It has been 4 years since I obtained my second degree to this time when I am approaching the milestone of Third Degree. As with all other degree's obtained within Coven of the Goddess it is required to write an essay on the changes and what has been learned between degree's. To first understand the degree system I have taken from the coven website the words of our High Priestess Journey Willowroot, her take on degree's and what it takes to get to this point I have reached. I believe for all of you studying within coven and for those of you who read my writing's from afar, that this is an important reading to see where this essay is coming from
So You Want To Be a High Priestess
So you want to be a High Priestess? Maybe your first step would be to ask yourself what the title "High Priestess" actually means to you and why you are seeking this title. Second you might want to understand how other Pagans see this title, how you would claim the title to your peers and how they would accept the title worn by you.
Traditionally we must acknowledge the degree system is given more importance to us in this day and age then the wise women with little or no formal education in the days of old. As she tended her herbs and stirred her potions for the town's people who secretly came for cures against the churches knowledge, degrees had little value. There was also no structured Coven for learning, only a higher cosmic energy that called and led individuals to the old Crone to learn and keep alive the ways of the old. Those that answered that call were led by needs higher than self to be a part of the bigger universe. It was Goddess staying alive as grass does when it finds soil in the cracks of the rocks to grow from.
We must also acknowledge a degree system being human in origin, does not guarantee clergy with pure heart. There are books that give instructions for self-dedication and online colleges that sell degrees for a minimal fee. There is no public record of Pagan Clergy that prevents one from waking up in the morning and declaring degree. So why so much importance on a degree system, the answer is as diverse as the Pagan religion itself.
It is my belief that degrees are in no means a marking of ones closeness to Goddess but a system (flawed or not) of the Craft that allows the High Priestess to acknowledge her own work in teaching what "she" has been taught to ones who seeks. Now many would disagree with this believing the degree belongs solely to the seeker, that it is a marking of their knowledge and work in the mysteries of Goddess. If this were true would not self-dedication and self degrees be sufficed? However the structure of a Coven is formed the High Priestess is a teacher. The teachings of patience, acceptance, courage, the value of self or just learning to be quiet and listen to Goddess will never be learned in a book yet these are all foundations for teaching a life in reflection of Goddess.
I can only speak for myself, in reflection of my teacher and the value I put on passing degrees that were passed to me. As I was led to my teacher I accept that Goddess will lead and take away many from my Circle. I strive to know the difference between ego and Her guidance and I trust when I am wrong She will be there to once again show me the way.
Degrees within my Teachings
The First Degree is when you have proven yourself a devoted practitioner and are still in the process of learning. You know enough about the religion to be certain why it calls to you, and most importantly you are incorporating into your life. You are active in the Coven and begin to join the reflection of the Coven in keeping the mysteries alive. You work towards being comfortable doing solitary rituals, and while you may have questions on some technique, you understand why you do as you do. Complete understanding on a personal level of Goddess, Elements, Tools and Sacred Space is required.
*Representation of Witch's tools
*Essay on 1st Degree
*Essay on what the 4 Pillars of the Coven mean to you
*New Moon Class led by you
*Any other assignment that will benefit your growth
Second Degree is able to lead class studies and Rituals while continuing your own studies of the Craft. You should be comfortable enough to represent the Coven in mentoring new members on the basics of our Coven, embracing the diversity of new members and helping the High Priestess keep a harmonious flow of the different energies that will be attracted to Coven. While your continued studies of the Craft are important, this is also a turning point of student of the craft and being a teacher of Goddess. Reflection of Her in the wisdom in how you live your life is required, along with knowledge of the Wheel of the Year, Sabbats, Moon Energy, Foundation of Magick, Divination, Spell Work, Healing and multiple Goddess Aspects.
