Initiator: You have bravely passed the test. Are you ready to swear that you will always be true to the Art?
Candidate: I am.
Initiator: Are you ready to protect and defend your brothers and sisters of the Craft, even from themselves?
Candidate: I am.
Initiator: Then repeat after me: I, [candidate] in the presence of the Gods and Spirits, do of my own free will, swear that I will keep sacred and holy the Mysteries of the Art. That I will use my will and moral compass in the practice of my Art, always remembering that all beings are part of Her, and that all acts are Her rituals. This I swear by my hopes of a future life, mindful that my measure has been taken and knowing that my magick may turn against me if I break this, my solemn oath.
This is the oath I have given and accepted as a witch and priest. This is also the oath that we ask our candidates to take on taking their first degree and then to renew when taking their second degree. It is adapted from the oath that is given in The Witches’ Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar, which was similar to the one I took when receiving my own initiations.
When I was writing this new oath, I thought about my own coven experiences. In my first coven, the biggest problem was that my former coven leader would not accept the truth from anyone, especially if someone was criticizing his actions. He was right because he was the Elder. He had been practicing the Art for 20 plus years. He was the High Priest of the Coven, and, in his eyes, he had no more work to do on himself.
Our coven exploded because this man was abusive to me, his partner, and other members of the coven. Even to his own son. When I called him on it, he gave me the Black Circle, which is a curse that essentially makes you “dead” to the coven.
He gave me this for telling him the truth about a situation. If I’m honest, he gave it to me because I was being a a true priest and witch. I was holding a mirror for him to see what the consequences of his actions were to him, his son, and those of us around him.
Unfortunately, instead of taking a long, hard look into the mirror, he dismissed it. He didn’t see the need for change. He thought that his way of thinking was the right way, and that if we challenged him, we must be wrong.
I pray I will never end up like him.
This all went into the re-write of the oath. Yes, protecting my fellow coven-mates from outside harm is important, but also being able to hold up the mirror and say “Hey, you need to look at what you’re doing to yourself and others!” is extremely important. In taking and giving this oath, I am not exempt from this. I would hope that if I was doing something harmful, in any way, that my coveners would step up and tell me so. If I was not using my moral compass to guide my will, I would hope that they would confront me. I am not immune to being human, and I am not immune from receiving criticism from my peers in the Craft, especially if I am causing intentional, or unintentional, harm.
And I am not immune from such criticism no matter how old I am or how long I’ve been a witch. Everyone can change. No one is too old, too young, or too set in their ways to change. As witches, we are especially prone to seeing what needs fixing and making it better than it was. That is our power and our charge.
We are, after all, the Craft of the Wise.