Blessed Be! The Wiccan Five-fold Kiss

by JoHarrington

Five kisses are part of the initiation ceremony for witches. 'Blessed be' became a code for Wiccans to identify each other in everyday life.

Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways;
Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar;
Blessed be thy phallus/womb, without which we would not be;
Blessed be thy breast, formed in beauty and in strength;
Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names.

- Spoken with a Five-Fold Kiss

Photo: h.koppdelaney
Photo: h.koppdelaney

What is the Five-fold Kiss in Wicca?

Corresponding with the points of the pentagram, the kiss is a body blessing. It is used in initiations and other rites.

Image: The Vitruvian Man

In Wicca, all of nature is sacred. The birds in the sky; the fish in the water; the great mountains and the chasms; the moon, the stars and the solar system; the neutrinos rushing from Italy to France in the great Hadron Collider. They are all sacred.

You are sacred, because you are part of nature. You are matter and energy; you are element and spirit. You are divine, and so is everybody else.

This is inherent in the symbolism of our religion. The pentagram touches, at its five points, the four building blocks of the Earth: air, fire, water and matter, plus one - the spirit which animates life in us all. There is often a circle surrounding this, turning the symbol into a pentacle. The same circle which repeats in the formation of our sacred spaces and rites. The encircling universe with ourselves both at its center and in orbit.

The Five-fold Kiss brings this ethos into the very self of the initiate. It seeks to recreate the five points of the pentagram on the body, finishing at the head. At each position, a blessing is spoken. These are what gives this rite its name, as there are actually eight kisses.

The recipient of the blessing will be the initiate. They are presented to the coven as someone wishing to embark upon a spiritual path through Wicca. In the Gardnerian Tradition, they will be sky-clad (naked); in other traditions, they might wear a robe. They will stand with their legs apart and arms held wide, in an attitude of awaiting an embrace. In short, they will position themselves like a pentagram.

Someone of the opposite gender will administer the blessing. The rationale is to do with duality and representation. The God welcomes the Goddess; the Goddess welcomes the God. There is nothing inherently sexist nor sexual in this allocation. It maintains the balance of polarities in the circle. The individual kneeling down to apply the kiss is representing the divine force of nature at this point. They are honoring the same in the person before them.

The Meaning Behind 'Blessed Be' in Wicca

The Five-fold Kiss is the origin of a phrase that is often used in greeting between two witches.

The High Priest will kiss the feet of the female initiate (or the High Priestess with the male initiate) and say, 'Blessed be thy feet, that have brought thee in these ways.'

It is an acknowledgement of the personal pathway into Wicca. It's akin to saying, 'you've arrived at my door, let me welcome you in.'

The third and fourth kisses are pecked onto each knee, with the words, 'Blessed be thy knees, that shall kneel at the sacred altar'.

If the feet symbolize the physical, practical journey towards Wicca, then this resonates more with the inner journey. 'Altar' can mean a piece of furniture, but mostly it means the entire of nature. The kneeling is basically meditation.

Next there will be a kiss over the lady's womb (for men, this is between the pubic hair and the navel). This is to honor fertility in all nature, as evidenced by the words which are spoken, 'Blessed be thy phallus/womb, without which we would not be'.

Obviously this is not a son or daughter performing the blessing, as that would be redundant in context. A child can be seen as already being part of the parent. The person administering the kiss is representing deity. (S)he has just stated that the person receiving it is a parent. In short, this is acknowledging the divinity in the initiate.

The sixth and seventh kisses are given on each side of the initiate's chest. The words will be, 'Blessed be thy breast(s), formed in beauty and in strength'. The plural is for a woman, as it just sounds weird saying 'breast' when she patently has two. I've heard the plural used for a man too, so take your pick.

While we're on the subject of changes to the wording, this is the single most altered line from coven to coven. The originally published Gardnerian version made a further gender distinction. Men would be welcomed with 'blessed be thy breast, formed in strength', while women heard, 'blessed be thy breasts, formed in beauty.' 

The debate raged throughout much of the latter part of the 20th century. The meaning has been a little lost in the discussions about male beauty and female strength. Dianic Traditions have been particularly scathing of the fact that women appear to be designated mere objects of beauty here.

The Five-fold Kiss traces an initial journey into Wicca. The kiss at the feet denotes the physical quest into the religion; followed by the inner quest. The kiss at the womb/phallus talks of the individual as a deity, and as part of the natural world, which is all the same thing in Wicca. Continuing on from that, the kiss at the breast is meant to signify that this divine aspect is quite wonderful.

The only problem is with the adjectives actually used to communicate that. This is why most covens now just combine the two. Regardless of gender, the individual's worldly presence is both beautiful and strong.

Finally a single kiss is placed upon the lips, with the words, 'Blessed be thy lips, that shall utter the Sacred Names.'  You're divine. I'm divine. We're all divine. So whose names are you being entrusted with? That's the less obvious meaning behind this kiss. The overt one is exactly what you would expect - the names of the celestial Gods and Goddesses.

Remember that the head is also spirit and this is where the final kiss was planted. So much of Wicca pings off ancient Celtic lore and this is no exception. Legend and history alike combine to tell us that the early Celts viewed the head as the center of life-force. Wiccans continue to place spirit in the head. The final kiss brings together individual, pathway, deity, nature and spirit.

The Five-fold Kiss is not used in self-initiations, so those seeking to be a solitary practitioner need know this for information only. However, those still wishing to do it need only to remember that they are divine too.  Instead of kisses, bless some water and dip your finger into it, then speak your own blessings, as you splash the water into the appropriate places.

