My advice to anyone considering being 3rd degree is to consider long and hard what their tradition's requirements are for this level. Generally, as a third degree, a person no longer considered a student of the tradition. They can no longer defer problems to their teachers or ask their teachers to protect them. At 3rd degree the full responsibility of the tradition is laid across the shoulders of those who initiate into this level. The task of the continued existence of the tradition is given to the 3rd degree. There are new teachings that are given at this level. The teachings are powerful, and have to be as they are the tools for continuing the path for those who will follow.
The initiatory trials at this level can be very harsh. Since this is a degree of living the tradition, the person is tested to see if they have fully incorporated all of the tools that the tradition avails them. This is especially true in older shamanic traditions. While there may not be the rigid three-tier initiation process, the final shamanic initiation is a do-or-die trial. The tribe depends on the Shaman for their existence, so the to-be Shaman must prove they have the tools to survive the initiation as a precursor to helping the tribe survive. While death is not a component of modern 3rd degree initiations, the person is tested sufficiently to see if they have what it takes to become the caretaker of a tradition and of a people.
There is a shadow side to the 3rd degree. The 3rd degree person has the power to promote others through the lower degrees or all the way to 3rd degree. This responsibility can be abused, and those who are not prepared for the positions can be promoted ahead of their time, if indeed they should be promoted at all. Many traditions pay attention to a person's lineage. Lineage is the measure of who initiated a person, who initiated their teacher, and so on. Lineage is a test of the seriousness and strength of a person's mystical creation. Some lineages are respected and others are considered to be insufficient to the over-all tradition's guidelines. All suffer when a person is initiated improperly. The person is asked to take on duties with insufficient training and methods. The tradition suffers because the original intent is warped and damaged. Future students suffer as their degrees are not respected by the overall community. Aside from reputations damaged, there can be a danger to life or psyche when forces are manipulated without adequate training and safeguards. It is incumbent upon the teachers to properly pick their students. It is also very important for a student to know something about the teacher, and the student should walk away if there are questions about legitimacy of the teacher or their methods.
As now a Reiki Master, the 3rd degree position, I have the power and the responsibility to induct new people as Reiki healers. This position carries the responsibility of maintaining the goals of my tradition and insuring it will continue with the right teachings and people in place. I am not teaching Reiki now. This is not acceptable in the long-run. The position I have asks for me to both safeguard and spread the healing technique, and my induction as a Reiki Master holds me to this.
I hope this article has shed light onto the traditional methods of a three degree system. Again, as I am not Neopagan, I do not have insider information on the methods used in that path. Indeed, if I did, I could not share them here as they are safeguarded with vows of secrecy. All I know has been observed in passing or has been picked up via my own studies. More intimately, I have shared information on my own Reiki pathworking. I do feel the sum of the information is sufficient to advise and warn the prospective student to the trials that lay ahead. Taking on the mantle of any tradition is a serious task and should not be taken lightly. There are great rewards of knowledge, self-awareness, transformation, membership in a community, and service to others. In the end all good paths lead to service, and this is where the student is heading as they leave the pack of Cowan and begin their own pathworking journey.