Yesterday, I received an email that got me reflecting about dedication as a rite of passage into the Wica. This may not be the most precise of statements since the Dedicant isn’t exactly dedicating into the Wica but more to the path towards Initiation.
With an array of Traditions this rite is in no way universally a part of the path towards immersion into the current, for that matter it is not even standardized within the Traditions that do use it. Since not all lineages, let alone Traditions, use an Outer Court it can make dedication seem an unwarranted addition to the ritual anthology. Dedication, however, grew out of a need that developed with the introduction of the Outer Court structure.
In the earlier days of Wica, one did not linger in an Outer Court but often after a few meetings with a Coven they were initiated and begin their life as Wica. Gardner amongst others was rather in a hurry to spread the Old Craft. There are some lineages and Traditions that still start a young Witch’s training after First though not with the same leniency, with candidates spending a time (whether or not it is the traditional year and a day depends upon the line and Tradition) associated with the Coven before initiation. It is my understanding that with Ed Fitch’s writing of a Gardnerian Outer Court Book of Shadows and the desire for Covens to provide some training to their Acolytes awaiting initiation that the concept of an Outer Court was formed.
With Acolytes training with a Coven a year and a day out before initiation there became a gap in the passage of thresholds that before had been carried out by initiation to First, there was no recognition of lighting the fire beneath the cauldron of birth.
Initiation is acceptance into the Wica. The womb of the cauldron births forth the Witch. This is a monumental moment in the life of a Witch. It is not the only one though. There will be and are other initiations both internal and external. Symbolically it is when the Witch is woven from the red thread of tradition.
Dedication is the descent into the caverns of the womb. It is when the cunning fire is lit and the spiritual brew set, for a year and a day it must be tended and prepared. All the difficulties of tending a spiritual concoction are the same as if someone tried to keep a cauldron cooking (outdoors) for a year and a day. There will be bad weather, problems of ingredients, distractions, the support of friends and family, and many more both seen and unseen. More importantly it is at Dedication when the Acolyte affirms before the Lord and Lady and the Coven/Tradition their intent do the work necessary.
It is common for Dedicants to receive some sort of gift, token, or other tangible recognition of their commitment. It is symbolic of inner commitment; of all the trails, challenges, and personal work. It tells the story of our path and shows where we have come from and where we are going for it has been along for the ride from the moment we heralded our name to the witnessed.
Dedication for those that under go it is meaningful and an important recognition upon the path towards becoming one of the Wica. There is work to be done and out of the shadows things will be stirred but perseverance will put one foot in front of the other down this winding path.
"Lost in a thicket bare-footed upon a thorned path."