This question has been asked for years, and it was recently asked again on a Facebook page yesterday. I didn't feel like I should comment, as so many people we already giving their opinions I felt that mine would be lost among them.
So I'm answering it here. Of course this is my opinion, I hope you find it favorable. If not, it's still mine!
I think initiation is a key part of Wicca. Wicca originated as an initiatory religion, and I think that initiation is an intrinsic part of it. However, I still think that while one should be initiated, I think self initiations are fine.
So much of what we do has to do with feeling it. If we feel we are Wiccan, who has the right to tell us otherwise? I was never initiated in a coven. I did a self dedication when I was 13, and when I was 15 I did a self initiation. I haven't looked back since, and though at this time in my life I am going through the degree initiations with a coven, it doesn't mean that any other way is invalid.
I do think that it's important for all Wiccans to go through at least the first degree, or something similar. Not for the fact that it is the first degree, but for the level of learning within it. We should all be so familiar with our craft. The degree system is a wonderful thing for the amount of learning involved. I can't say for more than the first degree, because that's where I am, but I am cautiously looking forward to the other degrees. Learning is part of what we do, and if we stop learning, we become stagnant.
But back to topic, the initiation is, I think, key to what makes us Wiccan. Whether we do it ourselves in a ritual, only in our hearts, or formally in a coven. What matters is that we affirm with the Goddess that this is our choice, we are working towards our better selves, and we are ALL magickal beings, children of nature, who are one with it. With initiation, we are taking those steps towards our higher selves, whom we strive to become throughout our lives.
I mean, we do the same thing with our mundane lives. We have initiations in our mundane lives to the next stage of life, although perhaps we don't think of them that way.
The first day of school. 13th birthday, a Sweet 16. Graduation. 18 or 21st birthday, depending on the age of majority where you life. 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays. Weddings, births of children. Each portion of our mundane life that changes, we have a ritual of initiation for it. After those rituals, most of us feel different, even if it is in a way which we cannot articulate. Some mornings, I just wake up and feel older. Like somehow, overnight, I've learned more. Or maybe what I've learned has just sunk in. I've never known anyone else to feel that way though, so it may just be me!
That said, if I meet someone who says they are Wicca, I'm not going to ask how or if they have been imitated. If you feel you're Wiccan, you are.
Do you think one needs to be initiated? What kind of initiation do you consider valid?