As we reshape the training program we seem to agree that in order to proceed in more than an ad hoc way we ought to develop a clearer definition of what priesthood is in Our Druidry. We seem to keep approaching the topic, finding a few obvious statements and then backing away. Judging by my own concerns I suspect that is due to a couple of factors rather inherent in the kind of values we bring to ADF.
1: To choose what our priesthood will be is to say “This and not that” – to make pronouncements about How It Will Be. We know that there will be resistance to any decisions we make. We can’t, and won’t, please everyone. Thus it remains easier (and still productive at this moment) to allow the unstated norms to simply grow into the void created by lack of formal policy.
2: To decide what our priesthood is to be feels like creating limitation, to restrict the category in away about which we are uncertain. Beyond political concerns we have issues of just what we intend to ‘make’ people learn, what we will purport to offer to the membership in our persons (that one can be scary…). It might involve moving our own commitment past simply ‘doing what we can’ to offering specific services to members.
I could parse that more finely, but I think our reticence really comes down to doubt in our own preparedness to make these important choices, and concern over the political consequences. In both cases I feel it is time to suck it up, and make some basic choices that will help us shape the next version of the program, and shape our own relationship as priests to the members and mission of ADF. That will means taking the heat from whatever (probably small) group objects to our decisions, making the commitment to be something more specific, ourselves, to the work, and taking the risk that our choices will be right and sufficient for the next phase of the org’s growth.
That said, I’ll now describe several types of priesthood drawn from various world cultures, then try to chart where ADF priesthood might lie in relation to those types. I may have forgotten one or more major types, and of course specific cultural manifestations will be composites, but there may be value in looking at abstract types.
Traditional Roles of Spiritual/Religious Professionals:
1: Mediator – priest assigned the task of maintaining the relationship between the folk and the divine – varying degrees of exclusive ownership by priests - extreme cases priest becomes representative of the divine for the folk. Examples: RCC; Guru/Lama
2: Technician – priest is keeper of a body of traditional practice – provides efficacious ritual and guidance in traditional forms to householders - practices may be available to public, but priest has the esoteric keys and is considered able to produce reliable results. Examples: Brahmins; Shinto priests; ?IE temple priests?
3: Pastors – priests charged with spiritual aid and support for the lay membership – usually present when the ‘state of the soul’ is important in the system – uses spiritual technique to improve emotional and relational lives of the members. Ex: Prot clergy; some Buddhist priests and teachers.
4: Shamans – priest is skilled in specific skills that allow communication with the spirits – serve as healers, seers and protectors of tribal welfare – some systems reserve the skills for elite practitioners. Ex: N Asian Shamans; Oracular Priests
5: Mystagogues – priest bears the lineage and current of a specific mystery complex – can initiate others, transmitting the current, and manage specific rites and blessings. Ex: Bacchic; Trad Wiccan.
The Stereotypical North American Protestant Clergyman
There’s a sort of unspoken default in American culture that might go like this:
A: Congregational Leader – may sit on the BoD of a church, or may simply be a hireling, but is often expected to serve as host, front-person and default organizer for church worship, teaching and projects.
B: Worship Leader – may be empowered in some way by denomination, or may simply be a learned and brave public speaker, able to lead prayer and recite good sermons. Musical skills optional but often sought.
C: Educational Director – larger churches hire a second ordained or degreed person to do this, but in smaller ones it is often the Minister – manages ‘Sunday school’ and directs doctrinal teaching as the church culture allows.
D: Pastor and Counselor – go-to person for rites of passage and the attendant counseling. May extend into more specific life-issues counseling, per local expectations.
I think this pretty much is the ‘super-druid’ archetype we were trying to create back when we had the big program – these direct practical needs plus our specialized scholastic stuff, myth etc. We’re still living with this as an unspoken default, imo, and have a basic conflict between this, and our developing understanding of what various sorts of IE priests might be. One effective decision would be to consciously decide whether and how we’ll follow this model.