*Essay on 2nd Degree
*Full Moon Ritual written and led by you
*Assist in writing and presenting a Sabbat
*Multiple Healing Techniques
*Any other assignment that will benefit your growth
Elder, and Third Degree is when one is capable of teaching and forming their own Coven. Not only do you lead rituals, but also you lead people. It is a full-time job that consists of more than wearing the best robes, carrying the coolest athame, and telling people what to do in circle. The robes will become stained, the jewelry will break, and the athame will rust. Worst of all, people who don't agree with your techniques will leave and it is embracing their departure and blessing their path that is to be your reflection of Goddess. It is allowing all who are meant to sit in your Circle to find sanctuary there for what time they are meant to share your sacred space and blessing their lesson that lead them elsewhere. AND it is when a stranger calls you a High Priestess and you live up to those standards in their eyes. The Third Degree I do not give out with folly and I do require one do the work.
*All your teachings gathered or self written in writing to allow one to fully understand the Craft, (Wheel of the Year, Foundation of Magick, Divination etc etc.). These can be in the form of your New Moon Classes if they are written/interrupted by you.
*Essay on 3rd Degree
*Essay on Being Clergy
*Essay on Passing Degrees
*12 New Moon classes written by you (or co-written by you)
*1 New Moon Ritual written by you with a different Goddess aspect
*1 Waning Moon Ritual written by you with a different Goddess aspect
*13 Esbats written by you with a different Goddess aspect
*8 Sabbats written by you with a different Goddess aspect
*Multiple Healing Techniques
*Any other assignment that will benefit your growth
ALL the Rituals, Esbats and classes do not have to be performed in the physical but must be complete in writing.
This was the list I was given all those years ago. I find it somewhat funny because before I met Journey I swore I would never belong to a coven or work on degree work for I was vastly independent and did not need to have title like others in the pagan community I had met. Yet at the Goddess Meet up when I met Journey, there was a voice that said, you have found your teacher and you have found your home, and I knew after attending one Full Moon with Coven of the Goddess that for the time being my destiny was here. I also knew without understanding why that I would seek degree's and I would one day come to a place to take the title of High Priestess. And now I stand at the threshold of accomplishing the tasks that are listed above.
For a personal journey, my degree work is probably the longest project and task this Gemini has ever stuck to. Yet the growth I have seen in myself and my abilities to function as an adult have made this task worth more than any other in my life except maybe having my two girls. The first degree I discovered myself in doing totem work outside in the elements and reformed a relationship that I once had as a youth with the wonderful world around us. I again enjoyed the beauty of a sunset, the sound of the birds outside my window in the morning and the smell of the pine trees as I stepped out my door to venture to work or to coven. I discovered that a witch is a witch because of what she instinctually knows and not because she simply claims the title.
Working on the second degree was a bit more of a challenge because it was a combination of working and studying under other people yet the work was more inside and personal. I could write volumes on what I learned working on my second degree, but I have already written that essay and won't bore you with repeating the details.
The last few years working on my third degree have been such a challenge and blessing. Not only have I had to continue to work on self, but being part of coven facilitating I have had to work with others and learn how to take out personality and be an objective unbiased mentor, counselor, healer and friend. I have learned that humility is probably one of the strongest gifts a person can have, to admit when one is wrong and go forward with a head that does not hang low, but continues forward with the same confidence only a little wiser from a mistake.
I believe for me reaching this place of honor of obtaining my third degree is a huge personal achievement and I have found that people really do value my input and idea's though I can honestly say that many times the words I speak are not my own, for I am merely the vessel the divine chooses to speak through. I have found that to be the case many times and I am open to it for when I begin to believe it is I that controls the powers that be and it is I that am in charge of people and things, that is when I have lost the whole basis for choosing the path to follow that I have. Reaching a higher degree in a non-religious faith is something to be proud of but to not flaunt, knowledge to share with others but not pound into people's heads as absolute truth.
I have reached a point in my life when that voice of the Lady says do something, I know longer ask or question why, I just do it, for it is much easier to heed intuitive messages than to go through the lesson thrown at me if I choose to ignore her voice. I believe in the powers of magic and the universal law of attraction and that belief keeps me balanced and with dreams and hopes. I also know that I control my destiny and that with the wisdom and power of Goddess and the studies I have and will continue to do, I in fact have even more control than others have. I am learning to approach things differently than I did a few years ago, not so rash to strike back at those that hurt me but not afraid to pull out magic others would shy away from.
