One of the most common things I hear is “What is a Priestess of Avalon?” To really understand what a Priestess of Avalon is, we must first explore what being a priestess is and what or where Avalon is. In addition to this, there are many that believe that Priestess is a title that is earned, while others say it is a path of service they were called to, and still others say it is devotion to a particular deity through devotion and temple tending. While many traditions do offer “Priestess” or “High Priestess” as a title, level of achievement, and rank, for the sake of this blog we will be discussing the word Priestess as a calling, a path, and a life of devotion to your cause and community.
Many people have argued over what a Priestess is, and I have come to the conclusion that it is something we will never agree on, and so in my mind I have split these many meanings into two main categories. Priestess as rank and Priestess as a Path. Now it is very possible to be both of these or just one, and there is no “right way” Traditions have established Priestess as a rank and achievement since the 1950’s and this should be acknowledged and respected. However, Priestess as a path should also be respected and is equally as important. While many covens and traditions teach one how to be a Priestess, not all do and not all people who are called to lead are able to have the training that a coven or tradition can provide available to them. Even more importantly some have been trained in the basics, but through circumstances which can include everything from jealousy to personal tragedy they have lost their mentor and are flying by the seat of their pants. So as you can see we have established there are many different forms, levels, ranks and circumstances that create priestesses, no need to argue about that right?
So what is a Priestess of Avalon? Well let’s look at those who have chosen or through appointment of a human, coven, or deity, the path of the Priestess. This path is full of thorns, struggles, and often times we are left thinking “What the hell am I doing” I have often found myself in the place, and IMO believe this is a normal thing. Though we often doubt ourselves, we have been led to this life and have survived the initial stages and struggles which has landed us in the place of “Priestess”. But those that have made it here through the initiation understand that the journey would have left us cold and empty at the beginning if it were not for the wisdom of the spirits which led us here. Being a priestess is a path of sacrifice (but not martyrdom), it is one of constant fact and ego checking, one of constant devotion, of caring for the self, and seeing beyond the norm into the world of the spirit and into a place of leadership. Many of those called to this path do not consider themselves leaders, but it is a path of leadership through service; service to our students, our clients, our gods, our families, and to our self. It is one that is creative, empathic, compassionate, and constantly challenging every aspect of our being.
Many people have heard of the “Shamanic death and rebirth” which can often be compared to, or is itself, an initiation. Often times Priestesses are made through these struggles, and are born again on the other side. It could be anything from a tragic accident, to near death experiences, or childhood trauma or abuse that has led you through the underworld and out on the other side. While this is not a requirement, Priestess training has its own ups and downs, and its own journey through the underworld into the initiation of a Priestess. Those who have been through this type of death know that there is no such things as “black and white” “Good and Evil” but have passed through the gates of death and in many times their own personal hell. Those that are strong enough to come out on the other side are the perfect candidates for priestess work. They are able to see beyond the norm, empathize with tragedy but also enjoy happiness. While trauma itself does not make a good priestess, the cycle of death and rebirth and the struggles that are needed to overcome the death and enter into the rebirth stage do. Often times those that are called to this work without such traumas are often led through an initiation type death where their shadow struggles to find balance with the conscious self. Like a potter who takes wet clay, formless and lumpy, and through constant reshaping, kneading, carving, and building the clay is transformed and reborn into a work of art, and so, the priestess is also shaped through the death and rebirth cycle, like the clay being molded, shaped, carved away, and changed.
The path of the Priestess is often a lonely path filled with constant flow of people through your life. It is very hard to mentor your own friends and do priestess work for them, often resulting in a loss of friendship, it is very hard to give both friend and priestess advice without repercussions. The path is lonely, and hard, but for some reason we are driven to this work, perhaps out of need for wanting more, and to serve, or perhaps wanting to heal our own wounds and through such healing finding our own power than can then guide others on a similar journey. The path of a priestess takes you both through the mundane and upperworlds but also to the depths of your soul, shadow, and the underworld.
While I could continue writing on what a Priestess is, I think that you have a good basic understanding of what many priestesses are made of. While this is not true for everyone and there are always exceptions to the rule, for the most part I have found these things to be very universal. So what is Avalon? Avalon is a place of healing, some say it is the other world, some say it is the faery world while others think of it as the underworld, where King Arthur was laid to rest. It is often called the Isle of Apples, where great healing takes place. Avalon is both light and dark, it is both life and death, it is both magic and mundane. It is the center of the world tree, and the leaves and the roots, it is a place to be accessed through the mind and has brought great healing to those that seek her shores. In Glastonbury we see the duality of life and death mirrored in the White and Red Wells, we see the colors of Avalon, red and white like the apple and black like the seed. It is a place of constant cycles, death rebirth and life.
The Priestess of Avalon understands from her own struggles, and witnessing those around her, that she is not perfect, that she can bring both great healing and destruction, she knows she is capable of great healing, and forgiveness as well as love, and transformation. In her work she finds balance, between the light and dark, and when she finds herself leaning too far to one direction she seeks balance. She rides the hedge, listening to the words of her guides, gods, and spirits. She is devotee to her path and those that she serves, and most of all she has been to the underworld, she has looked death and life’s challenges in the face and survived, and is often because of these things that she is able to guide others through their own “Dark night of the soul” or their journey through their own personal hell. She does not force healing, but is there when healing is needed. She knows that there is so much power in speech, and just as much in keeping silent. She holds her tongue (when she can) and tries to only speak wisdom, she also knows she is human and fallible and so seeks healing constantly for herself. She knows that true power comes from finding the wisdom that comes within balance and constantly seeks this to better herself for those that she serves.