When I was asked to write an article to complement the release of my new book, By Land, Sky & Sea: Three Realms of Shamanic Witchcraft, I was either at a blank or had too many options relating to the subject matter to decide between. Fortunately, I tend to be quite consciously reflective, and it dawned on me to write about initiation as the path of the Shamanic Witch.
In the past few months here in Australia I have been traveling to the major cities and presenting workshops with the same title as this article. As I traveled and the people and cities changed, so did my insight into the processes and teachings deepen. I began to realise important things relating significantly to what I now proudly call Shamanic Witchcraft. Below I will discuss several of them.
My focus in the past five years has been on what I believe is the underlying or core teachings of the Mystery Tradition now called Witchcraft. This foundation is essentially shamanic, meaning our cosmologies relate to a manifold expression (generally threefold) of realms and we may travel between and through them in order to learn, change, deepen, and grow. In the process we actualise our divinity, become Gods amongst Gods, and interact with the world as alive and magickally potent. The enabling factor is of course initiation. To empower and facilitate such an awakening the shadow must be made an ally.
Many teachers (especially Jungian and New Age) relegate the shadow as limited to holding and containing our repressed emotions, thoughts, and desires before they overflow and force us to recognise the "dark" qualities within. The shadow, using this philosophy, becomes nothing more than a psychic storehouse of the recesses of self. I do not deny that the shadow can become a container for such doubt, fear, anger, and hatred; however, the shadow precedes the arousal of such emotions and in my belief can be viewed as the primal template of the soul. As such the shadow is the most powerful ally in Shamanic Witchcraft because we yearn for eternal wholeness and therefore integration with the self that holds Self is required. We are of the Earth and the Starry Heavens, of this we know.
The Shadow is the infamous Guardian at the Gate. The Gate represents Initiation and the Guardian is of course Death. Death is feared because to many it represents a final ending, an unbinding of the impetus of life, and a gradual or terrifying deterioration of the physical faculties which remind us that we are, in fact, alive. Death liberates us, not from the "mortal coil" and its implied profanity, but from the idea that our ego-bound natures can never transform, evolve, or deepen. Death encourages us to experience the potencies of Life experientially and to flow with the tides of change which Death facilitates. The Shadow/Guardian/Gate-Keeper has become maligned and demonic because we ourselves can not escape fear of Death; it is only after the experience of initiation (however that should happen) that one can truly face the Shadow and take it in to meld, fuse, and become at one with the All-Self, which is inherently divine. Thus do we attain to Deity and fulfill the destiny of the self-caused being that rests in the open palm of Being itself—that Great Mystery. The blessing of the Church of All Worlds bears the essence of what I am seeking to convey—Thou art Goddess; Thou art God.
In many Craft traditions, when the neophyte is bought to the edge of the Circle blindfolded and bound and the sword is held to her chest, the fear crystallises. One is blind, bound, and unable to escape or turn back; all that can happen, and the road to true humility and an uplifting of the soul, is surrender. To many Witches the concept of “perfect love and perfect trust” represents the quintessence of surrendering. To lay down and make oneself vulnerable, to allow the "dread forces" to carve out the holy vessel and make it fit for the spirits (the Hidden Potencies of Life) is an act of surrender and the preface to the transformation of initiation.
The Witch legend of the Descent of the Goddess, the Eleusinian Mysteries, the Orphic myth of the destruction and rebirth of Dionysus and Inanna’s journey to and from her sister Erishkigal’s halls all have one thing in common: the concept of initiation as the journey of consciousness through Death to claim the Light within that will inspire, guide and create. The initiate bears the mark of this journey for all eternity—the experience can never be forgotten, destroyed, or forcibly taken. An initiate of Life is implicitly an initiate of Death, and to the initiate, neither is above or below, or apart. Witchcraft in its many facets teaches the cycles of sacrifice, death, decay, rebirth, growth, and triumph. Modern Witches, in our celebration of the eight sabbats of the Wheel of the Year, attune to the currents of the land as reflective of the greater cosmic cycles and become at one with the self within, which is the mirror for the Self as found without. The Goddess in the Wiccan myth however declares “for if that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”
The self is the Self that is Creation, Continuum, Destruction, Transformation, and Rebirth. And as the Feri folk would say, “This too is Goddess.” I emphatically embrace my Divinity, and yours, and as such we are joined in an endless journey of understanding, celebrating, and relating to the reflections of that which we call Great Mystery. For each one of us is a Hidden Potency, a Crystallised Form of Pure Consciousness, the Tear-Drops of the Gods. It is this intimate knowledge that broadens my perspective, deepens my experience of Life, and allows me to thrive in all earnestness. I am you, you are I…we are one with the Darkness that holds and bears the Seed of Light. Each of us is the outcome of universal creativity. The Shamanic Witch’s vocation is to be witness to this Divine Truth and in service of its integrity remain conscious, alert and ready to reveal it in the spirit of reverence and celebration—for balance, for wisdom, for beauty, and for magick.