The Vision Quest


Prior to initiation as an adult (a full member of society), many tribal cultures require that the initiate go through an ordeal, or a vision quest. In ancient times, the initiate would be incubated, that is, made to descend physically into a dark place reminiscent of the Underworld of the unconscious, and to sleep there for a specified time. In other cultures, the initiate would be sent out into the woods or desert alone, to face whatever demons he carried in his heart and come back with a sign-- a vision, a new name, some token of transformation which would make him worthy to be a warrior.

In the Craft, initiates take new names. These names are kept secret from all but one's co-coveners, and are used in speaking to the Gods as identifiers which have come from within rather than being bestowed by society. One's witch-name is a precious secret, and the only magickal tool that one can never lose.

The quest to find one's own true witch-name is a vision quest in the old Native American sense, even if the individual does not physically go out into the woods for three days and nights. It is the quest in the dark of the mind, to be engaged in alone. Nobody can go with you, and there is no real way of communicating what happens during such a quest to anyone else.

If you have studied and practiced ritual and Magick as you have been taught, and thought about what the teachings mean to you; if you are open to messages from your own hidden depths, and willing to incorporate them into your conscious life; if you are able to look at yourself clearly, then you should have little trouble with your own vision quest. But if you have learned Magick and ritual by rote only; if you do not listen to your dreams; if you are enmeshed in self-deception, then it is better for you not to make the attempt, and to wait until you are more ready. The truth is that not all survive initiation. Not all are ready to look the facts in the face and deal with them. Not all are able to be transformed.

Think it no shame to be afraid. Fear is a healthy reaction to the presence of the Shadow. Only fools go without fear through the Gateless Gate. But there are certain questions you must ask if you are to survive intact the voyage through your own dark places: What do these things mean? and, Who do they serve? It was through his failure to ask these questions that Perceval failed for so long in his quest for the Grail.

We have arrived at a place in the learning of the Craft at which the teacher can no longer say, "This is how it is done." When you go on your vision quest, you go alone and without words. The teacher can only point to the entrance of the cave. What journeys you make in the darknesswithin, and what dragons you slay, are up to you. Only remember that in what has been said and done before, in the whole course of the teachings, there are hints on how to conduct yourself before the Mighty Ones.

When you return (if you return), you will be on the path of dedication to the Goddess, whose ways are those of Life and Death. Think well before you attempt to tread those paths-- even the Lady had to pass through the realms of Death and feel his scourge. You do not choose your own ordeal-- it is built into you from your life experiences. The rewards of success are sweet: self-knowledge and the unblocking of the power that flows through you. The price is steep: you must let go of any grasping of that power as personally yours, and become transparent to it. And the price will be paid daily for the rest of your life.



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