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Author Topic: Priest/ess, what makes one?  (Read 13688 times)
SheAngel19
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« Topic Start: April 30, 2009, 04:42:09 pm »

On very rare occassion I will teach certain people basic magick. Usually people that have been put in my path that i am meant to help. Also every so often i will have people who just need help on one or two thing which i will oblige if it isn't dangerous or conflicts with my principles. Well a while back one of them called me priestess. I was a bit confused and unsure how to take it. True i fully serve a goddess for little over 2 years now. I work with her and do as she instructs me to do. I was told once by a high priestess that no one could ever be considered thus without proper training. In their practice a total of about 3 years training is required under that trad.

Now it caused an itch in my mind cause all i could think is 'If that were true then who taught the first ones?' No i do not have formal training. Not to blow my own horn but i have been around 'properly trained' witches and priest/ess' and have more knowledge and experiance than most of them. Technically I have no set in stone Trad either. I think if it works why should it matter?

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?
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« Reply #1: April 30, 2009, 04:48:14 pm »

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?

I think that's something that depends on what you mean by priest/ess in the first place.

If it's a sign of what you are IN THE TRADITION, then yes, the training is necessary.

If it's a sign of service to the gods, then it's the act of service and whether or not you're filling the role you're supposed to have.

It's a word with many meanings, and can be taken many different ways.  Among other things, I think it has to pass the giggle test - if you can call yourself that and the people around you don't crack up, you've got a better shot at deserving the title. Smiley
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« Reply #2: April 30, 2009, 05:11:40 pm »

It's a word with many meanings, and can be taken many different ways.  Among other things, I think it has to pass the giggle test - if you can call yourself that and the people around you don't crack up, you've got a better shot at deserving the title. Smiley
LOL well i do pass the giggle test. I have no trad and that was my point by saying as long as it works it shouldn't matter. It being such a broad word was part of it as well. I choose the serve my deity one.
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« Reply #3: April 30, 2009, 05:23:36 pm »

I think that's something that depends on what you mean by priest/ess in the first place.

Each religion has its own definition -- and those definitions can be wildly different. It's almost impossible to talk meaningfully about the priesthood without limited it to a specific religion's priesthood.
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« Reply #4: May 03, 2009, 12:53:05 am »

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?
It also seems relevant as to the individual giving you this honorary title.  It can be a high compliment, but as HeartShadow and RandallS mention, there are many connotations associated with the term, and for certain religions it can have very precise training and requirements. Also, what one means in a very positive sense, another may see it as a way to make you fully responsible for their spirituality.

As one that has been called a Priestess as a compliment and with sneers and called a saint as both praise and an insult, I remember what Grandma said:  "Always consider the source."

I am unsure if it really matters what we call ourselves; many are doctors that do not heal, scholars that do not teach, and ministers that do not serve.  To have a title or an endearment given to us, though, is a gift.  With this gift, however, does come a responsibility to live up to someone's (often undetermined) expectations.  In my case, I always decline the title, preferring almost anything more equitable.       
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« Reply #5: May 29, 2009, 07:45:19 am »

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?

I fell that even with all the training and everything else the decision is rely down to the deity. I would consider anyone who the deity wishes to serve them in a capacity such as in leading services and helping people deal with the deity and there special practice to be a priest/ess. But really it is the deity’s choice and the duties would be different depending on which deity and on that deity’s requirement.
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« Reply #6: June 11, 2009, 05:46:47 pm »

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?

I think as many others I'd say it varies from tradition to tradition. In KO there's a specific progression of learning and training on top of a calling by the deity, and it's only after all that that you are a priest.

In a more general, tradless sense, I'd say a priest is someone in service to a particular God/pantheon/deity concept, for whom it is a major part of their life, frequently to the extent of performing daily devotions/rituals/prayers in honour of said God/pantheon/deity concept.
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« Reply #7: June 11, 2009, 08:24:37 pm »

In a more general, tradless sense, I'd say a priest is someone in service to a particular God/pantheon/deity concept, for whom it is a major part of their life, frequently to the extent of performing daily devotions/rituals/prayers in honour of said God/pantheon/deity concept.

Are there particular things that you would see as differentiating a lay solitary/non-trad practitioner from a priest/ess?
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« Reply #8: June 12, 2009, 01:03:50 am »

It's almost impossible to talk meaningfully about the priesthood without limited it to a specific religion's priesthood.

Emphatically agreed. It's really rather insane how badly we stretch that one poor defenseless little word.

Roman priesthoods were civil offices, not spiritual leadership roles. You got nominated for one (assuming you were born into the proper class) based largely on the unobjectionable characteristics of your family (political, marriage-wise, etc.), and you underwent no special training for the job prior to being chosen. Once there, you performed the specific ritual duties of your particular office and kept its (often very complex) restrictions, and that was pretty much it.

On the other hand, to enter the Catholic priesthood, you must first convince authorities that you feel a religious "calling" or vocation; then you're trained at great length - in theology, ritual, self-examination, and so on - and scrutinized at every step. If successful, you're expected to preside over both the mysteries of the Mass and the Sacraments and the spiritual and emotional well-being of a parish community, as celebrant, confessor, teacher, interpreter, and counselor.

There mere fact that we calmly use the same word for both jobs, as if they meant the same thing, is astounding.

I suspect that your everyday-traditional-Wiccan-priest/ess is somewhere between those two extremes, but I have no personal experience of that so it's just a guess.

