I am a recent addition to the “information superhighway”
aka, The Net, and something in the pagan/wiccan sites has captured my
attention: the repeated use of the title “Lady” by neophyte witches,
solitaries, and frankly, women who have not earned that respected rank.
The overuse is so prevalent, that I suspect the users simply have not
gone far enough in their studies to realize they have erred. In other
cases, I wonder if the title was chosen in an attempt to feel more respected
in a society where status is considered a priority. Or perhaps the new
Wiccan seeks to honor The Lady by taking the appellation as part of
her magickal Name? I will say that I have met one or two who I willingly
call Lady, but most others seem to have no idea just what it takes to
become a Lady in the Craft. So lets talk about those steps, from neophyte
to High Priestess.
First: Discovery of the fact that one is called to the
Old Ways. This is the initial awakening that every witch describes in
remarkably similar terms when asked, “why did you become a witch?”
This awakening is followed by an almost overpowering urge
to LEARN, anything, everything, about alternative religions, especially
nature based Paths. Eventually, this study, which takes anywhere from
1 to 30 years (or more) leads the questioner to the right people/books/teachers
and she realizes the Name of her Path: Wicca, and has learned by what
Names to call the powerful beings that have become so obvious in her
life. At this stage, she knows she is a witch and will follow her Path
to the next step: (I’m mixing Coven and Solitary trads here, so be patient,
1st Initiation, often called First Degree Initiation.
This may be performed in or outside a coven, by a High Priest, High
Priestess, Priestess, Priest, or by Self Initiation. This is a death-and-rebirth
ritual. The old (mundane) self has died and is being replaced by a new,
magickal being. The First Degree Initiation is a formal farewell to
the person who-used-to-be & a celebratory entrance into the Mysteries.
Don’t know what the Mysteries are? Keep studying. When you are ready
for this step, you will have that knowledge, and more.
2nd Degree Initiation. This takes place no less than a
year-and-a-day after the 1st Initiation. In a coven, a Second Degree
witch is now a Priestess and may initiate a postulant to the First Degree
and may be called upon as an alternate High Priestess. A Second Degree
Priestess will be a member of the coven’s Elders, so chances are good
she’s put in a lot more work than could be fit into just one year. Of
the women I have spoken to who hold this rank in the Gardnerian and
Seax Wicca Traditions, only one was raised to the Second Degree in under
A Solitary at this stage of development, will be counseling
others by recommending books and exercises. She will be actively involved
in the pagan movement (yes, even as a Solitary). She will probably be
published or teaching a related subject and she has likely been practicing
the Craft independently for 5 or 6 years.
Remember, we’re not talking about someone who’s just interested
in getting by, but someone who is Called to help wherever/whenever possible.
Not every covener will become a Priestess to anyone other than herself,
nor will every Solitary become a teacher. The step from Adherent to
Wiccan Priestess is a Calling, not a prize awarded for time expended.
3rd Degree — In a coven, a Third Degree Initiate is ready
to begin a coven of her own and is trained and initiated with this goal
in mind. If there is a parallel to the Solitary Path for this Degree,
I am unaware of it. Experienced Solitaries regularly train initiates
in their particular tradition and guide them as a mentor and friend.
Those witches in turn, practice the craft, train others or may join
covens themselves, and may very well hold the title High Priestess one
So when does a witch become a Lady? Simple. Traditionally,
the High Priestess alone is known to her coveners as Lady, and that
title is rarely used outside of Circle. A Solitary might be called Lady
by a student wishing to express appreciation. It is a title of respect
freely given to a beloved teacher, not a forcibly imposed self-designation.