NOTE: When we speak of Priest and Priestess I am talking about ENERGY, not plumbing. Many of the priests and priestesses I have worked with over the years are of the opposite gender of what is commonly called male and female, this is one of the reasons that Wite Rayvn Metaphysical Church of the Ozarks – ATC and Wite Rayvn Metaphysical Church of Kansas are gender neutral. Please do not confuse gender with energy for this article.
What is a Wiccan priest? I have heard many responses over the years, “someone to hold stuff in ritual”, “the face of the coven”, “the support of the priestess”, and many others. Each of these definitions seem to me to be open to much interpretation. This is a good thing as much of Wicca is about personal paths, creating one’s own reality, being in tune with Nature and tides of the year. However, in my years as a Wiccan priest and trainer of Wiccan priests, I am dis-heartened by some of my brothers out there in the world of 21st century Wicca.
When we train individuals in the “Craft of the Wise,” we are always watching for those things that are misconceptions in people as they come up through the ranks. If a person who is in training is holding on to some of the Judeo-Christian framework we help them to move past it to the Wiccn faith. It is always one of my favorite things to watch when a student begins to see the change from the monotheistic understanding of divine to the way we view deity in Wicca. Many other examples come to mind as well, the purpose of ritual is that which comes to the forefront. In one recent example we had a Christian who was supporting their wife who is Wiccan at our full moon celebration, which are open celebrations in Wite Rayvn. It all started at the pot luck before ritual. He removed his hat when we said our “prayer” before digging in to the scrumptious food that was provided by many different individuals. He was respectful but I could sense some discomfort in him so I went over, placed my hand on his shoulder and said a more “familiar” prayer before the meal so that he could say Amen and feel acknowledged and respected. All the members of the church and other guests all added their hearty Amen!
He asked if he could observe the ritual and we stated that he could come into the circle during the ritual and could speak or not speak as appropriate during the ritual but we suggested that he do that rather than just observe outside the circle. He agreed, watched very intently and was totally amazed at what he FELT during the ritual. After the ritual he called me over to the side and asked several questions that have specific bearing on this article.
First, he made an observation — he said that he felt the unification of the Goddess and the God and how they were equal parts of the same energy. I acknowledged this and told him that part of Wicca is the mutual respect that the female and male members have for each other. “Interesting,” he said, “while I was observing you and Lady Willo’ ( the HPS of Wite Rayvn Metaphysical Church of the Ozarks and my partner), during the pot luck both times ( it was his second visit but first participation) I have been here, I see that you two are always working together, always respectful to each other, and focused on the same things at the same time.” I thanked him for the words of encouragement and let him know how I am blessed by my partnership with Lady Willo’.
Secondly, he made the observation that as we were calling the watchtowers they seemed to have a male or female energy that he felt also worked together in partnership and harmony. Of course I thanked him for the observation and took the teachable moment to explain that much of creation is divided into male and female energy. This got me thinking for this article. How is it that a non-Wiccan can see the different but mutual energy of male and female? In discussions with Lady Willo’ she reminded me that part of the job of a good priest in Wicca is how that energy flows in the circle that way. I had not specifically thought of it in those terms. Let’s look at the two different energies of male and female. In Rev. Terry Riley’s ground breaking book, Brothers of the Sun: Pagan Men’s Mysteries, he discussed that female energy is receptive and male energy is projective. When working a circle together, the HPS ( High Priestess) and the HP ( High Priest) work in tandem with the energy. We imagine that the energy that the HPS calls down upon her self during the Charge of the Goddess as a giant high voltage electric generator. We know that the energy directly off high tension wires would blow up a house if one plugged their appliance directly. It is the same thing with the energy of the Goddess that the HPS calls down, and it is all inside her at that point – receptive. The purpose of the High Priest as the God manifestation is to take that energy and step it down and push it around the circle – projective – so that each participant can experience the Goddess and God energy at the highest level they can accept. This is one of the purposes of the High Priest. In some traditions there are two other individuals who assist the HPS and HP in directing this energy and they are the Guardian or Squire and the High Maiden or Maiden. In our tradition, I as HP begin to push the energy first to the Guardian who then acts as a regulator constantly managing the flow of the energy around the circle until it gets to the Maiden. The maiden then gathers up the energy and gives it back to the High Priestess and the cycle continues as we raise energy, utilize it for the particular magical working or spell if you have it, on and on until the circle is taken down.
Here then is one of the jobs of the High Priest, to project the flow of energy during circle to allow all participants to get what ever they can from the circle and to participate and add their energy to the working and the circle.
Outside of the circle the priest in Wicca has several other roles, one of which was alluded to in the example above. The priest is the equal partner of the priestess in all things. This word partnership is difficult to understand. In my years as Wiccan clergy I have had the opportunity to speak to and work with many priests there are many differences in opinion. We in the west have been socialized to a patrilinear society. This means that traditionally men are the “head” and women are the “body” of a relationship and within the roles they inhabit in society. This is completely counter to the belief, ethics, and structure of Wicca. The priest and priestess share all roles together. In one handfasting ceremony there is a rite called passing the sword. In it the Groom takes his sword, and states, “ I willingly give up my power to you my bride and priestess”. The Bride then takes the sword, and adds her energy to it and returns it to the Groom with the following words, “ I add my energy to your sword and return it to you for the unification of our lives as priestess and priest”. Do you see the words? Do you understand them? Each person has a unique and special energy that together works to be more than either alone. In Wicca we see this play out in all of our interactions.
The High Priestess is the top leader in the coven or church, the high priest is her support and they mutually protect and guide themselves and their group. This is called hierarchy, and is indicative of many of the traditions of Wicca. It is a difficult place to function in and takes years of work between the HPS and HP to model. This means that both the priestess and the priest work together in all things. It is a good lesson in relationships as well. We see this in nature too, from birds that share egg warming roles to lions who allow cubs to climb on them and take food from their adults, within reason. It is for this reason that the priestess in Wicca chooses her priest. In cakes and ale, the substitution for the Great Rite in rituals of some traditions, it states in one form or another that the ‘Chalice is female as the Athame is the male and conjoined they are all blessedness”. There is no I am better than you, no struggle for control and no taking from the power of the other for the self, it is conjoined they are all blessedness. This means that each unique individual willingly combines their energy to manifest that which is divine in and around us all.
Therefore, as priests, we are there to work with as equal partner with the priestess, not demanding, not pushing around, not trying to control or get something. We are not young boys seeking the affection of a woman, we are the personification of the equal of the Lady in all things whether it is in circle, in our groups or even in our personal relationships. Together in partnership the priestess and the priest are the total personification of the divine in Wicca. In the long version of the Wiccan Rede it states:
When you have and hold a need, harken not to others greed.
With a fool no season spend Lest you be counted as his friend.
Merry Meet and Merry Part bright the cheeks and warm the heart.
Mind the Three-fold Laws you should three times bad and three times good.
When misfortune is enow wear the star upon your brow.
True in love you must ever be unless your love is false to thee.
Eight words the Rede fulfil “An’ ye harm none, do what ye wilt”.
A Wiccan priest or priestess does not “seek to take what is another’s,” he or she keeps a good check on their own filters less they become the fool. Be open, warm and friendly to all, remember the three-fold law, (which is you get back three times what ever you put out), do not wallow in your own misfortune, be truthful in all your dealings – especially in love. And finally, An’ ye harm none, do what ye wilt. Work together with your priestess, your peers, and your elders in Perfect Love and Perfect Trust.