There are different forms of initiation:
There are 1) initiations in a tradition, where you become part of a particular witchcraft group or magical order and you learn to do things in their traditional ways. This initiation confers you lineage in a tradition and eventually a certain degree of authority in regard to it. Gardnerian, Alexandrian, Blue Star, Faery, Lodges, Temples, Confraternities, Mystery schools etc. are initiatory traditions of this kind. Initiations are given through a specific ceremony by the leaders of the group in a place consecrated for spiritual work. The procedure is that usually the seeker finds the teacher and after a generous dose of grovelling, if leaders and members approve of you and think you’re a good fit, they put you through an initiatory ceremony where you might have to go through some artificially constructed ordeal to simulate a death and rebirth. I call it the ‘twisting the arm of destiny initiation’ – in other words the Fates cannot find it in their files. Do I think it’s valid? In itself no. Belonging to a group doesn’t make you stand out ‘marked’. However, it is well possible that in a secondary role to the 4th, 5th and 6th initiations, traditions hold a specific meaning to an individual.
You then have 2) master to apprentice initiation. It’s a one to one teacher/student who meet by sheer coincidence but is an almost symbiotic working relationship where the Master sees in the Apprentice a vessel in which to store and preserve all the collected knowledge and wisdom. The level of trust is immense and so it’s communication and experimentation. There are no ceremonies if not just the unspoken blessing once the teacher thinks it is time to part and go in separate ways. It usually ties in with number 5 and 6 below.
3) Family initiations, unlike Sanders’ silly recounts, family initiations do not involve a naked grandma nicking your scrotum but can be every bit as intimidating. You don’t even see it coming until you’re gravely summoned by the matriarch or patriarch of the family – usually on their death-bed but not always necessarily so. They will make you take oath upon oath in the name of this saint and that, often in the presence of other family members who will make you repeat the same oath and come close to beating the living hell out of you. You get to know secrets you won’t find anywhere in books or on the internet. The family pressure is such, you’ll be taking those secrets to your grave of your own volition. In some parts of the world it was still common practice as far back as 20 years ago, the social changes means that it’s highly unlikely something like this will happen to you unless you belong to a tight-knit familial clan or live on a gypsy camp. It can tie in with number 4 and on very rare occasions (but I’ve seen it) where it starts as number 1 and grows into 4.
4) Astral initiations. Here, whether you ever had a say in the matter may depend on your beliefs of what happens in period between death and rebirth – if you believe in reincarnation, that is. Astral initiation is the purest and yet the most unpleasant of initiations. It is the most rewarding and yet the most laboured of all. You’re life is met with hostility from the moment of conception and no doubt you can look forward to a life that will have more than the ordinary fair share of upheavals from the start. The astral initiate possesses an awareness beyond his or her chronological age from infancy and much resemble old souls, although they’re not necessarily so. Astral initiates see, hear and feet things normal people don’t and are not always pleasant. They may experience terror and loneliness. While some of these traits may be common among most people in their infancy, the gates eventually fade away and close from a certain age onwards. Not with the astral initiates. They know. Life and the Otherworld are their teachers. Knowledge and secrets are revealed naturally in form of interactions with overseeing guides from the Otherworld and realisations. The life of Jesus is a good example of what life patterns and issues manifest with astral initiation, including predictable clashes and unpopularity with learned people and dramatic crises and endings. Can you be astrally initiated at some point during your life? No. Astral initiation occurs in the astral before you incarnate, if it is destined to be.
5) Shamanic initiation/the wounded healer. This ties in part with the master/apprentice and family/tribe initiation but it doesn’t always occur this way. It can sometimes happen, that at some point through life a traumatic event burns the life we have known down to the ground or brings us real close to smell the breath of death but for some ‘divine intervention’, make it through the crisis by the skin of our teeth, alive yet deeply scarred or crippled on one or multiple levels. This is a powerful initiation that yes can be induced artificially with psychoactives or artificially constructed ordeals but sometimes people can just be harvested by some greater power with or without your consent, for no apparent reason. The purpose is something that they alone will work out in their own time. Now, I can hear some people talking about burning off karma. If that would be the reason, then everyone would get this type of initiation at some point or another because we all have plenty of karma to burn off if we’re here. But that’s not the case. What can seemingly appear as punishment or karma to a misguided and spiritually immature individual, is effectively the first stage of a metamorphosis. Expect to encounter this kind of short-sighted ignorance among the initiates of a tradition. It is usually coupled with an overrated confidence in their own psychic ability. Do your best not to smack them on the head and think you’ve just learnt what someone talking out of their arse sounds like.
6) Chaotic/Magical initiation. This initiation can occur parallel to any of the above and it is also the inverse of astral initiation. It is what makes a stark difference from one traditional initiate to another and it is all the more noticeable among those who walk their solitary path without relying on any group affiliation. It is the relentless pursuit and familiarisation with the Otherworld that eventually marks the individual as an Initiate. The focus is on finding your own gateways to the Otherworlds, making allies there and let them guide you throughout your journey. You become the rightful owner of your knowledge, the source and master of your own power and the hero/in of your own life. There are no human hierarchies to bow to in Magic and Chaos, because there is only place for One in the eye of the storm. It’s between you and the rest of the universe, if you understand the level of curiosity a human being raises when they try to cross the threshold. Look at a ceremony as a deliberate magical act to prise the gate open onto the other side. So long as there’s intent there’s results. You can do it alone or you can do it with someone who has already done it or you can do it with someone who is as determined as you, provided you understand what you’re doing, the tools you’re using and why.
In my opinion, traditions are like packaging: 95% is just outer wrapping, polystere, bubble wrap, and a plastic case standing between you and what little of value the box contains. There’s a hell of a lot you will discard as useless by the time you’ve finish to unpack. Religion makes a big chunk of the tradition and you don’t need religion to work magic just as you don’t need chains to run. Submission to a hierarchy or other being is an affirmation of inferiority and is not the same as respect. Religion teaches you that you are inferior to some people and beings and thus it disempowers and denies you the right to receive respect back. That’s why I find it difficult to take seriously those BTW wiccan priests that raise their voice at you one moment and kiss somebody’s arse another.
Magic teaches you that you possess something so craved for that some beings were prepared to lose their place in paradise for a momentary taste of your presumed inferiority, which is why the Magician’s starting point is not learning about the wheel of the year or what colour candle to use for what spell, but to know oneself. If you don’t know yourself, you’re pretty much lost in this world and the other and you will either tag along with the sheep or wander aimlessly without ever concluding anything of real worth. really want an external opinion Magic without religion is about understanding the wisdom of forging alliances as opposed to sycophantic worship, with beings who need you as much as you need them.