To gather experience over countless lifetimes.

We Realize who and what we really are, and come to behave like That.

Ignorance of That and associated bad habits result in mistakes and consequential suffering.

The accumulation of experience eventually brings us to realize that we are not separate from others, which forms habitual devotion to the ultimate welfare of all.

By Janus-Mithras, Nuit-Hilaria and Mer-Amun

Wicca is the world’s oldest Mystery Religion and although it has changed through the centuries, the basic teachings, fundamentals and the modus operandi still remain the same (in the more traditional covens).  The words Mystery Religion imply a system of traditional teachings about the mysteries of the Divinity, Nature and Man.  (Mystery in this context meaning: Truths known only by insight and revelation and not by the senses and/or logic.)

As with all true mystical-magical systems, it has a central myth or legend which contains in allegorical language and symbols the main theme of the cult, embodying motivations, attitudes, and sacramental practices (sacrament: outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual grace), which are gradually revealed and explained to its followers as they progress through the traditional Three Degrees.

The Three Degrees are actually three stages of the candidate’s development from the darkness of ignorance to the spiritual light of her identity with the Gods.  And these three steps or stages correspond to very well known occult concepts, for example: the three horizontal Paths of the Tree of Life of the Qabalah – Peh, Tech, and Daleth; the three Chasms in the Tree: The Gate of Death, the Veil of Paroketh, and the Abyss.  They also correspond to the three Sephiroth of the Supernal Triangle as well as the Three Principles of Nature (Alchemical Sulphur, Salt, and Mercury).

 Each Degree is said to be sacred to or under the rule of the Ancient Gods themselves: the first to Aradia, and the second to Kernunnos, the Great Horned One.  The third Degree embodies their inseparability as the Ancient Harmony, from which they never depart and which is their real meaning, upon which we mortals in our blindness and ignorance project the fiction of Him or Her, Male and Female, and so on, making God in our own image.


There are very Ancient and well known symbols for these Three Degrees.  To the First Degree: the Inverted Triangle, symbol of water and of the Yoni, the female organs of the Great Mother Goddess.  To the Second Degree: the Inverted Pentagram, symbol of the Horned One.  It has the obvious shape of an Goat’s Head, although in Victorian occult circles it became popular to describe it as an evil symbol, and a symbol of Black Magic.  This may be true when considered from a certain level since the top point of the Pentagram, usually symbolic of consciousness, seems now obsessed or overwhelmed by the elements, and thus symbolic of spiritual inertia.  The oldest and more traditional interpretation, which justifies its ancient usage as a symbol of the Second Degree, is that of the Inner Journey or the search within oneself.  This is also a form of inertia, but in a much higher sense it symbolizes the point in our spiritual evolution at which we abandon all outer crutches and props, and surrender ourselves to and try to learn from the deepest layer of our minds, or in more mythological terms, the Ancient Horned One, God of Wisdom, Father and Teacher of Gods and Men.  The symbol of the Third Degree is an upright Triangle, symbol of Spirit and of Fire, but not earthly fire, not even the fire of mental activity, but the True Fire, the fire of Wisdom that consumes all dualities of seeker and sought, worshipper and worshipped, of male and female, in the single non-dual, ever-present orgasm of Naught.

These three symbols have also certain colors attributed to them.  To the Inverted Triangle of the First Degree, the red color is ascribed: the red of blood, menstrual blood, virgins blood, the blood of childbirth, of manifestation, of the cosmic desire of “That,” which being ever Naught, still desires to be Many, while remaining unconditionally Itself.  To the Inverted Pentagram of the Second Degree, symbol of the Great Horned One, is attributed the color black.  (In some modern covens the color black has become blue or sometimes green.)  This is the Black of Sleep, of Death, of Winter, of Cosmic Space, the Blackness of the Unconscious, and of the Underworld of the depths of our minds, to which we must descend just as Our Lady Herself has done.  Also like Her, we surrender all our Jewels and Veils, meaning our likes and “dis-likes,” our fixed opinions of what Reality is or is not, our wrong views of the Gods themselves; most importantly, we surrender the Crown of our ego.  All these must be surrendered completely at the feet of the Great Horned One, if we wish to learn the secret of Life and Death and of Love, the only True Magic.  To the Upright Triangle of the Third Degree is attributed Pure Brilliance, symbolic of the Mystical Union of non-dual Awareness, ie. Pure Consciousness.