There are so many things to write about in obtain the third degree, about the messages taught, lessons learned, magical and herbal studies. But the most important lesson and achievement through this process is the evolution of myself while speaking my truth through compassion. . I am still a work in progress as everyone is. I have faults, I have a bad temper and fly off the handle now then, I have a tendency to be jealous and judgmental, and to be impatient with people. Yet all these character flaws are things I do have control over and can use in a balancing act with self to be a stronger woman. Speaking my truth is also apart of this evolution. Now I have never been afraid to speak my mind, but speaking one's mind is not always one's truth. Even in the past few days, I found that speaking my truth to someone, even though I thought I might lose their friendship, benefited my mental health, and surprisingly but not, helped the person I had to speak my truth too. Not only did it empower her, but she told me my straight forward yet compassionate words, helped her see where she needed to seek help in fixing herself and protecting her children. To me, out of all lessons learned, to be able to help someone, while maintaining my dignity and truth, means it all. For I wish when I was younger I had, had someone speak that way to me, I might have avoided many of the pitfalls in my life if someone would have been truthful and called me on behaviors instead of making excuses as to why I acted that way.
When talking to women my mothers age about life's problems and my words bring them to tears because of the wisdom they say I bestow upon them, is proof of Goddess working through me. And those intimate moments of softness and compassion mean more to me than I can put into words. When people in our community walk up to me and hug and kiss me and I can feel they really mean it, that they genuinely like me for me and not for what I can give to them, that proves to me that Goddess led me hear to give that I have never had. I have found my home, my family and my tribe as I have worked on this degree. And in the past few months I have found a softer side of myself that I rather like. Not always the fire slinging kick ass warrior woman, for now in certain companies, that bravado can have a rest and this quieter, calmer and gentler side of me can emerge. And finally after so much work, I can look in the mirror and say to myself, I might have area's that still need adjustments and I still have character flaw's I need to work on, but I am worthy to be loved the way I love others, and I am a good person. For so many years those two ideas were so foreign to me, because I simply could not see that in the reflection looking back at me in the mirror.
I have reached this place through the mentoring and friendship of Journey, my coven sisters that have seen me though some horribly scarring and emotionally tumultuous times. For they have allowed me a place to be vulnerable and human, without having to bare the weight of it all on my own. And I have reached this place through the work I have done towards my third degree. For it is a confidence and ego boosting experience that when I am in the middle of chaos or crisis, I have the ability and knowledge to create a Full Moon Ritual in two days notice or fill in a class in a few days notice while I can still acknowledge what I am going through. That is the balance I have found in working this path and finding what works for me.
So yeah, Third Degree and High Priestess, words I never thought would apply to me. Things I never felt worthy of being or obtaining. But as I sit here and write this essay that is from no guidelines, but purely from my heart, I can humbly say, I am worthy of the degree and I am worthy of the title. For have worked hard for this day, yet I also know that what has been freely given to me, I will in return when the time comes give it freely to another that seeks what I have been given. For to truly honor self and to truly honor goddess, is to give without compromising self, to love without expecting back, to accept a compliment when given, to take criticism as a tool for growth, accept that some people truly are just ships passing in the night, and to be content with what is available and to work hard to obtain that which is desired, and to give back to the community that freely gave or held out a hand when a lift was needed. This is the power of compassion, understanding and love without boundaries we so often hear of but don't really understand.
I will never be a love and light witch for I embrace the darker side of self and magic to deeply, but dark and light are merely a balance we all need to find in self. It is also just as important to live life to it's fullest and not to mourn the living for they have chosen their path and it is theirs to follow. I cannot save every wayward soul that comes across my path even though I may try, but what I have been taught, that I now teach and give out can help one person that crosses my path, then what I have done, doing this work and fixing myself along the way was worth every tear, every broken heart, every singed hair and burnt altar. And from here I look forward to more burnt altars during big magic, tears shed with friends, bottles of mead passed around the campfire and the security in family of the loved ones I have found along the way.
And for a final word, always remember this, sometimes you simply need to set someone's hair on fire and end the end the boobs always win.