This week was a tough week for a blog post. I was originally thinking that I would post more about my thoughts on the whole hullabaloo over PantheaCon under the auspice of “Diversity” or “Discrimination”, even jokingly thinking of taking a more humorous approach with the topic of “Douchebaggery” but in the end I decided that I would hold off on that post (since I’m still writing and still processing) and instead decided to use this post for a short post to share my thoughts on the topic of dedication to the Craft.
Dedication is a part of the Craft that I think is so important and needs to be really considered fully and done with real purpose and intention, not just done by route as some people seem to do it. It’s not just a ritual that you pull out of the back of a book and do because you feel it’s what you have to do. It’s something you should do. Dedication helps to set your feet on the path with purpose and gives the Gods and spirits a proper introduction to who you are and your intentions coming to this work.
One thing that I specifically want to talk about before getting too far into the act of dedication is the issue of dedication vs. initiation. Many people in the eclectic Wiccan community and many self-taught Witches and Pagans, see these as things that are one in the same. They are not. One cannot initiation oneself into something. And with initiation there is a two-fold initiation that takes place in the Craft; you have ritual initiation and spiritual initiation. Sometimes ritual initiation can facilitate the spiritual initiation but more often than not the spiritual initiation is already happening when your teacher or High Priest/High Priestess determines you’re reading for your ritual initiation.
The definition of Initiation:
1. a : the act or an instance of initiating
b : the process of being initiated
c : the rites, ceremonies, ordeals, or instructions with which one is made a member of a sect or society or is invested with a particular function or status
2. the condition of being initiated into some experience or sphere of activity: knowledgeableness
Initiation means that you’re being brought into something, like a coven, or being given wisdom or knowledge that you otherwise don’t have access to. This happens with both ritual and spiritual initiation. In many traditions as part of the ritual initiation certain secret wisdom is passed on, such as the true names of the Gods honored in the tradition or certain wisdom with regards to tools and rites. Spiritual initiation is often much more like an ordeal but it does bring knowledge and understanding that, without this experience, you wouldn’t really be able to access.
By understanding this the idea of self-initiation as a misnomer becomes much more clear. We can’t initiate ourselves into a coven and we can’t pass on secret rites and wisdom to ourselves. We also can’t force the start of a spiritual initiation since this is a process facilitated by the Gods. It is done in the time and manner that they see it, in many ways we’re just along for the ride.
So what about dedication?
The definition of Dedication:
1. an act or rite of dedicating to a divine being or to a sacred use
2. a devoting or setting aside for a particular purpose
3. a name and often a message prefixed to a literary, musical, or artistic production in tribute to a person or cause
4 .self-sacrificing devotion <her dedication to the cause>
5. a ceremony to mark the official completion or opening of something (as a building)
Dedication within the Craft hits on points 1 and 5 most specifically. Dedication is an act where we come forward and let the God, Goddess, and elements know that we’re here and we’re going to begin a serious practice of this work. This also facilitates opening a doorway to the Divine and the spirit world. Dedication is somewhat like flipping a light switch; when we step before the altar in that ritual and make a statement of our intentions before the Gods, spirits, and elementals, we are saying “Look at me! I’m here! I’m ready to work with you!” It lets them know our formal intentions and as a result it changes the way we connect with them.
Dedication is an important part of the Craft and isn’t something that should be done in a routine sort of way. Many books on Wicca have dedication rituals within them and the first dedication that many people do comes from this sort of place. Often time people will just take the book and follow the ritual, reciting the incantations and statements of intention word for word. But remember what it is that you’re doing, you’re coming to the Gods to state your deepest spiritual intentions. These should be in your own words not the words of someone else taken from a book. No matter how closely matched you feel your intentions are to the words in a book, they are still not coming from you in the truest of ways.
What you say in a dedication rite can be simple and short. It doesn’t have to be long and poetic unless you feel comfortable speaking in that way and you can do it while still being true to the heart of why you’re making this step in your path. Coming before the Gods, seeing them as your spiritual Mother and Father, as your guides, guardians, and protectors, you can speak to them in the manner that you see fitting here…and that could be in your normal manner and vernacular without a lot of pageantry. In the end your dedication should reflect who you are at this point in your path and your true intentions at this point for why you want to work with the Gods and why you want to be a Witch.
When it comes to dedication vs. initiation there is no reason to feel like one is better or more important than the other. They are both important and, even as a solitary, we all go through the process of spiritual initiation at some point. But while ritual initiation is not something that everyone will experience in their lifetime, dedication is something we should all make the effort to experience on our path as our formal first steps and creating our initial bond to the Gods. When the Gods see fit for us to advance to another level of understanding in our spiritual path they make sure to initiate us and put us through an ordeal. And sometimes when that ordeal comes we can find ourselves wondering why we were so desperate to experience it in the first place.