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                               DEGREES OF INITIATION 
                                    SPARROW SONG
      What do the three ( or four ) degrees of Wicca entail?         
           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
      memorizing  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.<grin>   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 recognized 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
      formalized 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 degree 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
      <listening, SeaHawk? *wink*>.  In Tobar  Bhride, to avoid this, we have
      made  a  rule for  ourselves:    if a  person  fulfills  all the  paper
      requirements 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
      authoritarian use of power ...                                         

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