Revisiting the Idea of Pagan Clergy

Over ten years ago, just a few years into my journey I felt the calling to become a Pagan Priestess. That impulse is still as strong today as it was then. It led me to self dedicate to my Gods, to focus and study harder, to reach out and join in my local Pagan community and to start a web page which in turn has led to this blog. But I did not become a Pagan Priestess; not in the sense of being clergy. I am not Pagan Clergy. I am instead a Pagan Blogger and perhaps this is the true form of my calling.

I don’t assume that I am different from other Pagans who have felt a calling to become clergy. I was excited and in love with what I was learning and experiencing. My enthusiasm was overflowing. I wanted to share this wonderful thing I had with everyone. “What better way is there to do that, than to become clergy and live a life in service to the Gods?” Actually there are other ways but that’s beside the point of this article. My search on what being a Priestess means had begun.

Ten years ago and perhaps a bit longer than that it was a common argument than anyone could become a Pagan Priest or Priestess and that declaring oneself as such was sufficient. Hot debates started on whether or not this is true or should even be true. Enough disagreement was raised that self declared clergy was eyed with suspicion, accused of being scam artists, accused of being phony, derided for a lack of education and the inability to receive legal recognition as clergy. This environment had a major impact on how I chose to answer that extremely personal call. I didn’t feel I had enough stuff not to mention experience to become a Priestess so I decided to focus more on my Pagan education. As a virtue, education is the foundation for clergy. But there were no clear cut requirements for what should be known or what was needed beyond the basic creation of a coven.

I noticed as a religious movement Paganism don’t have many common elements of agreement to what makes our clergy; clergy. It’s a calling, a sacred duty and a whole lot of work. There are still long debates on the subject hammering out the need for a standard in what makes our clergy what they are. And yet there isn’t a lot of people most would be recognise as bona fide clergy. The Elders are often the closest to what could be considered clergy. They did not become honoured Elders by attending a seminary. Most have worked within the community; some founding churches and traditions, others writing books and giving lectures. They are held in high esteem by the community and are well know to either their local community or the greater community of Pagans.

Is service to the community the first prerequisite or the first test or a little of both? I feel this is the first qualifier for who should become clergy. Without passion for the Gods and community, without love for both, motives and actions are suspect for anyone seeking a powerful status that has often been abused across all religions and cultures. Paganism is not immune to human nature.

Support Your Pagan Clergy

I’ve been working on a series of posts on the topic of pagan clergy. It’s a weighty topic and some days I think I’ve bit off more than I can chew. So I think it’s quite timely that this piece of news has hit the bloggerverse, ”Virginia refuses to recognize me as clergy.” This posting was picked up by several blogs and cross posted in it’s entirety.

The Wild HuntWiccan Denied Clergy Status in Virginia
The SlacktiverseUnequal Rites

I came across this as a shared link on Facebook which had already crossed several hands before it reached me. Behold the power of social networking. I’m not going to cross post her article here but please visit her blog and the others to contribute to the ongoing discussion.

The witch is offensive

The green skinned old woman with warty nose and black pointy hat is ridding a broom across the sky cackling evilly. Watch out! It’s the witch! It’s an image that often comes out on Halloween festooning the decorations in silhouette, little figurines of witches, sometimes flatten on front doors, or even trees. But what does this image represent and why do so many self proclaimed witches get offended by this image? Every year, around Halloween someone raises a stink about the image of the witch and ends up in the media. And then the myth making begins again.

Out comes the claims that witchcraft is older than Christianity, that the witch trials killed nine million witches, that Christianity invented the evil witch as a way to persecute the peaceful witches. All of which is folklore based on bad historical research and repeated so much that many Pagans believe it to be true. The one failing the Pagan religious movement has is a lack of historical understanding and not requiring acclaimed authors to maintain historical accuracy and scholarship.

A woman who is Being In Total Control of Herself.

I understand the power of words and how powerful the reclamation of a word can be. The best example I feel is with the word ‘bitch’ as reclaimed by the Feminists. A bitch was once viewed as a woman who was bold, loud, argumentative, nagging, and controlling. All those traits are masculine in nature and any woman displaying those traits ran the risk of being labeled a bitch. With the feminist movement, and the fight for social equality in the home, workplace and politics; woman who chose career over home have been labeled a bitch. As such the label is inaccurate and thus the reclamation began.

