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So What Makes A Lady?

By Chameleon Silvercat
(Used with permission)


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, ‘K?)

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 3 years.

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 day.

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.


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This page last updated March 10, 2004