Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let's talk Initiation

Before I get started, I want to be clear that I'm not asking anyone to divulge oathbound secrets on a blog on the Internet.  But in the 25+ years I've been practicing Wicca, I've noticed some unusual happenings pertaining to the initiatory experience that I'd like to explore, hopefully with input from others who are comfortable talking about it.

If you don't know, I generally work within a mostly Wiccan tradition of the sort practiced before the Llewellyn books were widely available.  A lot of the current eclectic Wiccan traditions don't resemble what I do, although that doesn't make them invalid for the folks practicing them.  It's just different.

That said, I've worked in a 3-degree system for most of my adult life (well, aside from the 4th degree initiation I received that's such a mystery I wasn't really told anything about it before or afterward).

To prepare folks for initiation, I was taught that fasting for 4-6 hours was preferable, abstaining from nicotine, caffeine, or any mind-altering substance was mandatory, and that eating a vegan diet for 3-7 days prior was ideal.  For people on prescription medication, that's not always possible.  Most smokers can't go 4-6 hours without nicotine, and most coffee/soda drinkers can't abide the idea of going that long without caffeine.  The folks who don't follow the rules I was originally given are usually the ones most likely to have some sort of negative experience after the initiation, though.

I've seen a lot of different things happen to folks after their initiation, whether I was involved or not, and some of them were more negative than others.  Always on the lookout to improve the experience for everyone, I'm interested in feedback from anyone who either recognizes these or has something else to add to the list.

After-effects of Initiation:
  1. Fatigue – is this normal, as a result of energy channels (meridians?) opening wider from the initiatory experience, or is it a result of too much energy being flooded through someone?  How do we measure or regulate how much energy one uses to initiate?
  2. Confusion – I think when confusion happens and someone is “thinking fuzzy” for a few days after initiation, it may be a result of improper grounding, or something has gone wrong with the integration process of the new energy assimilating into the existing system to create the change that goes with initiation.
  3. Hyper-awareness, Insomnia – lumped these together because they can be sort of related.  The initiate is highly stimulated by the initiatory experience, but they can’t ground enough to sleep, and the heightened sensory input that sometimes accompanies initiation also keeps them from relaxing.  In some cases, they may need to be grounded by someone else if they’re unable to make it work.  This should happen before they leave the place of initiation, to make sure this “hyper” state doesn’t kick in later as it sometimes does.
  4. “Purging” – I’ve seen everything from profuse sweating (elevated body temperature), diarrhea, vomiting, to gallstone or kidney stones post-initiation – sometimes even just after a Reiki attunement.  I still don’t have a handle on this one, but I’m betting that it has something to do with pre-initiation preparations not done right.
  5. Sex drive – this one might be normal, but I’ve seen both elevated and depressed sex drive in people post-initiation, with no discernible pattern to indicate a cause either way.
  6. Flu-like symptoms – In at least two occurrences, I’ve seen post-initiation illnesses that appeared to be like a bout of the flu.  Is it possible that in certain circumstances the immune system is suppressed by the initiatory experience, making the initiate more susceptible to infection?
  7. Fainting – had a big strapping lad pass out once, but later we found out that he fasted longer than instructed, so combined with the hot bath pre-initiation and the flood of energy coming at him as he approached the circle, the fainting wasn’t a surprise.  The fainting afterward also wasn’t a surprise, but we fed him up and he seemed fine later, although he stopped practicing the Craft and couldn’t really explain why.

Your thoughtful responses are of course appreciated  :)


  1. Some of the fatigue,confusion,nausea,vomiting,insomnia and fainting are more than likely psycho-motor responses to over stimulation. The physiological term is neuro-circulatory asthenia, and it's not unusual for newbies in boot camp to suffer some or all of the symptoms, including the flu-like symptoms. It's basically an anxiety disorder caused by a multiple system other words, they're short-circuiting and exhausted. That's the mundane explanation.

    The metaphysical one is that it's an energy overload caused by the sudden opening of meridians and chakras. Good grounding helps, but my experience with initiates in this condition is that an extream, sudden change in diet-such as introduction of fasting or elimination of certain foods too quickly, restriction of caffeine in someone who has an established level in their blood stream, plays havoc with blood sugar and electrolytes. I feel the fasting element is important, but I recommend it's eased into over 7-10 by adding more bulk and fiber for a day, then eliminating meats for a couple of days,eventually going the juice-fasting route for a couple more days and no more than 48 hours of abstaining from all intake but keeping well hydrated by water or water mixed with a little fruit juice or Gatorade.(The fuzzy thinking is a major symptom of dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.In warm weather it can also be a sign of heat-related illness,which will land you in the ER hooked up to an IV.) Re-introducing foods in the reverse order keeps the GI system from being overwhelmed by going from 0-to-normal diet. I've seen initiates celebrate by breaking their fast with a huge dinner, then puking the whole thing up because their liver and intestines had to work too hard at digestion. When you fast, peristalsis in the intestines slows down, so eating a lot at once essentially cause them to cramp up, and the food backs-up. Not pleasant conversation, but it's good to know the physiology to understand what's happening on the physical plane.

  2. Oh, I don't encourage anyone to do a total fast for days, just a 4-6 hour one and eat "light" for a few days beforehand. Otherwise it's too much of a shock to the system, and way outside the norm of what they'd normally do. Back in the day, we didn't even do full moon ritual without a day or two of vegetarianism, but I've worked with enough diabetics that I think the 4 hour rule is plenty after a few days of light eating.