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Author Topic: Coven experience?  (Read 24764 times)
High Adept Member
Last Login:June 20, 2022, 04:12:33 pm
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Religion: Priestess in initiatory religious witchcraft tradition
Posts: 2506

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« Reply #3: September 30, 2007, 10:30:05 am »

My biggest question is, for anyone who has worked in a coven with degree systems:  what sort of criteria had to be met to officially go onto the next degree?

For us, it's a combination of demonstrated skills, and emotional and other readiness. On the "Things you can check off on a list" side, ours looks like this, briefly:

1st degree: completes all of the group classes and homework assignments. These include being able to set up a ritual circle start to finish, writing a full moon and Sabbat ritual, and everything that's implied in those things. (i.e. grounding, centering, shielding, establishing a personal/daily practice, energy work skills, developing relationships with the elements, guardians, deities the group works with, deities they wish to work with, etc.) The basic goal is "This person can stand before the Gods on their own behalf, and take care of all their own personal ritual needs." (i.e. create personal ritual for stuff they want to do) and contribute to group rituals (taking on different roles, be part of the rotation of initiates writing moon rituals, etc.)

Our 2nd and 3rd degrees are less structured. We have regular initiate-only class/discussion sessions (who leads them varies: it depends a lot on what we want to talk about, and what people want to prepare). We range from ethics to tools to group ritual design to philosophical issues about the nature of deity or the nature of elements.

People working towards 2nd degree are expected to take on more responsibilities within the group (practical stuff that helps the group run; this might involve teaching intro or dedicant classes, answering emails to the group address, helping write and set-up for rituals, larger ritual roles (including a turn as HP or HPS for ritual).

Post-getting 2nd degree is also often a significant period of dealing with any unresolved business: if there's anything in your life which is out of balance, or not in line with your larger goals, it will likely force you to deal with it. I got my 2nd two years ago: two days before my 2nd, my now-ex-husband moved out (our parting was amicable, we both came to the decision the relationship wasn't salvageable within a week of each other, and it was very necessary for me to be able to move forward on some goals. But at the same time, my last two years have been financially extremely stressful, I've finished grad school while working full time, moved three times in 18 months, and generally had pretty much every pattern in my life *except* my ritual life torn into tiny shreds and rewoven. I'm very satisfied with the outcome so far, but easy, it's not.) It's often described as facing the shadow self.

My own experience - as you might guess from the above - is that 2nd is not so much about what you know, or what you do with it, but how you begin to integrate it within yourself. The precise methods that each person uses to do that are going to be different - because the stuff they need to work on is going to be different.

There were also, for me, significant changes in what kinds of ritual and personal methods I feel comfortable using. I've gotten a *lot* more comfortable helping other people with energetic help (grounding, centering, rebalancing), a lot more comfortable with teaching energetic skills, and my visualisation skills took a huge leap forward.

3rd degree is about service to a larger group and within the community: both developing the skills to lead a group oneself if that's where you're going, and to also participate in and do things that benefit the broader community. (This is why I'm involved in Pagan Pride, in large part. I enjoy what I do, but it's also one of the 'broader community' things I do that's most compatible with my other interests and goals. I was programming chair last year, and this year (which is a 2 day event: I'm about to head off for day 2.)

Since exactly what one does with that is an individual thing (and since I'm the first person within our group to do training to 3rd fully within the group, rather than including regular work with people outside it in related paths), what I did was write up a list of what I wanted to accomplish, based on various resources, and then handed it over (my HP and HPS keep checking up on it.) I'm now at the point where we're working on scheduling my 3rd for sometime in November: I've got a few minor things to write up still, but they won't take long.
People working towards their 2nd degree

How did you know when you were ready to move from a 1st degree to 2nd degree?

Some of it's the above - do you know the stuff necessary, and have the skills needed. But a lot of it is emotional readiness.

My HPS and HP scheduled my 2nd degree for November 2005, in mid-August 2005. (They didn't tell me what it was, just to keep the date clear: I did guess, mostly because when you're the keeper of the group calendar, it's pretty clear what a blank date represents.) They didn't know why they needed to wait for November - just that they did. They knew I was mostly ready, based on some experiences in early August (dealing with a former member of the group and some complex situations with our student that year.)

But what really got me emotionally ready, in a lot of ways, was the dissolution of my marriage - and how I chose to handle it and approach what needed to be done. It wasn't necessarily that that particular thing had to happen, as much as I had to be willing to rearrange my life for the future commitments I was taking on - and fix some things I was putting up with that were not good for me, or for my real desires and needs.

Any other practical tips for group
work would also be appreciated!

You can find different degree system requirements in a number of places. I based a fair chunk of my own 3rd degree list  on Tangled Moon's lists (I have a lot of respect for Brock and Lark, having known them online for about 6 years now.) The syllabi are here:

As far as other books: I'd suggest all of the following, though for different reasons.

Amber K. _CovenCraft_ - general  good group dynamics theory, a bunch of exercises, activities, etc. to try
Judy Harrow _Wicca Covens_ - group dynamics, a look at how covens are different from other settings.
Lisa McSherry _Magical Connections_

Ellen Cannon Reed's _The Heart of Wicca_ - particularly the section on why having standards is very very important.

I'd also suggest to anyone looking at group work the Trollspotting pages at

Beyond that, depends on what your focus is

There's a number of books I'd recommend.

Blog: Thoughts from a threshold:
Info for seekers:
Pagan books and resources:

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