Its More Than Just Typing on a Keyboard

Ok. So the last post I wrote was rather bleak in its outlook. The prospects of nuclear exchange can do that for you. But there’s more to life and being alive than being frozen in time by fear.

The calendar has us pointed directly at one of the two yearly turns of the wheel that I tend to run for solitude. Beltane and Samhain are both periods of time that I tend to avoid the outside world, and wrap myself in the cloak of my solo work. But that has more to do with the approach of others towards these two points of the year. This year; however, holds a slight bit of difference – at least for Beltane.

Part of the whispers I hear from just over my shoulder have involved me getting out into the wider community. I live in the middle of of nowhere – on the border between Oklahoma and Texas. The nearest Pagans that I am aware of are over an hour’s drive in any of the four directions. So getting “involved” in the “community” requires a lot of thought, a lot of moving pieces in the calendar, and a lot more dedicated commitment on my part – all of which takes this solo Druid outside of his comfort zone. But no one ever said following what the Gods want and direct you towards will ever keep you in your comfort zone.

Part of all of that has been about me going to gatherings and conventions. Earlier this year, I felt like I lived out of a suitcase. Now, everything seems to be calming down a bit more, and I am getting my legs back underneath me concerning my connection with my local environment. But there’s still the need to get better connected with the wider Pagan community.

Sure, Facebook does some of that, but that’s not what was meant when the pesky freaking beak hit me behind the ear. It just so happens, that in February, an opportunity for re-connection was provided, in the form of two folks I have known for quite some time. Both members of the Denton CUUPs group, John and Cyn asked if I would come down to their Beltane celebration. Apparently….well, its not apparent, its a definite fact…the Gods are poking them towards a particular celebration that I had only witnessed from the top of a hill at the last Pagan Pride Day event in Dallas (that was 2013). So I said “yes”. And apparently, a lot of other folks – both local and from distances much further than my own – have also said “yes”. And as each day passes, the reminders keep coming back in meditations and dreams.

The most poignant reminder has been:  “Remember your word.” I have been poked and prodded about rejoining the wider community for quite some time. And while I make efforts from time to time, it winds up being a dipping off the toe into the water. I usually remember all the politics of the wider community, and my overall distaste for crap like that – and the result is me backing off yet again. The problem there is I am not giving these folks a chance to be who they are. Rather, I wind up painting an old picture onto their new canvas. Many, not all, of the Pagan leaders I remember have disappeared from the scene. They have either moved elsewhere, passed beyond the veil, or dropped out of the Pagan scene for one reason or another. And the Pagans that are here now, are not the same Pagans I recall. Nor is Paganism the same Paganism that it was back then.

So, I find myself at one of those moments that I find in flow charts. A decision. Re-enter the community? Continue to be solo and isolated, with a few celebrations and conventions to punctuate the year? And all of that brings me back to so many other thoughts I have had over the past year. My struggles with the concept of being a Priest. My struggles with having the label of “elder” applied to me. And as I look at all these pieces and concepts, scattered across the grassy area of my Inner Grove, I start to see how each fits together. Whether I like it or not – I am an Elder. I am a Priest. I am a Druid. I am a Student. I am a Teacher. I am a solo Pagan. I am a member of the Pagan community. I am a Friend. And the Gods have slowly pushed me to a point where I can see all these individual pieces, and many more I have yet to completely identify, set out before me. And I can see how these pieces fit together, and where missing pieces remain. So, yeah.

This Beltane, with what John, Cyn, and their group of folks are planning, will be a special event and moment. Its also going to provide another Sea Change for me. I asked the Gods to help me grow and become the Druid, Pagan, and Priest that I am supposed to be. All these steps have led to here, this coming moment. Its a very scary, and uncertain step for me. But there are people that I know here. And other people that I have already met that here, too. And so many others that I haven’t. Be the Priest that I am to be? The Druid that I am meant to be? Be the Pagan that I definitely am? For all that take place, transformation will need to take place. Some of that has already been done – internally. I need to change myself externally, as well. And that means doing more than just typing on a keyboard.



