Listening to the woods, to the stones, to Gaia, and to women...
In the woods behind my house rest a collection of nine large flat rocks. Daily, I walk down to these “priestess rocks” for some sacred time alone to pray, meditate, consider, and be. Often, while in this space, I open my mouth and poetry comes out. I’ve come to see this experience as "theapoetics"—experiencing the Goddess through direct “revelation,” framed in language. As Stanley Hopper originally described in the 1970’s, it is possible to “…replace theology, the rationalistic interpretation of belief, with theopoetics, finding God[dess] through poetry and fiction, which neither wither before modern science nor conflict with the complexity of what we know now to be the self.” Theapoetics might also be described, “as a means of engaging language and perception in such a way that one enters into a radical relation with the divine, the other, and the creation in which all occurs.”
Hope before her
love behind her
empowerment around her
she is strong
she knows her own power
she is blessed...
Goddess grant me the courage, surrender, trust, and wisdom to do what needs to be done today. Let me serve my circle as priestess with great care, great attention, great trust, and great honor. Let me breathe deep and draw up what I need, let me open my arms and gather to me that which surrounds me. May I embody the gifts of the Goddess and share them with my circle sisters. Thank you. Blessed be.
On an email list I belong to, the question was recently posed as to why we need priestesses anyway. The concern was posed that the term is hierarchical and separates rather than unifies. As someone who identifies deeply as a priestess, this question soaked into my consciousness, demanding an answer, a reconciliation, a deeper understanding of what I understand my own role to be.
In addition to a basic desire to make a sociopolitical feminist cultural statement about the value and place of women as clergy, the answer came to me. For me, being a Priestess is first and foremost about serving my community. It is also about offering a gift to my friends, celebrating women and their capacities and accomplishments, honoring connections and commitments, and marking life passages and transitions with ritual. I have a knack for planning ceremonies, leading rituals, and facilitating groups. These are the skills I offer to others as a priestess.
I prepare weddings, memorial services, and women's mysteries classes/women's retreats. At this point, I have a lot of training, preparation, resources, and skills and I am pleased to offer these abilities on behalf of others. It is a sacred responsibility and sacred trust and an honor to be of service to others, not a hierarchical thing at all. I do not see being a priestess as about being an intermediary or about interpreting anyone else's experience. Instead, I plan ceremonies that speak to our collective womanspirit and that touch the chord of the sacred within each of us, not that define anyone else's spirituality for them.
I feel I was called to the priestess path---first by the woods and the rocks, then by my family, and then my community. The woods and rocks called me priestess first. I sought further training and education and self-study. Then my community of women began to recognize me as priestess and during this same time I became ordained (by Global Goddess). My kids said, "what is a priestess?" And I said, "someone who plans rituals and has ceremonies for people" and they said, "oh, so you already are one." And, I said yes.
I continue to deepen and grow. This is a personal and community commitment to high standards, reliability, conscientiousness, good character, honorable leadership, and sacred trust. It asks a lot of me and to live up to the call is a lifelong task and sacred responsibility.
As a student at Ocean Seminary College, I explored the question of the role of a priestess in more formal terms:
The professional role of a neopagan priestess is as spiritual counselor, facilitator, and mentor or guide. She has a heart for and a willingness to be of service to her community.
A priestess must have a firm sense of her boundaries within the counseling role, with pastoral and spiritual counseling being ethically appropriate, but psychotherapeutic or psychological counseling is beyond her scope of practice. Membership issues with substance abuse, mental disorders, suicidal ideation, domestic violence, or other severe needs are best referred to outside practitioners/services (a pastoral counseling relationship can still be a part, but should not be the only type of service offered). A priestess should necessarily be aware of the resources of her large community and be ready and willing to offer referrals as needed. A priestess/priest must also have the ability to maintain confidentiality and keep confidences (within the limits of state laws about mandated reporters—clergypeople are required to report child abuse or neglect and should also consider evidence of harm—or planning to harm—self or others as an exception to confidentiality).
A priestess must be skilled in communication and have the ability to act with diplomacy, integrity, and compassion/empathy. She will have confidence, be self-motivated, and have good organization skills, as well as personal warmth and the ability to build rapport with diverse people. She is well-integrated in her inner and outer lives with an authenticity and congruence of belief and action.
Continuing education is a crucial component of a professional priestess/priest. A priestess will continue reading, attending workshops, taking classes, and personally reflecting on her area of practice, always seeking new opportunities to grow and to develop, deepen, and refine her own thealogy, her responsiveness to the community, and her role as spiritual facilitator and mentor. An effective priestess will be a lifelong learner. If, at some point, she feels she has learned “everything” or can learn no more about her faith and practice, it should perhaps be at this point that retires from work as a priestess.
The pastoral relationship as involves three elements: mentor, teacher, and counselor. I view the pastoral relationship as much less hierarchal than a traditional conception of the role, with the priestess and circle member entering into a mutual relationship of discovery and sharing—I don’t see myself as “handing down” information, decrees, or advice to others, but rather holding a space for her to make her own discoveries as well as sharing and reflecting upon some of my own discoveries and observations. My role is to create the opportunity, to open the space, and to see what grows and blossoms from that interaction.
I walk a priestess path
may I walk with presence
may I walk with purpose
may I walk with potency
may I stand in my personal power.
may I protect
may I open possibilities
may I trust the unfolding of the path in front of me…
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