If we want to take the broadest possible view, anthropologically speaking, the title of priest/ess would probably be best defined with respect to one's role, rather than one's training or knowledge. That is to say, a priest/ess is an individual who fills some sort of a recognized intercessory function in his/her community. This would pretty much leave modern Pagan solitaries out of the running. 

Of course, a bit of creative re-imagining can take care of that... and that's something Pagans are particularly good at. Cheesy But in that case, IMHO, we need to be aware that we are re-constructing the idea of priest/ess, not using the word in its traditional sense.

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« Reply #9: June 12, 2009, 01:13:47 pm »

Are there particular things that you would see as differentiating a lay solitary/non-trad practitioner from a priest/ess?

Because it's in a non-trad context it's all a bit vague with a pinch of case-by-case for good measure, but:

Some kind of oath of service. Whether internal/partly subconcious, openly to one's Gods, or in some way formalised.
Regular and frequent ritual and offering, particularly that without benefit for self (lacking in spells for one's life, not done to pray for a recent bad situation).
Doing the deity/pantheon's work in this world. This is more optional to me, but may come naturally from the first point depending on the divinity in question.

The general idea is that it's someone for whom what they do is for the Gods, out of respect for the Gods, to nurture and care for the Gods, and undertaken as a duty rather than out of more ocassional inclination (and not performed when the inclination is not there). I think a lot of solitaries and lay-folk (myself included) perform services for the Gods, perform rituals just to honour them, but it is often less frequent, done out of a desire to honour them rather than a vow of service, and we sometimes change our plans and don't do these things if we are having a bad day.

It's the difference between a martial artist who would help a woman on the street, and a policeman for whom it is a job and sworn duty.

Self-identification as a priest is also good, as even someone who fit everything above I wouldn't disrespect by calling a priest if they said it wasn't so.
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« Reply #10: June 13, 2009, 02:17:02 pm »

So i guess my question is this. What makes or does not make someone a priest or priestess? Is it really all in the training? Like a little metaphysical badge of honor? Or is it in the connection you have with that higher being and your devotion and service to them?

This is one of those words that it's just ridiculously difficult to define, and depends entirely on what kind of tradition you're in, and whether there are people in spiritual authority over you.  For instance, any old Catholic couldn't go and call himself a priest just because he's catholic and seems to know more about catholicism than some priests he's met.  He'd have to go through formal training and be ordained by a bishop as a priest of the Catholic church.  I believe it works the same way in a lot of pagan communities - people are initiated as priests/priestesses by those with the spiritual authority to give them that title within that specific tradition.

For solitaries, or those who don't follow any particular tradition, it obviously has to work a little differently.  For myself, I just don't see the point.  Why do I need a title if I'm not part of any tradition or group of people that will recognize this title as valid or meaningful?  For others, though, thinking of themselves as a priest or priestess might help them connect with the gods and goddesses, and solidify their place in the world in their own minds.

So basically: if it means something to you, and you're not a part of an organized religious structure that can bestow the title of priestess or priest, then go ahead and call yourself that; but I'd limit it to private ritual and interactions with your god/desses.  People have all kinds of beliefs about what that term means, and it's just asking for trouble to flaunt a title like that when you have no religious tradition backing your use of it.
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« Reply #11: June 14, 2009, 09:12:52 pm »

I think it has to pass the giggle test - if you can call yourself that and the people around you don't crack up, you've got a better shot at deserving the title. Smiley

Emphasis is mine-

If YOU can call yourself that and not crack up or feel like a fraud doing so, you probably AREN'T.  I can call myself priestess, or even HPS, but I still get that weird feeling like I'm really just not qualified for the title, I'm just filling in until someone more qualified comes along.  Maybe I'm alone in this.  Yes, I trained, and I "earned" the right to use the title, but still, I know how much I don't know yet, and how much I can't do.  Maybe I'm just odd.
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« Reply #12: June 15, 2009, 12:12:35 pm »

Emphasis is mine-

If YOU can call yourself that and not crack up or feel like a fraud doing so, you probably AREN'T.  I can call myself priestess, or even HPS, but I still get that weird feeling like I'm really just not qualified for the title, I'm just filling in until someone more qualified comes along.  Maybe I'm alone in this.  Yes, I trained, and I "earned" the right to use the title, but still, I know how much I don't know yet, and how much I can't do.  Maybe I'm just odd.
My own experience is that I eventually got used to that feeling.  Well, mostly - I never completely got over the "how the hell did I get here?" part.

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« Reply #13: June 15, 2009, 12:19:21 pm »

My own experience is that I eventually got used to that feeling.  Well, mostly - I never completely got over the "how the hell did I get here?" part.

Sunflower

See?  It's that weird niggling feeling at the back of your throat that says "Me?  Really?"  Even though I logically *know* I'm qualified I still get that feeling.  It rather reminds me of when my teachers would stand over my shoulder and nod and pat my shoulder because I was ahead of the curve in whatever subject.  All the hair standing up on the back of my neck, my throat closing up and me feeling like I'm going to faint because "Me?  Really?  Wow." 
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« Reply #14: June 15, 2009, 03:22:42 pm »

If YOU can call yourself that and not crack up or feel like a fraud doing so, you probably AREN'T.  I can call myself priestess, or even HPS, but I still get that weird feeling like I'm really just not qualified for the title, I'm just filling in until someone more qualified comes along.  Maybe I'm alone in this.  Yes, I trained, and I "earned" the right to use the title, but still, I know how much I don't know yet, and how much I can't do.  Maybe I'm just odd.

Heh.  I'm reminded of my pet theory that the real secret of being a grown-up is coming to terms with the fact that everyone else is faking it too.
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