High Priestess

Starting something new…

arms_open_by_waitingforemma-d4chrhkArms Open by ~WaitingForEmma on deviantART

For several years now a project, an idea, has been brewing in my mind. A growing desire to create a space for something that I need, while providing that same space for others who may also need. All the way back in 2011 when I wrote “Carving out more Worship”  it was this new space and project that was on my mind. Now I am literally days away from enacting it. 2013 it seems, is the year of fulfilling a lot of promises, and making vows.

As those of you who read this odd little blog may know or at least summize, I am a public priestess. For several years now I have worked with CAYA Coven and the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe putting on countless rituals. No literally countless, I have loss track. Our Coven puts on 8 sabbats, 9-13 full moon rituals, 8 pan-dianic sabbats, and a smattering of other rituals in the minuscule inbetweens. Learning ritual coordination and creation in this dynamic group with Yeshe Rabbit’s excellent example has been one of the highlights and true blessings of my public priestess path.

Even with all those rituals, and the calendar year packed, I still felt little tug that something was missing. See CAYA rituals are fantastic, and dynamic and always changing. Always learning. With all those people with their different ideas, paths, and ways the stream of creativity is truly astounding. But on the flip side CAYA rituals are eclectic, and interfaith and most the time do not speak to my specific path. They certainly fulfill my community needs but I knew that I would eventually need to be more of a public priestesses for my gods specifically, in some way.

When you are elbow deep in public ritual it’s hard not to start creating your own, imagining different flavors you would try, the things that are important to you, the things you would probably not do. And as a Celtic Polytheist who has yet to experience a Celtic-centered ritual that she was truly happy with, the thought “put up or shut up” began to circle round and joined forces with another reality.

In the Bloodroot Honey Priestess Tribe every HPS is expected to create and maintain a project that benefits and brings forth the Divine Feminine into the world. These are our Legacies. For the past two years my Legacy was High Priestessing the Goddess Sabbats that the Tribe put on. That meant maintaining, coordinating, and helping wherever needed with the 8 sabbats we put on every year. The “put up or shut up” had teamed up with a whisper of  “what if you did your own rituals for your Legacy?” The threads began to come together.

During my many Dark Moon outings with Temple Witch to our beloved beach another tugging became known. That of the soul satisfying rush of worshiping outside. There are many pagans whose path is not nature based, I’m not one of them. The three realms, Land, Sea, and Sky, and the mysteries and balance found within them are things that get my blood up. Nothing so easily puts me into alignment than being in the alignment of the realms. It feels whole and right to create a relationship with the local places. To see the subtle changes of a place. To notice when people have been less than kind to it, to do what you can to make amends (cleaning up trash).

Another layer, perhaps the most eye opening layer, was the freedom that came with worshiping freely within the eyesight and earshot of whomever. Creating the normalcy of it all.

I have to say I am damn lucky to live in the part of the country where that is even possible. Where no one intrudes and asks what I’m doing while bent over intently by my serpentine rock altar.  And while a few eyebrows may be raised as Temple and I wander out into the cold waves with out silver chalice singing our songs and laughing, no one heckles. No one shouts. There is no danger.

That’s simply not true everywhere.

In Florida, Kyjra Withers has been experiencing escalating attacks on her home.  While it there is no official stance on who or why, but evidence seems to point to her being targeting for her being an out witch. It’s sort of hard to imagine such things happening now and in this country. Especially when you live in a liberal area, and work at a metaphysical store, and in general have never experienced any harassment for being a pagan.

The knowledge of this inspires a sense of responsibility in me. That this freedom, that should be available to all, needs to be utilized, cared for and nurtured. Because it needs to be protected. It needs to grow.

Thus were the small pieces that came together and became a vision for rituals, for a platform that I’m calling the Temple of the Open Sky.

The Temple of the Open Sky is founded on the belief that freedom of religion is a right that needs to be practiced when and where it can be. Here in the SF Bay area we are privileged with a freedom from fear of retaliation for outward expression of differing religious beliefs that is not found elsewhere in the USA, let alone in the World. It is this truth that brought forth that need to create a space where the Gods names were spoken outside of closed doors, without hiding, witnessed under the open sky.

