Howling into the Wind: Imposter Syndrome, Priestly Stuff and Ordination

What’s my credibility? Why are they looking to me for advice? Isn’t there someone more qualified?

Robin Williams

I ran across this quote on the internet last night while looking up some information on Robin Williams. Sadly, yesterday marked the seventh year since his tragic suicide. But this quote really hit me hard when I read it. Like many folks, I suffer from time to time with Imposter Syndrome, where I openly wonder why I get viewed as some kind of “credible” source of information on Paganism and Druidry. The true reality is that I am only a credible source on how I view those topics (and so many others). But that concept of credibility runs far deeper than the shallow stream I portray here.

I relayed this story yesterday on Facebook, but it has bearings on what I have noted so far. A neighbor in my local area sent me a private message asking what Paganism and Druidry were all about. I can only assume that she got my information from the private Facebook group for my neighborhood, of which I am a part of. After a short bit of explanation, she fired back with a question asking if I was an ordained Priest. Yeah. That damn loaded word. I asked what she meant by being an ordained Priest, and she brought up The Universal Life Church. I responded back that I was not any such thing. “Why not?”

I admit that moment was like running flush into a concrete wall. The dizziness I felt was solid and real. I really had no way to respond to that, aside from a hollow and meek retort of “I have no idea.” However, leaning back to the Robin Williams’ quote that I found on the internet much later in the evening – wouldn’t there be someone more qualified?

Yes, sometime back I accepted the point that referring to me as a Priest was not the same as the romanticized (and honestly, horrible) vision of the Catholic Priest or the Baptist Preacher that my mind associates the word with. Nor do I have to be a Priest to my local Pagan community, performing public rituals everywhere I can possibly find a gig. Nor do I have to officiate over weddings and funerals – unless there was no one else available. In baseball vernacular, I am available to pinch-hit from the bench, should the need arise.

Or am I? I don’t hold credentials of a Priest that would allow me to perform a wedding ceremony from a legal perspective. I believe the same holds true for a funeral service, though I don’t see how that’s necessary to dig a hole, chuck the body in, and say a few words before the dirt gets tossed back on. But then, I am coloring that rite with my own perspective on it. However, let me nudge this back on-track.

The credentialing process through The Universal Life Church is, from what I understand, not a huge issue. You fill out their paperwork, they send you a certificate. Or something like that. There’s not much hassle to it. So why have I not done something like this? Well, again, leaning back to Robin – isn’t there someone more qualified? The answer to that is “probably.” But what if I am all that is available? What if, by some strange thought process, they would want me (what is wrong with you people?) to perform the ceremony? Without the credentials, I could still perform the ceremony…but it wouldn’t be legal.

So, why should I care? I mean, truly, I am nobody special. However, that is me denigrating myself against the way others view me as their friend and their fellow Pagan. Furthermore, I am pushing myself away from the wider Pagan community. A Pagan community that I keep pointing out needs to stay together to survive through these tougher times and beyond. Gathering such credentials would be not only an effort to provide some stronger credibility behind my point, but it would also be a move to be much closer to what I talk of – and something that can be readily seen. Walking the talk if you prefer.

Of course, I have shuffled through this thinking before – just not with the option of being ordained in The Universal Life Church. Now the question remains – should I? Do I need to be that potential stopgap for the more rural aspects of the Pagan community here in central Texas? Or perhaps, more realistically, an option that some folks might want.

The answer is that I will most likely do so, just to be an option for those that would want it. But I still hit that moment of Imposter Syndrome – wondering if there was someone else that would be a more appropriate option. Then again, if a couple (or even a polyamorous triad) came to me asking me to perform a handfasting for them, I must remember – they chose me. Whatever misgivings I have with my Imposter Syndrome are immediately crushed by that point.

Besides, becoming ordained to legal performing such ceremonies doesn’t make me a Priest. Merely an Officiant. My function is to make a ceremonial rite that is memorable for those that asked it of me. In that regard, I truly need to get over my misgivings and pull myself together. The ceremony is for their sake, not mine.

So, I find myself circling around the question of “why not?” Honestly, I believe I have run out of excuses for not doing so. My answer: therefore, must be – “I don’t know, but that needs to be changed.” My Imposter Syndrome be damned. Time to pick up the bat and head to the on-deck circle. Gotta pinch-hit.

–Tommy /|\

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