1st Degree

2nd Degree

3rd Degree






















Gate of Death

Gate of Paroketh

The Abyss


The shapes or forms of these three symbols are embodiments of the work and realization expected of the candidate in his course through the Three Grades.  The secret key to the meaning of the symbols is in the Tree of Life.  The Inverted Triangle of the First Degree for example is placed upon the Sephiroth marked by the numbers 10, 8, and 7, with 9 or Yesod at the very center of the triangle.  This obviously points out the nature of the work in the First Degree, which is the attainment of realization and harmonizing of the four elements, both within ourselves, and in the world around us, for only then are we ready to travel to the Underworld of our Minds.  The Inverted Pentagram of the Second Degree is placed upon the Sephiroth 9, 8, 7, 5, and 4 with 6 or Tephareth in the center of the Pentagram.  Notice that the Beard of the Goat, which his usually the topmost point in the Pentagram, symbolic of consciousness now penetrates the Inverted Triangle or Yoni of the Mother, both uniting in the Sephirah Yesod, the Foundation of the Universe, while the horns, ancient symbols of magical power touch the Sephiroth Chesed and Geburah, the extremes of Power: Mercy or Compassion, and Justice or Severity.  The upright Triangle of the Third Degree is placed across the Abyss, beyond manifestation, upon the Sephiroth marked with 3, 2, and 1. 

Before one can build this secret life and initiate the inner journey of the Wicca, he must first have set his feet firmly on the Ground, and have established a strong outer life in the ordinary world as a sound basis in which to perform the Art.  This means having a life well enough defined that the aspirant will find himself able to do the regular practice and study required of a Witch.  This also means being free enough from the influence of friends and activities that might hinder his growth by repeatedly forcing him into situations and states of mind out of which he wishes to grow, for they will be the great greatest hindrance and under their influence Initiation will do little but upset his life and cause much pain.

Besides having a solid ground to work on, a person must also have developed certain attitudes in his first year of training, without which true Initiation is impossible.  These attitudes stem from the Passwords of the Wicca: Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.  He should have a fairly close and open relationship with the High Priestess and High Priest as well as the trust in them that is so necessary to really make anything of what they teach.  Likewise he must have clearly demonstrated a deep personal love for the Old Gods and the Craft as a whole.  In fact he must really love the Old Gods enough and trust them enough to be willing to sacrifice his present way of life, and the things in it, for Initiation will certainly change his life, not so much from the outside but from the inside.  Initiation will bring only pain and hardship if he is not willing to give up his present way of life for that of the Witch and the Ways of the Gods.

This means the aspirant must have more than a sense of the awesome consequences of traditional Initiation and the conviction that this is what he wants; he must have gone beyond these things to the feeling that he has ultimately no choice in the matter but to grow, to move on, beyond the “ordinary” life of people.  He must be willing to turn his back on that life forever.  The student who holds such attitudes is indeed already Initiated and truly one of the Brethren of the Craft; indeed how strong these convictions are determines how much of a Witch one will be.  It is in celebration of this last step on the path of evolution, the first step homeward, that the ceremony of Initiation is performed, and the powers and Titles of the First Degree are bestowed.

As an Initiate of the Mysteries of the Wicca, the candidate now takes it upon himself to make a deliberate effort to grow and learn, or in other words, to try constantly to serve the Goddess more and better with each day.  The Initiate then spends at least one year and one day of careful self-examination through many techniques and on many levels.  Here he gets to know his way around the intricate pathways of his personality, finding the pressure points and learning about how they act and react from different angles.  Here he becomes acquainted with some of the powers of an Initiate, testing them out and slowly growing accustomed to them.  Here he begins the hard and tedious work of renovating his life-style, his habits, his attitudes, and his goals, conquering and transforming them to aid him in his quest for the Goddess.

