The religion of Witchcraft or Wicca (more accurately the spiritual path) naturally has some teachings which are kept very close to the chest. They’re not exactly secret, but they’re of a nature which only people who have been taught well can appreciate and handle. As we often say when presenting, you wouldn’t give the car keys to a two-year-old. So since time immemorial it seems there have been levels of initiation; thus people can be rewarded for hard work, and other members of the community can be confident that people less senior know what they’re doing.
In modern traditions there are usually three levels of initiation. Because various groups define these levels differently, here we spell out the Church of Wicca’s definitions and compare them with levels of initiation practiced by the general American Wiccan community.
First Degree – This is a preliminary admittance to the outer circles of a group, often symbolized by a triangle with a 3 inscribed. In the Church of Wicca, this means that the neophyte will have completed a set of Wiccan magical tools and will have been dedicated in a new secret name that (s)he has chosen for themself. The name will be known only by members of the group. In the Church of Wicca we call this stage dedication.
Second Degree – This requires that the candidate knows how to cast and to sanctify / dedicate a circle, and that (s)he understands the meaning of a pseudo Great Rite: probably a procedure in which the athame signifies the male and the chalice signifies the female. The symbol for this stage is a Pentagram, signifying completion.
Third Degree – In the Church of Wicca there is no third degree; there is only initiation with no degree number attached to it. In the general community we understand that a third degree signifies that the candidate has completed a study of at least a year and a day, and has been initiated in a real Great Rite which symbolizes the passing of magic on from the priest or priestess to the neophyte. This stage can be signified in several different ways; in the community it is often shown as an open eye resembling that on the back of the U. S. dollar bill. In the Church of Wicca the candidate makes their own ankh with downswept arms.
In the Church of Wicca we combined the second and third degrees because we work by correspondence, and bringing people in from distant places twice seemed to us to be too much of a burden for a single initiation.
Whether in the third-degree initiation practiced by the wider community, or in the single initiation of the Church of Wicca, it is usual to give the candidate some semi-secret information which equips them to prove to other members of the community that they have indeed completed this level and are qualified for the privileges that go along with their level of initiation.