Since the Craft is a living, growing body of knowledge, some form and structure for training members is necessary. In most of the world the apprentice system has long been in use. In China, India, Russia and the American mountains, as well as the South Seas, the apprentice method has been predominate. A Master takes an apprentice under his tutelage and teaches them the skills of the Craft so that they become proficient and grow in Wisdom as they achieve adepthood and grow into maturity. This does not mean that the Craft is unorganized or unstructured or that practices are spontaneous or the uncontrolled efforts of a few scattered individuals. If this were the case the Craft would have died out long ago. The teachers of these apprentices, the older practitioners, meet regularly in conclave with older and wiser persons for their own teaching and instruction, as well as coordination of activities.
In Western Europe and the Mediterranean countries the senior members of the structure long ago displayed a flair for methodical organization. In these areas students were early organized into groups of from three to twelve member under the tutorage of an experienced witch, or pair of witches. Everyone in the Craft is considered a student until he achieves personal perfection. Therefore the leaders of these groups of younger witches are themselves members of a higher group -- usually in the traditional 12 -- who meet under the direction of an Elder who is in turn, himself a member of a group of Elders who meet under the direction of a Magus. The Magi belong to a group under the eye of a Master Magus and these master Magi are members of a group directed by a Grand Master. Owing to political necessities there have also been appointed, from time to time, a Supreme Grand Master over a grouping of two or more countries.
Our Craft is divided into three degrees in order to provide different training for those at
different levels. These degrees begin with the
Apprentice, who is studying to join the Craft and then the 1st, or Delta
Degree, who is an initiated witch. These members of the Delta Degree
constitute the bulk of the members of the Craft. In traditional vernacular
they are also called "Wise Ones". Members of the Star Degree are those who
have completed a course of study and further apprenticeship and have
become Fellows of the Craft, assuming leadership roles. In their covens
they constitute the body of magicians in the Craft as well as the
Priesthood. The third degree is made up of those who are equated with
learned Doctors of Divinity in the outside world. These may be Doctors of
Natural Medicine as well. These Wise Doctors make up the High Priesthood
and have dedicated themselves wholly to the Way of Wisdom.
The witch group was originally called a "covey", probably for the same reason that a flock of quail are called a covey. The number twelve for membership has become traditional; it is the practical number for a leader to work with efficiently. The Anglo-Saxon plural of covey is coven and this collective has long since become the universal term for any group of Wise Ones.