OK, what have I forgotten as a large class? To give an example of charting a priesthood among these categories, we might take voudoun priesthood, a well-developed polytheistic, congregational system. A voudou priest is a technician, in that she inherits a body of lore and ritual, and learns to execute it well. She is granted special authority for some of it, by virtue of her rank, but much of the work could be done by any member with the inclination to learn the method. She is a mediator in that she has specific skills that members won’t have, and uses them to aid the members. She’s a mystagogue in that she initiates the dedicated part of her membership into specific temple duties and closer relationship with the spirits. If one counts possession-trance as shamanism then she employs shamanic method as well. So we find in a fully expressed Pagan system a priesthood using many of these models, all combined to create a kind of priest-sorcerer who operates in the local culture. In many ways the mambo of a ‘house’ of voudoun even fits the prot clergy outline, filling all those jobs to some degree.
ADF Priesthood as it is.
I think it’s entirely safe to say that we begin as technicians. We learn a body of traditional skills and lore, learn to work them well, and offer our skill to the members. To a limited extent we are mystagogues, in the sense that we may find ourselves explaining the unique symbols of our rites, and providing personal experience of their power through well-managed rites. I suppose we’re rather more like teachers (a subset of technician, I think) than mystagogues, since the skills we teach aren’t limited to initiates. We don’t train ourselves to work as shamans at all, though the skills in the trance programs we’re adopting (as it seems) will provide us with basic training that could be used that way. We are pastors only as our local circumstance and inclination lead us – we have agreed that some training in ‘helping skills’ is a good thing, and of course divination is our most traditional way to frame a session of thought and counsel about life’s issues and difficulties. Finally, are we mediators? Not in any theological sense, I think. The old ways seem to contain the notion that any dedicated person can do enough ritual, sacrifice and seeking to build a relationship with the divine. However we can be bridge-builders and facilitators for the personal work of members.
Okay, what can we say in a boiled-down way about our present assumptions for our Priests.
1: Ritual technician: presently this is limited to knowing our full outline of a fire-sacrifice rite. No other rite or ordinance is required for clergy status.
2: Effective congregational leader/support: a left-over from super-druid days, imo, but still needed. We’re planning to support this by moving courses like Ethics and Law & the Church into the first circle training.
What Could Be
It seems to me that we must stop there on a list of what we actually expect from priests in our current underdeveloped model. However the training that we’ve developed contains several obvious functions that we have yet to formalize in any way.
- Diviner – we require our candidates for full ordination or initiation to have a good knowledge of at least one method, and some experience in ‘doing readings’.
- Trance practitioner – we require candidates to be able to maintain complex visualizations, enter vision locales and to have made some progress in contact with spirits in trance.
- Private ritual practice – we require skill in private and extemporized liturgy, which could easily be turned to available teaching for members. Depending on how far we want to go, we could develop proprietary rites in which priests help members find their contacts with the Kindreds, etc.
- Liturgical priest – this includes the usual marrying and burying rites, public worship etc.
Out of all these, it seems to me that the Ritual Priest is most outer-layer, most basic of these skills, and the one that we could make available to lower-tier priests the most readily. Basic social rites of passage just aren’t a very important part of the work, really. If our goal for our priesthood is to able to successfully transmit and enhance the religious experiences inherent in the symbols and rites of Our Druidry we find ourselves approaching those more difficult choices.
Based on the content off the training program we might assert that a fully ordained priest would be:
1: Liturgical Priest – able to manage small and large sacrifice rites, rites of passage, etc. This might include special needs rites such as sacrifices for fertility, prosperity, house blessings, etc, or these might be separated out.
2: Diviner – ‘pastoral counseling’ can be cast within divination skills, providing a clear religious position for the counseling act even as we learn to employ basic counseling models.
3: Spiritual Development Trainer – rites and scripts can be developed using personal shrine and trance skills – priests could use personal or workshop sessions to work such things as
A: Teaching meditation and supporting home practice
B: Teaching Invocation and empowering contact between members and a desired deity.
C: Directing vision work to make personal starter contacts with the Not-Gods.
D: Uncrossing and pro-luck work – magical efforts that support counseling and divination to help members improve their circumstances.