So Here I Am

I have discussed in previous posts about getting messages about the coming Storm for the past two-plus years. Those messages came through in nearly everything I did that was tied to my Spirituality. Meditations, dreams, during rituals, and even while reading. But it didn’t happen every single day. Other days, everything was quiet – thankfully. But there were certain days were another message found its way into various parts of my life. And this has been around for far longer than the Storm messages have.

Become who you are. Be what you are to be. Be the Druid you are. Be the Priest you are to become.

Take a jog back and read some of the blog posts in the past, and you will see a few spots where I have had trouble dealing with all of this. Go on. Me and all the rest of the folks reading will hold on. Go on. Everyone else – coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lemon cookies are in the back of the room. Help yourselves. Ok. So, now that you have had a quick peek back, I guess the fair place to start is where I was versus where I am.

Most of my life has revolved around defining myself by the job position that I held, and the value that my employer held upon me. I have had some shitty employers in my life, and have had some even shittier jobs as well. Believe it or not, back in 2004 I actually gave tax advice over the phone for Intuit. Worst job I ever had. Hands down. But my own self-image and self-value came from what I did to make money, so I could pay the bills. Now, I work as an Institutional Research Assessment Analyst for a small college. But the reality is that I am a glorified Data Analyst. I don’t have time to do any real research or analysis of collegiate information. Most of my time is spent filing federal reports, gathering data to file state reports, or pulling data for other people’s research projects. In the private sector, I would likely be classified somewhere between a Data Analyst and a Data Retrieval Specialist. And the truth of the matter is….not one bit of that really matters.

My job is my job. I have the skillset to handle my job responsibilities. I have zero desire or inclination to climb the “ladder” within the college. If, in twenty years, I find myself in this same job position – I will be quite happy with my career progression within the college. Five years ago, I would not have said the same thing. I would be discouraged if I had not progressed within the structure to some Director position. But that was when I let my job position and the prestige behind it dictate who I was and the self-image I had. But like I said, my job is my job. It provides the money I need to pay the bills. It provides the healthcare I need to insure I continue to survive from my diabetes. It provides the monetary ability I have to attend Pagan-related conventions, music festivals, and OBOD gatherings every year. My job does not define who I am. My job does not define my self-image. I do that.

I work as an Assessment Analyst. I am a Polytheist Pagan. I am a Druid. I am a Priest of Crow. And to me, those statements are who I am. My self-image is my own. I may not see myself as someone with any large shadow to cast – I am reminded by several people that there are those that read what I write, hear what I say, and weigh that in their own terms for themselves. And in knowing that, I realize that I need to slouch less, sit up straight, and continue to be me.

Recently, I finished my Bardic Grade studies and submitted my review. I spent nearly seven years on those studies. Because I didn’t believe that I could do what I needed to. Because I let myself be defined by something I am not. I was defining myself by something that I do. Once I reversed that; once I stopped trying to be what I do, and decided to be what I am – I found my freedom to move forward. The rest of the Bardic Grade studies were difficult, and eye-opening – but I no longer had the mental blocks holding me back in my mind and attitude. That ages-old saying – “free your mind, and your ass will follow” certainly holds truth to it.

So here I am. I’m Tommy. Better known as TommyElf. I am a Polytheist Pagan. A Druid. A Bardic Grade member (hopefully soon to be in my Ovate Grade studies) of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. A Priest of Crow. A follower of Coyote and Flidais. A Poet. I stand before Time and the Gods with my fist raised in the Wind. I define who I am. I live, learn and grow into what I am, and what I will be. I live free to make my own choices for my own life. All I ever ask of anyone else is that you do the same for yourself.

Being a Generalist in a Specialized World

At one point in my working career, I was considered to be a generalist. An individual with knowledge of many working areas (in my case, Hardware and Software), but no specialization. At the lower rungs in the business environment, this was particularly fine for someone that was just starting out in a company. But as I advanced further down the line in my career, I was pushed more and more towards the concept of specialization. Until I find myself where I am now – Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Data Herder….whatever title you’d like to bestow upon me. My job is simple. Get information out of the complex data network that the college has, and get that individualized data to the correct people to help them make an informed decision of some sort.

I cam across the following passage in “Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing” by Robert Wolff. And this passage has certainly got my gears grinding over the difference between the way Pagan beliefs tend to approach spirituality, ritual and honoring the Gods, and how more mainstream systems such as Christianity do the same.

