Priest. I have written before about how I struggle with this term. How I cringe inwardly whenever someone mentions that I am on a Path towards a priesthood. Depending on my mood, my frame of mind, the temperature outside, and how much good IPA beer is available at the moment, I can embrace the idea that I am a Priest. But later down the line, I will back away from the entire concept, nearly aghast at how I was able to embrace the concept. So in many ways, its a love/hate/love-to-hate concept for me.
Perhaps some of what I am feeling comes from my dislike of labels. Or perhaps, more appropriately, it comes from my pairing of the concept with the archetypal image that resides in my mind. The black outfit, the white collar, spending time trying to fashion the religious directions of those who are lost. I mean, who is to say that I am not also treading the Path in my own fog? And yet, I would argue that I am here doing just that with these blog posts, and with the podcast episodes I do manage to put out. Providing a light for others that are walking through a similar fog in their lives. But then, I would toss aside the concept of being a Priest, and place that under the descriptives of being “friendly”, “helpful”, “kind”.
Interesting descriptives there though. I’ll circle back around to the priestly concept in a moment. But let’s focus here for a few paragraphs. When we talk about our Pagan spirituality, we discuss things in terms of doing this or that for the worship of the Gods and Goddesses. We – well some of us – leave offerings to the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits of the Land because it is a giving part of our worship, our dedication to Them. Our focus is on our rites, our magicks, our rituals, our Gods and Goddesses. We do circles and rites to work against those who choose to use and abuse our environment as a resource, and ignore our collective attachment with one another and that same environment. We certainly focus well in these areas as a collective community. But we also tend to miss out on another important area…one another.
A recent post by Cara Shulz on the Wild Hunt brought some of this focus into my mind yesterday. A serious medical diagnosis for her has changed a lot of her focus, and has certainly brought areas of the world into focus for her. Cara and I have had our run-ins on Facebook over the past few years, and mostly because I was being a flippant ass. Her sharp rebuke of me over my behavior was appropriate at that time (and would be as well today). Despite that, I have a lot of respect for her, as she is very dedicated to showcasing Paganism through her stories on the Wild Hunt. Both the good and bad sides…after all, we learn from good stuff, as well as the bad. Her individual story from yesterday is not easy to read. Even this morning, knowing what is said within it, brings tears to my eyes. But another side of her story made me realize that I am approaching this entire concept of “Priest” from the wrong angle.
See, I keep looking at Priest from a religious clergy perspective. There is a lot more to being a Priest than just the religious perspective. Priests also look after the folks that are part of their parish, congregation, group, whatever you want to call it. They also look (or should) look after the people in their local community – even if they aren’t of the same faith as the Priest. Let’s face the facts though – many people who perform the role of Priest or clergy for their group don’t really care about those outside of their small circle. Which goes against some of the points that Jesus ben Joseph made to His followers. But this post isn’t about indicting Christian believers over what they do or do not do in the area of consistently following the teachings of their risen Savior. Thus, I digress slightly (as I always tend to do).
In a recent post, John Beckett pointed out that change does not readily happen from the top-down. Its far more beneficial and long-lasting if it comes from the bottom-up. This holds true for this as well. We can all lament how others have not fulfilled the conceptual role of a Priest when it comes to administering to the needs of others, particularly in the Pagan community. We make the offerings to the Gods on behalf of others, but sometimes its not the offerings that they need. Sometimes, they need people to come over and tidy up the house, do the dishes, mow the yard, run out and do some grocery shopping, help out with the laundry. Sure, they are ill, and the offerings to the Gods are done to assist with getting them to better health…but what about rolling up your sleeves? And before someone wags a finger at my Solitary ass, let me be the first to point out – I am far more guilty than many others in this respect.
So, I definitely need to do a lot more rethinking on what a Priest is. And I need to start by ditching the Christian and mainstream definitions of just what that role is. Perhaps a better way for me to approach this, is to define what the role means to me, and apply it right here – and not project it out onto others. Start at the base of what the definition is, and work upwards from there to build and strengthen the word’s meaning to me, and me alone. And to remember that the application of that meaning is for me and me alone. How I perform the function of Priest becomes something that inwardly is between myself and the Gods – and is projected outward into how I work within my Community….both mundane and Pagan.
Perhaps, instead of trying to shun the label, I need to embrace it. I can be a Priest, just not the way that the mainstream definition holds to it. By ditching the overtly Christian diagnostic of the term, I can utilize the term in a way that is a positive reflection of who I am, and where I walk on my Path. Perhaps, its because Druidry taught me that. Terminology should be flexible, able to grow and change with the needs of the role it describes. Definitely a thought going forward…and a lesson in how to release myself from Christian dogma that is heaped on terminology that I should see far differently.