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Author Topic: To Priest or not to Priest?  (Read 6028 times)

veggiewolf

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2012, 03:13:40 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49553
...

I avoid all that. I don't get involved with the formalities. However, on the whole, a lot of what a common Christian would do "could" be construed as "priestly". Priests still pray, they still read the Bible, they still study religious history, they still try to apply the teachings of God and Jesus to daily life. It's still priestly, in a way.


I see this as one of those "all priests are people, but not all people are priests" kind of things.  I'd expect a priest to do things the laity do plus things the priests do.  It's an "and" situation rather than an "in place of" situation.  

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If we light a candle during something, we're still conducting a ritual of sorts, probably meant for priests in many ways, but adopted by the layman for their own private practice.


I think the laity should have ritual; I just wonder if we're too quick to adopt everything without looking at it first.  I'll take liturgical color here - it isn't incorrect for someone to use white decoration in their home Lenten decoration but does it add anything significant if used outside of church?

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It's such a....grey area. Again, totally dependent on whom you're asking and whether or not they see that as a formality. Maybe we should just say that we're all priests, but with varying degrees of formality?


I think with the "we're all priests" statement we get into the same slippery territory as with anything that starts with "we're all".

I'll give an example: most public rituals I've seen/experienced were based on some sort of Neo-Wiccish practice.  My personal path requires me to opt out of such things.  Thus, if I attend a pagan gathering with public rituals, I will most likely self-select out of the ritual parts.  However, if the creators of said rituals have a "we all are X" mentality, they might not understand the need for the opportunity to self-select out and thereby cause what seems like rudeness.
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veggiewolf

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #16 on: April 10, 2012, 03:16:18 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;49555
I think it's a hell of a problem.  There's a ton of stuff out there about ritual so we assume ritual is the sum total of what's out there.  There's almost nothing about daily life, and that makes it look like the only real option is ritual.  Not daily living.

We need more for daily life instead of priest work.  Priest is important, but even priests have daily life.  And there's just no help for that.

Though anyone that reads my work could probably guess that I'd say that.  :D


And if one goes with the idea that priest is not a full-time job then it becomes problematic for a larger part of life than in the off-hours.  How will Joe practice his religion while still hoeing the damned onions?
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veggiewolf

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #17 on: April 10, 2012, 03:29:47 pm »
Quote from: Juni;49558
I think there are a variety of issues contributing to the situation.

1) As Kiya mentioned (erm, somewhere. Chat? Another thread? I can't recall) the diffusion of Neo-Wiccan beliefs/practices as a Pagan(TM) Norm. Wiccans are all priests, and all Pagans are Wiccans, right? So of course all Pagans must be Priests! It's a little piece of baggage that people don't seem to notice they even have, whether they went through a Wiccan phase or were just exposed to it a lot.


*nods*  The idea of "norms" when it comes to pagan faiths just rubs me the wrong way.  There's a ton of variety here and I think that needs to be kept in mind.  F'ex, I wouldn't expect a Kemetic to call on Mother Earth and Father Sky, but it might be applicable to another path.

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2) The lack of a pre-existing intercessory between themselves and the divine. In Christian religions, the priesthood does the priestly stuff, the laity does... whatever it is they do. (My knowledge of Christian practice is paltry to say the least.) Converts take this baggage with them- if there is no priest role to take on the heavy lifting, then the heavy lifting must fall on everyone.


The amount of interceding necessary will depend on the branch of Christianity.  Priests perform certain rites and rituals...but the ones they perform can vary as greatly as they do within the different pagan paths.

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3) Okay, I'm referencing Kiya a lot, but as she said in a recent blog: ...


Cart.Horse.  ;)

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4) There aren't pagan congregations where pagans can do their "once a week"-laity stuff, to see the priestly job done without having to do it themselves. I think some of them crave that activity, and without the ability to participate in a congregational/observational situation, they take it on themselves to get it done. And when they do run into a group setting, it's often modeled on a Neo-Wiccan coven format, which just reinforces the cycle.

I hope that all made sense. (Chat has been... traditionally odd and distracting. ;))

 
And this is why we need the onion hoeing book out now, please?
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veggiewolf

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #18 on: April 10, 2012, 03:44:42 pm »
Quote from: Maps;49560
I've been chewing on this for a little bit, and I think the crux is... do you even have access to a priest or priestly class? Most of us don't, so what do we do in the absence of one?
...

 
This is a tough one.  Some people might decide that they need to take on priestly activities and there's nothing wrong with that.  My issue comes in when people default to priestly activities without really knowing whether it is right for them.

From my own perspective, I tried to cram my beliefs into a model that didn't fit for years before I found something that worked.  Some of that was thinking that I had to do it a certain way because that was the way "all Pagans do things."  Learning that wasn't the case was freeing and scary at the same time.
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HeartShadow

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To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #19 on: April 10, 2012, 03:45:25 pm »
Quote from: Juniperberry;49570
Another advantage is that while there is a community priest, the head of household also took on this role for his family. He/she is in charge of offerings, maintaining luck and relationships with the ancestors and spirits. He/she is the religious authority behind those walls. I take on this role in my own home by deciding what offerings are given, how we honor our loved ones, etc.

