Recently I've been following with great interest an on-line discussion on the subject of reculement.
Recule is a word from the Craft's Norman French heritage; in Medieval French it meant “to draw back, withdraw.” A charming word for an unpleasant concept: in Craft contexts, it means “to revoke an initiation.”
What I find so interesting about this question is that in Old Craft thought (as I understand it, at any rate) initiation is, by definition, irrevocable. Although of course I can't speak for Old Craft as a whole (no one can), from where I live, no one can take away initiation because initiation cannot be given; it can only be taken.
Don't be deceived by personal presentation. Some will bite on the front end and you'll never see the kindness coming. Some will bite on the back end - where you expect sympathy you will suddenly get steel.
That is the way of it. Do not confuse softness with powerlessness, harshness with lack of solace.
At the time of writing, several friends of mine are engaged in formal initiation proceedings, leading me to consider my own experiences with initiations.It was easy to pinpoint those formal initiations such as being initiated into the National Honor Society, or being initiated into a co-ed social group at my college that I can only explain as being modeled on the Merry Pranksters.But the experience that first came to mind when thinking of initiatory experiences was working the Twelve Steps.
Anyone who has a desire to stop using can become a member of a Twelve Step group.You do not have to work the Twelve Steps.However, the process of working the Twelve Steps is the manner in which one draws closer to the program or becomes truly initiated.It is how we begin to view fellowship as family.Since we work the Twelve Steps with a sponsor, we are forced to reach our hand out and ask for help.No longer are we able to sit in the back of the room, not talking to anyone.We must make connections in order to move forward.As we reveal ourselves to our sponsor, we learn how to become open and more vulnerable.We become open to taking suggestions, and learn about humility.These are essential elements for being part of a society instead of being a party of one.Not only does the process of the Twelve Steps change us into better people, but we also learn how to be with people as we work the steps.
Since moving here to the depths of rural Ireland I've found that the seasonal and circadian rhythms rule me very intimately. This winter I have been truly initiated by the Cailleach. It's not that we have been snowed in. We are having the first flurries as I tap this blog. No, it's that when the dark descended, the cloud cover rolled in, the skies lowered, I settled into a long womb time.
I came to a full stop. I needed to just sit. Yes, there was activity happening but I felt at a bit of a remove. The real happening was the silence that descended inside me. The words wouldn't come. If I tried to force them they were clumsy. It felt as if even Spirit was incommunicado. Feeling directionless, without a sense of 'true north' I hunkered down into my still centre. In this space I sank into a powerful place of deep trust where I allowed myself to let go of some attachments.
'Everything in me knew I was dying. Memories of my life started flooding by. I realized in that moment how much I loved. Loved my dear ones, the earth, this life. So much time had been wasted in fear! I started a ritual and invited everyone to say 'I love you'. I shared everything else that needed to be shared'. At the point of near death the veils are lifted. You suddenly see, know, are. Things that you have been closing your eyes for all your life suddenly become crystal clear. For instance: your mission in life, love, how to live together with all these people on our beautiful Earth.
Last year a young man approached me at a sabbat and told me he was "of my line." Huh? I didn't know I had a line. Then he told me he'd recently been initiated and one of his initiators was an initiate of one of my initiates. My initiate had been a student of mine (and of others) for some years before any oaths were sworn.
This incident brings up lots of questions, especially since it arises from a tradition (Reclaiming) that requires no initiation in order for people to participate as fully and completely, prominently and authoritatively (teaching, public priest/essing, et al.) as they choose. An obvious concern in this scenario is accountability -- to students, to community, to tradition. Another is whether, or how, one can assume a shared knowledge and capability. Those are questions for another rumination; for now, let's stick with lines and lineage.
What do we mean by lineage? Why is it important to us? Or to those of us who may think it is important? Or to anyone?