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Author Topic: To Priest or not to Priest?  (Read 5899 times)

veggiewolf

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #30 on: April 11, 2012, 09:48:21 am »
Quote from: Kylara;49692
...the 'every Wiccan is their own Priest/Priestess' concept...

 
I think if the concept works for someone s/he should go for it, while at the same time recognizing that not everyone feels this way.  Being one's own priest shouldn't be a default position (although I am hard-pressed to say what the default position actually *should* be).
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #31 on: April 11, 2012, 12:40:58 pm »
Quote from: Kylara;49692
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.  

 
And this is one of those things that means something a lot different once it escaped into the wild.

In traditionally-oriented Wicca as I understand it, the coven group is effectively a small cell of a monastic order.  They are gathered together to do serious and specific targeted service for the Wiccan Powers, and mutually interdependent for their religious practice.  While it's not priesthood in the culturally common definition of service to a congregation, because there is no congregation, but that sort of retreat form of private spiritual dedication does exist culturally.

I don't know that it's a stable situation as part of a larger community, though, and that's part of what led to the explosion of neo-Wicca.  And once the "every initiate is a priest" got loose into the morphing reality of cultural mutation, it wasn't filed as something that was a part of that closed retreat paradigm, but people started coming up with other things for it to mean.

Like "We don't need an intercessor to talk with the divine", as one of the more popular ones, a notion which is part of the origin of Protestantism, not something unfamiliar to the modern West.  Or "Well, since we do rituals, that makes us priests", as if any religion doesn't have portions of laity-level practice.  (I've helped light a Hanukkah menorah.  That doesn't make me a priest, since Judaism has no priests these days.  It doesn't make me a rabbi.  It doesn't even make me Jewish.)

I do think it's important for people to be clear on what priesthood or other clergy status means within the context of their religion - and also take note of what their assumptions are from their backgrounds.  Someone carrying a Christian legacy might assume that some level of care-for-coreligionists is in the docket; someone with a neo-Wiccan legacy might assume that 'priest' is what someone is who is a full member of the religion; etc.

It's complicated, especially when the definitions are murky.  Which they generally are....
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #32 on: April 11, 2012, 01:23:52 pm »
Quote from: Asch;49612
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.


Yes. This is what I was getting at in my first post. I don't think one could actually say with a definitive certainty what a pagan priest was or did. The reason for that is because there are far too many traditions out there and each one has it's own thought processes on what clergy are supposed to do and represent. However, also having the experiences I have with pagan "clergy" in the past, I'd say that it's probably wise to be skeptical when you see meet new ones because some of them only use the title for the glamour associated with it.....or the power in a lot of cases. I'm not sure "priest"  really even holds as much seriousness anymore in paganism as it used to for precisely this reason.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #33 on: April 11, 2012, 01:31:42 pm »
Quote from: Kylara;49692

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.  

 

I'd edit my above post, but this deserves it's own.

This is part of the reason for what I was saying in my last post. It is precisely this concept that has lead to people not even knowing what it is a priest does. Which leads to my prior stance on this subject. There are people out there who don't consider themselves priests, yet they do every single thing a priest would, should and could do. Therefore, does the title even hold any real relevance to the layman, now? That concept up there has lead to people just using the term for power or recognition, even though they probably don't deserve it or haven't earned it. Sort of like Lord or Lady, or Elder. It's that there that makes people like me pretty wary of the title because it literally means very little now that everyone and their dog is one. Not you, obviously, but some people definitely do take advantage of that concept above.

I consider priests a formality. They do the serious, formal stuff. Maybe that applies to most Wiccan, but I suspect it doesn't. I suspect most Wiccans are just like any other layperson, doing the bare minimum on a daily basis. I avoid the formalities because I haven't earned the right to use them, but one could argue that there are a ton of people out there who have been doing them for years because they thought it was required.

I hope all this makes sense.....lack of caffeine today.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #34 on: April 11, 2012, 01:47:24 pm »
Quote from: veggiewolf;49547

I see so many new pagans get so bogged down in making certain they have the right offerings for the gods, and the right objects on the altar/shrine, and the right words...people assume that they have to act as their own priest or priestess, and that's just not the case.  They simply cannot see the concept of applying belief to life without all the trappings, because no one is discussing it.  

Really, if one isn't going to be a priest, do the trappings matter?  If one isn't going to be a priest, how does taking on priestly duties help?  Should a line be drawn and, if so, where?  What's actually important here?


