I was initiated into the Gardnerian Third Degree last night* and since then I’ve had trouble sleeping. In a lot of ways my restlessness reminds me of Christmas Eve when I was a child. Back then I’d lay in bed for hours, fitfully turning and tossing, trying so damned hard to go to sleep . . . . . and while I’m sure I slept a little bit, I mostly failed. I was so excited back then to get to the presents and and the familyness of it all that I worked myself up far past the realms of sleep.
My mind is wondering why I didn’t feel that way before the elevation. That should have been the excitement; a new ritual, a new title, a new closeness with the gods, but I slept just fine the night before. Not sleeping post-ritual could have been due to adrenaline (ritual gets me fired up), but I think it’s something more than that.
When people ask me why I’m a Gardnerian there are many answers that come to mind, but the one I use the most is “that it works.” In our circles power is raised, worlds are transformed, and we get to touch that divine something out there, that feeling most mortals only dream and wonder about. So yes, what we do in our rites works, but in the case of elevations and initiations there’s another force at play.
About a month after being initiated I was out walking with my wife and magical partner when she stopped for a second and turned to look at me. “Does everything look different to you now?” she said, her eyes wide and her tone serious. I probably gave her a quizzical glance, but then she continued. “I mean after initiation, it’s like looking at the world in color for the first time after living a lifetime in black and white.”
I nodded and agreed, everything had changed. The world did look different, and it felt differently too. For the first time I could really “see” the forces that move the world operating around me. It sounds so hokey sometimes and it’s hard to put the differences into words, but I remember looking at a tree after my wife stopped me that evening. It was a tree I had probably passed at least a hundred times before, but this time it wasn’t just a tree. It was this living thing radiating power, energy, and its place in the world.
Many years were spent as a first degree Witch, and many of those years I felt like a failure. I knew I had just unlocked something within and without but I had a hard time putting it into practice. In eclectic Pagan circles I was confident and sure-footed during ritual, as a first degree I felt like a bumbling idiot. There were practices my wife quickly adjusted to while I stood in the circle with two left-feet. It was humbling and a little bit humiliating (at least internally), but my HPS and HP never made me feel that way.
Elevation to second degree didn’t unlock immediate mysteries, but it too changed everything. Over the next few months “my Gard” began to truly click. Perhaps just being thought worthy of elevation removed some of the self-doubt, but I think my new sense self confidence came from the ritual its self. Doors were unlocked and new rooms were revealed. I suddenly felt “not stupid” when discussing the Craft, and I could feel this new power building inside of me.
It’s too early to tell exactly what last night’s/this morning’s elevation will bring, but I know I already feel changed. I experienced and felt things in circle that I had never felt or experienced before. I could feel the power of the gods in our rite and could feel them moving through my HP and HPS and now my “other” HPS. But it also feels like I’m at the start of a journey, but a journey I feel well prepared for.
I wrote at the beginning “that it works” when it comes to Gardnerian Craft, but there’s another thing I’ve been alluding to: it’s transformative.** I’ve been a part of things that work before, but I’ve never been a part of something that truly changed who am I and how I see the world until becoming a Gardnerian. I feel as if I’ve met deity long before beginning the Gardnerian Path, and certainly adopting the moniker of “Pagan” was a life change, but those things felt more like acknowledgements of things I already knew to be true. The “Pagan Path” appealed to me because deep down I had always believed that way. It was an acknowledgement of who I was, not a sudden revelation.
My initiations and elevations changed me; they altered how I look at and interact with the world. My soul often stirs, but rarely does it move. “Because it works” is a fine and easy answer and doesn’t require a lot of explanation, but it’s transformative better reflects my reality in the Craft. I rarely give that answer though because it takes too long to explain, and to be honest, some people don’t deserve that much detail anyway.
To my initiators and those who have walked this journey with my partner and I, you have our undying thanks and love. To those of you in our extended family, you’ve helped out in ways you don’t even realize. To my partner, love does not begin to express the bond between us.
*Technically it was this morning, but who is keeping score? Oh yeah, we are.
**Or as one of my colleagues and family members here might right “it’s fucking transformative!”