A coven is by nature a teaching tool, it is not an egalitarian circle where all are equal but rather a triangle arrangement where teaching, knowledge and guidance come from the top down. This is represented by the degree system that is used by Path of Light. In a Path coven there are 5 different stages of learning, beyond the coven environment there are 2 more degrees but those are beyond the scope of this page.
It is important to note that the degree's are recognition of skills learnt and knowledge gained; they are not goals to aim for merely milestones on a journey; inevitably those that treat the degrees as goals in and of themselves take longer to get there, if they ever do.
The first stage is Questioner. A Questioner is not oathed to the coven or the Path; they are exploring and finding what suits them. The Questioner cycle is a time to experience Path rituals and Path lessons without obligation beyond not sharing those lessons elsewhere and working to keep our Law. The Questioner cycle is a time for a prospective student to get to know the Path, the Coven, the teachers and the other coven members as well as a chance for them to become known. This is called the Questioner cycle because it is a time to ask questions, sometimes the answers will be "There is an answer but you can't be told it yet" or "You have other things to learn before you can understand that answer"; other times the answer will be forthcoming. Beyond asking questions of the teachers this is called the Questioner cycle because a prospective student should be asking themselves some very serious and very hard questions, by the time the Questioner cycle is complete and Questioner is asked if they wish to take the Seeker Oath and be named to the Path and to the Coven they should have asked themselves this question at least a dozen times already. The Questioner cycle last one full year, beginning at Samhain (October 31st).
The second stage of learning in a Path coven is Seeker. A Seeker has been named to the Path and taken the Seeker's Oath. They have dedicated themselves to studying the Path and committed to work through it until they take the first degree. The Seeker's Oath hold a Seeker to keep the basic obligations as well as not to perform any magic, ritual or energy work unsupervised by a third degree of the Coven or another teacher who has met with the approval of a third degree of the Coven.
The Seeker cycle begins at Imbolc (February 1st), a true prodigy might complete the Seeker cycle in a year however even the most talented and dedicated student needs at least 18 months as lessons learned at the end of the cycle have an application to what is learnt at the start of the cycle. It is most common for the Seeker cycle to take between 2 and 3 years.
The third stage of learning is the First degree, also called the Crafter. At this stage a student is released from their oath to not work magic, ritual or energy work unsupervised as they are recognised as a fully trained and independent adult member of Path of Light with the tools and skillset needed to fulfil their obligations. This is often the equivalent of the 3rd degree from other traditions and many students choose to study no further.
It generally takes 18 months to 2 years for a truly dedicated and talented student to progress from the first to the second degree.
The fourth stage is the second degree, also called the Adept. To take the second degree means that a student has studied and learnt some of the more advanced magics and developed a deeper understanding. Those who have taken the second degree tend to be responsible for much of the day to day running and organisation of the circles and therefore the Coven.
Taking the third degree is something that few are ready for and it often takes many years, often times even longer than the time from Questioner to Second degree, to take the third degree.
The fifth stage within a Coven is the third Degree or Elder. Within Path of Light only a third degree is permitted to teach because teaching a thing is very different to simply knowing it.
Usually a third degree will take on student of their own and start their own circle, which may still remain a part of the Coven.
As well as taking on students and the responsibilities of teaching the third degree within Path of Light a third degree must make themselves accessible in order to connect with those of other traditions to be sure to guide students to the right place at the right time should the Path not be for them. The third degree bears with it a great responsibility not just to the Coven and to the students but to the tradition as a whole and to others that you come into contact with; a part of the third degree's Oath include "to protect those in your care or die trying".