When the Initiate becomes proficient at the four Skills of the Art, (study, discipline, magic, meditation = know, will, dare, keep silent) the results become quite apparent.  He acquires a kind of maturity, a kind of quiet confidence in himself, in his life, and in the Craft.  Although the wonderment never ceases, being a Witch is no longer so special, or out-of-the-ordinary.  The Craft has for him become the ordinary every-day life, and he has truly become a Witch right down to the simplest routines of daily life.  He is no longer human in the ordinary sense.

More important, the Initiate gains some very profound insight into the nature of the Goddess and the God, into the nature of Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.  Through his work as an Initiate, he finds himself unable to ignore the needs of humanity around him, and becomes increasingly aware of his powers to help them, as well as the enormous responsibility this presents.  He finds himself helplessly dedicated to using his powers and his understanding to help those who have not these things.  Striving to do this to the best of his abilities, he develops a growing sense of helplessness, of the dream-like illusory nature of all phenomena, whether sad or happy.  With the comforting Presence of the Old Gods, a relaxed, almost indifferent attitude comes of all this, giving a kind of effortless strength and clarity of mind and the reassuring feeling that, although there are many problems and unbearable pain all around, although there is indeed much work to do, somehow everything is going to be perfectly OK, and it’s all like a dream in the end anyway.

As a Master of the Skills of the Craft then, his thoughts turn to those of the Craft as a whole, for the meaning of it all.  His life and his personality being purified and wholly dedicated to the Craft of the Wise, he becomes a living embodiment of the ideals and ways of the Craft.  Thus, the Initiate becomes a “Holder of the Tradition” and an Initiate of the Inner Mysteries.  This is celebrated by the ceremony of his Elevation to the Second Degree in which the Sacred Power of the Tradition is transferred to him, and he is given the Magical Keys to the Tradition of the Craft.

Now as a Master of the Craft, the Initiate begins a new line of exploration, much the same as in the First Degree but he explores now the powers responsible for the Universe around him, from behind the scenes, beyond appearances.  He explores the uses of the keys he is given, unlocking the symbolism of the Tradition and the meaning of it all, revealing the Ancient Wisdom that was placed there long ago.  Step by step, veil by veil, mystery after mystery is revealed to him as he descends those ancient steps, closer and closer to the root and cause of all things, the Great Mystery.

Probably the time has not yet come when an adequate description of the Third Degree can be given, but in symbols, this much can be said:

As the last veil is parted, and the Final Mystery revealed, he comes to the cataclysmic realization that there is no real existence, that everything is like a dream, a colossal illusion.  And as the entire Universe crashes at his feet, even the Gods are fading to Nothing, the Craft itself is recognized as a Shadow.

There he sits upon the Mountain of Ashes, the entire Universe consumed.  The Single Eye still alight with the reflections of the Fires of the Universe He has crushed, He gazes about Him at the Naked Splendor of Her who hath no Beginning and no End.  All Her Veils now removed, He sees that there had only ever been Her, that all is ever as a dance, the play of Love, and always unto Her.  Trust and Love rising to new heights, he recognizes Her as the One Source of all the desire in his Heart, His whole reason for being, that it was always for Her alone that he had fought and searched for so long, in so many ways, in so many places.  He loses Himself with the realization that he also has been, from the beginning of eternity, as empty and illusory as everything else.  Then, as the “Drew-Drop slips into the Shining Sea,” the ecstasy of their Union becomes a Brilliance surpassing a Million Suns, and there is only Her, in Her many Names and many Forms.  There is only She “who is the Beauty of the Green Earth, the White Moon among the Stars, the Mystery of the Waters, and the Desire of the Heart of Man.”  Their passion Moves as One upon the face of the Waters, the eternal play of love which manifests itself as Infinite Space, and the Stars, and the Desire deep within the Heart of Man.

“For Behold, I have been with thee
from the Very Beginning,
and I am That which is attained
at the End of Desire.”
(Book of Shadows)


3 Responses to “The Three Degrees”

  • weave says:

    Thank you for a very informative article and I gained a lot in terms of the
    kaballah side of things. thank you

  • Starman says:

    What a wonderful article on the 3 degrees, it confirmed to me that which I have been learning, from self and nature, it’s also about learning to use the powers of the 4 elements, and harnessing them to propel onwards to fullness.

  • Laura Zimmerman says:

    Very interesting reading material for wiccans or those in search of learning and wanting to become wiccan. Thank you!

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