The Second Degree, and the Western Gate

While privacy is respected in Open Source Alexandrian Wicca, ours is a tradition that doesn’t have secrets. The texts of our initiation rituals, for instance, can be found on our web site. But just because they’re set in code, doesn’t mean they’re set in stone. A recent initiation demonstrated that we need a script for when we initiate abuse survivors, as there are elements of the initiation rite that are meant to be a symbolic ordeal and were triggering to this survivor.

Around midday on Samhain 2015, I found my wife Anne cold, clammy, and unresponsive. Soon, I had the paramedics here and they rushed her to the hospital. At about the time when she and I were supposed to be getting ready for a Samhain ritual, her heart stopped, and she began hovering at the Western Gate. The ER physician was asking me about advanced directive and if I knew what Anne’s end-of-life wishes were. We’d only been married for about seven months, and already we were at the Western Gate with that “till death do us part” becoming all to real.

Anne recovered. Her kidneys began working again, and the after effects of her stroke weren’t too severe. As ordeals, albeit symbolic ones, are part of our initiations, it became apparent that it was time for Anne’s second degree. We did this at PantheaCon this year, and I had written a modified script for this ritual:

  • Priest 1 holds the sheath for Antinoë’s athame, Priest 2 holds the blindfold, and Priest 3 holds the flogger. Anne is led to the center of the circle, and Antinoë stands near her, athame in hand.
  • Antinoë, speaking to the assembly: “As a part of our initiations, we offer ritual challenge, an ordeal to symbolically test what an initiate is willing to endure for the sake of learning.” Priest 1 hands the sheath to Antinoë, who turns to Anne: “Who am I to block your path with my blade, you who has placed one foot past the Western Gate?” Antinoë sheaths her athame and lays it at Anne’s feet. Priest 2 hands over the blindfold, and Antinoë addresses Anne again. “Who am I to blindfold you who has stared into the Abyss?” Antinoë tucks the blindfold into her priesting cords, receives the flogger from Priest 3, and addresses Anne once more. “Who am I to scourge you who has denied death’s call.” Antinoë hands the flogger to Anne. “I have no ordeal to offer you.”
  • Anne is not bound, blindfolded, or made to kneel at this point, and Antinoë begins the Naming part of the ritual. “What is your name?” Anne responds with her magickal name. “Tya Morgan.” Antinoë takes Anne by the shoulders. “What is your name?” Again Anne responds, “Tya Morgan.” Antinoë kneels before Anne. “Tell me, your coven, and all the gods and spirits: What is your name?” Anne replies, “Tya Morgan.”
  • Antinoë declares, “To all assembled here, seen and unseen, behold Tya Morgan!”

This a considerable departure from the normal script. But, this is Open Source Wicca. We are free to edit, redact, and adapt our scripts and rituals as necessary. And this ritual had been adapted to acknowledge a real-life ordeal that has prepared Anne for ministry in a way I cannot fully appreciate. However, I’m her life partner. I watched as she recovered slowly form kidney failure, which led to her heart stopping, which triggered a deep cerebellar stroke. Having observed this real-life ordeal, I knew she didn’t need to face a symbolic one for her second degree initiation.

She is now Tya Morgan, high priest and magus!