Published: Wednesday, Oct. 13th, 2021
A ‘wiccaning’ is the deeply joyful ritual celebration of welcoming a new Pagan into a spiritual community, with a promise and blessing to protect them against harm. The rite is also known as a ‘saining’ in some places, a word taken from the Scottish Gaelic seun and the Old Irish sén.
The term ‘saining’ is commonly when the individual being welcomed isn’t Wiccan, but is another kind of Witch or Pagan. Some people also just use the phrase ‘baby blessing.’
In this article we mostly use ‘wiccaning,’ but you can call the ritual whatever you choose!
These ceremonies are frequently performed for newborns, but older children and adults also participate when they’re ready to celebrate their place in the Pagan community. Sometimes the ritual is combined with a naming feast or naming ceremony.
Wiccanings are similar to a Christian baptism or christening, but only to a point. Although each of these rituals welcome someone into a spiritual community, and sometimes involve spiritual bathing or the use of powerful words spoken aloud, that’s where the similarities end.
Pagans don’t believe a wiccaning is necessary to walk their spiritual path as some Christian denominations do of baptism. Unlike baptism, where an individual promises their life to Christ, wiccanings are a way for parents and their community to promise their protection to a child, to create a magical buffer between the child and any malevolent being or energy it encounters. And they do not wash away ‘original sin’ -- these blessings are unrelated to concepts of ‘sin’ or ‘salvation,’ which aren’t a part of Pagan beliefs.
There’s no right or wrong way to perform a wiccaning, and each movement within the umbrella of Paganism has its own unique customs.
If the parents of a new witch belong to a coven, they might ask a coven elder or Priestess to lead the ritual, with all other members of the community joining in to bestow their blessings.
In other families, such as some Eclectic Pagans and Hedge Witches, the blessing might be performed by the parents alone (with no other guests), or one-on-one with a beloved friend.
With these things in mind, it’s helpful to know that most Pagan rituals still follow a similar outline.
When you arrive at the location, take a few moments to prepare yourself for the ritual. Calm yourself and get centered. This may be a quiet period of meditation, a cup of herbal tea or elixir, mindfulness breathwork, or a conversation with gods and spirits.
When you’re ready and all of the expected guests have arrived, announce that the ritual is beginning. You may simply state to your surroundings, and to any living things or spirits present, “We begin!”
Cast a circle and create a safe, welcoming space for the ritual. This can be done by a circling of hands, walking in a circle around the altar with incense or sage, laying down elemental objects in the four directions, or any other method of circle casting that speaks to your spiritual beliefs.
Prepare the altar ahead of time with objects representing earth, air, water, and fire, which will be used to cast the spell. For earth, you might bring soft soil, clay or sand from a special place. For air, you might bring incense or feathers. For water, you might bring a small jar from your favorite lake or from a family home. And for fire, most will bring a candle to light.
“At this time, we do this…”
Most rituals are held on days with special meaning -- such as a full or harvest moon, the first Solstice or Equinox following a birth (Yule or Litha, Ostara or Mabon), the ninth night after a birth, or another type of personal anniversary or yearly festival (Imbolc, Beltane, Lammas, Samhain).
Start by stating the significance of the date, and then state why you’ve gathered -- to bless a new witch!
Once you’ve named the ritual, it’s time to invoke the spirits, gods, and ancestors you wish the new witch to be blessed and protected by. This can be any deity or spirit you connect with.
For example, you might call upon Cerridwen, Welsh goddess of prophecy and knowledge, Ma’at, Egyptian goddess of truth and harmony, Nomhoyi, Zulu goddess of rivers, or Baldur, Norse god of light and resurrection. Or you might call upon the generations of witches who came before you, asking for their guidance, care, strength, and wisdom.
Using the elements assembled on the altar, it’s time to cast the physical spell for the baby or individual! Sprinkle soft soil across their forehead or chest, or smudge with clay. Sprinkle water over their head and heart. Circle them with a lit candle and incense.
As you do each of these acts of magic, call out the child’s name and offer a blessing suited to each element. For example, the safety and abundance of earth, the laughter and adventure of air, the resilience and patience of water, and the creativity, wit, and passion of fire.
If you wish, now is a good time for everyone present to offer blessings to the child or individual, by repeating their name, singing, clapping, and generally having a joyful time.
It’s time to start winding things down. Thank everyone who participated, including other guests and any spirits and gods you invoked.
Once everyone has been thanked, bid them farewell. State that the ritual is ending, and close the space. This can be as simple as saying, “This ritual is over! Now we feast!”
Before rushing to the next part of the day (usually a feast or party), take time to recenter yourself.
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