Initiation is a transformation of your soul.
Yeah, that’s on purpose, but in practice what it means is that your way of moving through the world becomes something unfamiliar. The more intensive the initiation, the more intensive your mystical practice, the more dramatic the results are likely to be.
Not all initiatory experiences are labeled clearly as such.
When we teach the Trance Class in the Hrafnar community, we warn folks that going through the process, even if you’re experienced, tends to be a First Class Tour of Your Issues (or, as fellow seidhkona Deborah M points out, “World Class Tour of My Issues” = WCTMI = “Whacked-me!”). In my experience, any initiatory experience qualifies, and I have been through several over the last decade. Most recently, last year’s Mysteries and Ordination for my own Vanic tradition have resulted in quite the roller-coaster ride for me this year.
I know it’s all for the better, and I know building this particular Vanic tradition is the main thrust of my calling. I’ve named this path RedWood Vanatru, and am currently in the early stages of clarifying what makes it distinct from other forms of Vanatru (more to allow that Your Vanatru Is Okay Too than to claim we’re particularly special), building a liturgical calendar, and a first kindred, all on the foundation of practice we’ve built in the Vanic Conspiracy over the last decade. It’s a long story, and not one I’m yet ready to tell in any depth, but the point is, it’s not an optional process for me, and it’s also not at all an easy one.
It’s actually kind of terrifying.
It has required that I go through spiritual re-wiring repeatedly. The current round is unresolved. Taking (and building) Vanic Mysteries has been incredibly positive, but it also stripped me of two major coping mechanisms that I was using to move through the world in a more even-keel way. It seems that when a method for coping with being a bit broken has a side effect of keeping me broken, there comes a time when the Powers decide to just take it away, and make me find a better way of dealing with my issues.
In this case, the two issues on my plate are Anger, and Belonging. The former was immediately obvious, and it had been on my plate to struggle with for years, but I wasn’t making very good progress, so They apparently decided to kick me in the ass about it. The latter was also on my plate, but I have had absolutely no idea how to even approach the problem. And I still don’t, overall, but I no longer have the ability to just box it up in favor of focusing on other problems and solutions.
This has been part of a larger pattern that I’m sure I could trace back farther, or in more detail if I were of a mind to. Every time I think I’ll get a break for a while, I find out that no, it’s time for another round:
- Odin first hit me with the butt of His spear in 2002, kicking my spiritual seeking process into sudden high-gear. That sent me reeling from place to place trying to find somewhere okay to be, only to find myself right back where it started, in Hrafnar, now with bonus Ancestor Reverence.
- My initial rune and trance training with Hrafnar in 2003 required me to re-evaluate my place in the spiritual universe, and that was a major overhaul, but one I welcomed and willfully engaged in wholeheartedly.
- My Seidh initiation in 2004 resulted in a huge increase in my hypersensitivity, which required changes in my life habits. The end of that year is when we founded the Vanic Conspiracy.
- My first round with the Oracles from the Living Tarot in 2005 turned out to be quite the Coyote Teaching moment confronting my need for Control.
- 2007 was less deliberate – I broke my foot, had to have the engine in my car replaced, and conducted my first wedding (for my super-competent older sister no less), all in the same month. That required me to seriously acknowledge and affirm my own Competency.
- My Headwash in 2009 required me to confront my sense of Responsibility, and my Fear.
- My Necklacing in 2011 required me to re-assess what Joy means, and form a more integrated understanding of my apparently non-linear spiritual path.
- And of course, in 2013, my Mysteries and Ordination, which are requiring me to confront my Anger and sense of Belonging (or lack thereof).
I’m sure this isn’t the last round.
Sometimes I wonder if I was nearly useless when all this began, but looking back I know I wasn’t. I just wasn’t what I needed to be to do this work. As an imperfect human, I may never be fully optimal for this work. But the work is here, it needs doing. If I’m not already what They need me to be to get the work done, then that, too, becomes part of the work.
There’s a strong tendency for folks to perceive spiritual work as either entirely in service to the Gods, or entirely for personal development, as though those are somehow mutually exclusive. One can not engage in service to the Gods and not be changed by the process. That process involves personal development, to a very significant degree. That’s as good a reason as any to engage with the process, but if you think that’s all it is, you may be dismayed at what They choose for the direction those developments take. There’s a whole lot of crazy on the way to being a more competent mystic, and stopping in the middle isn’t a good idea.
There’s a reason a lot of older traditions say the folks who take the deep dive or the highest road to reach the divine as directly as possible are taking a very dangerous path. You can’t unpack an attic full of poorly-organized boxes without making a mess, but you can’t sort the contents out if you don’t unpack them first. Everyday life, nature, and human culture are some of the worst box-packers in the universe, but we get a hell of a lot more done when the boxes are packed, however inexpertly. I’m not saying only super special people are allowed to be mystics, but it’s not exactly what I’d call a practical life choice being in an ongoing psyche-unpacking process all the damned time whenever the Powers find another poorly-packed box you need to sort through.
The point isn’t to gaze at your own navel until you forget what you’re looking at, or obsessively sort and resort everything in your mind until it’s all perfectly arranged. The point isn’t to develop super powers for your own sake, or to sacrifice everything you are for everyone’s sake but your own. The point isn’t to go crazy, or even to go sane. The point is simply to learn how to really pay attention and keep moving forward on your path.
When you can do that, you can serve the gods. That’s when the real work gets done, and there’s nothing more satisfying in the universe than that.