The new moon of February is here, and it’s a special time. This is the time when, each year, members of my tradition retake their oaths. In my case, that means retaking both my Dedicant and First Degree oaths.
We do this as a reminder. The oaths you make along your path are important, and refreshing them annually reminds you of where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and why you’re traveling in that general direction. It lets you review your path and make changes if you’ve gotten stuck in a rut.
I realized several years ago just how seriously I take oaths, without meaning to do so on a conscious level. When I take an oath (be it a personal dedication to a goddess, a coven oath, or a marriage vow), my spirit takes in the words and treats them almost like the Aes Sedai’s oaths made on the Oath Rod; as they’re sealed onto the women themselves, so my oaths are bound to me.
[[FYI, that’s a Wheel of Time reference… probably one of the only ones I’ll make in my life.]]
Sure, I’m technically capable of ignoring an oath deliberately or accidentally. It’s physically possible for my to actively chose to ignore them. However, I just don’t. Period.
When I left my coven a few years ago, I could’ve stayed within our tradition as an initiate. However, my oaths included a promise not to teach those who were not prepared properly. For me, that meant that teaching my roommate or writing a book that could potentially teach anyone both bent that oath to breaking; it felt wrong in that context, as an oathbound initiate of a tradition. The only solution was to leave the tradition entirely, removing all oaths in the process.
Having returned a year ago to my tradition and coven, I still take my oaths as seriously as I did back then. I feel them in my bones, and they never fail to float through my mind when I consider the same things (teaching a friend, writing a book, and so forth). The difference is that, as someone seeking eventual leadership within our tradition and the pagan community at large, I know I can approach my Elders and ask for guidance regarding any projects or lessons I might want to start. I can verify that my oaths allow my actions, and I can keep my honor intact.
[[Now I’m sounding more like the Aiel. AAHHH! I haven’t read those books since the first time,]. No, seriously! Some things just stick with you, I guess…]]
Actually, this reflects my studies on Asatru and other Norse traditions; in those cultures, your honor is passed down from your ancestors and kept pristine by your honorable behavior. Breaking an oath is dishonorable, the same way breaking a promise during childhood was a betrayal of trust. Neither situation can be easily remedied, because trust and honor can’t be instantly repaired; they will always hold a residue of memory from the breaking.
As I retake my oaths tonight, standing in circle of my own free will, it will serve as a reminder that I am a child of the gods, a seeker, a student and a teacher, and above all else…
I am proudly oathbound.