Initiation

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Initiation

Post by John T Mainer on Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:28 am

One of the differences between magical traditions like Wicca and cultural traditions like Asatru is the subject of initiation. To Wiccans, it is central to their practice and progress. To Asatru it is not. Having said that, initiation is something that is present, in the rites of passage that survive as family traditions, and in the mysteries and rituals of graduation, and acceptance into any closed society, fraternity, or group bound by common purpose.
It was years after the most profound initiatory experience of my heathen existence that I had learned enough of paganism in general to identify what I had been through as an initiation. It was sacred, it was transformative, it was powerful, it was damned freaky at the time, and all involved still speak of it with wonder and even humour as it is so outside the framework of understanding of modern people that they have no context to understand it. I will begin by sharing my experience. If others have been through other initiatory experiences that affected them strongly, and are not bound by oaths of secrecy from speaking them, then I invite them to share.

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Re: Initiation

Post by John T Mainer on Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:32 am

The dreaded endurance exercise of Canadian Infantry training was over half done. The platoon of recruits was on a 72hr series of forced marches, assaults, entrenchments, patrols, without breaks beyond those required for the NCO cadre to meet with the course WO (Warrant Officer) and officers to discuss their performance. So far the relentless pace and merciless attacks of the veteran OPFOR, or opposition forces, had shown the weaknesses of the recruits. At the first sign of activity, all eyes would abandon their own sector, and look towards whatever had caught the group’s attention, allowing the section to be butchered again and again by OPFOR who understood teamwork and fought as a single thing, not a collection of individuals. Fire was either uncontrolled, or late, and totally ineffectual, as the sleepless hours and stress caused the young recruits to forget their training or double think themselves into inaction. The course WO was beginning to wonder if these puppies had any steel in them at all.
The section was a study in contrasts. Two women formed the unofficial center of the group, Karin sarcastic blonde farmgirl and Theresa the bubbly and unlikely cheerleader/machine gunner. Two jock/jokers Brook and Turtle seemed incapable of any maturity at all, but had the unfailing endurance of athletes. Quinn was the bitter cynic, who mocked everything and believed nothing. Archie's gang tattoos and Greg's parole status told half the story of their problem with the iron authority of the military, and myself; John the eternal outsider whose Heathenry and military family gave me the hunger to belong but not the skills to make it happen. Like so many loose blades their sharp edges sparked and clashed from each other, seeming to be ever in each other's way, making the simplest tasking hard, and the hard tasks impossible.
As the sun moved behind the mountains and twilight claimed the light forest, the section was released for a meal while the NCO's had an O group (Orders Group) with the course WO over the latest disaster, and plans for the next series of tests. Given instructions to put on their camouflage for night operations, the NCO's left the group to fend for themselves. I hadn't found a cam pattern that worked for me, the theory of using the colours to break up the contours of the face was simple, but my father had taught me that your cam pattern was more than that, it was your war-face, and I had not found it. As I cursed my difficulty, Karin who had noted the shiny edges of my last attempt where thin sideburns shone white between combat scarf and helmet decided to help.
"You need to shave the sides, and start your cam there" she said. "Here, kneel down and let me fix it"
I knelt before her, staring up at her in the twilight as she took steel in hand and looked down at me. Gripping my chin with her left hand, she took the razor in her right and began to shave the sides of my head. Her eyes were cold and distant, as if looking in or through me, weighing what she saw, and choosing what to cut away or keep. Her eyes held me frozen until the look of fierce concentration faded and she turned to Theresa and announced "He is ready"
The clearing had gone silent, the soldiers had gathered in the rising mist to ring the quiet scene. Theresa took the cam stick in her hand, and in tones far deeper and quieter than her usual bubbly self, she spoke.
"Now let me find your war face"
Her eyes were fey, strange, and wild. I looked up with a mixture of fear and eagerness, as a strange energy seemed to connect them. The circle of soldiers grew tighter as she painted threads of light and dark, bringing forth what she felt was needed, binding together what she found . The soldiers began to whisper and nod, seeing the truth she was bringing to light. When Theresa stepped back, Karin took out her mirror and spoke.