But the reclamation of ‘witch’ wasn’t in response to changing social conditions. Instead a group decided to become witches as they conceived them. From that group, a split occurred as they grew. One kept ‘witch’ and ‘witchcraft’ and the other became ‘Wiccan’ and ‘Wicca.’ That is just a super short blurb on the history of Gardernian Wicca.  It’s effects on  Modern Paganism has been huge.

I like the Halloween witch. I view her as a mythological creature, an archetype of the darker aspects of the feminine nature. She is the dark image of the Crone. I value the lessons that she can teach;  old people are often crabby, beauty is only skin deep, actions speak louder than words, that the pursuit of power often leads to a bad ending, what looks too good to be true often is.

I don’t understand the offence that modern witches feel with the image of the Halloween witch. It’s one thing to claim that one isn’t evil and bad. But it’s another thing to take on an image and turn it on it’s head and to do so without any understanding of that image and it’s role within mythology. It’s akin to taking the image of the troll and forcing everyone to accept that trolls are good, nice bridge keepers who only ask for reasonable payment for crossing. Therein lies the mystery.

Modern witches are magic practitioners and that is the only similarity they have with the archetypical witch. Despite the views of the Only One God religions that all magic is evil and therefore any who practice magic is evil and the tendency to label magic users as witches, I do not feel that reclaiming the ‘witch’ is the proper way to go about carving acceptance in the mainstream mindset. Education is a better tool, not picking up a club and beating everyone in the head with it.

The witch belongs in mythology, not reality. Around the world there has been increased reports of witchcraft, abusing women and children for things that are beyond their control. The idea that the witch is real is having negative consequences. One that I wonder if the reclamation of the word had caused. It’s easy enough to do a web search and see that there are people who do claim to be a witch and that they practice magic.

I practice magic, but I don’t claim to be a witch. The negative stereotypes don’t bother me because I never accepted the reclamation of the word ‘witch.’ I understand the power gained from such reclamation but I feel the stereotype is useful and therefore should not be erased. The whole myth of the witch grew out of the the Middle Ages and the Inquisition and it’s to the level of the boogeyman. These mythological creatures play an important part in myth making and in human psychology. What better represents the darker side of humanity; the power grasping, backstabbing, selfish, black hearted, sneaky, evil intentions like the image of the witch?

But that image is not what modern Pagans are or strive to be. We need a different a label for those who practice magic.


Don’t forget… Have a Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!!
Be Safe.

Paying for an Education

Question of the Week #8 – Paying for an Education

So why shouldn’t you be charged for Wicca? Is there anything about Wicca that comes for free? Or do you have to pay for it in some way or another all along the way? So let us say that the lessons are free will they still have the same value to you?

Money is what makes the world go around on so many different levels. Does it make our faith go around as well?

First off I’m not Wiccan. I did study Wicca when I first started down this path but that hardly qualifies me beyond my own opinions. In another post I stated that I feel Wicca should remain coven based. If Wicca stayed coven based the whole question of charging for money takes on a new light; one covered in greed.

If a supplicant is learning Wicca; from the prospective coven, charging for the teachings becomes nothing more than exploitation. Now, I’m not talking about charging for supplies. Those costs incurred must come out of someones pocket, often the students. Those charges are reasonable. A responsible student should expect that all teachings have a cost of some sort.

The coven is much more than a Church or a fellowship circle but more of a family. Charging my family for teaching them how to do something that I know well just feels wrong. It’s not in support of the family to do so. In fact it can hold back the family by using money as the criteria for teaching.

Outside of the coven, charging for teachings start to make a little bit of sense. It is still tainted with greed but a more acceptable form. Time and supplies cost. Teachers are plentiful and credentials questionable. The buyer; in this case the prospective student, must be ware. At best these teachings would be the basics; not the mysteries and not tradition specific teachings. At the worst, the teachings could be harmful.