I tend to feel this way as well. I am not all that interested in the ritualistic or ceremonial aspects of the Wiccan faith. I go to the circles rarely, and try to "harm no one" including myself or animals, and live by the rede. I know a great deal about Wicca, the Goddess and gods, and various spiritual and occult matters. My reading is rather broad, as is my experience. I have never quite "wanted" to be a priestess. II would rather have someone who wants to specialize in that role do it. I am happy as I am.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #35 on: April 11, 2012, 03:53:32 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49758
It's that there that makes people like me pretty wary of the title because it literally means very little now that everyone and their dog is one. Not you, obviously, but some people definitely do take advantage of that concept above.

Me too - and I'm someone who has earned them within the context of my tradition. (Though people calling me an elder still makes me peer at them, and go "Um, you talking to me?")

Quote
I consider priests a formality. They do the serious, formal stuff. Maybe that applies to most Wiccan, but I suspect it doesn't. I suspect most Wiccans are just like any other layperson, doing the bare minimum on a daily basis.

This is one of those places where definitional foo matters. In a number of initiatory trads, there are rituals on various cycles (solar, lunar, and personal) that are supposed to happen to keep the world progressing smoothly. but we also do those rituals for a whole *bunch* of other reasons, including the fact that for the people who find them useful, they produce change and growth on an individual level we find useful.

(I can't think of a ritual i've done for just one reason in years: it's always some combo of seasonal or cyclical observation *and* personal work *and* something that contributes in some way to the trad.)

I'm reminded of a definition of a romantic relationship I've liked for a long time - that a romantic relationship (as opposed to a friendship, etc.) is one that spends time reflecting on (and to some degree, consciously developing/stewarding/etc.) the relationship. (could be a friendship, could be sexual, could be whatever.) There are also lots of perfectly nice relationship types that *don't* do that.

In that context, priest/ess work is in part about stewarding the tradition (whatever it is) for the people who come after: a reflective attention to not just the bits of personal interest and preference, but to the health and well-being of the whole.

Most commonly, that manifests in preserving/teaching the practices and beliefs of the tradition to at least some people who can continue it. But there's lots of other modes of it too - writing, or creating community spaces/events, or some kinds of deity worship and awareness. But there's also lots of totally awesome stuff that can be part of that, but doesn't have to be, that may just stop at that particular individual, at that moment in time.

I've been in a lot of conversations about my particular trad in the last couple of months - and one of my own commitments as an elder in that trad is to make sure it can continue. That means making sure I do a specific yearly ritual. It means making some sort of observance of the Sabbats (though for us, that's less essential in a particular form.) It means some other specific things are always a part of my decision making process.

On a day to day basis, it's not always obvious - but it's also always in the back of my head, it played into my job search in a big way, it affects the kinds of relationships I'm willing to take on or not take on in other parts of my life. Somewhere in that space, it's clear I'm priestessing, not just doing my own thing. But still, a lot of it is not necessarily overt in practice, especially to people who don't know me well.

(My co-workers, for example, will peg me as someone who thinks about implications of decisions in a certain way, because I do it all the time on the religious side, and I don't shut the basic process off at work. But they don't know my religion, and I'm pretty sure most of them would not automatically peg me as clergy...)
« Last Edit: April 11, 2012, 03:53:54 pm by Jenett »
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Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #36 on: April 11, 2012, 04:34:28 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;49774
Me too - and I'm someone who has earned them within the context of my tradition. (Though people calling me an elder still makes me peer at them, and go "Um, you talking to me?")



This is one of those places where definitional foo matters. In a number of initiatory trads, there are rituals on various cycles (solar, lunar, and personal) that are supposed to happen to keep the world progressing smoothly. but we also do those rituals for a whole *bunch* of other reasons, including the fact that for the people who find them useful, they produce change and growth on an individual level we find useful.

(I can't think of a ritual i've done for just one reason in years: it's always some combo of seasonal or cyclical observation *and* personal work *and* something that contributes in some way to the trad.)

I'm reminded of a definition of a romantic relationship I've liked for a long time - that a romantic relationship (as opposed to a friendship, etc.) is one that spends time reflecting on (and to some degree, consciously developing/stewarding/etc.) the relationship. (could be a friendship, could be sexual, could be whatever.) There are also lots of perfectly nice relationship types that *don't* do that.

In that context, priest/ess work is in part about stewarding the tradition (whatever it is) for the people who come after: a reflective attention to not just the bits of personal interest and preference, but to the health and well-being of the whole.

Most commonly, that manifests in preserving/teaching the practices and beliefs of the tradition to at least some people who can continue it. But there's lots of other modes of it too - writing, or creating community spaces/events, or some kinds of deity worship and awareness. But there's also lots of totally awesome stuff that can be part of that, but doesn't have to be, that may just stop at that particular individual, at that moment in time.

