I’ve been initiated many times, and in several traditions. Each teacher initiates in the way of her or his lineage. The spirits initiate in their own languages. Life initiates from the moment of conception, til we pass on to the next world.
Often, when a person requests aid, one of the first things we do together is to introduce them to the spirits and Ancestors. Of course, the Ancestors and spirits already know who they are, yet this formal introduction, which includes a request for aid, changes the relationship between the person and those beings in spirit. There is a tacit agreement, a contract I try to make explicit, that the person requesting aid will now have a more mature, more reciprocal, relationship with the spirit ones.There is also a giving up of control, as once the spirit beings have been asked for aid or healing, one’s life may change in unpredictable ways. This is an initiation. There were likely initiations that came before this moment, and others will arise.
An aspect of this new relationship is the expectation that those requesting aid will perform a giveaway in acknowledgement of help received. That is, the recipient of aid will acknowledge the generosity of the spirits by giving back in some way. Perhaps she will offer prayers and tobacco. Perhaps he will invite friends and family to a meal, and publicly thank the spirits for their aid. Perhaps both will also give freely of their time to friends in need, or a community service project. Thus, the circle of giving, receiving, generosity, and gratitude remains whole.
Initiation is above all, a change in relationship. I sometimes think we, in our culture, expect initiation without obligation. Yet there are always costs and expectations associate with new relationship, shared knowledge, and with change. It’s O.K. though, we grow through those mutual relationships.
Mutuality does not mean equality. We, and the Ancestors and spirits, are in a way equal: we are all conscious in this mysterious, beautiful universe. That’s as far as it goes though. Being respectful in the presence of Power and the Sacred is good. This is something we seem to know when we are very young, forget as teens, and, hopefully, relearn as mature adults. Sometimes, when we are in the presence of Spirit, we feel awe, often joy, and maybe fear. Each emotion is true. The sacred is complex, and power is awe-inspiring.
The giveaway acknowledges inequality, and shows gratitude and humility. The point is the Ancestors and spirits know a lot more than we do; most of them can see a good deal more of the picture. For whatever reason, they’ve decided to aid us. It’s not that we are below them. Rather, we are just humbled by their aid, and by their generosity. It’s a relief to know we are not alone, nor all-powerful. It is good the spirit ones take pity on us, befriend us, and teach us. It’s sweet to know we can give something back.