Even as I write the title, I cringe a bit. Who am I to be calling myself a priestess, let along a high priestess? It sounds so pretentious that I think of going back and renaming this post. But it does fit. The path that I have chosen to walk for the last 20+ years has been one of the high priestess. If I were of a Christian denomination, I guess I would say that I had a “calling” to become a minister – to serve a faith community in whatever manner was appropriate. But we Pagans, witches, and Wiccans generally shun the Christian lingo in favor of our own. High priestess. Just what does that mean to me?
I never started out thinking that I wanted to be a high priestess. My first calling was that of the witch. I was fascinated with the subjects of magick and witchcraft. These interests started early in my life. In fact, most people that I know who are called to this path can go back to third or fourth grade and start pinpointing when they first discovered mythology and magic. It was the same for me. I really didn’t get the religion part of it though. That came much later. But as a kid, I did spells and divination. It was something that I took pretty seriously. Why wouldn’t I? It worked after all!
It wasn’t until I was a young adult that I started finding out more information about “the Craft.” I ran across Spiral Dance by Starhawk in 1986 and was immediate entranced with its connections to Goddess worship. Instantly, I found the missing pieces of my earlier practice and found a loving, joyous and worshipful religious practice that I could follow.
Since most of us start as solitaires, I am guessing that most of you can relate to the struggle of the next three years. Spiral Dance, while containing great exercises, primarily centers around group practice. My steps were tentative and uncertain as a lone witch. It was Scott Cunningham’s new book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner that really gave me the courage to start practicing Wicca as a specific religious tradition. (Luckily, there was a New Age/Pagan bookstore close to my in-laws hometown. My original, but sadly battered, doggie-gnawed copy was actually signed by Cunningham when he did the promotional tour for it.) I did a self-dedication rite and from there, it seemed as though the Goddess and God truly had heard my need for a greater community of people with which to share my experiences. Through a series of increasingly bizarre coincidences (?), I found myself connected to the local Pagan community. In early 1990, it was a fairly small group of folks – small when compared to the number of Pagans around Athens today. The local Pagan Sabbat circle was pretty much by invitation only.
It was in the autumn of 1990 that the unofficial organizer of the local Pagan circle along with my husband and myself started the study group that would eventually (and with many trials) become the Coven of Celestial Tides. Pretty much from the beginning I acted as the group’s high priestess. I cringe now to think of all of the mistakes that I made. It was not just a trial by fire, but of water, earth and air too. And spirit. Let’s not forget spirit. I had much to learn.
For me, every witch is truly their own priest or priestess. No one needs another to mediate between one and one’s deity. Still, when people get together, there is a need for someone to play ritual “traffic cop.” In the beginning, that was pretty much the role that I played. I enjoy crafting and running rituals. But over time, more was required. The call became deeper and more meaningful. It became about helping people grow spiritually. It became about creating community. It became about sharing concerns and joys and laughter and tears. Presiding over a handfasting ceremony or a baby blessing (Wiccaning) was a joy. And it is a great honor to be asked to share in people’s lives in this way. When my best friend’s son died in a tragic car crash, I underwent a personal rite of passage in aiding the family in coping with his death. It was a terrifying privilege to minister to the family and community – being there through the calling hours and running the memorial service.
As I continued to grow in my role as a priestess/minister, I found a personal connection to the goddess Hekate. I spent a night in vigil to honor Her and to dedicate myself as a priestess to Her. And now as the winter nights turn to springtime’s dawn, I see Her in the shadow of the moon and hear Her voice in my heart.
There still isn’t an end to this story – but that is just the point. The path of the high priestess – nay, of any priest or priestess – is about the journey. Mine has brought me to this place and time – and I hope that I am worthy to be called in service to this community. My education continues as I share in a teacher/student/mentor/learner relationship with this glorious planet, the Goddesses and Gods, our animal kin, the bounteous plant life and the many beautiful people of our community.
May you find such beauty on the path you walk.