Faces of Initiation

Nonfiction literary compositions

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Faces of Initiation

Postby Hesperus » Sat Jan 30, 2016 5:33 pm

Hesperus (c) 2016

With a new year freshly underway and Imbolc on the horizon, this is the perfect time to give thought to initiation. Often used as a synonym for beginnings in general, initiation is a broad term that can refer to anything from starting your car to joining a fraternity, but it typically calls to mind images of occult rites that introduce new members into secret societies. Etymologically, initiation comes from the Latin for introductory rites, initiatus, but that term itself comes from the Latin meaning simply going into. Whether we’re going into a new year or entering a sacred space, it behooves us to understand the essence and potential applications of initiation.

Symbolic representations of initiation are plentiful in large part due to its widespread use in religious or spiritual communities. Janus, the two-faced Roman god of beginnings, endings, transitions and doorways, for example, immediately comes to mind. Because Janus presides over all gates, he controls the gates of Heaven such that Jupiter himself depends upon Janus in order to travel from realm to realm. Accordingly, Janus was invoked before any other gods in ancient Rome’s monthly rituals. In fact, according to the ancient Roman poet Ovid, February was traditionally the final month of the year so the first day of the final month of the ancient Roman calendar has Janus’ name written all over it.

One of my personal favorite images of initiation is the Fool in the Tarot’s major arcana. Marking the undertaking of new adventures or perspectives, this unnumbered card offers a lesson that can benefit us at any stage in our spiritual development. Standing at a precipice overlooking a verdant valley, the Fool is goaded by a small beast nipping at his heels. Whether the Fool proceeds to explore the valley below or plummets unceremoniously to his death depends upon how much attention he pays to the beast who represents instinct, driving the Fool into action as well as advising caution when noticing things the Fool would otherwise overlook.

As we prepare for the return of Spring, Persephone’s abduction and return also naturally comes to mind. Dragged to the underworld as the young daughter of goddess of the harvest, Demeter, Persephone was forcibly wed to Hades and finally ascended once more to the world of the living after three months of divine diplomacy to end the winter brought on by Demeter’s maternal mourning. As a metaphor for initiation, what we see in Persephone’s story is a young woman impelled into a state of transformative introspection from which she emerged, no longer a maiden, but a queen. Also of note, Persephone returned to her position of simultaneous suffering and power each year to appease her husband Hades, the beast who demanded this state of isolation and transformation.


Facing Others: Inspiration
The beginning of wisdom is recognizing that there exists something more than we already know, whether it’s a vast, unexplored valley at our feet or the alien kingdom of the underworld. To grow, then, we must embrace the mentality of the Fool, letting instinct drive us to new adventures, the greatest of which, I would say, are explorations that lead to new points of view, perspectives that challenge the universality of our limited past experiences and which demand new degrees of insight and a fresh set of skills. Descending from a state of self-perceived perfection may seem like a step in the wrong direction, as admitting our own ignorance makes us vulnerable, but imagine the Fool looking down on the valley: he has a sublime view of the entire land, but knows nothing of its individual creatures, which trees bear edible fruit, or what hidden dangers lie in its many shadows. From this “all-seeing” position, he would have little insight to offer residents of that valley wanting to improve their lives. A single conversation between the Fool at the mountain’s peak and a lifelong valley-dweller would doubtlessly inspire considerable humility in them both.

Facing Yourself: Introspection
You are a being capable of self-awareness; you are able to look at yourself critically. This affords you an incredible opportunity to give yourself insightful advice, to constantly improve your patterns of thoughts and actions, and to generally make yourself better, whatever that means to you personally. Taking advantage of that opportunity comes at a price, though; when you view yourself critically, you’re also being critically viewed. When anyone looks at you and points out that there’s room for improvement, it’s perfectly natural to get a little defensive; when you’re also the one looking for those potential improvements, you’re a lot more likely to give in and accept those justifications to avoid the discomfort of genuinely confronting your shadow self. Truly facing yourself, without hiding parts the world has told you are unseemly or making excuses for parts the world has added to you that you’d rather be rid of, is an act of courage. It’s also something that many of us can’t reliably do alone.

