Many religions have a special ceremony marking the entrance of an individual into that religion. Within Wicca, specifically within British Traditional Wicca, there are several such initiations. But the first that may take place is for that of a child and is called a Wiccaning.
Like many Rites of Passages for children, the Wiccaning marks the entrance of that child into that religion. In this respect, a Wiccaning is much like that of a Christian Baptism. However, there is a significant difference between a Wiccaning and a Baptism; this is found in the meaning of the Rite.
Within Wicca, as well as most Neo-Pagan religions, there is an emphasis on free-will, respect for all life, and spiritual progression. What this translates to in a Wiccaning is that it is a dedication of the religion to the child (not the child to the religion as with a Christian Baptism) as all must come to this path willingly and are free to leave whenever they so choose; none are forced against their will. This dedication takes place in the form of a promise by the community to not just teach the child the ways of the religion, but to be there in the form of support and guidance throughout that child’s life, respecting the choices and decisions they make. In this context, the term community refers to the parents and any other family members and friends that may be present at the Rite.
Common to all Wiccanings, regardless of Tradition, is this promise by the community, a Blessing by the Gods and Elements (and perhaps by the Ancestors, too,) and the giving of one or more gifts by the community. This Blessing is not to be confused with a Baby Blessing, which introduces the child to the Gods and asks for Their blessing and protection of the child. The Blessing within a Wiccaning asks for the Gods to bless the child and calls Them to bear witness to the promises made by the community to the child, as well as introducing the child to the Gods as one of Their own (as the child is now to be raised in knowledge of Them and taught how to honor and worship Them.)
The gifts that are given vary per Tradition in quantity and significance, such as four gifts each representing an Element, one gift from everyone present representing various qualities of that child’s gender (e.g. something symbolic of strength for a boy child, something representing grace for a girl child, etc.) or one gift representing the religion or community.
Wiccanings are found within both British Traditional Wicca and Eclectic Wicca and can be a very positive, unifying event for a family. This Rite may or may not be performed within a coven setting and may or may not include a High Priest(ess) or other Pagan clergy. It is a Rite well suited to be performed with just the parent(s) and that child.
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