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Author Topic: Lay pagans vs. clergy  (Read 4827 times)
Nehet
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« Topic Start: August 05, 2008, 01:37:02 pm »

In traditional Wicca, all practitioners are priests and priestesses. Since there is a general assumption that all Pagans are Wiccan, there is also a general assumption that all Pagans are clergy. This, of course, is not true. 

So, my question for everyone is: what makes someone clergy vs. a “lay” pagan?

Is it one’s relationship to the community? Is it one’s level of involvement or leadership? What if you practice on a deserted island and there is no community? Does anything distinguish you as clergy vs. lay Pagan in that case?

Is it the type of rites you do, or the frequency with which you do them?

Is it an initiation? Can you perform that initiation on yourself? I believe most Neowiccans would say “yes”, but what about other traditions?

Is it relationship to a particular deity? If one performs rites every day to honor Kali, are they her priest or priestess? What if they feel Kali “chose” them?

Do you have to be part of a specific tradition or lineage to be clergy? Personally, I think the answer is “no”, but you’ve got to admit that it’s hard to know when you’re a priestess if there’s no guidelines for how you’re supposed to do it.

I’m sure the answers to these questions will differ depending on everyone’s tradition and personal experience.
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« Reply #1: August 05, 2008, 03:27:45 pm »


So, my question for everyone is: what makes someone clergy vs. a “lay” pagan?

You're right, you'll going to get a very wide-range of answers.

IME and IMO, priesthood serves deity; clergy serve community. Some priesthoods have clerical or pastoral roles included in their definition of priesthoods, but others don't. Context matters so much to discussion of this topic.

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« Reply #2: August 05, 2008, 04:16:47 pm »


Personally, I don't believe that there has to be a 'middle-man' in my relationship with my Gods. Thus, clegry just wouldn't fit into my personal religious beliefs.

I have nothing against the coven hierarchy of High Priest and/or High Priestess, as it can be sensible to have somebody in a leadership role, but IMO I wouldn't thus think that they have a closer relationship to the Gods than the rest of the coven members.

Perhaps members of initiatory traditions would believe that they were the 'clergy' as it were, and that those not initiated but who held the same beliefs were the 'lay' Pagans. Since I'm not part of any kind of Coven or initiatory tradition, I wouldn't know if this were true or not.

In my own view of things, the words clergy and lay don't come into play, as I believe that everybody can have a direct relationship with God(s) if they choose to.
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« Reply #3: August 05, 2008, 05:20:14 pm »


A priest is a servant in the house of the god.  It's a particular kind of work, implying nothing about spiritual purity or personal relationship with the deity.

The ancients did not have any sort of ministering to the ordinary people; such concepts, when implemented, are not strict reconstruction, but rather a borrowing from mainstream social expectations of what a religious worker does.
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« Reply #4: August 05, 2008, 06:10:10 pm »


I'm going to take a lot of "What she said" and add:

In ancient Greece, priesthoods can be bought and sold and the only purpose of the clergy was to keep the temples and shrines nice and tidy and lead the crowds during festivals and sacrifices.  In return, the priest got his share of meat from the sacrificed animal.

But that was just in the public worship.  In private homes, the the head of the household functioned as clergy by leading his family in prayers and performing offerings to the household deities.
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« Reply #5: August 05, 2008, 10:40:51 pm »

IME and IMO, priesthood serves deity; clergy serve community. Some priesthoods have clerical or pastoral roles included in their definition of priesthoods, but others don't. Context matters so much to discussion of this topic.
That's the best short-and-simple explanation I've yet seen of the distinction.

It can get more complicated (but not in a way that contradicts what you've said, unless someone insists on literalism). F'ex, it's not so much that I serve deity per se, as that I have Work that supports/serves certain ideas/ideals/concepts; the deities I work with, for the most part, are ones who have similar Work (in the form it takes at the deity level), have taken an interest in me and my Work, and have chosen to be collaborative with me.  That, and the eclectic/thematic nature of my practice and deity-relationships, makes it difficult to answer, "Priestess of what?" but I do consider myself a priestess, and am not clergy (and have a bit of a raw spot about people expecting me to be).

