Twice Born

Last year at Beltane I performed a spontaneous Dedication, knealing before a sky-god who has yet to share his name with me.

Thirteen months later, a week ago yesterday, I completed my first Initiation ritual.

It was a two-part ritual, actually: the first part being an underworld journey at the New Moon in preparation for the second, at the Full Moon, where I was assisted in my rite by three close friends. The ritual included, among other things, my first fast – twenty-four hours of bread, honey, and water (and not much of it) – and the sacrifice by abstinence of all the potential debauchery that comes with the first day of the Heartland Pagan Festival.

The fasting was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. 9pm – 9pm is a relatively easy block: I don’t usually eat for almost half of that. At the same time, though, I was packing for the festival, making a midnight drive, getting barely half a night of sleep, and finally unpacking and setting up camp – a great deal of physical labor, as I’m sure my dear readers recognize. I also had to watch everyone else eat good food, drink coffee, and christen the camp site with the festival’s first joint and beers without partaking. I almost had to abstain from the communal dinner following the festival’s opening ritual, a terrible sacrifice given the importance I place on the ritual sharing of food, but fortunately there was some bread I could share. Still, by the end of the fast, I was somewhat faint and had to be careful how much I ate lest I make myself sick.

As a lifelong solitary practitioner, I had never undergone any formal training or initiation. And although the work I have done over the last two years, formalizing and re-examining my training and practice, certainly counts for something, I had little idea what to expect. Would the ritual be transformative? Would it simply be an acknowledgement of my personal progress? Would it even work given the disparate practices of the people I had assist me?

The answer, in the end, was “yes” to all of the above.

Over the course of the ritual, I came into closer contact that I had ever anticipated with the gods I serve. I lost one guide, grown impatient with my slow progress. I … acquired? Was awarded? Met? What is the correct verb here? … another guide during my descent, and made amends with a Titan whom I had accidentally slighted. I was unmade and reassembled. Twice.

When I gave healing massages over the course of the festival, I found that the energy flowed like it never had before. I managed to soothe two sunburns by laying hands. My lady Aradia said outright that my healing work is much more potent than it was the last time I worked on her, shortly after Beltane. I have never felt so powerful or so clear as I feel now, even a week after the ritual. Slipping into trance is significantly easier than it was a bare ten days ago, so I know it’s not just practice.

So today I write, re-examining the experience again, and say to you proudly: I am a witch. Slain and remade within the Circle, now twice-born.