Continued from last post.
The Hero Priest is an ideal I use to aspire to be better. It’s an idea and an ideal. I am not saying that I meet these standards.
While it is important to be yourself as a priest, you must do it in trying ways stretching yourself over new territory and in several directions in order to grow. From the social media feedback I received I’ve sorted the different memorable acts clergy has done for the people who responded to my survey.
Before I get into those categories, I want to talk a little bit about what I would consider every, not just good, but great priest to embody.
The hero priest is a stepping stone. They want to see you raised up higher than them. They want to teach you all you can know and be surpassed by you as the hero priest understands you are a living extension of their cultural work.
The hero priest embodies all the virtues of the folk: piety, fertility, moderation, hospitality, integrity, courage, perseverance, vision, and wisdom… at the same time. They don’t tokenize the virtues in the moment, they’re threads that run through us and into every situation.
In my worldview, especially in the first decade of a group forming, the hero priests do ritual by themselves as proudly as they would with the whole retinue of the tribe being present at ritual. If strangers show up and the ritualist is the only one from the grove to show up, since the rite is for the gods, the hero priest expresses no sweat off of their back, nor disappointment. There is none to have, we are here to do the rite thing, we are here to honor the gods. Have this attitude and your grove will form, people want that proud energy in their lives, and they want to see it in their ideal priest.
The hero priest is secure in their being, empathic, tempered, compassionate, truthful, masters of illusion, intuit the breadth and width of what is intangible, understand the mysteries of rta and ghosti, and be fully buckled right into their sovereignty seats. Your sovereignty seat is a mode of being where you effect the most change because you are at your current optimal agency. Here, you get into your own way less, the parts of you which prevent you from doing what you are doing have been shown to you by the ancestors or whoever, and you now have worked to integrate what you’ve seen into your clerical behavior to shave off those edges.
When push comes to shove, a hero priest will refuse to push against resistance when their goal can be attained by not pushing. For this they have to be comfortable with vulnerability. In effect, they will acquiesce to gain power, giving their critics and opponents what they want in ways that benefit the tribe and the priest in the end. If someone is pulling on your spear, just use their force to stab it into them. This principle is counter intuitive for some people. This is an ancient mystery of nearly all traditions. Oneness with the Tao is obtained, half the time, by yin. Sometimes when you acquiesce, your self made opponent loses ground. But in the end, my ideal priest gives up the fight to gain the intellectual upperhand.
My ideal prest understands suffering, and has experienced it in a way that can be empathically applied to my own suffering so that we can relate. The hero priest understands those in the tribe are safe in experiencing the full range of emotions available to them, and are keen on what things like toxic masculinity looks like. A priest of this nature realizes we’re all on uniquely different but similar journeys in the human experience. This priest, having been comfortable with vulnerability and being able to acquiesce to power, they connect with me instead of shielding themselves away from connection. A priest of this magnitude would sit with you in your suffering and be ok staying there for a while to listen with capital L.
Sure we divine the will of the gods in our rites, and do that will, but a hero priest serves the folk more than the will of the gods. The gods have their own drui and druids to perform their own sacrifices to whom they themselves worship, which Geoffrey Keating talks a bit about the celtic gods worshiping each other. Even Odin made sacrifice to powers greater than himself. But the point is, the gods don’t need us to be their priests, the folk do… and so a hero, great, or even good priest always prioritizes the needs and will of the folk for whom they are performing the sacrifices, organizing community, spouting rhetoric, and weilding an influential power over the folk. Using that power to serve the folk is key. But using the will of the gods to justify your will, not so great. Collecting a tribe to do your will, justified by divine providence, even worse.
These seven kinds of priests are heroes to the people who answered my social media survey:
The counselor priest will call you out of the blue and talk you down from tough situations right on time, as if they have a pulse on your emotional state. They do this with ease, without worry. The counselor tends to feel bad for people walking through the darkness and will walk with them as a result, for the sake of togetherness and they have the wish to make it slightly more bearable because someone has someone else to talk with and walk with.