I've been in a lot of conversations about my particular trad in the last couple of months - and one of my own commitments as an elder in that trad is to make sure it can continue. That means making sure I do a specific yearly ritual. It means making some sort of observance of the Sabbats (though for us, that's less essential in a particular form.) It means some other specific things are always a part of my decision making process.

On a day to day basis, it's not always obvious - but it's also always in the back of my head, it played into my job search in a big way, it affects the kinds of relationships I'm willing to take on or not take on in other parts of my life. Somewhere in that space, it's clear I'm priestessing, not just doing my own thing. But still, a lot of it is not necessarily overt in practice, especially to people who don't know me well.

(My co-workers, for example, will peg me as someone who thinks about implications of decisions in a certain way, because I do it all the time on the religious side, and I don't shut the basic process off at work. But they don't know my religion, and I'm pretty sure most of them would not automatically peg me as clergy...)


Does your whole trad do the rituals, or is it just something the priests and priestesses do? This is where the concept of priest really gets me because if everyone takes part in the ritual, are they all considered priests then?

This is part of why I see priests as a leadership thing.

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #37 on: April 11, 2012, 05:35:20 pm »
Quote from: Vermillion;49780
Does your whole trad do the rituals, or is it just something the priests and priestesses do? This is where the concept of priest really gets me because if everyone takes part in the ritual, are they all considered priests then?

This is part of why I see priests as a leadership thing.


This is an "embrace the power of 'and' problem" without a simple answer.

In my trad, you formally get the title of priest/ess at 2nd degree (which is also the point at which you formally agree to take on responsibilities for the well-being of stuff beyond yourself - 1st is self, 2nd is the group, 3rd is the tradition, roughly.)

There is a ritual that is only open to 2nd degrees and higher. But at the same time, other parts of that same work are fed by *everyone* in the trad, for the good of everyone in the trad.

(And this is a place I can't get much more specific, sorry, except to say it's about consciously working with the trad egregore and our individual relationships to it: everyone in the trad is affected by that work, but some people have more responsibility for making sure it happens/is maintained/etc. than others.)
 
But, at that same point - even though someone may not be a second degree, if they're taking on pieces of that work (teaching, planning/running rituals beyond the core expectations for group members, doing all the other stuff any group of any kind needs to keep itself going - then they're moving towards that fuzzy line of priest/ess hood in a particular way.

We know when someone has absolutely crossed that line (when they earn their 2nd, in our terms). But they can cross it a long time before that, too, in all the ways that mostly matter because it's mindset, not title.
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #38 on: April 11, 2012, 07:18:08 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;49750

It's complicated, especially when the definitions are murky.  Which they generally are....

 
Well, and we mash together so many functions of "priest" and what a priest is and does that it's impossible to translate, sometimes.  I was deeply confused as to why so many people were calling me a "priestess" at Pantheacon and describing what I was doing as "priestessing," until a Wiccan friend explained to me why she was using the appellation:  she saw me channeling a deity for three straight days, speaking on Her behalf, and proclaiming Her work and fighting for Her interests as a public speaker, including a few instances of essentially functioning as a mouthpiece.  For her that was "priestessing."  And I had to blink, because those actions don't mean "priestess" to me--they might be called "advocate" or even "prophet," in the sense of communicating with a God and attempting to effect temporal change according to that God's direction, including relaying messages and demands--but because I wasn't doing it as part of a formal structure or community, "priestess" didn't make sense for me as a word.  In her vocabulary, it did, and it was the correct description for the work I was doing.

Even now, I see what I do as a "minister"--that is, caring for human community, pastoral comfort, delivering sermons, composing liturgy, writing for social justice causes, that sort of thing--as pretty distinct, a lot of the time, from my relationship with any Gods, or "priestess" work; I do service to Them, and ministry is part of it, but it's more of a Venn diagram.  I could be a minister without being my Mother's handmaiden; I could probably do that "priestess" stuff with Her without being a minister.  Even so, the two roles have a lot of demands and tasks in common, so they get all blurred together.  
It's all very murky when we can't agree on definitions of words, and when there are good reasons not to agree.
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Auress

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #39 on: April 11, 2012, 08:13:24 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;49785
This is an "embrace the power of 'and' problem" without a simple answer.

In my trad, you formally get the title of priest/ess at 2nd degree (which is also the point at which you formally agree to take on responsibilities for the well-being of stuff beyond yourself - 1st is self, 2nd is the group, 3rd is the tradition, roughly.)

There is a ritual that is only open to 2nd degrees and higher. But at the same time, other parts of that same work are fed by *everyone* in the trad, for the good of everyone in the trad.

