Degree System

Degree System

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In some Witchcraft traditions, one is either an initiated Witch or one is not (example: Seax-Wica). Other traditions maintain a system of degrees of advancement to show the development stages of the Witch after initiation (example: Gardnerian).

Usually, after an extended introductory learning period, new witches are initiated into the First Degree (although some have an earlier initiation into the neophyte stage even before the First Degree). There they remain for at least "a year and a day," the traditional waiting period. During that time they are taught various disciplines, such as ritual, divination, herbology, and astrology. When the coven elders feel the new witches are ready, they will be taken to the Second Degree. Again they must stay there for at least a year and a day and, again, there is a learning process. Eventually they will be taken to the Third Degree, which, in most traditions, is the highest.

A Third Degree Witch may initiate others and may also break away and form a new coven, separate from the "mother coven" (see Queen of the Sabbat), if they so desire. All Witches are known as Priests/Priestesses. A Third Degree Witch is a High Priest/Priestess. It is also from the Third Degrees that the Elders are chosen.

There are pros and cons for a degree system. It can be useful to know the probable knowledge of a Witch by the degree he or she holds. It can also be an incentive for the Witch to know that he or she can advance (although there are many who are happy just to belong, with no desire for advancement and its attendant responsibility). Perhaps the biggest argument against the degree system is the potential for ego— a problem encountered not only in the Craft, of course, but in many walks of life.