Wiccan Initiation — a Behind the Curtain View

Angus McMahan

Wiccan initiations vary a great deal. In today’s guest post from Angus, we’re invited to see his personal journey.

Many initiations follow a set ritual structure. However, some of the strongest initiations are guided in the moment by the God and Goddess.

Here is Angus’ guest post:

Well Water and Bubbles: Angus’ Initiations

My first initiation was also my first exposure to Witchcraft. It happened at the Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England in the summer of 1996.

I was visiting with 5 friends who were traveling across Southwest England via canal boat. For a week we had been working closely with the land, guiding our narrowboat up and down 44 locks. We barely saw a car as we journeyed, aligning ourselves with the rhythms of this ancient, energetic landscape—and put-putting along at 2 mph. It was like spending a week on the Jungle Cruise at Disneyland, except with stone and crop circles littering the landscape.

I walked into the Chalice Well gardens as an agnostic, but I immediately felt a presence on the grounds. A warm, inviting, HUGE personality that wanted IN. I acquiesced, separated myself from my group and made my way up to the top of the garden, where the Chalice Well is located.

Sitting down at the top of a short staircase above the Well opening I dropped into a lotus position—something I can’t normally do without 10 minutes of stretching—and the presence entered me through the back of my neck (throat chakra, the one about Communication).

And I was suddenly in all-time, all-space. I was everywhere, everyone, everything. Secrets and mysteries of the ages were downloaded into my aching brain. And then shining out of this mind-bending chaos was Her. She spoke to me in a 1,000 voice choir singing in perfect unison and across harmonies unknown in our reality. Female voices, male, and everything in between and beyond, with an age range from conception to long after death.

Her presence was the purest Love.

My friends found me at the Well 45 minutes later, on my hands and knees, completely unconscious, and twitching and crackling with energy. Eventually, I slumped over to my side and when my breathing returned to normal I arose and staggered out of the garden, right past my friends, and ended up across the street at our B&B, draped backwards over our pile of luggage. At least, that’s what my friends told me. I remember none of this.

I awoke there, alone, but not alone. Never ever alone. I had been chosen, dragooned, enlightened…initiated.

One of the things I woke up with was a mental picture of a storefront, back home in my town in California. I knew the place, and so when I returned from England I went there. It was the same storefront, but there was no triple moon sign out front…yet.

I knocked on the door and could hear movement from the back of the store. Finally, the door was opened, and before me was a beautiful woman with long blonde hair and piercing green eyes. She was dressed in a hooded black cloak that was trimmed with emerald stitching. Behind her was a bare room with black walls. The woman regarded me carefully. “Yes?” she said, finally.

I hadn’t planned this part. I shifted from one foot to the other, thought of a thousand things to say, rejected them all, trusted in the Universe, and just opened my mouth. “I’m supposed to be here.” I heard myself say.

Branwen surveyed me carefully from foot to head and thought for a long moment. “Yes,” she said again, breaking into a smile. “Yes, you are.”

I was her first employee and the manager of “13: Real Magick”; the first witchy store in Santa Cruz County.

My second initiation was a formal one on August 15th, 1998—in a bathroom I shared with my housemate down the hall.

I had been in the Craft for two years by that point, and I learned the ways and means of the Occult via “Retail Trad.” My covenmates were all of my customers, my sanctuary was the little black store with the triple moon sign out front. There was also a local ad-hoc group that did public rituals in parks and halls and so I had a loose tribe to celebrate the sabbats with.

I did not need to seek out all of the various trads—they all came to me, via the shop. I wasn’t tempted by them, however. My focus was on helping my customers and learning all I could. I was so completely immersed in studying the Occult that I did not feel the need to be formally initiated into it. I was already living it, whether that was intense solo rituals that left a stain on the ceiling, or long walks in the forest that left a trail of happy tears on the ground.

But, all good things must come to an end. For two years I had been living in a tent in my backyard, having rented out my own room so I could afford to work at the Magick Shop. But then that house got renovated and I had to get another place, which meant paying rent again which meant getting a job that paid a whole lot better.

And so, I left my Tradition of Retail. Also, about this time the local public group was slowly falling apart. I had lots of witchy friends, but no framework left in which to study or celebrate together.

I had been a Solitary up to that point—but now I was also a witch on his own! Being “away” from the external stimuli reminded me that I was never alone: The Love of the Goddess that I felt at the Chalice Well would always be with me. Solitude also gave me the time and space to really think about my practice—what I did and why I did it that way.

I discovered that everything I resonated with really distilled down to two pillars: Helping others—and a personal relationship with Deity. That was my Trad. MY Trad. And I felt strong enough in my devotion to these pillars to formally recognize myself—nobody else need be present, because nobody else had what I had: The authority.

On the night of August 15th, a Saturday, waning half-moon (same as initiation #1 at the Well), I rode my bike home from my new job at the world percussion store. Inside my new studio I was hungry and tired and there was laundry and suddenly whoa! It was TIME to do this initiation thing.

Oh…okay. Yes, Ma’am! I didn’t have a plan for this, but I had all of the resources I needed. Plus, the guy in the other studio down the hall was gone for the evening.

I grabbed an armload of herbs and candles and headed for our shared bathroom. I arranged and lit all of the candles around the tub while I ran the bathwater.

I was going to make a witch’s brew—with me in it!

Not having to follow a liturgy meant that I could improvise. I had done many solo rituals by then and had learned to follow my instincts—and my nose. So, all of my herbs, oils, resins and rocks were unlabeled. What went in to that bath I can’t rightly say, but it was perfect.

I got in the water, cast the circle, called the quarters and Whoosh! I was transported. The walls of the studio faded away, the ground faded away, the ceiling, sky and stars faded away…I was in allspace and alltime. And I was in Their Holy presence.

And I told the Goddess that I was initiating myself. And She replied (with that same 1,000 voice choir I had heard at the Chalice Well): “To what will you dedicate yourself?”

I hadn’t expected a quiz. I thought being a solitary meant that you didn’t have to take any tests! But having a relationship with the Gods means that you never actually Work alone.

“Service” was my spontaneous answer. “I will Dedicate myself to Service.”

And Her voice was the purest love. “And so you have, and so you are.”

Soon after that, the old public pagan group disbanded formally and then reformed as a much more organized and decentralized group of witches serving the local pagan peoples.

And I have been a part of Community Seed since its inception, and my rituals are now sometimes attended by 80 people. My practice, however, is still solitary (even though I have been part of an informal coven now for 6 years), and my focus is still the same, 20 years later.

Ever since my Initiations at the Well and in the bathtub, my witchcraft is always dedicated to the Tradition of Service.

Angus McMahan

I’m grateful that Angus shared his personal journey.
If you’d like to share your journey, please share in the comment below.

Blessed Be,

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