The Five-fold Kiss is Neither Sex nor Humiliation

An encounter with every misconception conceivable about this fundamental part of the initiation rite.

Image: Liberty FacepalmI recall being in conversation with a couple of American Wiccans and someone who was merely curious about the religion.

The subject switched to implications of oral sex performed within the circle. It took some digging, around the hearsay and rumors, to realize that we were being asked about the Five-fold Kiss.

Before I could clarify anything, one of the American priestesses spoke up. "Oh! We don't do that." She airily told us, "It's a hang-over from Christianity that somehow infected witchcraft. No real Wiccan would prostrate themselves before a High Priest and kiss his feet. That smacks of gender inequality and there is no place for that in Wicca."

My jaw dropped somewhat.

It wasn't the conclusion, because she was totally right there. Wicca isn't the religion for anyone wishing to denigrate an entire gender, male, female or transgender. It was everything else. Every word of it was completely false and/or missing the point.

She went on, with confidence and authority, "It is only very dodgy covens, which will practice the Five-fold kiss. The so-called High Priests get off on the innocent novice kissing his dick."

Beside her, the second American priestess was nodding in agreement, laughter punctuating their dismissal. My eyes dipped to the pendants around each of their necks. One wore the pentagram and triangle of a High Priestess, while the other had the pentagram alone. It was the former that had come out with this diatribe. I wondered how she had ever passed coven clearance, let alone made it to the third degree.

Wiccan Third Degree Pendants

The triangle above the pentagram indicates that someone is a high priest or high priestess.

I was diplomatic.  "Maybe something got lost in translation halfway across the Atlantic." In my mind, I was silently apologizing to the likes of Raymond Buckland and Shonna Gariepy, who are more than competent American Wiccans. They certainly know all about the Five-fold Kiss. "But that's not how I was initiated. Neither is it how I would initiate anyone else. Maybe we do it differently here."

She was scathing. "You would seriously humiliate yourself performing pseudo-fellatio in front of a power-hungry priest?!"

"No." I kept smiling, though I don't know how genuine that must have seemed. "May I ask a question? You greeted me with 'blessed be', what does that mean to you?"

"It's just something that you say to identify yourself to a fellow Wiccan." She informed me, smugly. No doubt she had already lost all respect for me. The feeling was entirely mutual. "It's like 'hello'." I had her full attention now. She was priming herself for a pep talk. "Back to the Five-fold Kiss. Honey, you don't have to let them take advantage of you like that."

"I never stopped talking about the Five-fold Kiss. 'Blessed be' is part of it." I looked for a flicker of memory from them. There was none. "And it's nothing at all to do with sex or humiliation. It's to do with the divinity of ourselves, as aspects of the natural world and spirit."

She patted my thigh, "Well, we don't do that in America, dear."

Incidentally, I did later check with some notable Wiccans in the United States. The response was unanimous. They most certainly did perform the Five-fold Kiss there, in precisely the same way as in Britain. As for their reactions to the above conversation, you could practically hear Liberty face-palming.

Blessed Be Jewelry

Let Wiccans in the street know that you've been initiated with bracelets or necklaces bearing the code.
Sterling Silver "Blessed Be" Cuff Bra...Sterling Silver Blessed Be Pentacle N...Wiccan Blessing "Blessed Be" Ring, Si...
Updated: 10/02/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 07/21/2012

Hiya. Have you got the context for 'genni'? I'd be happy to answer the question if I can, but there are a couple of things that it could be.

caitlin on 07/21/2012

hi i want too tell you a question what does genni mean

JoHarrington on 07/01/2012

I had no idea. They seemed to think that they knew it all though. I just let them get on with it, while all around people smiled.

Sam on 07/01/2012

Reminds me a bit about how different groups of Christians do things differently 'Oh, we don't cross ourselves, only the Catholics do that.' And don't get me started on sound knowledge of Church history! I guess ignorance is bliss in many contexts, did you ever find out if the two were really initiated or just pretending?

JoHarrington on 05/15/2012

I'm glad that I amused you. :D

EMK Events Ltd on 05/15/2012

I laughed at your conversation with that witch. Haven't a clue what this is all about, but that was funny.

JoHarrington on 02/08/2012

Someone performs the five-fold kiss on the initiate. That someone is usually the High Priest (if the initiate is female) or the High Priestess (if the initiate is male), and they will be representing the God or Goddess respectively.

I should also clarify that most of the time, these kisses don't even connect. They're more likely to be kissing the energy/aura around the initiate.

Nothing you've said about rumours and misconceptions surprised me. I think I've heard them all by now!

Thank you for looking into it. So many people just run with the rumours.

Ember on 02/08/2012

I never knew of the five-fold kiss, but I do know I have heard speak of things like initiates are expected to perform sexual acts, and that Wiccans were very sexual in nature, and like to run around naked and just have sex with each other all the time, and have like servants/sex slaves (and even versions where the servants were minors). You know, dark depraved weird things, and its like oooh scary, don't even befriend a Wiccan they'll possess your soul >.>

Then again many of these same people believe homosexuality is contagious....

But still, one has to wonder the source point of such bizarre rumors, but as soon as I looked into it, I found that one of the first thing sites/books addressed were that there were no initiation sex acts, so on and so forth. Anyways, your explanation here explains where these such misconstrued rumors likely originated. Interesting.

Could you clarify, the initiate does the five-fold kiss, or someone performs that on the initiate?

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