"Meet your war-face"
There was no boy in the mirror. There was no recruit, no civilian, little even that was human. This was the face of a warrior, a soldier, a killer of men. There was no weakness or hesitation, no uncertainty or confusion. This was Purpose, this was Focus, this was Duty. This was me.
Archie was next, already kneeling before Karin, drawn by the hunger that drew him to the gangs to prove himself, that brought him to the army when ghetto machismo could not teach him honour. Brook and Turtle were next, the gravity and fierceness of their faces was as shocking to those who knew them as bumbling clowns as would be sprouting wings and flying; but they too were here with something to prove, if only to themselves. Before Greg could kneel, Quinn pushed past him.
Quinn the bitter, Quinn the sarcastic, Quinn who mocked belief in everything because everything was false, and every promised truth a secret lie held a secret of his own. His hunger was fiercest, his need greatest. Tears stood in his eyes and no one thought it weak or foolish. Kneeling before the Choosers with his soul naked to his brethren, he embraced the truth he had sought more than any of us. When the last of the men were done, the women finished each other, and the group stood in the mist and shadows in a calm, comfortable silence.
When the NCO’s returned, the Master Corporal was shocked to be challenged softly by sentry only half seen, with cover both alert and well concealed. Giving the orders for night patrol, he was shocked to find the section loaded, formed and moving with not a wasted word or gesture. Through the dark they moved easily, keeping spacing with an awareness of each other they had reached only occasionally in the almost painful months of training.
The sounds of gunfire from the lead sections encounter with ambushing OPFOR caused them to melt soundlessly into the shadows and hollows, with every eye switching between its designated sector, and scanning the section leader for signals.
“What the hell? Two days without sleep or break and they are finally moving like soldiers? Weird” The Master Corporal’s thoughts flashed back to the battle and he gave the signals to establish a base of fire with the light machine gun on the point of contact between the lead section and OPFOR. He would take the rest of the section to flank right and try to roll up the OPFOR against the lead section. The woods were heavy, the terrain uneven, and the recruits, unlike the OPFOR did not have night vision gear, so he expected this to bog down, but perhaps buy the lead section enough time to disengage.
What happened next made the course NCO’s happy, even as it annoyed the experienced and overly cocky OPFOR. Moving like wolves, the recruits flew through the woods not with breakneck speed, but with controlled bounds from cover to cover. Moving in instinctive bound-overwatch, the rifle teams flowed through the forest like water, with one always in motion, one always in cover. The Master Corporal almost lost track of the battle, he was so taken with watching his earlier ham-fisted charges slip through the dark like so many ghosts.
The Light Machine Gun (LMG) initiated contact; firing short bursts along the line of contact, buying time for the Teams in Contact (TIC) of the first section to move to better positions. Our second section struck like a chainsaw. Rolling into contact with fire and manoeuver, we rolled up the OPFOR flank, pushing their flank from the treeline, and forcing them to cross the road against both machine guns before they could break contact.
Through the fire fight, our section communicated with hand signals and shouted fire directions, keeping orientation while constantly moving, as if we were in plain sight in open ground, not bounding through heavy woods and little streams. In a few frantic minutes, the veteran troops who had handled us so easily and well were rolled up and slaughtered; unable to break contact, and caught between fires.
We looked at each other’s faces while our NCO’s exchanged happy insults with the regulars from the Regiment that we had just soundly trounced; a Regiment that would soon be ours. No longer did we seem awkward, no longer were we trying to be soldiers. Something had been pared away from each of us, something that held us back. Something else had been awakened in us, had been shared between us. We had no words for what had happened, but each of us had come to the colours, had come to the regiment with something to prove, some hunger to belong. It was years later in my heathen practice that I understood what had happened. In those woods, in that mist, we had been initiated. In a rite that was as holy as it was wholly unintended, we had knelt before the Choosers as boys and recruits and been raised as men and soldiers.

Cpl John T Mainer (Retired)

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Fiat justitia ruat caelum
"Let justice be done, though the heavens fall."
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John T Mainer
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Posts : 1004
Join date : 2009-04-01
Location : Maple Ridge, BC Can

http://community.bc-freehold.org/news.php

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