Obviously counselor priests are good at providing emotional support, their source of this is empathy. When things pass and are better, they’re happier for pulling you out of the darkness. The more empathic they are they more appropo their advice or counsel is. The counselor stands by you through adversity and doubt, providing support and fellowship. They can understand almost anyone’s life without contempt. I exclude abuses from that last statement. The hero priest has contempt for abusers, but not enough where they’ll become one an abuser when misguided.
Sometimes peoples counselor priest is someone who makes you feel comfortable or special in slight but significant ways. They are keen to what moves us. So they are super welcoming and can help you overcome anxiety about attending group pagan rituals.
The counselor priest is there to help you morn, and in traditional times, there to help you pass. One would have been there when you were born and one wrapped your body in cloth and herbs and put you into the mound or fire. And so their natural inclinations form a vocation which helps you with the acceptance of the joys and troubles of each aspect of life and other events like the traumatic loss of a pregnancy. The counselor priest is the cheerleader to the suicidal, helping them get back in the race and show them its worth heading toward the finish line.
Sometimes the counselor priest is the one who crafts a de-exorcism or unbaptism to address a need in the self and offers it to others. My unbaptism rites promise you’ll never ask yourself ‘What if I really am going to hell.’ again that some not-fully-recovered ex-christians face. What was originally put on them in the water is returned to it.
The counselor priest will let dogma and doctrine give way to goodness, joy, love and acceptance. They will adjust the dogma, doctrine, and tenets, even liturgical language toward the goal of expressing acceptance toward all parts of the cosmos which the world tree touches.
The Counselor priest sees through illusions. And so they don’t care if you’re a street kid, a homeless person, a sex worker, or a drug addict. They can see your long-body, that of you that stretches deep into the past and far into the future. They can see at once what you were and what your potential holds. They see you as you, the person, and celebrate you as deserving of dignity. They will See you and Hear you in unbiased ways that your circumstance will not impact. And they’ll do this without telling you anything about their religion, without proselytising.
Though the angered priest is a thing, and they aren’t always kind, the hero priest pushes against themselves so as to be more kind than their unchecked impulses would allow. This means, the hero priest puts in the greatest reasonable effort to be kind and accepting.
The counselor priest is the one who bends over backwards to help you develop coping mechanisms for operating in the tribe that just happen to carry over into life. They see your potential right there, and know that if you can’t see it, and so one of their great wishes for you are to find the place in the cosmos which matches your skills and vocations.
The Life Mechanic
The life mechanic is a person who will run around trying to fix your life in ways you’ll let them. This includes accompaniment to court, arranging loans or financial aid, they’ll bring you groceries. This priest has a strong kinship to the counselor, however they express their empathy though action… it’s their love language. Their journey in life is finding the right balance before the clock runs out on becoming jaded.
This person will move you from one place to another, haul shit for you, arrange for rides to rituals, and even help you clean if it prevents you from moving out.
This priest is seen with congregants, parishioners, and grovies taking them to doctors appointments, surgery appointments or visiting with them in the hospital when they can’t get out to see anyone.
This priest is the person setting up scholarship or job interviews, or may take you to these things when you can’t get there on your own. They’ll even write you letters of recommendation and offer to be a reference. That is, if you’re reference worthy.
This priest will donate blood, marrow, or a kidney if you’ll let them. They’ll find you a home, move you into that home, and hook up the xbox so we can all play while we drink the beer someone brought.
The Community Weaver
The community weaver is that priest or leader who has set and maintains a higher standard of non-judgment and drama mitigation for their community. This person you’ll see running around to different community pockets and pulling people out of them like yarn to weave them together in a greater community tapestry.
An example of these are your meetup people and your pagan pride day people.
The are able to maintain a higher level of community compassion so they can act as mitigators of any perils that will wreck the community tapestry. It’s through their skills that they can see both perspectives, they’ve been the person who made the idiot move and also the person who was offended by that move. So they know exactly the bridge to place between the two to reduce the disparity.
