THE GREAT RITE is a term for a sexual union, either actual or symbolic, that is usually part of the third-degree initiation ceremony in many Wiccan/Witchcraft Traditions. The Great Rite is the wedding of the masculine and feminine, the God and Goddess. It is considered a sacred act wherein the gender polarity of the initiate is joined with its opposite, thereby making the initiate whole. The Great Rite is a private ceremony between the initiate and the initiator, and one that must be totally consentual in all regards.
In ancient times this was called the Hieros Gamos, the Divine marriage. In ancient Greece the sacred marriage was celebrated to mark the marriage of Zeus and Hera, and later many Mystery sects incorporated the rite of marrying deity. The goal of the formal ritual was to make an intimate act become impersonal, thus removing the mundane personality and allowing the divine to possess and fill the void. Typically the participants were unknown to each other, and would most likely never meet again.
In modern Wicca/Witchcraft this is not the manner of initiation. The Great Rite is intended to be a spiritual joining and passing the divine nature of the Goddess and God within the human participants. Rarely, if ever, will initiations be performed where the initiator has not come to know the initiate and vice versa. Mutual trust and love are cornerstones in Wicca/Witchcraft. In some Wiccan/Witchraft Traditions the Great Rite is performed symbolically by lowering a sacred blade into an awaiting chalice. In other Traditions the Great Rite is a physical sexual union.
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