The following is an extract from my upcoming book, Into the Black Kingdom. Seeing that Initiation came up as a topic, I thought I would offer it.
When most people consider the aspects of Initiation, their immediate thought is that of being ceremoniously inducted into a Coven or Order. However, there are other forms of initiation that take place throughout the life of a Magickally inclined person.
Being inducted to a Group, Coven or Order is a form whereby you are connected to the Group Mind of that body. This Group Mind is a collective consciousness of the members that have been inducted or initiated before you. You may hear the terms Current or Egregore, and I tend to speak of them repeatedly. These terms are one in the same and also that of Group Mind. A group of people who are following the same path and system, and who have the same goals in mind, will create a Group Mind. As the group of people grow, the Group Mind will also grow. This Group Mind is a collective of the intent and knowledge of the people within that group, and so to be initiated into the group adds your own intent and knowledge to that Group Mind, as well as being able to draw from it. You all flow in the same manner as far as the group dynamics are concerned. What takes effect, as the Group Mind grows, is the creation of an energetic entity which becomes the embodiment of the Group Mind. In some cases this entity, or Egregore, can become a God, and the group will worship it as such and will continue to feed it energy to sustain it and keep it growing. The Egregore can also gather other knowledge from areas that the group have not had previous access to, and so the group can then draw from that additional knowledge also, causing the group to grow and evolve.
The initiation that takes place within a Coven or Order can vary from a simple ceremony that merely accepts you into the “fold”, or can extend to the connection to the Egregore and the passing on of Knowledge or Power. This latter aspect is not necessarily the passing on of such from the initiator to the participant, but an actual connection to the Egregore which contains that Knowledge and Power. However, this does not mean that after an initiation the participant will suddenly be able to perform the most complex of spells. In other words, they are not all Powerful in an instant. They have access to Power, but they must learn how to use it, how to form and bend it, and how to access it. The Universe tends to have some fail-safes in place as far as this is regarded. A new initiate who cannot handle the sudden influx of Power all at once will not be able to have immediate access to it until they have done the work to be able to access it, otherwise the Body may not be able to handle it and will short circuit causing insanity. Ergo, you will feel incredible after an initiation, full of energy and new perspectives, but that will be subdued over a short period of time, and then you must do the work to assimilate your new gains.
The same effect of feeling incredible and then having to assimilate also takes place with the more personal initiation that one is taken through at various times in your spiritual evolution. This personal initiation takes place between yourself and the Gods, Spirits, or Land, and doesn’t necessarily involve the Group that you are a member of and initiated to. There are many forms that this personal initiation can take, and also of different degrees of intensity.
In some cases it may be a mild cleansing that you are taken through, for example being washed in a river or lake. In other cases it can involve being cleansed by fire. On an elemental aspect the initiation you may be taken through will depend on the element that you may be lacking in your life or simply as decided by the Spirits.
The Shamanic Death is another form whereby the initiate is symbolically killed by the Spirits in a Journey or Dream. The aspects of the Journey will differ from person to person, but it will involve some form of being taken to pieces or ripped apart, cleansed and then put back together. This is what will make a new shaman, and you will find that when the new shaman is put back together by the Initiator, they are also given a Power with which to do the work that awaits them.
In a more severe case of the Shamanic Death, it can mean literal death and rebirth, or what people may call a NDE (Near Death Experience). In such a case the new shaman is either ill or is struck down, I have found that in most cases the “striking down” comes in the form of being hit by lightning. During the process, the person will find themselves in the Creative Void, the “place between places”, where nothing exists. There is no pain, no emotions, no thought, nothing, and so the person finds themselves in a space where they themselves do not exist. During actual death the person would then move on and pass into the LowerWorlds, Heaven, or whatever their religious convictions and understanding of death may subscribe to. In the case of a new shaman, they will have to fight for their life and their existence. This involves forcing themselves to remember, whilst still in the Void. The trauma this creates causes one to lose their soul, or as explained by some, to lose a part of their soul, which in the Artes of Curanderismo is called “susto”.
Most people who experience a trauma in their life, usually as a child who is extremely vulnerable, will have susto, soul-loss. Imagine if you will a portion of your body being removed which will leave a gaping hole. This is what takes place with susto. What fills that hole is dis-ease, and so the person suffering from susto will go to the shaman, curandera, bruja, or medicine man and will ask for help to remove their illness. The reason a portion of the soul is removed during the traumatic event is for the soul and even the mind to continue in life. The trauma is contained with the portion of the soul that goes missing and it hides in the LowerWorlds like a scared and terrified child. If that trauma were to remain with the person, they would not be able to function within life because they would be a constant nervous wreck. What the shaman will then do is Journey into the LowerWorlds, locate the lost soul and coax it to come back with him or her. Once the lost soul returns with the shaman, the shaman can then breathe the lost soul back into the Body of the client, putting the soul or soul-part back into its correct place and therefore removing the dis-ease.
In the case of the Shamanic Death, the same takes place. A portion of the soul is lost as a result of the trauma, however in the case of someone who is to become a shaman, Hedge-Rider, Wicce, etc. the hole left by the lost soul will not be filled with dis-ease, but with Power. When the new shaman returns to every day life, back from the Void, they will find themselves changed in ways only they will know. They may suddenly have knowledge of things without previously knowing, they may have other abilities such as being able to speak with the Dead, go into trance a lot easier, be able to See, but whatever abilities they gain through the new Power, it will be one that is there to aid them in their task in this life, and although people who have not been through these experiences may consider this to be awesome, the one who has can often see it as a curse. It can take years before they may accept it, if they accept it at all, and once they do, they will know they are forever changed, forever different, and not “one of the crowd”. To be in society but never be one of them can be a daunting task.
The Shamanic Death itself can also take the form of the Cauldron of the Dark Goddess. It is similar in nature in that you are taken deep within the Cauldron and cleansed, made anew and given new Knowledge. These personal initiations or events can leave one feeling very depressed, however once you have been through them and you can recognize what is taking place, you at least have some hope and can battle through the depression with the promise of a light at the end of the tunnel.
In conclusion I would like to offer a piece of prose that I wrote some years back as a symbolic representation of a personal initiation.
Will you dance with me in the Shadow of Death?
Fondle the bosom of the Crone so that she will yearn for your young seed within her dark womb?
To walk in the Darkness that brings nothing, no memory, no being, no time, no space.
Would you like to cry out with me in agonizing and ecstatic pain to the Horned One? Allow him to fill your head with his Cunning Fire until it seethes and shakes your body as it heats your Blood and resounds through your Bones, until you are pulled from the Darkness and presented with the Illumination that his Flame provides, that you may See through the Cosmos to the other ends of Reality.
Will you allow Him to rip you to pieces, limb from limb? Allow him to devour your rotten and stinking flesh? Will you allow Him to smash His Eternal Hammer upon your being and to set you in the Fire that Forges all things? Will you allow Him to place you upon his anvil and beat you until you are made again, new, fresh, Power-filled? Will you let the Smith remake you from the Dark Womb of the Mother?
Will you dance with me in the Shadow of Death?