It seems to me that a rite of dedication is still an important thing. When I first came to Paganism the route into the Mysteries was through initiation and although there are probably now more solitary practitioners than people initiated into the mystery traditions some kind of dedication is still of great value. Sometimes these rites are planned, at other times it can be completely spontaneous. You may have already had one. Some can also come in the form of dreams.
An initiation into a mystery school is often done after a good year or more of exploration to make sure that the path is right for you, and you are right for the group. A rite of dedication can also be seen as a rite of opening, and can therefore be explored much earlier, if the time feels right.
Only you will know when that time comes. Don’t rush, but this post is a small pebble that I’d like to drop into the pond to allow the ripples to spread out into your awareness. To hold for the future.
Here is a story of one such spontaneous initiation:
The Ritual of the Wild
We stood together in a circle in the woodland. Seven men, and one woman. We stood, the wet leaves under our feet, the woods full of the fragrance of Autumn. The air, damp with mist. It was dusk in late Autumn, and the time was Samhain, the 31st October, or Hallowe’en. We had joined together within that circle to explore the figure of Merlin. Not the Merlin of the Malory Arthurian stories, but Merlin, the Wild Man of the Woods, who ran wild for thirty years within the forest of Caledonia after the Battle of Arderydd, where the last Pagan king of Britain, Gwendolleu, and all of Merlin’s friends and relations were slaughtered, and Merlin himself even slayed his own nephew. And as the battle ended, the air thick with the copper taint of spilled blood, a stillness fell upon the battlefield and the land, Merlin looked through the mist around him and saw hundreds of dead bodies, and he realised he was the last person standing – he was completely alone in the world. With that realisation came the fact that he could not return to society, a place that he could no longer recognise, as the new Christian faith spread across the land.
So he chose to retreat from the world of the human, and of the mundane, and he chose to live in the forest, alone, yet with the company of the animals. He lived as a forager and trapper, keeping himself alive by eating the flesh of animals, the fruit of the trees and bushes, the plants, and the fungus that forms on dead branches and the forest floor.
The Caledonian forest was vast at that time, and those who came upon him would ask him to prophesise for them. He would tell them their future, and very often what he foretold would come to pass. As he spent his time within the woods, he befriended certain animals one of which was a little piglet, and he also rode the backs of wolves and deer. He became the Wild Man of the Woods – that archetypal figure that lies within the hearts of us all. That part of our human soul that, when it sees the woodlands, cannot help but be called by the dark shadows within – we wonder what it would be like to return to that place and time when we relied heavily on the Earth and the seasons for our lives.
So we stood there under the trees, and we each spoke our truths. Some spoke of their own madness, times in their lives where they felt like their soul had been stripped to the very bone, that they in fact disappeared, that they didn’t know themselves. That they had fallen so deep that they no longer existed, and they reached the bottom of that pit, ready to rebuild themselves, slowly, gradually, until they became the person they were today. This is one form of madness.
Others spoke of the madness of inspiration – of the fact that inspiration comes from the word ‘inspire’ or to ‘breathe in’, and with this inspiration came the muse of the poet and artist. And how many poets and artists, when you explore their lives, seem to have sadness and melancholy within them, and indeed to verge on the edge of madness.
Then one of us, a bearded man, began to take off his clothes, and when naked, he lay down upon the earth, and he asked us to throw leaves onto his skin, and to bury him within the debris of the forest floor. In the cold air, he lay there, touching the earth, tears in his eyes as he spoke of how he had once had a full cup. A full cup at least in the recognition of what at that time was society’s norm. He had a wife, two children, a good job, everything he could want for, he had money coming in, a good home, yet there was something missing, something that couldn’t be fulfilled. Then he told of how he was asked by Spirit if he was ready to give that all up to find that part of himself that was missing, and he, without any hesitation said “yes”. And so he lost everything, and he did indeed return to the woods for some time, and he did return as the Wild Man, just as Merlin had done after the Battle of Arderydd, and there within the woods he found and touched something so real, and so beautiful, that his life could never be the same again – the thing that comes when you let go of the mirage of modern human constructs, and society, and place yourself back within nature itself, as a simple animal once more.
Then we wanted to reflect within each of us what it was that touched that Wild Man within, that Wild Man of the woods. So we knelt upon the earth in a circle, our hands and foreheads touching the earth. We could smell the scent of the wet fallen leaves on the forest floor, and the mustiness of the mushrooms and fungus that scattered around us. And there we recited a Merlin poem. The words Merlin cried as he held, in despair, a little piglet, knowing that his life would never be the same again. And so, we too, put our heads to the earth and spoke that poem, knowing that our lives would never be the same again.
Listen little pig,
Oh little trembling one,
Under this thin blanket, I can find no repose,
And since the battle of Arderydd,
I no longer care,
If the sky falls,
Or the sea overflows.
Then one of us began to chant in a long continious note, the words, I am……
And as the image of what lay within our hearts came into our heads we shouted, cried out, whispered in long tones…..
the Spirit of the forest!
the beating heart of the earth!
the stag of seven tines!
the blood within your veins!
the love that never dies!
And each one of us in that moment touched the madness that was Merlin again, and each one of us in that moment connected to the Wild Man/Woman within, and for my part, I let go of all that had gone before, and offered myself to the journey that lay ahead.
For some practical personal work spend some time thinking about your personal relationship with the Natural World and ask yourself the following questions. Make notes of the answers in a notebook, so you can look back on them later, and see how far you have come.
How close to you feel to the Natural World?
Are you a part of nature, or separate from it?
Can you feel your Wildman/woman inside?
If you can where in your body do they exist?
How can you express this wildness?