(And this is a place I can't get much more specific, sorry, except to say it's about consciously working with the trad egregore and our individual relationships to it: everyone in the trad is affected by that work, but some people have more responsibility for making sure it happens/is maintained/etc. than others.)
 
But, at that same point - even though someone may not be a second degree, if they're taking on pieces of that work (teaching, planning/running rituals beyond the core expectations for group members, doing all the other stuff any group of any kind needs to keep itself going - then they're moving towards that fuzzy line of priest/ess hood in a particular way.

We know when someone has absolutely crossed that line (when they earn their 2nd, in our terms). But they can cross it a long time before that, too, in all the ways that mostly matter because it's mindset, not title.



I am a little less skeptical with the initiatory trads than with just "wicca" in the general sense. With regard to their use of the title "priestess/priest".

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intensely interested in initiatory trads. This is the stuff that makes me really wish I could join one.

Thanks for the clarification.:)

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #40 on: April 11, 2012, 08:31:11 pm »
Quote from: Valentine;49793
And I had to blink, because those actions don't mean "priestess" to me--they might be called "advocate" or even "prophet," in the sense of communicating with a God and attempting to effect temporal change according to that God's direction, including relaying messages and demands--but because I wasn't doing it as part of a formal structure or community, "priestess" didn't make sense for me as a word.  In her vocabulary, it did, and it was the correct description for the work I was doing.


This is one of the places where I wish that English hadn't gotten so heavily intertwined with the assumptions of and from Christianity, when it comes to terminology and practice.

Because yeah, all of that's true, too. But it's also ... when you need one word that encompasses a bunch of things, we don't have a lot of choices. Priest/ess. Minister. Clergy. But some of those don't apply to people who, say, don't do any kind of direct ongoing congregation/group type work with others (or whose work with others isn't in those modes.)

And when all of those terms have baggage for fairly substantial groups of people. (I'm fine with priest/ess or clergy - at least when I'm doing group work. But I'm less comfortable with minister. And I wish like anything we could reclaim 'angel' as 'messenger' (which is what the word actually means in Greek, for those who don't know) not 'semi-divine immortal being working for a particular deity'
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #41 on: April 11, 2012, 10:08:19 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;49801

And when all of those terms have baggage for fairly substantial groups of people. (I'm fine with priest/ess or clergy - at least when I'm doing group work. But I'm less comfortable with minister. And I wish like anything we could reclaim 'angel' as 'messenger' (which is what the word actually means in Greek, for those who don't know) not 'semi-divine immortal being working for a particular deity'

 
There's a chunk of my Work that boils down to "paladin".  Not the historical sense.  The D&D sense.
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #42 on: April 11, 2012, 11:32:05 pm »
Quote from: Jenett;49801
And when all of those terms have baggage for fairly substantial groups of people. (I'm fine with priest/ess or clergy - at least when I'm doing group work. But I'm less comfortable with minister. And I wish like anything we could reclaim 'angel' as 'messenger' (which is what the word actually means in Greek, for those who don't know) not 'semi-divine immortal being working for a particular deity'


It's so interesting.  I've become privy to some of these back-and-forths in the interfaith work I'm doing--a lot of folks like "minister" for the ways it means "servant," and in the sense of someone who ministers to someone, but I know a lot of folks, Christians included, who're allergic to "pastor," on the grounds of "Damn it, my people aren't sheep."  I tend to punt and say "clergy," too.
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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #43 on: April 12, 2012, 08:18:03 am »
Quote from: Valentine;49821
It's so interesting.  I've become privy to some of these back-and-forths in the interfaith work I'm doing--a lot of folks like "minister" for the ways it means "servant," and in the sense of someone who ministers to someone, but I know a lot of folks, Christians included, who're allergic to "pastor," on the grounds of "Damn it, my people aren't sheep."  I tend to punt and say "clergy," too.

 
I cheated and came up with a new term for FK.

We're "Wayfinders" - we help people find their Way.  Which directly puts it in a /service/ role instead of a /power/ role.

Of course, *I* am the Grand High Guru.  And anyone that calls me that without giggling will send me screaming into the next town. :D:

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Re: To Priest or not to Priest?
« Reply #44 on: April 12, 2012, 02:41:22 pm »
Quote from: HeartShadow;49861
I cheated and came up with a new term for FK.

We're "Wayfinders" - we help people find their Way.  Which directly puts it in a /service/ role instead of a /power/ role.

Of course, *I* am the Grand High Guru.  And anyone that calls me that without giggling will send me screaming into the next town. :D:

 
I use the term 'Minister' when someone asks me, I try to help people find things out for themself, kind of a guide rather than a spoon-feeder

And Heart - how about "Lady High Puba?" :p

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