As such, they are perfect guardians over ritual and safe spaces in which people worship. By safe, I mean safe from the pagan communities bullshit, whatever that may be.
For this priest, there is no rest, because the thought of a lost lonesome goat out there who might want to jump around with the other goats keeps them up. So they build giant signs and roadways and infrastructure pointing to the community. TERMINUS!
One thing about the this priest, because I myself have always been this priest before other kinds of priests, is that we want to promote our groups in the community but we don’t feel we can fairly, and so we find ways of promoting the entire community while promoting our group through that community. So, we get newbies to attend pagan pride day to get as to as many info booths as possible, including ours, all while knowing we are increasing the number of people who look at the other booths.
This priest believes in strong competition with themselves, and the self identified enemies of community, but they rarely care about competing with other groups. Their skills are such that they already understand that the right fit is what matters, not shoehorning what doesn’t fit into their paganism. And so this priest doesn’t care if you attend other groups rites, classes, or even join them. If you’re to go, you’re to go. If you’re to stay, you’re to stay. All this priest has to do is be welcoming to everyone, and cherish who
Like the Counselor, the Inspirer sees the potentials in people. They’re like software programmers, they enthusiastically believe in their ability to do things. This phenomenon sidesteps any self deprecation they may do, meaning, when an inspirer gets into their forte, the idea of self disappears, including any egocentrism positive or negative. A priest of this nature who has zero self esteem, when they get into inspiration mode, they believe in themselves and in the magic they’re doing without effort.
This is what the Inspirer as priest will do. They see themselves, and others, as wellsprings of potential, gets them to sidestep the ego and shine those potentials forth into manifested group work.
This is done by way of lots of encouragement, praise, and cheerleading. The way the Inspirer differs from the counselor, is that Inspirers generally inspire by way of their own achievements. They just want to see other people benefit from their tricks of the trade, so to speak. Counselors will sit with you in your mistakes and take time there, Inspirers generally dismiss mistakes and try to get you to try again to get the taste of victory. A balance between both types is what I strive to be. The best Inspirer makes room for imperfection because, like Data from Start Trek TNG, there is no soul in his perfectly played music. So the Inspirer isn’t aware of the gap you need to close not between where you are and perfection, but instead where you are and the right amount of imperfected skill.
The Inspirer will value and raise you up when you have an opinion of merit that went unnoticed. The inspirer will speak up for those continually interrupted, using their privilege to set new social precedences which inspire others to learn to speak up for themselves.
The Inspirer loves newcomers, they don’t talk down to them, they don’t condescend to them because new blood feeds the Inspirers ideas. They are like a composer who rejoices at the addition of new and different instruments which they can include.
This is the Stepping Stone Priest. They’re the one who encourages you to follow your talents and vocations, and then they’ll get out of the way in rites to have you develop that skill. They’ll give you the room to do so. They’ll mention to you what they see in you, and they’ll be honest and you have to be prepared to see the potential which they see.
The Teacher, unlike the Counselor and the Life Mechanic, would prefer you took care of your problems over there. Their job is done if they’ve given you the tools to deal with your spiritual issues on your own.
Sometimes this is simply conveying another worldview which becomes real, one in which you’re ok and valid, or one where death is just a chapter in the book of life.
A Teacher priest wants to see you trained in whatever you’re willing to learn from them. If you don’t have a path, they’ll give you one.
This is the person who photocopies books of things from harvard and mails them to you because you don’t have local access to those manuscripts. Rob Barton did this for me when I was 19. If you can’t afford a book they might even buy it and send it to you. They will direct you to resources, where you need to go, even to other teachers when that place isn’t here with them.
The Teacher’s number one goal ought to be, since they are the conveyer of knowledge, to teach students to treat any dogma with less respect than they do the people involved. This is the same thing in academia, you can be told you’re wrong but it ought to be done civilly. Everyone deserves dignity, even a wrong person or a dogmatic one.
