The anniversary (or year and a day, if you like) of my dedication to Aphrodite in January was fast approaching. It was November of 2018 when I finally got the Divine Shove to make a formal commitment to Aphrodite and to undergo an initiation. After that, things happened kind of quickly.
Part of the reason I had not pursued formal initiation earlier was that there wasn’t a set path for what I was doing. No one I knew in my local community worked closely with Aphrodite. My non-denominational pagan group was not taking on any new clergy at that time. While I’m sure there are groups dedicated specifically to Aphrodite, I’m not a Hellenic Reconstructionist, and what I felt called to do didn’t line up with that template. There wasn’t an established way to do what I wanted to do, where I wanted to do it. So I created one (with a lot of help).
After getting the push to do a formal initiation, I had to think (and ask!) what that would mean for me. I understood from Aphrodite that it needed to be an ordeal of some kind, not just a formal oath. I needed to be tested – to show I had the courage and ability to take this path. And someone else needed to initiate me. I couldn’t do it on my own. Becoming a priestess involves a community and serving others, so it was only fitting that I needed someone else to accompany me on this journey.
I invited one of my closest friends over to talk about it, and asked her if she would lead the rite. This particular friend is absolutely amazing at leading majestic and meaningful ceremonies, and I knew she had to be the one to lead my initiation. Through some conversation (simultaneously both mundane with my friend and spiritual with Aphrodite, which was a bit of a trip), another one of my friends was “voluntold” that she needed to be a part of it as well. Two gatekeepers to lead me through my initiation. I spoke with them in the very early planning stages, and then the rest was out of my hands.
I knew that it had to be a secret, even from me.
I told my two friends and spiritual colleagues the vague instructions that Aphrodite had set out for me: 1) An ordeal of some kind needed to be a part of the initiation. 2) I shouldn’t know what the plans are. 3) The ceremony needed to highlight the traits of ferocity and compassion, which I would need to faithfully serve Aphrodite.
My friends told me that we were going on a trip the first weekend in January. Only the three of us knew what was being planned. We told no one else what we were doing, which led to some curiosity from our other friends. I would, of course, fill them in afterward, but we needed to keep it a secret for now.
My friends were excellent at maintaining the mystery. Literally the only things I knew about the weekend were that we would be gone Friday evening through Sunday evening, so I needed to pack bags and arrange for some catsitting. That was it. I took Friday and Monday off of work to prepare and recover, respectively. It was really fun explaining to my supervisor that I was taking a trip, but my friends were surprising me and I had no idea where we were going.
I spent a lot of time in prayer and meditation leading up to that weekend, honoring Aphrodite in both spiritual and mundane ways. I sang songs, I danced, I studied Greek, I made offerings, I made love, I did rituals, I drank rose tea, I helped people, I ate Mediterranean food, I enjoyed beautiful things, and I tried to infuse every part of my life with Her. With the weekend quickly approaching, I restrung the pearl and shell necklace that I had been wearing for almost a year in an elaborate ritual that lasted six hours (in which I also had to take a dinner break). (I did not plan for the ritual to last that long, but it turns out stringing pearls is very difficult and I’m not particularly talented at it.)
Finally, time for my initiation had come. I managed to make it to Friday of the initiation weekend without getting too anxious. Everything just felt right. I knew what was going to happen would be tough, but it would also be wonderful.
I was nervous. I was excited. I was terrified. I was joyous.
It was a weekend I shall never forget. Every moment was meaningful, though not all were serious. I was tested in strength with having to tell my OCD to fuck off countless times. I was tested in humility by acknowledging my faults and my fears. I was tested in courage by being asked to speak my truth and tell my story. I was tested physically by an all-night vigil and fast. I was tested in focus with hours of meditation. I was tested spiritually with writing and proclaiming my oath. I was tested in dedication and commitment by plunging into the cold January ocean, being knocked off my feet by a huge wave, and emerging giggling and shivering as my sea-soaked white nightgown clung to my skin in the whipping winds right before dawn.
I laughed and cried tears of joy as I crossed the threshold into priestesshood – A flower crown on my head, salt water dripping down my face, as I faced the dawn and a new beginning.