Fallacy: You Can't Be a Witch Without an Initiation

by Callisto

One of the most commonly misunderstood topics is initiation. A common question/complaint is:

 

"This is something that bothers me about traditions of Wicca (Gardnerian, Alexanderian, BTW etc)--why do you have to be initiated to be a witch? What if the God or Goddess comes to you and you don't have access to a coven?"

 

There are two misunderstandings in the above, so let’s address them individually:

 

The first misunderstanding is: “why do you have to be initiated to be a witch?”

The answer is:

A.  You do not need to be initiated in order to be a Witch.

B.  You also do not need to be a Wiccan in order to be a Witch. (Which leads back to "A")

 

“Witchcraft” and “Wicca” are not exclusive synonyms. Wicca is just one type of witchcraft practice, there are many more. Thus the saying, “All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan.” Not all of witchcraft is related to Wicca, and most are not initiatory, or even religious. So no, you do not need to be initiated in order to be a witch. Initiation is necessary only when the specific form of witchcraft happens to require initiation. Wicca is just ONE of many witchcraft practices, and it just happens to be initiatory.

 

The second misunderstanding is: “What if the God or Goddess comes to you and you don't have access to a coven?"

 

1. Any person can worship any deity of his choosing, in whatever manner he so desires. Wiccans do not tell others they cannot worship deities. If you want to create your own path and worship whatever gods you're attracted to, that’s fine, a lot of people do so whether it includes witchcraft or not. You do not need to be a Wiccan in order to have a relationship with your gods.

Wicca is the worship of specific deities, in a specific way. So to be Wiccan, the person would need to know who those gods are (their names are not "the Goddess and God" or "Lady and Lord", their names are not revealed publicly) AND know the specific ways of those gods' priesthood, which is learned through training and initiation. Wicca is not just the worship of deities, but also a worship of specific deities in a specific way.

 

Take this analogy: Not all chefs are the same. An Itame is a specific kind (Japanese sushi chef), one who has trained and practices in a specific way. Should a chef who has not trained as an Itame claim to be one just because he's a chef and generally familiar with preparing sushi?

 

Now let's switch some words around:

Wiccan is a specific kind of witch (an initiatory priesthood), one who has trained and practices in a specific way. Should a witch who has not trained as a Wiccan claim to be one just because he's a witch too and generally familiar with working witchcraft?

 

The Itame trains for at least 5 years as an apprentice to a master, then (hopefully) he's elevated and apprentices for several more years with another until he merits being a master in his own right.

 

A Wiccan trains for several years as well, elevating through degrees while training with his elders until he is an elder in his own right.

 

It doesn't mean there aren't other types of capable chefs or witches. It means that in order to be an Itame, or a Wiccan, the person trains in and practices in a specific way.  

Another comparison:  Two people worship Isis. One person worships her in the manner of ancient Egyptian religion (Kemetism). The other worships her in a way he's developed for himself, which might be witchcraft based and/or draws on other influences as well. Person A is practicing Kemetism, the person who is worshiping her in his own fashion is not, and it would be incorrect to call his practice Kemetism too. He's certainly another (type of) pagan and/or a witch if he includes some form of witchcraft. But his practice is not Kemetism just because he honors Isis. To claim it is would imply he's worshiping her in keeping with the Egyptian religion.

 

So, if you want to do your own thing: great! If you want to be part of a pre-existing, defined path, then it means you accept and practice its ways. However, it is perfectly ok if the ways of a religion do not appeal to you too, but that also indicates it's not the right religion for you. It makes very little sense to claim to be practicing a religion that one does not actually adhere to, and/or does not like essential elements of, and/or disagrees with on how it is perpetuated.

No religion is the end-all be-all and there are a multitude of pagan and witchcraft paths to choose from - plus the ability to create something wholly unique to you. Wicca does not hold influence over any other path. If someone is practicing another form of Craft, whether pre-defined or of his own design, then the requirements of that path is what the person engages in, and Wicca being an initiatory priesthood is irrelevant to what they do.

 

2. A person does not need to be a Wiccan in order to worship his god(s). We often hear, "I worship the Lady and the Lord", which also doesn't make the person a Wiccan.  The names of the gods of Wicca are kept oathbound and are not known to non-initiates. Also, non-initiates are diverse in which gods they worship. "The Lady and Lord" of Person A often are not the same "Lady and Lord" of Person B. Then there's Person C who might only worship one deity, which can be different from either of A's or B's.

 

3. A person does not need to be any type of witch at all, ever, in order to worship his gods. While there are many forms of witchcraft, there are even more types of Paganism. “Pagan," “Witch,” and “Wiccan” are not synonyms. Most Pagans are NOT witches of any kind, and most witches are not Wiccan, nor do all Pagan paths include magick.

 

Another misunderstanding that goes along with the above is the fallacy that initiates attempt to dictate what others can or cannot do. They don't. The requirements of Wicca have no bearing on any person practicing some other path. So if an initiatory practice is not for you, for whatever reason, that is perfectly ok. You do not have to pursue any path in which it's required. There are various Crafts and, of course, you’re certainly free to create and develop your own personal and unique path.

 

So no one’s religious freedom is being denied by Wiccans stating that Wicca is a specific path with its own requirements, like initiation.

 

Arguably the largest contributing factor to this misunderstanding is the surplus of pop-culture DIY books that obscure the fact that "witchcraft" and "wicca" are not wholly interchangeable. Sometimes this is done deliberately, other times because the author is no more an expert than seekers looking for expert advice. Sometimes it's publishers wanting to boost the profitability of those books. Wicca hasn't changed from being an initiatory priesthood, rather seekers (consumers) have been given the impression that the religion had somehow changed. What did happen is that these books have popularized a new form of practice among eclectic/solitary pagans based on borrowed elements from Wicca which have been useful to individuals in creating their personal path.

 

To sum up:

1. You do not need to be a Wiccan in order to be a witch. Nor do you need to belong to a coven or be initiated in order to be a witch.

2. You can worship whatever god or gods with whom you want a relationship.

3. You do not need to be a witch of any sort, Wiccan or otherwise, to worship deities.
4. There are many forms of paganism and many forms of witchcraft, none of which are Wicca but are just as valid.
5. You can worship in whatever manner suits you, whether it’s as part of a pre-existing, defined path, or one you develop for yourself.

6.  Just be true to yourself and true about what your path is, there is nothing "wrong" with not practicing any given path. It's more than ok not to be Wiccan, and there are thousands of pagans and witches who already know that, practicing various paths just as valid as it.

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