Wicca is commonly considered a duotheistic religion, although there are other theological positions including monotheism and atheism. Known for its ritual practice of magic, and its celebration of seasonally based festivals called Sabbats, Wicca is believed to have originated in the early 20th century.
One of the most important rituals in Wicca is the initiation ritual. The initiation is considered a rite of passage which means that it is a ceremony marking a rebirth into Wicca. The initiation process is taken very seriously by members and can be a long process.
A new student, also known as a neophyte, is only able to begin initiation after studying with the Church and School of Wicca and meeting course requirements. A neophyte is not allowed to blatantly ask to be initiated; instead, their teacher must elect them. Initiation rites are usually performed during the summer during a New Moon phase. Because initiation is a private ritual, group initiations are not allowed. Only the initiate and the initiator are involved, or the initiator and their Priest/Priestess working together. The initiator has to be of the opposite sex to the initiate, reflecting the male/female polarity of the God and Goddess.
There are several levels of initiation. Before the neophytes undergoes the first initiation, they must have some experience of the Craft, and need to learn Wicca basics like chants, circle principles, simply energy, and coven etiquette.
The first initiation serves as an introduction to the goddess. The initiate starts the ceremony nude and begins with a challenge. After an ordeal and vows are given, the initiate then symbolically finishes wearing their ritual robe.
Very few people make it to the second degree initiation. The next degree is for witches who want to improve their Craft skills and who want to be more involved in rituals, the running of the Coven and its circles, and helping new initiates. It is very difficult for second degree initiate candidate to find a second degree initiate because second degree initiates are not allowed to reveal their status.
While the first degree initiation focuses on the Goddess, the second degree initiation introduces the horned God – the male counterpart to the goddess. The initiate usually has to wait a year and a day before undergoing the second initiation. Although the rites are different for men and women, both ceremonies include an ordeal and a vigil. After the initiation, the initiate is deemed High Priest or Priestess and is obligated to education and support neophytes.
The requirements for the last degree initiation are very difficult to attain. Not only does the candidate have to depart from their present job and location to a new town, they are only allowed to take the outfit they are wearing along with $100. This degree is for people who plan on starting a new Coven or who want to stay with their Coven as an Elder.
The third degree initiation can only be granted to a Witch who has dedicated years to education and experience. The theme of the ceremony is the union of ego and shadow within the unconscious mind, union of the man and woman on a psychological level, and union between the God and Goddess. The Great Rite at Beltane is a symbolic representation of the coming together of the Goddess and God; some initiates literally join with their initiators in a sexual act, while others see it and enact it as merely as a symbolic union.
Wiccans who are not able to work in a group and practice alone are referred to as solitary Witches. Self dedication includes: purification, an introduction to the God and Goddess, a promise to the God and Goddess, and an offering. Although they are able to perform a self initiation, it is very challenging and can be dangerous.