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« Reply #6: August 06, 2008, 01:37:18 am »


You've reminded me about one off the headtrippy things I've been dealing with lately:

In certain mystical/ecstatic frameworks, the 'house of the god' may be the body of the priest.
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« Reply #7: August 06, 2008, 04:31:07 pm »


A priest is a servant in the house of the god.  It's a particular kind of work, implying nothing about spiritual purity or personal relationship with the deity.

The ancients did not have any sort of ministering to the ordinary people; such concepts, when implemented, are not strict reconstruction, but rather a borrowing from mainstream social expectations of what a religious worker does.

Darkhawk, an essay of yours comes to mind.  Do you mind if I link to it?

I agree that priesthood is a specific calling, and does not necessarily make one closer to the gods than someone else. I think it is harder for us to define in our modern times, because nobody can do it full time.  Unless we're independently wealthy, we have to work.  None of us have a big temple to practice in.  Most of us just have little shrines or alters in our homes.  So what sets a priest or pristess aside?
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« Reply #8: August 06, 2008, 08:37:05 pm »

Darkhawk, an essay of yours comes to mind.  Do you mind if I link to it?

The web is for linking, man. Wink

Quote
I agree that priesthood is a specific calling, and does not necessarily make one closer to the gods than someone else. I think it is harder for us to define in our modern times, because nobody can do it full time.

Most priests in Egypt had other jobs.  They worked in three-month shifts. :}
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« Reply #9: August 06, 2008, 10:16:19 pm »

Here's my two pence;

I think the fundamental error here is that we are confusing the Wiccan idea of priest or priestess with a more traditional interpretation of the words.  In most societies a priest/ess performs duties, both penitential and offertory, to the deities, on behalf of the people.  Essentially, they perform the worship and endure a life apart so you don't have to.  In Wicca each practitioner engages in this relationship with the deities for their own benefit.  I think the crossover point between priest/ess and clergy is the role they play in the community.  I think anyone who has the authority to perform rights of passage (either through initiation, graduation, perspiration, certification, or group affirmation) and does so is clergy. 

So in short, I don't think all Wiccans or all pagans are clergy.  But I also don't believe this diminishes the validity of being one's own priest/ess to the deities.   
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« Reply #10: August 06, 2008, 10:24:09 pm »

You've reminded me about one off the headtrippy things I've been dealing with lately:

In certain mystical/ecstatic frameworks, the 'house of the god' may be the body of the priest.
Hmm... it's not as... total as that for me, but there's something of that sort involved, yup.

(And when I've cleared my TC backlog, I'll have my LJ f'list backlog to tackle.)

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« Reply #11: August 06, 2008, 10:56:29 pm »

I’m sure the answers to these questions will differ depending on everyone’s tradition and personal experience.

Being for the most part a solitary eclectic, I won't necessarily say there is no place for clergy within my path, but I will say that the place of clergy, if such ever solidifies, will be rather unimportant to general following of the path.

I agree with what Juniper said (we don't need anyone standing between us and the gods), so I see the place of clergy as being there to train initiates until they are ready to take responsibility for their own "walk."

In general, I am nervous about clergy in any position more formal than "teacher."  When clergy become more authoritative than teacher (which is a position with plenty of authority in its own right), the system is opened to too much risk of corruption (power corrupts).

There are practitioners who need clergy, I'm simply gun-shy of them, myself, due to my own bad experiences.
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« Reply #12: August 07, 2008, 10:54:58 am »

The web is for linking, man. Wink


Thanks Smiley

http://www.bunny-puppy.net/folk/notpriest.html

I totally botched my quote/reply roll on my last post.  Sorry about that, folks. 

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