On being a priest

This evening I feel twitchy in a non-physical way.  I feel as if I have forgotten something or I’m supposed to be doing something but I can’t think of anything it could be. This non-physical twitchiness is something that I am starting recognise more easily as promptings from those I serve to do something in particular.  This time I believe this twitchy feeling means that I need to write and, in particular, to write about being a priest.

This isn’t the first time I have written about priesthood but the last time was ten years ago so it’s probably about time I revisited this topic here.

Others have written clearly and in depth on a range of questions around being a priest. Most notably John Beckett has written several posts on priesthood the most recent one being “15 Roles of a Pagan Priest – How Many Is Too Many?“.  Also of fairly recent note is a series of three posts by Morgan Daimler starting with “Priesthood in Service to the Other – Part 1: The wide view“. If you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so if this is a topic that interests you.

My thoughts on priesthood are coloured to some extent by these authors and to some extent by my own experiences and observations. There are a few public individuals in the UK that I feel embody something of what it is to be a priest. Each of them do this in different ways and some may use other titles.  I’m going to name a few of them and try and give some reasons why I consider them to be priests.

The first is Cat Treadwell and you can find her online at The Catbox.  She is self employed as a Druid and Priest.  Much of her work involves celebrancy but she also runs workshops, presents talks, offers divination readings, writes books and blogs and supports people on a personal basis too. Cat serves her community in many ways and is a public voice for druidry and paganism generally.  She does all this from a place of personal challenges and struggles with depression which she speaks about openly. I have still not met her face to face but hers is a voice that speaks from the darkness.

The next is Nimue Brown who writes at Druid Life. Nimue is also an author of books and blogs and she has also been presenting more talks, I’m not sure of she’s been doing any workshops.  My perspective of Nimue is of a woman with a whimsical sense of humour that has worked to overcome a number of personal challenges to get where she is today. She’s a mother, a folk musician and a keen observer of her local environment.  She is a different sort of Druid to Cat and I’m not even sure that she would claim the title Priest for herself but in my mind she is both Druid and Priest.

What these women have in common is that they are both Druids and both pretty public figures. They also both speak from a place of deep experience with extremely difficult personal challenges.

My next example is Dr Jenny Blain. Jenny is a retired academic and a Heathen.  She is a polytheist and animist with strong ties to her local land spirits or landvættir. It is harder to put into words why I consider her a Priest or in Heathen terms a Gythia. One aspect is her ability to lead ritual, another is her ability to share her knowledge with others both through her books and via more direct teaching but there is more to it than that. She is a Seidr worker, that in itself is not a simple thing to put into words as there are many forms of seidr. A basic and probably incomplete description is that seidr is a method of entering an altered state of consciousness which can be used to work magic or journey for various purposes.

My final example is Lorna Smithers. Lorna is a an author, poet and mystic. She has a deep and personal connection to her patron deity, Gwyn ap Nudd. Her priesthood is one of personal dedication and part of her dedication is a call to communicate some of what she learns and experiences through her writing and talks. She is, in my opinion, a priest due to her very direct service to her patron.

I could go on. I have deliberately chosen to highlight a few female examples of priests here but there are a number of men I also consider to be priests such as Damh the Bard, Adam Sargant, Phillip Shallcrass, Geoff Boswell, Robin Herne, Mike Stygal and Rich Blackett. Most of these are Druid types as this is the community I have been part of the longest. I’m still getting to know individuals within the Heathen community.  The main things they have in common are that I know them either personally face to face or online and I respect their opinions.

All of this serves to give a few examples of the complexity of what it is to be a priest. More recently I have started to think of myself as priest as well as druid.  I am not an author beyond this blog as yet (who knows what they future might hold). Currently I don’t give talks or presentations although I have in the past.  I can write and lead group ritual although I don’t do a great deal of this now. I have acted as a celebrant in the past too. None of these things are why I am using the term priest more lately.  I am a priest because I serve a number of deities and because I am a shrine keeper.

I am sworn firstly to the Herd Mothers and to the Ancient Mother I know as An Cailleach. I feel they are still training me and gradually making me ready for further service.  I also serve within my limited abilities Maponnos, Gofannon, Mannanan, Brigantia, Loki, Ran, Aegir and the daughters of the oceans. Some of these I have served longer than others, some I am still learning about but I honour them and give them offerings. This is why I call myself a Priest and Druid.

 

 

Author: potiapitchford

Autistic mother with autistic kids. Hearth Druid and Heathen

8 thoughts on “On being a priest”

  1. thank you! I admit I’ve become wary of the ‘priest’ title since I don’t lead ritual or do celebrant work at the moment, and for me, those are key parts of that term. But, what ‘priest’ means to anyone else I’ve not much thought about, I realise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this informative post.

    Priesthood can , of course, take many forms and your description of your own embrace of this role and that of others contains some valuable pointers. It’s good to hear the things you say so clearly expressed.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic. I’ve personally always seen ‘priest’ as a term for someone who serves a god or group of gods mainly by leading ritual but also by serving in the human community giving talks and workshops and being a source of advice to other pagans. I do this to a degree, but because my main focus is on questing and sharing awen I identify as an awenydd (although this name is not without its problems…).

    I’ve been put off the name ‘priest’ for a number of reasons. I guess the main one is that I associate it with gaining a grade in the hierarchies of Wicca. I’ve come across a number of individuals who identify as priestesses who have been overly teachy and patronising, all robes and regalia, and nothing underneath. Yet on the other hand there are priests and priestesses who I respect immensely, within our local Wiccan community people standing out being Tasha Chapman and Melissa and Rufus Harrington.

    Yes, I can certainly see the suitability and authenticity of your adoption of the role of Priest, as one who both serves the gods on a personal and devotional level and in the wider community. I am looking forward to hearing more 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. This is a fascinating post. My feeling is that only one’s deity/deities can make one a priest/ess, and/or that one is born a priest and spends a lot of one’s life finding this to be the case.

    I suppose this understanding comes from my experience in my previous religious tradition – Christianity – where other people decided if one was called to serve in such a capacity. I realise that in the Christian traditions where the term is applied to a certain ‘rank’ if its clergy – Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican – the function is quite specific to work within a particular community of believers. I had a different perception of that function when I received, what I and others, understood as my calling. The bishop didn’t see it that way. This did, however, free me to discover my true spiritual path – Druidry.

    People can train with others for such a role or one can accept the gift of the designation from one’s primary deity and other deities with whom one works and to whom one offers devotion or other service. Certain gifts and graces that are required for certain aspects of priesting, and in some cases particular training/licensing may be needed, if fulfilling one’s calling takes one into areas of counselling or celebrancy. For honouring one’s deities, for sharing what one learns from or is asked to share with others by them, what is needed is a willing and open heart and mind to stay the course to learn the lessons at a deep soul level to share them.

    I think that to accept that one is a priest/ess is a huge step in one’s spiritual journey. Doing so and honouring that acceptance in ritual, even just one between oneself and the deity doing the calling, takes the holding of that self-understanding to a deeper, broader, more profound level. It happened to me with Brighid in January, which is something I’ve not written about yet and am still coming to terms with what it means for me. Although I vowed to Brighid, that does not in my mind mean that I can’t vow to other deities if I am called to do so.

    Thank you for sharing this part of your journey, Potia. I know that you take your devotional practices and shrine keeping very seriously and that doing so gives you insights and challenges, wisdom and joy.

    Like

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