I can see how single people don't need the pressure of being priest, but what of parents and families? Wouldn't teaching your children about proper behavior, religious morals, ways to connect with deity and conduct ritual, all fall under modern priestly duties?

Or is that just taking it out of context for other pagan paths?

As a parent and a priest -ish person, I gotta say they're not the same thing.  Teaching a child is not the same as explaining how to deal with the Divine.

There's overlap, sure, but it's like the overlap between schoolteacher and parent.  The overlap is real, but that doesn't make them the same thing.

Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #20 on: April 10, 2012, 03:55:37 pm »
Quote from: Juni;49559
I think that both diminishes the role of a priest, and makes the word essentially useless. Labels are not the end-all-be-all of anything, but if they are stretched to include everything, they cease to have any use at all.

 

To play the devil's advocate for a moment, priests in some areas of paganism ARE essentially useless. What I mean by that is...well...for some, priests don't do much more than any other follower or believer or adherent, so where is that line drawn then? As I mentioned, this is definitely dependent upon whom you're asking at the time.

Juni

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #21 on: April 10, 2012, 03:59:33 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49598
To play the devil's advocate for a moment, priests in some areas of paganism ARE essentially useless. What I mean by that is...well...for some, priests don't do much more than any other follower or believer or adherent, so where is that line drawn then? As I mentioned, this is definitely dependent upon whom you're asking at the time.

 
Well, I personally would say that's because they grabbed the title without taking on any of the actual job description. But I'm also very... wary (initially at least) of people who use the title. There are absolutely people out there who use it and deserve it, but in pagandom, I find there are far more people who just liked the way it shined.
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Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #22 on: April 10, 2012, 04:00:12 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;49585

I think with the "we're all priests" statement we get into the same slippery territory as with anything that starts with "we're all".

I'll give an example: most public rituals I've seen/experienced were based on some sort of Neo-Wiccish practice.  My personal path requires me to opt out of such things.  Thus, if I attend a pagan gathering with public rituals, I will most likely self-select out of the ritual parts.  However, if the creators of said rituals have a "we all are X" mentality, they might not understand the need for the opportunity to self-select out and thereby cause what seems like rudeness.

 
Perhaps it would have been a better form for me to say, "those who are priests will say so, and those who aren't won't. Some of those priests will have varying degrees of formality." I'm not sure that this is really a question of whether we "should" or not, but rather, whether we want to responsibility of such formality. To which, on a personal level, I'd have to give a definite no. I'm far too lazy for the formalities of the priesthood.

Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #23 on: April 10, 2012, 04:03:39 pm »
Quote from: Juni;49599
Well, I personally would say that's because they grabbed the title without taking on any of the actual job description. But I'm also very... wary (initially at least) of people who use the title. There are absolutely people out there who use it and deserve it, but in pagandom, I find there are far more people who just liked the way it shined.


But that's the million dollar question, what IS the job description of a priest? Just the formal ritual, extra study and???? I, too, am kind of wary of those who use the priest title because in some circles it really does mean very little and in others it means something huge and it's hard to know which is which upon initial first glance. Sort of like when you meet Lady Dutchness Gummy Buns the High Priestess of the Sugary Pixie Dust Tradition.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #24 on: April 10, 2012, 04:12:32 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49601
But that's the million dollar question, what IS the job description of a priest? Just the formal ritual, extra study and???? I, too, am kind of wary of those who use the priest title because in some circles it really does mean very little and in others it means something huge and it's hard to know which is which upon initial first glance. Sort of like when you meet Lady Dutchness Gummy Buns the High Priestess of the Sugary Pixie Dust Tradition.

 
Well, that depends based on the religion. Kiya's post covers this question.

The way I would answer it: there are priests who only exist as servants to their gods; the community will likely benefit from the deity being properly served, but the community's needs are not the ones directly being addressed. This is more common in cultural polytheism that has pre-Christian roots.

The other priests are the ones who serve their deity's needs more indirectly by focusing on the community's needs. I think this is what people expect when having come from Christian communities.

So the duties, the job description, depends on whose needs are first, whose needs are being satisfied in a sort of round about way, and what methods are necessary or preferable for satisfying those needs.
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Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2012, 05:17:24 pm »
Quote from: Juni;49602
Well, that depends based on the religion. Kiya's post covers this question.

The way I would answer it: there are priests who only exist as servants to their gods; the community will likely benefit from the deity being properly served, but the community's needs are not the ones directly being addressed. This is more common in cultural polytheism that has pre-Christian roots.

The other priests are the ones who serve their deity's needs more indirectly by focusing on the community's needs. I think this is what people expect when having come from Christian communities.

So the duties, the job description, depends on whose needs are first, whose needs are being satisfied in a sort of round about way, and what methods are necessary or preferable for satisfying those needs.