4: Organizer and Support Staff – knowledgeable in both organizational and community policies and procedures.
Much of this could be set up to have priests functioning as support teachers for the DP. Much of this is a sort of mystagoguery, providing rites that ‘initiate’ contact between the member and the spirits.
Even past this it seems to me that there’s a great deal more we can ordain our priests to do than simple rites of passage. When a member has a difficulty with one of the Beings, who should he turn to? Why, a priest. When it’s month 10 of job-search and it’s time for a luck boost, where should she go? To her Grove, and the priests that serve it.
Of course individual priests will vary in their talents. This basic skills list can be accomplished with the courses we have in the pipe now. In fact, most of those skills will be available to the Initiate. So, what would be the difference? One way to provide a difference is to ordain specific rites and customs, or a selection of them, for specific works. These would be specific ritual forms, customs and eventually words that are given only to the clergy of specific grades. These rites would simply not be (completely) published to the members – they would see them only when clergy perform them, and the culture would declare that they only ‘work’ ( … ) when those given the spiritual okey-dokey do them. We would make sure they are beautiful rites with the potential for powerful results, and in some cases might have to provide special training in their practice. In this way we can build respect for the Priestly work by empowering ourselves to offer distinctive excellent versions of core and special clergy services.
How To Do It
As I see it, this notion of ordained rites or outlines is as traditionally Pagan as it needs to get. We find invocations carved in stone on roman temples, ritual poetry recorded in collections like the Vedas or Gathas, and bodies of oral story and invocation preserved by professionals. Becoming a priest, in IE tradition, seems to involve the learning of traditional ritual forms.
Now, I can see two ways to get these ordained rituals. First, each candidate could be required to create their own version of the rites, perhaps with guidance as to preferred customs and tropes. In that case we would be ordaining the rites with the candidate, asserting that our trainee’s rites had our stamp of officialness. This could be pretty challenging; perhaps we could spread out the writing of drafts as exit standards of the various courses. Whether or not we make a Big Deal of this, requiring students to develop their own scripts based on given outlines would allow them to graduate with a full book of rites.
The second option is to create full or partial scripts and simply present them to students as part of various courses. Of course whatever we devise for the first round of this would continue to evolve, and individual priests would write new versions, some of which might become equal alternatives. If we went this way, then the rites would essentially be taught to students, with whatever inner work and the like they require. Having a body of clergy working the same rites for a few years would probably teach us things we wouldn’t get from doing individual rites.
I have a mild preference for trying to make a standard set of rites that we train ourselves to do. We could actually get those by making candidates and existing clergy write versions of them, and choosing the best ones or stitching best bits together. That would be especially helpful for ethnic variants.
I can’t help but try to make lists.
A: Public Tier – might be given to Grove clergy:
1: Public Wedding Vows – a simple rite suitable to provide Pagan Druidic spirit to a community wedding.
2: Public Blessing – a simple spell or rite to purify a house, car, etc, with Water and Fire.
3: Simple Reading – our distinctive prayer, charm or framing rite for divination.
4: Child Blessing
B: Priest 1st Tier – adds these works:
1: Wedding Sacrifice – full fire-sacrifice wedding rite
2: Death Sacrifice – I think funerary rites can be reserved to higher levels, and lower levels will breathe a sigh of relief…
3: Practical Needs Sacrifice – an adaptable format in which the proper god is given the proper offerings and a proper spell cast for some such work as prosperity, healing, fertility, etc
4: Full Blessing & Uncrossing
C: Priest 2nd tier – adds these works:
1: Consecration – Full priests create consecrated priests (eventually the AD won’t be able to do them all)
2: Full Divination rite – if only we had a distinctive in-house divination system… maybe actual vision-seership? This still might be at the previous tier.
3: Rite of Reconciliation – (can’t find a good term) adaptable rite to help a householder make the acquaintance of or make peace with the spirits in their lives. It might be that the same sort of rite that helps a householder make the initial alliances could be adapted for remedial work as well.
We could probably create the outlines of the four public tier rites in a weekend retreat.
Anyway, I’ll just stop now…
PS, we need cool names for the levels…