In that vein, the Temple of the Open Sky seeks to create a platform for pagan worship and devotion that is supportive of the many and varying methods of finding the divine. To create a safe container, free from shame, to be out in the world with our spirituality.

For me being a Celtic Polytheist, and the founder of these rituals, it means that for now the rituals are going to be Celtic-centric. I’m not aiming for reconstructionism  but for culturally founded and modernly adapted. But the underlying goal is creating a space for authentic expression of worship and normalization of that worship. In the future I hope that other priests and priestesses in the area might wish to share their rituals, and speak their gods names aloud for all to hear.

An important aspect of the Temple is once again bringing feasting into ritual space. It’s not an easy aspect to work in modern times, especially in public rituals. While it would be easy to host a ritual and feast for a small party in a home when you know how many guests you are expecting, opening things to the public complicates matters. Dietary needs, and just the basics of feeding an unknown number of people quickly turn the idea to a dream out of reach. But the feast is such a central part of the Celtic celebratory ritual, and is the part that I  long for the most. Food being a central foundation of my practice. If we release the idea of trying to feed an unknown number of people without a budget and acknowledge the fact that we will be outside away from a kitchen anyways, an obvious solution presents itself. Picnic! A completely acceptable and long held American tradition, easily rolled into pagan worship. That simplicity really is the structure that I’m building on and hope others will enjoy as well.

But for now it’s just me, which means all Celts. The first ritual is scheduled for this coming Saturday and will be a devoted to Brighid. The next will be in June or July and devoted to Manannan Mac Lir. August or September will be in honor of Epona, and we will end the year feasting to the Dagda.

I plan on posting more about the process, how each of the events go, and even the outlines should anyone be interested in them.

Gotta say I’m a little nervous. But I know this is what I’m suppose to do.

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The Parts of Priestessing

There are times when I get so surrounded in what I’m doing. In my single minded bull headed focus on the things immediately around me, that other layers and context just fade away. Sometimes this is a good thing, it gets shit done. Sometimes this is a bad thing, in that I forget very important lessons. But as with all things in my life eventually the tide comes round and I can see the other side. Remember what I had forgotten, see the forest for the trees, whatever colloquialism is in vogue at the hour. Herein is where I relieve a little bit of how my convoluted, multi-streamed practices work for me.

There are three parts to my path. This is not a surprising revelation, but I just never thought of it till recently. It makes sense, as my daily blessing ends with the line “All three are in me.” My personal path, wherein I have been charged by my Gods to live the values of a culture long past in a modern age. Where I worship my Ancestors, where I tend the spirits and beings of the land around me, where I worship the Gods who have seen me thru this life and past lives. This in and of itself is a fair amount of work. It’s a constant learning experience, study course, at some point (soon-ish) I will need to learn Gaelic. There are big major, long term plans on this path. They involve me owning a house on a fair amount of land. On studying the construction of stone circles and creating a modern one on some scale. They involve outdoor shrines, and eventually a cairn. In short a lot of work.

These goals and that path have been with me from the beginning of my consciousness of the spiritworld. What I did not see coming, where the other parts. Almost five years ago (I can’t believe I just typed that. I mean for normal people five years is not a long time but for the girl who moved every two years since birth five years is a lot) situations where bad at home, and my gods guided me that part of my path (of their path) is community. I was a lone Celt, and that’s just an out of balance thing. The culture is about community, there is a pride and integrity that was inherently missing. Especially since at the time I was having family issues, where it became clear that a large part of my blood family did not hold the same values. So I went out looking for some people to call my own. I looked at Celtic Recon. groups, I looked at ADF, I even looked at Asatru. But the latter didn’t seem to actually hold public events, the middle was not my flavor in congruence to my deities, and the latter just not my people. On a whim I went to a group’s full moon circle. The group was Come As You Are Coven (and what can be more inviting than that?) they said they were an eclectic drop in coven. I figured that I’d probably be the lone CR (which is what I identified with at the time) but I desperately needed to get out of the house and be around people and something just told me to go. So I did and it was lovely. Completely different from anything I’d ever seen or heard or anything (casting circle, calling directions, all that was all new to me). And I kept coming back when I could. They worked with different deities than I did, but I’ve always followed a strict let people worship what gods they will, and more importantly they had the same values of integrity, community, and so on that drew me to the people. Through a series of events and reasons that I do not remember (I never remember how important things in my life began with the exception of how I met the Lumberjack) I applied for and was accepted into their Clergy initiation path. Thus cementing the second path of my spiritual life. Community. It is part of my spirituality to provide, aide, and be an active part of my people. To strive to create a space of sanctuary for those who need it, to help where I can, to believe in the power of community of give and take as needed. I have met so many amazing people within this path. Friends that I will keep for all my days. Friends, family, who are connected to me even tho we worship different gods. It is vital, and it is a lot of work lol. And that my goodly people is how I can be a Gaelic Polytheist and belong to an Eclectic Coven. The key is also finding a coven that adheres to the “let people worship what gods they will” method. I believe that we maybe the only one lol.

