Priesthood and Service

During my recent reflections regarding the path of Druidry, one issue that I have found myself returning to is how we manifest maturity on the spiritual path and what this might mean in relation to what we give to others. While it remains open to a degree of debate, one of the characteristics that might be imagined to define a Druid –  as being distinct from the role of either Bard/Poet or Ovate/Seer – was the way in which they helped mediate specific social processes within their given communities. Whether via legal adjudication, philosophical consultation or by acting a celebrant during major life-rites the role of the Druid/Priest requires that they embody specific principles or perspectives within the external world.

druid1

#Life Goals

Having spent the last 40 years ensconced in a spiritual journey that has allowed me to encounter a wide variety of folks who have laid claim to concepts of Priesthood, I thought it might be helpful to explore some of the shared concepts that seem important to those who minister with varying degrees of esoteric intention.

Perhaps the first and most obvious thing to observe, is that a Priest (whether Male, Female or non-binary) is usually a Priest of something or someone! Priests of virtually all denominational stripes are seeking to mediate and embody a deity, a principle or a process. Even if the mission of our Priesthood is broad, there needs to be a certain degree of clarity regarding the perspective they are seeking to represent to the wider world. Some may be attracted to the status or accouterments of the Priestly role, but without a clear sense of vision as to who or what our service is being offered, such Priesthood is likely to be little more than cosplay. For our Priesthood to have depth it feels critical that we have internalized our goal to a degree that it has truly transformed us; we have moved beyond merely articulating truths and more profoundly we are seeking to become them.

Most forms of Priesthood seem to incorporate both the function of Priesthood i.e. what you actually do and the ontology of Priesthood i.e. how you as a person have been transformed internally by having Priesthood conveyed upon you.  When we examine different traditions, we can see the way in which they place varying degrees of focus on either part of this vocational equation. For some schools Priesthood is predominantly sacramental and initiatory in that the goal of ordination is the alchemical transformation of an individual spiritual DNA. For others Priesthood is less about identity and a person may move in and out of a Priestly function depending on the role or function they are adopting at a given time.

In seeking to comprehend ministerial roles that are more defined by function, I was aware of my own background as a former Christian and the way in which the Protestant emphasis on “the priesthood of all believers” sort to minimize any unique status or intermediary role for those who sought ordination. I am aware of the way in which my own biases have been formed by a good dose of Welsh anti-clericalism, but I’m glad to say that this has slowly softened over time as I have been more fully able to appreciate the initiatory and transformational power of having such vocations acknowledged.

My own journey into Priesthood has been a long and winding one. In my late teens I became a seminarian with a view to become an Anglican Priest, but this was eventually derailed by the crisis of faith that pushed me to explore a more magical-gnostic path. Eventually my exploration of magic and the Thelemic-Tantra espoused by AMOOKOS led me into an intense encounter with the Egyptian deity Sekhmet and I became increasingly aware of the obligations that this experience carried with it. During my own in encounter it was made abundantly clear that if I wished to continue a working relationship with these forces, it would entail both cost and obligations in representing her reality to others. While I am a firm believer that vocation can take manifold forms that are uniquely shaped by the individual and their context, based on my own experience I would question the validity of any call to Priesthood that doesn’t have its basis in both marked intensity and sacrifice.

doyle

Will you have a cup of Tea Father?

Although we should be cautious about any insistence that a person’s Priesthood must involve service to a physical community who hold similar perspectives (this is especially the case if adherents are spread over a large geographical area), we mustn’t underestimate the impact that our presence and embodiment might have on those in our more immediate sphere. The very magical act of someone pursuing a deep vocation and the creative flame of the daimonic-self can be both inspiring and potentially disruptive for those who feel they are simply going through the motions of day-to-day life. This in part is the challenge of our service as a Priest: the ideals and forces that we are seeking to manifest, become intensified and crystallized within ourselves as we take the risk of mediating them to those around us.

In the last 10 years my own Priesthood has found expression via mentoring, writing and more publicly in naming ceremonies, hand fasting and delivering eulogies at funerals. Often those seeking such support have been less concerned about the fine detail of my wyrd theological preoccupations and more drawn to the way in which my own initiatory process has enabled me to sit with challenging life processes. It feels as if what I have to offer is less about metaphysical certainties and far more about an ability to explore Mystery. For me those who manifest Priesthood most readily are those for whom their offer of service to others is as a natural overspill of the work that they are embodying in their own lives. This is at once the challenge of feeling called to such vocations but also the powerful initiatory role they can have in forging our magic.

Steve Dee

 

Meditations on Death

I love this time of year; the dark is rising and Hallowe’en will soon be upon us. And while of course I value all seasons, all the signs of the Zodiac, it’s Scorpio that really does it for me. My birthday falls on November 1st and so this time is always tinged with that childhood expectation. Add to this my love of the occult and especially those elements of esoteric practice that are typically linked with Scorpio (sex, drugs, death and transformation) and you can see why I adore this time.

Pumpkin Tribe

Pumpkin Tribe

I buried one of my cats yesterday (the 25th of October), a suitable seasonal event.

Gozo (as we named him, after the Mediterranean island) had reached a suitable age but, as is commonplace with Felis domesticus, his kidneys were failing fast. For some years he’d actually been living with a friend on the over side of the Torridge valley, but I remembered Gozo as a small and sharp-clawed ball of black and white fur from when he came to live with me during my sojourn in Brighton.

We collected his lifeless form from our friends and I drove him back to my home where my two children waited. Number One son took the whole thing in his stride and was philosophical about Gozo’s age and painless death (he was ‘put to sleep’). Number Two Son needed a little more support to talk things through. At moments like this, when Real Reality bites, we find ourselves having to explain things in simple terms. Sure I’m able to talk to my children about death and we conjecture what may or may not happen. But there, with that silent cat basket in the boot of the car, I needed to help my youngest son with his feelings of sadness and to find some way through in that moment.

Such situations are good for us, they summon forth simple and honest answers and, if we are skillful, they are opportunities to make discoveries for ourselves.

Acknowledging his sadness, and that it was okay to have those emotions, I told my son what I see as the facts. That Gozo’s body was going to be returned to the earth. That in time the molecules and atoms that he was made from will become food for, and then become, other living things; from plants, to birds, to people. I spoke of how for things to live something else must die, that even the molecules that make up all life on earth are the debris of long dead stars.

I spoke of how the story of Gozo would live on in us, in our memories and that the power, the life force he was, like the atoms he was made from, would return to the great sea of life-force energy which animates our planet.

The next day all three of us, but especially Number Two Son, prepared the grave for Gozo. We looked at him, my youngest touched his still soft fur, and we placed him, along with grave goods (a cat bowl made by a friend bearing his name) in the earth. We said thank you to him, and to the life force of the world for bringing us Gozo. We hoped that the bowl would keep him fed in the cat afterlife (which I imagine as the Gozo in our memories). We said goodbye and let him sleep in the ground.

We planted wild garlic over his grave that will blossom in the spring.

The next day me and the kids set fire to a 4ft high silver robot in the garden, full of home-made gun powder, but that, as they say, is another story.

JV