Facing Others: Confirmation
This requires us to do an about-face and once again turn our attention outwards to those we trust to hold us accountable and provide feedback on how successful our attempts at self-transformation really were. It is at this point, after monumental spiritual change may have already occurred, that many initiatory rites actually take place. Many initiation rituals feature tests of strength, wisdom, or resolve to confirm that would-be initiates are truly prepared to live up to the oaths they seek to take or that they are recognizable by ingroup-only information as belonging. In this sense, what we think of as initiation is often merely the final stage of a much longer and largely invisible process. Those who pass then gain access to new levels of support and inspiration, potentially beginning the initiatory process anew.


Like any act of magical transformation, initiation demands the adoption of a sacred mindset, a consciousness that transcends and transforms the mundane. You have the power to embrace this magical state of mind at any time; while Nature has always been there to encourage and remind us to keep growing, remember that you yourself are part of Nature and you don’t need to wait for the changing of the seasons or the alignment of the stars to look within and better align your thoughts and your actions with your own nature. You have the divine ability to transform every washing of your hands into a powerful cleansing ritual, every nap into an inner journey to explore your Shadow Self, every fresh moment into the crossing of a magical threshold into a new realm. So when you feel that inner nagging beast nipping at your heels, please don’t continue blithely on your prior path and push it aside, telling yourself you’ll address it when the time is right; your instincts are telling you that the time is right now. All the tools you need are within you, and, as you can see by looking around, your path has already led you to an inspiring community that has more than a little support to offer.
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Re: Faces of Initiation

Postby ashu29 » Mon Feb 01, 2016 12:26 pm

Bravo Gordon... very nice article loved it
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Re: Faces of Initiation

Postby The Madame X » Thu Feb 04, 2016 7:11 pm

Thank you Hesperus not only for this delicious article but also for presenting it before a full audience at the One Year Anniversary of the Iron Garden. And since we are on the topic I will share a little of what it means to be initiated into House of The Dreaming, at least from my limited perspective.

Initiation - Embarking on a Journey
By Madame X © 2000 (2007 edited revision)

We are all at different plateaus of our life when we arrive at our initiation ceremony. Initiation puts that journey into a new perspective, as the focus of our journey now becomes our relationship with House of The Dreaming. This new daring journey begins with Initiation and is propelled by active participation, interaction and study. Embarking on this journey is celebrated, hosted and assisted by the Family by an initiatory rite of welcome we call initiation; through it we are born into the family.

Initiation is a celebration of welcome and belonging, not only to The Family but also to The Ancients and to the Community. Initiation tells us that we belong ‘to’ the Ancients, that we belong ‘with’ House of the Dreaming, and that we belong for ‘the’ community at large. Belonging is one of the most important influences of our nightside path, as it is a powerful driving force. We already belong to a dayside family, but through initiation we belong to yet another family, a spiritual family which embraces the doctrine of the Dreaming honoring the Veil of the Waking Dream; we are a Family that cares about each other and the nightside community in a special way. Belonging to the Ancients means that we carry their spark and that they have recognized and welcome us. Belonging with our Family means that we are accompanied in our nightside journeys of self-discovery and community exploration; we need not be alone with our doubts, fears, or successes. Belonging for the community implies that we must strive toward understanding, service and edification.

The rite of initiation should be very meaningful to the initiant. While possible, the initiant should not expect an instant transformation but should be prepared for an extended process. Initiates have recounted personal initiations as ranging from purely enjoyable to incredible transcendental experiences. Every element of this rite, both physical and spiritual, is important and meaningful and it behooves the initiant to learn and understand its meaning; as initiation into The Dreaming is a lesson regarding our traditions, doctrine and practices. Here the initiant is focal, but the elders and mentors are also important since they are also making a lasting commitment to the initiant before the House, Community and before the Ancients.

Initiation marks the beginning of our journey as Dreamers, to better understand ourselves, our family, the community and the universe around us. We must expect this journey to be challenging. It will involve commitment, love, service, and sometimes sacrifice. But this challenging journey also reaps the benefits of growth, understanding, realization and family unity.
Ex Somnius Scientia
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Re: Faces of Initiation

Postby EzikielTempted » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:30 pm

This is an insightful and thought provoking read. Well done!
SINcerely,

Ezikiel
House of the Dreaming
Vox Homunculi

"There is no nightmare more potent than a memory."
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Re: Faces of Initiation

Postby The Madame X » Sun Nov 19, 2017 5:16 pm

bump bump
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