By paying for lessons, you are affirming a lack of loyalty. You have no loyalty to the teacher beyond paying for the next lesson. The teacher has no loyalty to provide an unpaid for lesson much less offer another lesson. It’s much like attend collage, where one pays for the parchment. Knowledge isn’t necessarily transmitted just because you paid for the lesson.

It is an Outer Court thing to charge for teachings. It does not touch on the heart of Wicca.

This QtoW was brought to you by Between the Ticks.

Keep Wicca Traditional, Keep Wicca Coven Based

I’m Pagan, not Wiccan and like most of us in the US, Wicca is what I cut my milk teeth on in Paganism. Even though I’m not Wiccan, it still influences me and I stay abreast of the issues within the Wiccan community at large.

I am for keeping Wicca Traditional. But Wicca is sorely misunderstood even among those who practice it. Wicca has an equal duality; being a magical lodge and a religion at the same time. One nestled within the other. It is a beautiful dance, as one can not exist without the other. Both are needed and both serve a purpose.

When I hear that someone is Wiccan, I’m often guilty of assuming that they are the book raised, eclectic based, solitary variety. This is the general makeup of Outer Court Wiccans otherwise know as a insta-wicca, fluffy bunnies, “I read a book (or two) Wicca”, the derided Eclectic Wiccan, Solitary Wiccan and any number of other slurs and labels. Most are just beginners and are still learning and don’t deserve the accusation of “ruining Wicca” nor the labels that gets attached. This isn’t all that Wicca is nor all that Wicca can be. The Outer Court is just the starting point.

The Outer Court is a great stage to grown and learn. Those who are dedicated to learning are those who are desired for the Inner Court, a coven, the magical lodge, even if they never choose to do so. But learning is the goal and it shows they are truly dedicated to Wicca, the religion. It is in the Outer Court where a seeker can determine if Wicca if for them.

The Outer Court serves a unique purpose. It acts as a filter, sifting out the rough diamonds from among common stones. In a Coven, it is necessary to have individuals that are functional, dedicated, disciplined, mentally and emotional stable. It is necessary to maintain a functional Coven, to practice magic smoothly and to maintain social cohesion among it’s members. The Outer Court is a vast pool from which to pull the appropriate candidates for the Inner Court.

I have no problem with the Outer Court calling themselves Wiccan. It does not take away anything from the Inner Court. Do not the laws say to stay hidden? How else is best to hide but within a large Outer Court? But I do prefer to see covens stay traditional, with initiation, dedication and training. This is where tradition counts the most.

The Inner Court is coven based Wicca and it is a magical lodge. As such an apprenticeship (a year and a day), makes sense as it teaches a practice rather than a belief. This is where the mysteries are preserved and are passed down. This is where consistency is needed. It is for this reason, tradition trumps eclecticism. Tradition offers stability. Every religion eventually forms a stable base in a bid for longevity. In a religion that’s based on magic, stability is desirable even necessary to maintain perspective and to sustain magical growth. It is the Inner Court; the covens, that is the driving core to Wicca.

If I really wanted to I could claim to be Wiccan, but it would be nothing more than Outer Court, surface gloss only. I celebrate the eight Sabats and occasional Esbats in public ritual. And I celebrate the Sabats with ritual based on generic Wiccan format. I am also well aware of Wiccan mythology and magical practices.

But I don’t consider myself Wiccan because of several issues. I have no desire to be a part of a coven. I don’t see the Gods as a singular duality. I find that I prefer to keep magic and religion separate. I don’t have a desire to learn and collect magical “crafts.” I’ve been relying on UPG to long to abandon it now. So am I really Wiccan? No. What I am, is honest. I could not call myself a Wiccan as I was not called to pursue the Inner Court nor do I believe or mesh with the practices.

But for those seekers who grabbed the first label that came floating by, Wicca isn’t a bad one to grab. There is so much to be learned. And for me all the talk about keeping Wicca traditional isn’t about keeping lineages, having a initiation instead of a self dedication or weither one is a Gardnerian or an Alexandrian or even a Dianic. It’s about keeping the covens alive, maintaining the mysteries, caring for the greater community and honouring the elders who have walked the path before us. The covens are the heart of Wicca. Without them, Wicca is no more than a leaf blown around in the wind.