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...
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
HPs, Coven Tobar Bhride