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What we know as Witchcraft today has changed a lot from its beginnings in ancient times to its present form created by Gerald Brosseau Gardner after he joined the New Forest Coven in 1939. In older times, secrecy, degrees and initiations were a necessary element of the practice of the Craft, without this a Witch could find themselves falling foul of the Church. With solitaries and eclectics outnumbering most other forms of Witchcraft, such ways have been almost forgotten. I will try to teach you about these days and the sort of things you would have learned.

Most Witches today do not understand the reason behind why we still do initiations. Such "fanciful" elements of the craft tend to be viewed as excuses for the " Traditional Witches" to be arrogant. Sadly, some initiated Witches seem to see it that way also. My background includes eclectic and solitary practice, as well as initiation in two very diverse traditions, so I thought I should take some time to explain what initiation and the Degrees of Wicca are all about. Most traditions work to a three degree system; however, The Children of Albion is a tradition of five degrees which is the same as the number of elements we use in our Craft.

What Initiation is NOT

Sometimes, Witches seek initiation as a way of "justifying" their Craft. If that's what you're looking for, you're wasting everybody's time. Initiations are by and large only thought of as valid within the tradition you have chosen to study. There is always someone out there that will take umbrage with your current degrees, especially if they have had issues with your tradition or some of tradition members. The degree system is not a Pagan "merit badge " system. Unlike other traditions, if you have a degree from another tradition, as long as you have covered the requirements for our degrees then we will honour it. If you are an element or two short then we will ask you to complete these elements and then we will honour your degree.

Sometimes, Witches seek initiation as a means to gaining power. This won't work for us either. Having a degree within our tradition will not make you any better at Witchcraft. The elements of the learning requirements for the degree will but it is down to how you interpret what you have learned and put it into practise. You will not gain anyone's respect outside our tradition. You may find someone with little knowledge of the Craft who will fall for some bovine excrement, but people with sound knowledge of the Craft will regard your words as being no more significant than anyone else's.

Only Third Degree initiates, after years of training, are supposed to be able to start their own traditions. However, in this day and age we find that we can buy a degree on the internet for the price of a child's meal at a burger bar. Some Coven Leaders have had the responsibility of a Coven placed on their shoulders through circumstances beyond their control and have taken up the mantle of responsibility to keep the Coven running.

Some people are only seeking initiation as a status symbol. I remember a Witch who lives local to me and was allegedly of the Second Degree. A mutual acquaintance had a friend from Australia visiting and she was of the Third Degree. Our "Second Degree" friend lost the plot, he organised a Moot in her honour then embarrassed everyone by manoeuvring my High Priestess into performing the "Symbolic Great Rite" with him, something she had already refused. In his overwhelming desire to impress a visiting Third, (he didn't recognise my High Priestess as a Third) and with his obvious lack of knowledge he made the local community of Witches look like idiots.

I hope that this example shows how any desire for a Degree in magic without the training as backup has limited applications. In some circles, to like minded people for example, it may be of importance. Generally though, Pagans really don't care about degrees, they are more concerned with your knowledge in the Craft. I know some Solitaries with more knowledge than most Third Degree Witches I know.

What Initiation IS

Initiation symbolises the fact that you have gained mastery of a particular level of mystical understanding. A small part of its purpose, as discussed, is recognition, but this is generally not certain until the Craft society already treats you as if you were of the relevant degree. The best accolade you can receive is for a member of our faith that believes you to be of a higher Degree and is sincerely surprised when they learn you are not. A Degree separates one stage of the initiate's life from the next stage and in some traditions; it also links you to the lineage of those who have come before you. It teaches something in a living, breathing way that in an ideal world transforms the initiate and improves them as a person and a Witch.




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Page updated 10 April 2019