So I've been meaning to post this for awhile but I wanted to make sure that my thoughts were in order before doing so. This topic is pretty controversial which I'm discovering and want to highlight that this is my opinion rather than something to be misconstrued as claiming to be fact.
The debate of the legitimacy of self-initiated vs. that of having lineage to me seems rather...dumb. I will state my opinion bluntly because I figure it's only fair to be clear when doing so. There are pros and cons to both but I'm not here to discuss that. I only want to state the obvious difference. When one is self-initiated, they are simply initiating themselves with the power and energy directed from the divine or Goddess. They have completely dedicated themselves to Her service and devote their lives to studying the Craft and also to teaching/helping others along their journey. Those who come from a lineage were formally trained and endured disciplined and structured teachings from a mentor, teacher, priest/HP or priestess/HPS who also have dedicated their lives to the Craft and to teaching others.
However, I do not believe that one way is necessarily better than the other. Lets say that you are very disciplined toward your Craft. You read all the books, did all the practices, recognize the esbats and sabbats, and are very devoted to the Divine. Does the fact that someone has obtained this knowledge from books and their own experiences make them any less of a Witch?
Some people are unable to find teachers in their area, some people cannot find the "right" teacher, and some people simply wish to worship and practice alone. When a person is ready to be initiated that means that they are confident in themselves and their abilities. Even normal functioning covens place emphasis on their coven members to ask to be initiated before being initiated because that person has to feel that they are ready in their heart.
When one is ready to be initiated, or ready to progress, I would not expect them to wait for a teacher to come along and tell them to train for a year and a day. I would expect them to find their place in the Craft and be comfortable.
One argument I've heard is about the flow of energy or "passing the wand". Energy comes directly from the Divine. Why must one need a mediator between themselves and the Divine? Even if you have been ordained/initiated I would suggest doing a self-initiation as well that suits you.
Another argument is what if someone self-initiates themselves in order to gain power over others? Well, truth of the matter is people should stay smart. Seekers are given red flags to look for in those people. And it's true that self-initiation has become one of the main red flags that websites talk about but that shouldn't be the case. Trust your instincts. Ask yourself questions like is this person trying to teach me in their best interest? Is the person asking for money for training me? Does this feel right?
Most people have good judgement and can find the truth.
Some people argue that those self-initiated downplay the hard work that goes with those formally trained. How do you know these people haven't put forth as much work as you? Why does it matter that you be recognized for this work in the first place? The Craft is about your spiritual journey. Initiated shouldn't be a boy scout badge or a title. It should be a symbol that represents the new home you have found, the spiritual peace you have found.
Sometimes you just have to ask yourself, who was the very first Witch initiated by? And if you can't answer that question then you should stop judging those who choose to go through self-initiation.
Blessed be everyone.