Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual

Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual

Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual

Coming to the Edge of the Circle: A Wiccan Initiation Ritual

Synopsis

Imagine yourself sitting on the cool damp earth, surrounded by deep night sky and fields full of fireflies, anticipating the ritual of initiation that you are about to undergo. Suddenly you hear the sounds of far-off singing and chanting, drums booming, rattles "snaking," voices raised inharmony. The casting of the Circle is complete. You are led to the edge of the Circle, where Death, your challenge, is waiting for you. With the passwords of "perfect love" and "perfect trust" you enter Death's realm. The Guardians of the four quarters purify you, and you are finally reborn into the Circle as a newly made Witch.

Coming to the Edge of the Circle offers an ethnographic study of the initiation ritual practiced by one coven of Witches located in Ohio. As a High Priestess within the coven as well as a scholar of religion, Nikki Bado-Fralick is in a unique position to contribute to our understanding of this ceremony and the tradition to which it belongs. Bado-Fralick's analysis of this coven's initiation ceremony offers an important challenge to the commonly accepted model of "rites of passage." Rather than a single linear event, initiation is deeply embedded within a total process of becoming a Witch in practice and in community with others.

Coming to the Edge of the Circle expands our concept of initiation while giving us insight into one coven's practice of Wicca. An important addition to Ritual Studies, it also introduces readers to the contemporary nature religion variously called Wicca, Witchcraft, the Old Religion, or the Craft.

Excerpt

In this book, I use a detailed description of a particular kind of religious initiation ritual from a specific community in order to challenge our assumptions about rites of passage, questioning a paradigm that has changed little since its creation by Arnold van Gennep in the early 1900s. In particular, I hope to challenge notions of initiation as a tripartite process with sharply defined movements of separation, liminality, and reincorporation. This etically derived tripartite model and its variations usually employ a unidirectional spatiality and a linear understanding of the process of transformation. But when approaching the ceremony from the dual perspectives of a scholar-practitioner, a linear and spatial analysis proves inadequate to describe particular emic aspects of the ceremony.

As a practitioner and an interdisciplinary scholar, my approach to initiation is necessarily reflexive and pluralistic. Within a broad philosophical framework, I draw upon the insights and methods of ethnographic folklore studies, somatic theories, metacommunication theories, feminist critiques, and especially a performance approach, in order to access meaningful aspects of the initiation within both the immediate and larger process of a particular ritual performance.

I explore an initiation ritual performed by a small coven of Witches located in Ohio. Members of this religious community, called either Wiccans or Witches within this book, practice a contemporary nature religion variously called Wicca, Witchcraft, the Old Religion, or the Craft by its practitioners. Wicca is an extremely diverse and decentralized religion with a great deal of local autonomy in membership, practices, and organizational structure.

Although I think a close examination of other forms of initiation ritual might also compel us to reconsider the tripartite paradigm, there are many . . .

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