But, I think that one could argue that any follower, believer or adherent does the same thing. Many pagans are volunteers, serving the needs of their community at the behest of their Gods, are they any less of a priest than one who actually uses the title? What about those who actively serve their Gods for the Gods' benefit? But don't use the title or consider themselves any different from any other common worshiper?

The way I see it, it's far too grey of an area to define what is and is not a priest because far too many people mimic priestly activities without actively using the title.

Perhaps, I'm just not with it enough to grasp the subject, though.

I'll edit this to say that, as far as I know, a priest is a leader. It's leadership and nothing more, of the community. An elder, if you will. I think above and beyond that it's far too grey.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 05:18:28 pm by Auress »

Asch

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2012, 05:21:04 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49611
But, I think that one could argue that any follower, believer or adherent does the same thing. Many pagans are volunteers, serving the needs of their community at the behest of their Gods, are they any less of a priest than one who actually uses the title? What about those who actively serve their Gods for the Gods' benefit? But don't use the title or consider themselves any different from any other common worshiper?

The way I see it, it's far too grey of an area to define what is and is not a priest because far too many people mimic priestly activities without actively using the title.

Perhaps, I'm just not with it enough to grasp the subject, though.

I'll edit this to say that, as far as I know, a priest is a leader. It's leadership and nothing more, of the community. An elder, if you will. I think above and beyond that it's far too grey.

 
I'm not sure it's really feasible to formulate a definition of a 'Pagan Priest/ess' that is universal. There are, as has been noted, significant differences and nuances between traditions and religions that may radically alter the duties and definitions of a priest rendering any universal definition tacitly applicable at best.

sailor

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #27 on: April 11, 2012, 06:16:12 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;49569
I'm stealing from the structure of rabbinical Judaism on that one, myself.

 
Coming in late on this conversation.

Glad somebody mentioned Judaism as a format.

Darkhawk, are you saying that rabbinical Judaism has a tribal aspect to it?  If so, could you elaborate as "tribal" is, to me, pretty fuzzy.

A couple of key points that folks not familiar with Judaism might not be aware of.  

A Rabbi is only special in that they have been to school for in depth learning fairly quickly.

Any adult Jew is expected and allowed to lead worship services which would include daily, weekly, holiday and rites of passage (except one, circumcision where a specialist is called in).  The bar mitzvah is the point at which a Jew is considered an adult and can do all of this.  

There is a hereditary priestly caste, but they are only called in for one specific blessing a year. They don't get to lead services, etc any more than any other adult.

Judaism also has a lot of religious rituals that are expected to take place in the home. For most Protestants I've talked to this is odd, despite many Protestants claiming to be a priesthood of all believers.  I guess it's the difference between orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

sailor

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #28 on: April 11, 2012, 06:30:09 am »
Quote from: Juni;49558


4) There aren't pagan congregations where pagans can do their "once a week"-laity stuff, to see the priestly job done without having to do it themselves. I think some of them crave that activity, and without the ability to participate in a congregational/observational situation, they take it on themselves to get it done. And when they do run into a group setting, it's often modeled on a Neo-Wiccan coven format, which just reinforces the cycle.

I hope that all made sense. (Chat has been... traditionally odd and distracting. ;))

 
I've been harping on this for the past 12 or more years.  It's not just open to "public" rituals that are needed. The rituals have to change from public demonstrations by a closed coven to ones that repeat every week; are not re-written every time; and that the group is open to some sort of public membership.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #29 on: April 11, 2012, 08:29:48 am »
Quote from: Vermillion;49601
But that's the million dollar question, what IS the job description of a priest?

 
I wasn't raised highly Christian, so I didn't have an insiders perspective on what functions a priest had.  If you had asked me as a child I would have told you that the priest was the one who led the church members in worship.

When I first got into Paganism, it was from a highly book-published 'Wiccan' perspective.  And at the time, there was a pretty big focus on the 'every Wiccan is their own Priest/Priestess' concept.  The way I read and understood it was that each person was to be responsible for their own spiritual development, not relying on someone else to decided what they should learn and lead them on their path.  Also, it was suggested that if you were not part of a formal coven, you would be performing in the function of priest(ess) through leading your own rites and rituals of worship.

I don't go around calling myself a priestess.  For most of my years practicing, I have been solitary and have led my own rites.  I have definitely been in charge of my own spiritual direction.  Being on my own, I don't honestly consider there to be a distinction between priest and non-priest...I do what I feel needs to be done.

When it comes to performing duties or rituals that may be attributed to priesthood, the way I look at it is if I feel it needs to be done, I do it,  as there is no one else to do it for me.

I do think that, in both published works and public opinion, there is a lot of focus on the more observatory rituals (holidays and the like) and very little on actual daily life.  I have seen it stated quite often that Paganism isn't a once a week practice but an every moment practice, but then no advice or instructions are really ever given to help someone develop that everyday practice.
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