The Teacher wants you to learn things but always question what you learn. They’re delighted to have their students engage as devil’s advocates from time to time. This means they’re engaged and listening, and it means their brains are playing with putting the data together. Playing with the data on your own is a marker of a person who’s tangibly grasped the material.
Approaching everything as a scientist, the Teacher wants to inspire your curiosity and fulfil what becomes of it, but they don’t entertain fanciful things just because they feel nice to think about.
The Teaching Priest is responsible when teaching doctrine and tenets, because the hero priest only believes in doctrines founded in love. My church, Ar nDraiocht Fein(ADF), is non-doctrinal, but Celtic Paganism(CP) isn’t necessarily. It’s up to you how you teach your CP, be responsible.
The Truth Teller
The Truth Teller is what you become when you tell someone their behavior is not acceptable and they need to modify it or leave the group. This is the Priest you have to be when you put someone on probation or tell them they were rude at that last feast.
This is the priest that knocks you off of your high horse. The best Truth Tellers don’t tell you anything, they ask questions and lead you there. It’s up to you to drink the water you’ve precipitated. If your actions have been a rain dance for poison, then you might continually be led there until you drink that poison and come to terms and accept what you do and say is not acceptable. The Truth Teller is an enforcer, and the best enforcers do so with a light hand. The good version of this priest waits until the right time to say things, considers if they are the ones who should say them, and considers if right now is the appropriate time to tell that truth.
If you’re this person and you don’t learn these skills well, then you might fall victim to holding things in an blowing up later.
The Truth Teller sees how people can change when put across a sharp dividing edge. So they’ll kick you out in order to see if you’re redeemable. Make no mistake if you’re one of these people who are kicked out, this priest wants you to use your second chance wisely, wise up and rejoin. That’s what makes them the happiest. Most people, to comfort themselves, believe in the shunning more than they should. Truth Tellers don’t want to kick a bunch of people out, they just want you to act in accordance with tribal and individual sovereignty.
Priests who kick too many people out are often too sensitive and cut people less slack than they ought to be cut. You have to be willing to meet people half way between nature, the way things just happen, and a fine-tuned set of reasonable standards. So if you know you have ridiculously high standards, you need to go more than half way.
The Community Ritual Servant
Sometimes the Community Ritual Servant is just he person who is good at ritual and is always there for people to come make prayers, give offerings, and take part in a group sacrifice. Sometimes the hero priest is that of a simple hero.
This priest is there to name your babies, marry the couples of the community, perform rites of passage, animal and land blessings, and will be there ready to put you into a fire or the ground. This priest is always accessible and ready to do a ritual for anyone who asks. You won’t see this priest pushing their rites on people, they prefer to be invited and use their down time to perfect their liturgical craft.
These people care about their rituals as their babies and perform them like a song. This priest is a liturgist and feeds off of community approval as much as any musician requires the feedback and follow along of an excited audience which builds psychological power in the group.
This person will be there for your darkest hour, or your brightest. They come as they are, to do the work. If they’ve got a touch of any of the other priests in them, their work will be colored brightly and speckled with delightful and surprising entropy. They slave over how they can make each rite memorable for the persons for which it is being performed. To this priest that’s all that matters.
I’m not giving any imperatives here. I’m just talking about what me and the folks who commented conceive of and conceptualize as memorable events that make their clergy persons great and stand above the rest. People pleasing isn’t something you should do, but it’s also different from trying to do a good job and get objective feedback of that job. All these traits stem from a well of inner fulfillment and validation. These priests are going to do this work without any regard for who cares about it, it’s their vocation.
These priests do this when the world is or isn’t romanticized. Even in the most nihilistic circumstances, these flowers grow from the barren earth. That’s what makes them good lore keepers and culture bearers. They’re outside the culture enough to see how and why it works, and to keep it in progressive ways which yield a fruitful future, bringing only the best aspects of our ancestors religion forward.