The Need for Pagan Clergy

This entry is slightly modified from a thread that I was responding to on Facebook, which began with a post from Juniper Jeni’s lovely blog, Walking the Hedge: The Rambles and Wanderings of a Canadian Hedgewitch.  Her rant/blog post was called “Regarding Pagan Clergy,” posted October 15, 2010.

As someone who thinks of herself as “Pagan clergy,” and who has that legal number that lets me marry people and whatnot, I see the role of “clergy” as being exactly like Juniper says: facilitators, organizers, and another role that wasn’t mentioned: counsellors. Even Witches need someone to call when they are having a crisis in their lives to help them to find ways to communicate with their Gods (yes, though their own power, we are Pagans,) to support them in their happy and in their difficult times, and to be someone to talk to. As clergy, I have “solemnized” handfastings (ie. performed a ritual and signed a piece of paper so the government would say that this couple was, indeed, married,) counselled those who are struggling with life challenges, and created rituals of passage such as handfasting, Wiccaning, First Blood (never a happy occasion in my generation, but one that always should have been,) and death and wake rituals. That’s my job; to be a balm and maybe a guide in times of difficulty or great change, and to help people find the Divine in those times so their spirits can transform and/or heal.

It isn’t about power. It’s about service. The danger comes in that others hold you to a higher standard of behaviour and try to make you their guru. I always try to discourage that because as most of the folks in my local community will cheerfully agree, I definitely haven’t figured out the entire way through the path of enlightenment yet and I have LOTS of faults (that I am working on, in my own time and way, just like everyone else;) and if you let people put you on a pedestal, sooner or later you will fall off because you are NOT the Goddess (and I would like to point out that even our gods are not perfect) and you will screw it up, and people will see it. And the fact is that a lot of what we do is wearing on the spirit (if you have compassion,) takes time and long hours, and often you are more critiicized for your errors than congratulated for your successes, so many times, when someone tells you how great they think you are, you really do need to hear something positive. Some people, especially if they have never been empowered in their lives (and many of us find Paganism for exactly this reason) get balloon heads and develop arrogance. Others become completely burned out and give up.

All of this is much more difficult to fight against because there is no material living in the path of being Pagan clergy, so we somehow have to find the time (and money) to do this work around our jobs as well as our families. People *do* expect you to drop everything for them at the drop of a hat, and you really should, because people only call you when they really need you, just like the Crisis Line. The most effective Pagan clergy are the ones who are living on a pension, be it through retirement or disability. They have the time, and the luxury. Any “power” that comes through this is illusionary, especially since Pagans are naturally suspicious. There will be no mansions and grand cars for us; Pagans won’t spend $20 for a workshop more often than not! Just ask Raymond Buckland, Janet Farrar and Starhawk how much money they’ve made off of their books and teaching. They’ll tell you; they’re all available on Facebook and they will talk to you, because they are Pagan clergy, not the Pope. I think you’ll find that anyone floating along on “High Priestess’ Disease” is a wannabe, and any actually influential and well-known Witch or Pagan is just following their Calling (otherwise known as your True Will.) The last Witch cult followed Alex Sanders, and even he wasn’t making a million dollars.

I was listening to a radio program called “Tapestry” on CBC a couple of years ago now (while I was still working at the local taxi office) and there was an interview with a Buddhist nun who was describing her experiences of speaking with others and counselling them through crisis. I was struck keenly by how exactly the same our work was. Nowhere does it include telling people what to think or believe. Right now, my work includes getting a Samhain ritual and Witches’ Ball ready that is a Pagan Pride fundraiser, getting started on the writings of three handfastings that are going to take place in the next year (working actively with the couples who are co-writers of the ceremonies) and getting up at stupid o’clock on Friday mornings to go with a local Witch to the hospital, where she is receiving some very difficult and painful regular treatment for an illness and she needs someone to come and hold her hand and talk with her while she waits. I do it because when my husband was in the ICU after a horrible car accident, I needed experienced Witches to talk to and hold my hand and help me communicate with my gods, with whom I was very angry at the time (and have since forgiven.) Even in an individualized, relatively dogmaless spirituality, I think that we need clergy.

Blessed be,

~ by Sable Aradia on January 29, 2011.

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