If a guild were a mystery cult for related advantages (say puissant craft, affinity with craft, etc...) would sacrificing wealth, which is a major virtue or flaw depending on the character's current level, but which can be regained with labor points qualify as a sacrifice for gaining a new virtue for an ungifted initiate?
I would say yes. Wealth levels can go up or down in canon, so no problems there. Some would say there's "No Real Sacrifice", but what you are really doing is sacrificing Time, which is completely valid as a initiation ordeal. "Spend a season making items to be sacrificed", "Travel with your Mystagogue to this local", etc.
I would add that at least, if not one sacrifice direct, that can grant one Sympathy bonus if some expensive object, year funds or something like that is used.
The point here is not sacrifice of wealth as in material goods, but the requirement that any non-gifted person undergoing initiation has to gain a flaw or lose a virtue as part of the process, and whether a recoverable flaw/virtue such as wealthy or poor should be allowed. Or even other socially obtained virtues which are harder to obtain, such as status which might be regained by the rules under Lords of Men.
I think it's legit. There's an example of a temporary Vow in Mysteries Revised (five years of silence) which could theoretically be repeated. Or if it's a Christian Mystery Cult, you can Vow to complete a minor pilgrimage (which clears the Vow).
So it's okay to break the system a bit, but doing so will create story fodder. For example, the guild journeyman is sacrificing much of his wealth and probably going into debt to make the price, which doesn't just mean that he's forcing himself to work three-season years. How are his wife and kids taking this intemperate expenditure? If he's unmarried and has no ties to anyone but the guild...okay, how do the guildmasters spend the money they rake through these initiations, and what kind of reputation is the guild attracting if all of their journeymen are so poor that they can't support wives and they have to work during Easter? Mythic Europe is hardly an equitable place, but a guild that's this avaricious will attract the wrong kind of attention from the Church and the journeyman's player will be caught in the middle. Alternatively, where is he getting the money to rebuild his wealth on the kind of pay this guild is paying him?
We are sacrificing the Major Virtue Wealthy. The question, I think, is whether this counts as an Ordeal if it can be reacquired later in time, or if it is closer to the bonuses for sacrificing time and/or material wealth (two +1 bonuses). I'd pick one and go with it, personally, character's choice. You can count it as a major ordeal, or you can count it as sacrifice of time and wealth. A major Ordeal is a lot better deal (for the immediate +9 bonuses, and subsequent bonuses for initiation), even if one can eventually reacquire the wealthy virtue, it will still take a long time to reacquire wealth. If we assume a rather high Characteristic+Ability=12 total, and standard income makes that 36 labor points, he can sustain his present income with one season of work and use the subsequent seasons to improve his station (heh, I just discovered that the total char+ability=12 makes one wealthy by definition). If we abstract that he's working constantly, working himself to death, so to speak, he can accumulate 108 labor points per year, and in just over 3 years be back to being Wealthy, earning right to the virtue. Most characters won't be able to pursue their status even over 10 years, they will be less skilled and/or have life and other things get into the way.
Sacrificing that much time is closer to an Ordeal to me, but I would only allow this to happen one time for a character.
Sacrificing something material, which can be replaced, is well known and accepted as part of Initiations.
Accepting an Ordeal is usually ireversible or at least very difficult to undo. Losing Wealthy as an Ordeal...I may buy into that, and agree that it can only happen once.
Also, I'd rule that the bonus for subsequent Initiations is lost if Wealthy is regained before the bonus 'runs out' by itself. I don't mind that the character starts to work towards Wealthy again immediately but it's one or the other, not both.
Keep in mind, magi may not have the wealthy virtue or poor flaw.
Those who are not gifted have to undergo an ordeal to initiate.
So if the local mason's guild has an inner circle which conducts initiatory rites to give select members the touched by magic virtue, would undergoing an ordeal which will sacrifice the wealth virtue count if you can earn the virtue back with labor points?
and if it can only be done once, could you then go through an ordeal of poverty (taking the poor flaw) and then building all the way back to wealthy?
I'd say it is a reasonable sacrifice.
FWIW, I generally prefer to consider mundane training regimes as initiations, providing benefits for sacrifice of time, money, adhering to some standard of professional conduct, sometimes engaging in risky behavior and sometimes accepting flaws.
Even gaining Divine virtues such as TF can be well-represented by initiation mechanics. Typically, a "script" begins with acquiring a Major Flaw of Pious. (And a character who seems to acquire such a virtue without apparently paying a sufficient price can be explained by a secret mystagogue such as a saint or angel with very high scores....)
I'm not that comfortable with the mechanics for evolving and inventing scripts, but find the basic initiation mechanics to be elegant and useful, often a far better avenue toward verisimilitude than attempts at "realism."
The Church has an entire chapter devoted to Christian mechanics for acquiring divine power, which are similar but not identical to mystery cults (though they can still use the latter), and include pilgrimages and two brands of mysticism.
Per RoP:D and TC, you can't initiate True Faith or gain it just as a pilgrimage goal, because God's hand cannot be forced. I might allow an exception for Zoroastrians, however, since commanding God is (per TC&TC) part of their thing (and for related reasons, I might allow Gnostics to have a similar Initiation), but for Muslims, Nicene Christians and medieval Jews (Kabbalah, canonically, is not really a Faith-based path, and it plays a bit fast and loose with Rabbinical Law), no chance, it has to be a natural result of stories and providence.
a) I did note that my preference for reusing the same mechanic runs contrary to the rules.
b) I'm not at all sure what you mean by "not really a Faith-based path," unless you mean "the AM game mechanics do not implement Kabballah using the True Faith virtue." I definitely don't know where you get the idea that Kabballah plays fast and loose with Rabbinic Law. I do know for certain that medieval Judaism explicitly supports a fine tradition of commanding, contradicting and even overruling God, though this is not something to undertake lightly, since God isn't usually in the wrong.
c) Even a "regular" initiation that isn't "a natural result of stories" doesn't belong, at least for initiations that involve pilgrimages, quests, etc, which is most of them.
As per (b), I'd say he was talking about cannonical Ars Magica Kabbalah, not real-life medieval Kabbalah.
A: Yes. I just like the Christian mysticism and pilgrimage rules for cases when there's no mystagogue, particularly since Christian mysticism is so individualistic.
B: Kabbalah is not Faith-based because it doesn't involve seeking the True Faith virtue. As for "fast and loose with Rabbinical Law," we can argue about what the Law means all day (which would be very appropriate) but, for example, Kabbalah relies heavily on astrological correspondences. (Also, historically, there appears to have been, outside of the medieval time period a lifting on a medieval ban on the study of Kabbalah, but it's unclear whether or not it was Rabbinically banned in the first place!)
Now, with Mythic Judaism, it's entirely possible to beat God himself in an argument about what is legal or not, or any rabbi, and arguing the rules is an act of pious devotion. But I'd think that the plain meaning of the prohibition against astrology would include the prohibition of the use of the art in divine magic. (I emphasize "plain meaning." Kabbalists obviously have another interpretation!) Thus my statement about fast and loose.
C: Yes, but an Initiation is supposed to be, mechanically and to a great extent in-story, insert ordeal/quest/mystagogue and get power. I personally would not think that that fits in with the Christian vision of True Faith (which admittedly is a peculiarly Christian concept in the first place, and I don't think most other religions would see the virtue in the same terms); the acquisition of the Virtue seems to me to be more akin to a miracle in character. My interpretation, of course, YSMV.