Major Religions & Spiritual Beliefs
Wicca Rites of Passage
WICCA RITES OF PASSAGE
Initiation: When a person joins a coven and begins to study the craft, they go through an initiation ritual. In this way, all British Traditional Wiccans can trace their initiatory lineage back to Gerald Gardner, and from him to the New Forest coven. Gardner himself claimed that there was a traditional length of "a year and a day" between when a person began studying the craft and when they were initiated, although he frequently broke this rule with initiates.
Rights of Passage
In British Traditional Wicca, initiation only accepts someone into the first degree. To proceed to the second degree, an initiate has to go through another ceremony, in which they name and describe the uses of the ritual tools and implements. It is also at this ceremony that they are given their craft name. By holding the rank of second degree, a BTW is therefore capable of initiating others into the craft, or founding their own semi-autonomous covens.
The third degree is the highest in BTW, and it involves the participation of the Great Rite, either actual or symbolically, as well as ritual flagellation. By holding this rank, an initiate is capable of forming covens that are entirely autonomous of their parent coven.
The Cochranian tradition, based upon the teachings of Robert Cochrane, does not have the three degrees of initiation, merely having the stages of novice and initiate.
Some solitary Wiccans also perform self-initiation rituals, to dedicate themselves to becoming a Wiccan. Several self-initiation rituals have been published, in books designed for solitary Wiccans such as in Scott Cunningham's book Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.
Handfasting is another celebration held by Wiccans, and is the commonly used term for their weddings. Some Wiccans observe the practice of a trial marriage for a year and a day, which some traditions hold should be contracted on Lammas (Lughnasadh), as this was the traditional time for trial, "Telltown marriages" among the Irish. A common marriage vow in Wicca is "for as long as love lasts" instead of the traditional Christian "till death do us part".
The first ever known Wiccan wedding ceremony took part in 1960 amongst the Bricket Wood coven, between Frederic Lamond and his first wife, Gillian.
Infants in Wiccan families may be involved in a ritual called a Wiccaning, which is analogous to a Christening. The purpose of this is to present the infant to the God and Goddess for protection. Despite this, in accordance with the importance put on free will in Wicca, the child is not necessarily expected or required to follow a Pagan path should they not wish to do so when they get older.
The Great Rite
In Wicca, the Great Rite is either ritual sexual intercourse, or else a ritual symbolic representation of sexual intercourse. In the symbolic version the High Priest plunges the athame, or ritual knife, (the male symbol) into a cup or chalice (the female symbol) which is filled with wine and is held by the High Priestess. The Great Rite symbolizes creation in the union of the Maiden Goddess with the Lover God, and thus is also known as a fertility rite.
A variety of ritual occasions call for the Great Rite to be performed, such as during the festival of Beltane on or about May 1 in the northern hemisphere and November 1 in the southern hemisphere. Most often, it is performed by the High Priest and High Priestess, but other members can be elected to perform the Rite.
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