Where is the three you ask? Well the three is perhaps the most unexpected one of the bunch. You see with this initiation came an ordination and the title Priestess. Then came another initiation and an ordination and the title High Priestess. These things where and are things that I struggle with in their collective understanding seems is a bit murky. Remember “let people worship what gods they will”? That also means that I believe the only person fit to tell you what is right and proper for your soul is you and your gods. I continue with this line of thinking now, with the understanding that many people find it helpful to talk to people who are sure of their own path in order to discover the path that is right for them.

My personal understanding of a Priestess has come to evolve a bit, thus the reason for this post. In that I see two aspects of Priestessing (or Priesting as you will), both are important, and it’s the finding and rediscovering of balance that I need to do. There is the Priestess of the spirits. In another time and place this would be tending the temple, making the sacrifices, reading the omens. In the now it means the same thing, for me it means tending to my house spirits and beasties, courting the local spirits, making offering and sacrifices to the gods, remembering and honoring the ancestors, all of that which I do in my personal practice. With the added caveat that I also am vested to perform blessings, cleansing, and other sacred rites for my community. Those things fall under the other part, the Priestess of the people.

We live in a society that has ostracized ritual with the exception of a select and privileged few. Yet the human need for ritual for connection to the divine has not diminished. So where then to people go? How do people who have never seen anything other than a select few forms of spiritual connection , that do not resonate with them, how do they find what does? Moreover how do we as a culture make it acceptable to have people worship what gods they will? Those of us that can, that know how, must hold the space and make the platform for other kinds of spirituality. I had forgotten that bit. For many months I was consumed with work and devotion to my gods, the spirits of the land and so on. They still need that work and that devotion, they are hungry for it. My work in the public arena made me more, upped my standards, and so too did the spirits and the Gods up theirs. It’s all a balancing act.

It took a trip far away, being surrounded by people who don’t necessarily believe like I do, putting on ritual for energies and deities that I have no connection with, to make me realize the impact and importance of bringing ritual to the people is again.

Because we’re human beings, and we learn through experience. Because we’re a society where sometimes we don’t know that things are an option until we see others doing it. So being a Priestess to me is being one of those people who gets out there and does it. Who shows one way, several ways that it can be done, and encourages others to find more. And a High Priestess? A High Priestess makes sure there is a stage for that to happen. Puts in the time and effort to make sure that the rituals are that have impact and meaning. Keeps the standard and keeps upping it.

Not too long ago I posted about carving out more worship, that is still true. As I said the Gods and spirits have upped their standards, there is more work to be done and on a grander scale than before in order to fulfill one part of my path and one part of my Priestesshood.  I am however thankful for the reminder that though their goals and means are different the two parts are equally important. This upcoming year I have the opportunity to by a High Priestess to the people, and specifically to the women of my area. That is precious to me and I am excited and dedicated to providing as many spiritual epiphany, soul lifting rituals in as many different ways as only my coven can provide.

That’s it. Just a little ramble on the things in my head. On how paths can multiple and get muddy. On how sometimes you just have to be mindful and look up from your work every once in a while. On how this one American Gaelic Polytheist witch is also a Public High Priestess in an Eclectic Coven, and sometimes makes it work. On how in the end I just wish that we all may worship what gods we will.