In many Wiccan traditions, it is customary for someone to study for a year and a day prior to being formally initiated. In some cases, it is the standard length of time that must pass between degree levels, once the person is initiated into the group.
Although the year and the day rule for initiates is most commonly found in Wicca and NeoWicca, it occasionally appears in other Pagan paths as well.
This time period is based upon a number of early European traditions. In some feudal societies, if a serf ran away and was absent from his lord's holdings for a year and a day, he was automatically considered a free man. In Scotland, a couple who lived together as husband and wife for a year and a day were accorded all the privileges of marriage, whether or not they were formally wed (for more on this, read about Handfasting History). Even in the Wife of Bath's Tale, poet Geoffrey Chaucer gives his knight a year and a day to complete a quest.
The year-and-a-day rule is found in a number of cases of common law, both in the US and in Europe. In the United States, notice of intention to file a medical malpractice lawsuit must be made within a year and a day of the alleged incident (this doesn’t mean the lawsuit itself has to be filed in that time frame, simply a notice of intent).
For many Pagans and Wiccans, the year and a day study period holds a special significance. If you're recently become part of a group, this time period is enough that you and the group's other members can get to know one another. It's also a time in which you can familiarize yourself with the concepts and principles of the group. If you're not part of an established tradition, using the year-and-a-day rule allows you to give your practice structure. Many solitaries choose to study for this time, prior to any sort of self-dedication ritual.
Willow studied for a year and a day, and was then initiated into the Three Circles Coven.