The Challenge of Initiation

One of the worst conversations I ever had with a dear friend was a life changer for us both. We are both pagans and had circled many times together for over a decade. I was attempting to explain that something she was trying to sell to BTW Seekers as BTW appropriate did not meet the specific BTW requirements as set down by our Traditions. For obvious reasons, a non-Initiate should not attempt to without intense input from BTWs. She kept arguing with me that she’d seen BTW Elders wear something similar at public pagan events. It was a deadlocked argument. She wouldn’t accept my authority as an Initiate and I couldn’t accept that my dear friend wouldn’t listen to what I was saying. I felt disrespected and dishonored. She felt I was mistaken and was just being stubborn. Our friendship never recovered. That year, she was not accepted as a BTW Outer Grove student. I wasn’t surprised. She has gone on to a different path which seems to suit her better. One without guidelines, requirements or leaders. It’s a better match for her personality and I wish her well.

Initiation creates divisions between friends, especially when there exists a power struggle to begin with. There is a gulf of experiences Initiates of any path have that go far beyond the ritual, itself. In this case, my dear friend could neither respect or recognize my authority in this matter. I gave her several sources, including people, to verify the information I gave her. Given I never saw her use them, I’m fairly sure she did not bother to.

Initiation requires transformative change. A Seeker must be flexible to the changes that will occur in both themselves and those around them. I had been warned that I would lose friends post-Initiation. I had not realized that I would lose this specific friend, but in hindsight, given the power struggles we already had, I should have seen it coming. I’ll keep telling this painful story, because Seekers need to look into their lives and relationships prior to Initiation and decide for themselves if Initiation is worth the gains and losses. No leader can tell them that. We can only tell them if it was worth it to us. Most of us will say yes. Most of us have grieved for what we have lost, however. And we have rejoiced in what we have grained. Among the friends new Initiates lose one of the most painful things we lose is our close-held beliefs. That is what we think we know, from Wikipedia:

  • [Schema] describes an organized pattern of thought or behavior that organizes categories of information and the relationships among them. [1] It can also be described as a mental structure of preconceived ideas, a framework representing some aspect of the world, or a system of organizing and perceiving new information

The schema challenge therefore is one where we struggle to incorporate new things, new ways of thinking and new paradigms. It sounds so simple, but indeed processing is one of the hardest things we do as individuals. It is nothing less than a loss of faith as we build up a new one.

In the Outer Grove, we teach many things over the course of 13 moons. When we teach them about Samhain, it is also an opportunity to grieve the death of the old self the friendships they will lose and the many challenges to our tightly held belief systems that await them.


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