DEGREES OF INITIATION                                          
Well, as I see it, the (in my case) three degrees reflect      
levels of competency.  You have to know and maybe even be      
able to teach various things to be upped a degree.  Also,      
I see the degrees as much like Church hierarchy.  First        
degree makes you a priest/priestess, and makes you             
responsible for a small part of the lay community.  Second     
degree is kinda like being a bishop -- that's also when        
you become an "Elder" -- and makes you responsible for         
lay community and what first degrees are in your group.        
In other words, 2nd degree has more and greater attendant      
responsibilities (which is as it should be, no?).  In          
my tradition, 3rd degree is given when it looks like the       
person is ready to go off and found a coven of his/her         
own (preferably with his/her mate -- they like to give         
thirds in pairs), which the person then should do (cause       
there shouldn't be more than one set of 3rds in a coven).      
3rd is rather closer to 2nd than 2nd is to 1st, as I see       
it.  And in the way of what one must know, well, it seems      
to consist of memorising a basic ritual and knowing why        
it works, plus various other things too numerous and eclectic  
to mention here.  Ultimately, I think, advancement is          
according to the whim of the High Priestess & Priest.          
Yea, it's a pain, but if you don't like it you can always      
"invent yer own grandmother" and start off on your own.  
After all, that's one of the good things about this            
religion: its flexibility.  And as long as you don't           
dismember animals and children, you may even be                
recognised and acknowledged! (mostly joking)                   
Seriously, I've been finding the whole degree system           
a pain lately, a source of unfair manipulation along           
the carrot-and-stick lines, so I'm somewhat bitter             
about it all.  Brighit (are you out there?) may be             
better able to explain it, since she's a HPs herself,          
and of a very formalised tradition...                          
BRIGHIT BRIGHIT                                                
Seems that while I've been gone there have been one or two     
requests for me to comment on things ...                       
First, on degree systems:                                      
Yes, SeaHawk is right, we Gardnerians do have a fairly         
rigid system although each coven interprets it slightly        
differently.  In Tobar Bhride [my coven] our first de-         
gree is NOT considered clergy nor is it eligible for           
CoG credentials because it is considered an acknowledge-       
ment of one's commitment to the Craft and the Coven, but       
not necessarily a commitment to clerical responsibility.       
First degrees are considered competent to do a circle          
for themselves only -- and given only that part of the         
Book which is relevant to that scope of practice.              
Second degree Priest/ess/es are considered teachers, and       
in our particular coven must have taught us, as a coven,       
something before elevation to that degree is considered.       
They are eligible to lead group celebrations and also          
eligible for CoG Ministerial Credentials.  Elders, Third       
Degree Witches, in Tobar Bhride, are those with direct         
experience of deity through a formalized ritual of             
possession.  This experience, and a year of service to         
Tobar Bhride, are the requirements for Third Degree.           
I agree with SeaHawk about the sometimes arbitrary             
forces at work in initiation and elevation.

Unfortunately in many covens the HP & HPs feel themselves      
oathbound to be arbitrary, authoritarian and autocratic,       
and absolutely not subject to any constraint or needing        
any consensus whatsoever.  Or in some covens they will         
agree to consensus on the little things and arbitrarily        
disperse the big ones .            
In Tobar Bhride, to avoid this, we have made a rule for        
ourselves:  if a person fulfills all the paper require-        
ments for initiation/elevation and does not receive            
that degree within two Sabbats' time, the Council of           
Elders is FORCED to explain why to the petitioner.             
This seems to curb the temptation to such authoriarian         
use of power ...                                               
I hope this gives another view of the degree system as         
practiced in some circles.  Kyril, if you're on here           
yet, perhaps you would comment on how things are in            
YOUR circle???                                                 
            Brightest blessings,                               
                   HPs, Coven Tobar Bhride