxiety speaking up (I recently knee-jerk-reaction turned down a coffee invitation with a local Pagan because it was someone new and I sort of freaked out by being put on the spot with a blind invite....later that day I regretted my handling of the situation).  Now, what is true for me, isn't necessarily true for you, but I would definitely recommend exploring your reactions and trying to figure out if you have any interest/desire to work with these people more or be initiated, and then go from there.  Even if you still have reservations, talk with the people you feel comfortable with about them...I personally wouldn't feel comfortable being initiated by someone who I couldn't talk about my worries about initiation with.
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Darkhawk

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2019, 11:08:38 am »
The general consensus was that initiation ceremony is essential for practising as a Pagan, which I take issue with but understand the value of to some extent.

This right here is where I would stop and go "these people do not at all know what they are talking about."

Initiation is not something that floats around uncontexted; an initiation has to be into a specific thing, and paganism is not a specific thing.  Paganism is a sociopolitical categorization of a large pile of religions which may not even have all that much to do with each other theologically or practically; one can only say that initiation is relevant to a specific pagan-category religion, and not all pagan religions are initiatory.  (Though I am sure if you asked some Discordians for initiation ceremonies there would certainly be results....)

FURTHER, and here I am speaking as a practitioner of an initiatory tradition of which I am not an initiate: even in initiatory pagan traditions, it is more common in my experience to do "train than initiate" than "initiate then train", though both approaches do exist.  It is nonsense to say that I am not practicing this thing; if I weren't practicing I wouldn't be getting good enough to do the things that an initiate is expected to be able to do. :P

They are entirely within their rights to say that an initiation is required for partaking in what they do (though honestly, the "initiation ceremony" phrasing makes me kinda suspect that they're not talking about something that does a lot of heavy lifting because that seems more about going through the motions than actually doing a work with it; this is just me being cynical and suspicious of people who don't understand that paganism is not a specific initiatory practice though). But they cannot speak for "paganism" or what is required to practice as a "pagan", and are clearly not qualified to do so from a historical or theological standpoint.

Quote
They seem to practice a kind of paganism perhaps not right for me. They’re quite literalist in approach and practical, whereas I’m very much a day-dreamy meditation type more interested in peace-on-earth type work, rather than overt practical witchcraft. I’m concerned I’ll be focusing on a type of practice I’ve already had experience with and ruled out as not my cup of tea.

If they're not offering you what you need for support from a group, then it's not likely you can benefit.  Now, I have done training with people where I was expecting that it would be a stretch for me, but I was doing it specifically for purposes of calisthenics.

Quote
They said it wouldn’t be path-specific training, but I can’t see how their approach could be alienated from training such as that.

If they're not offering path-specific training then they are going to have a bloody hard time offering a meaningful initiation, since initiation has to be into something specific.

Quote
Maybe I’m approaching witchcraft totally wrong, but it seems to me more heavy, structured and maybe more intense than I’m used to. In reality, I may well be overthinking it and get along fine with that practice, it being a regional variation and different from what I’ve previously experienced.

Different forms of religious witchcraft do different things, and some are more ceremonial than others.  One of the critically important things in serious training in religious witchcraft, IMO, is finding a good match between teacher and student, the right combination of comfort and required stretch.  Different teachers even within the same tradition can provide vastly different experiences for their students, and have different strengths. (My own tradition is known for wild variation like that, mind, but I strongly believe it holds even in more formally structured systems.)

Quote
The tone, however, is that it makes no sense to call myself pagan without this training.

And that tone is 100% bullshit.  They are wrong, and you do not have to give a shit about people spewing this level of ignorant nonsense.

Train with them if you want to; don't train with them if you don't want to; regardless, training is necessary to do certain specific things and those things are not mandatory within paganism.

Quote
It’s a tone I’m sceptical of, yet to a certain extent I agree that having a stable structure would give me both more confidence and power as an individual. I also can’t deny that I’d benefit from having a teacher in-person, as opposed to seeking the OBOD course and having an online mentor.

Courses of study are often useful, and more useful if they are the right courses for you.  Bad teaching just gives you things to unlearn later and I am not impressed with these people's demonstrated lack of qualification.
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Mandi_S

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2019, 12:50:12 pm »

I’ve tried to keep the details of this as anonymous as possible for obvious reasons.
Thanks to anyone with advice or insight.

Blessings,
Nym

Hi there.


Ultimately the significance of a group initiation is in the group.  These people are witnessing your statement of faith and ritual ordeal.

So ideally they would be people who you are very comfortable with and who you are comfortable to committing to working with for at least a few seasons. 


So I would look at what YOU need to feel you've notarized your statement. 

For example working with your city council to propose and establish an official Coexist day in your town might be a deeper initiation for you than with a ritual group where you're already feeling some no from your gut.

If just wanting some circling buddies where you don't feel like you're sitting in the living room while they go in the kitchen then there are other ways you can do that as well.

Work in groups with no hierarchy. 

I used to put on eclectic all are welcome full moons at a local shop.  You can sometimes sign up for a moon and get on the schedule and I would pull from my random eclectic little group of friends and we got all the socializing we could handle for a night or two without the pressure of long term commitment.

Sometimes when we need to feel connection we have to prime the pump a little.

Heck.  You could roll down the main central aisle of Hobby Lobby.  I periodically do things like this to know the unknowable by being the overtly illogical.  Sometimes the doorposts need a fresh coat of cognitive dissonance.





Jenett

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Re: Initiation Offer - Advice
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2019, 12:54:39 pm »

Initiation is not something that floats around uncontexted; an initiation has to be into a specific thing, and paganism is not a specific thing.  Paganism is a sociopolitical categorization of a large pile of religions which may not even have all that much to do with each other theologically or practically; one can only say that initiation is relevant to a specific pagan-category religion, and not all pagan religions are initiatory.  (Though I am sure if you asked some Discordians for initiation ceremonies there would certainly be results....)

Quoting this bit of Darkhawk's excellent response to add one other bit, in case it's contextually useful.

There are groups and local communities where there is a lot of pressure to have an initiation into *something*.

Some groups and paths have, in response to this, come up with a sort of generic initiation that basically is meant to signify 'this person has some core skills and has been exposed to some basic ideas' without weaving that person into the tradition/path/group's energies and/or intending to trigger a significant shift in mindset through ritual experience (which are the two more common purposes for initiation in witchcraft and some other Pagan traditions.)

Basically what it acts as, in the first case, is a certificate of completion, good for waving around if you want access to the groups or activities that want a shiny certification. And there are, sometimes, reasons groups grew up that way.

But I tend to think these don't actually do anyone any good - not the initiate, and not the initiator(s).

(My tradition has done them in the past, because there was an umbrella multi-tradition organization in the area where full voting participation and access to some activities was only open to initiates, without a lot of specification about what 'initiate' meant. I feel really strongly that initiations that don't connect the initiate to the tradition and to a living community of practice leave them hanging in ways I am not comfortable being a part of, so I refuse to do them.)

All of which is just more good reason to be clear about what they mean about initiation, what role it plays in their practice, what is expected, when it happens, what you need to learn/do/demonstrate before it happens, what the commitments you make in the process, etc. before beginning on serious work in that direction.
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