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Initiation is a religious practice that is generally understood as involving socialization and acceptance into a religious community, but American Neopaganism, with its emphasis on individualism and autonomy, has evolved a meaning that challenges that simple understanding. American Neopagan communities are marketplaces of ideas that are comprised of groups and solo practitioners, all in interaction in which they might conduct main holidays together, but not necessarily work together in what they would consider more “serious” practices in which they receive the spirit communications with which they develop the ideas. Among groups, these practices include initiations through which candidates are trained and authorized by their group to bring claims of spirit communication to the marketplace. However, one of peculiarities of American Neopagans is that solo practitioners also claim authority to bring communications from the spirit world to the marketplace based on claims that they received initiation from the spirits themselves. This practice of self-initiation effectively redefines a community into which the practitioner is initiated to directly incorporate the spirit world as the highest authority. While it offers community members tremendous flexibility and autonomy, it also confronts the broader community with the task of accepting or rejecting that claim. This study examines the phenomenon of self-initiation from the perspective of the solo practitioner and the community.


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