All systems (health systems, economic systems or political systems) are creations of our unique way of looking at the world, our reality. Systems are expressions of our beliefs.

…(A)ll our systems are designed around a belief that everything is so complex and difficult to manage that we require experts to help us navigate. There are experts for every aspect of life. Everyone who does anything at all needs training, probably a degree or a diploma, certainly a license. The result is that each of us is powerless, except in the narrow slice of the world we ourselves inhabit. There is hardly anything we can – or are allowed to – do for ourselves. We are made to think that we must ask for expert advice for everything we do.

Because systems are rooted in beliefs, we and even the experts find it difficult to imagine that there might be other ways of doing things. We cannot imagine that there are other beliefs. Thus we think that ours is the only true reality, that other people, other cultures, are backward, archaic, underdeveloped, and so on.

By judging others as less than ourselves, we cannot learn from them. That is sad, because we throw away, suppress, and deny the accumulated wisdom of generations or ancestors. (p.59-60, “Original Wisdom: Stories of an Ancient Way of Knowing” by Robert Woolf.

A few days back, I wrote about my need to redefine the concept of the term “Priest” and how it related to me. In reading this, I am realizing that my problem is not so much that the role is defined in a certain manner by Christian concepts. Its the specialized nature of the role within the Christian definitions that bothers me so much. In many Christian churches, I sat in the pews and listened to frothy-mouthed pastors shout about how to follow the word of God as it sprang forth from the Bible. They would utilize a concordance to help assign modern definitions to translated words and passages. They assumed a role as an intercessor between their congregation and God. It was this specialization that I have been assign to the term Priest…correctly or incorrectly.

IMG_0243For me, as I have to come to understand what the role of a Priest means to me, I find my understanding to be different. As a Priest, my role is not to serve as a position between someone and the Gods. My role is to help in honoring the Gods through ritual – whether solo or in a group. I may be a mentor of sorts to those who are young on their own Path, but even then I am not to serve between the individuals and the Gods. I am to be there, to stand by their side and offer support, and advice. And whatever advice I offer can be rejected, as the choice is the adherent’s to make, not mine. My role, as a Priest, is to be more of a generalist in service to the Gods, to my Community, to my extended family, and to myself.

Certainly, this different manner of looking at the concept of Priest is a step in a slightly different direction on the Path…but its a step I am willing to explore and embrace, as I discover the new sights and sounds with this unmarked trail….


Paying the Priest Another Visit

Priest. I have written before about how I struggle with this term. How I cringe inwardly whenever someone mentions that I am on a Path towards a priesthood. Depending on my mood, my frame of mind, the temperature outside, and how much good IPA beer is available at the moment, I can embrace the idea that I am a Priest. But later down the line, I will back away from the entire concept, nearly aghast at how I was able to embrace the concept. So in many ways, its a love/hate/love-to-hate concept for me.

Perhaps some of what I am feeling comes from my dislike of labels. Or perhaps, more appropriately, it comes from my pairing of the concept with the archetypal image that resides in my mind. The black outfit, the white collar, spending time trying to fashion the religious directions of those who are lost. I mean, who is to say that I am not also treading the Path in my own fog? And yet, I would argue that I am here doing just that with these blog posts, and with the podcast episodes I do manage to put out. Providing a light for others that are walking through a similar fog in their lives. But then, I would toss aside the concept of being a Priest, and place that under the descriptives of being “friendly”, “helpful”, “kind”.

The forest is my church

Interesting descriptives there though. I’ll circle back around to the priestly concept in a moment. But let’s focus here for a few paragraphs. When we talk about our Pagan spirituality, we discuss things in terms of doing this or that for the worship of the Gods and Goddesses. We – well some of us – leave offerings to the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits of the Land because it is a giving part of our worship, our dedication to Them. Our focus is on our rites, our magicks, our rituals, our Gods and Goddesses. We do circles and rites to work against those who choose to use and abuse our environment as a resource, and ignore our collective attachment with one another and that same environment. We certainly focus well in these areas as a collective community. But we also tend to miss out on another important area…one another.

A recent post by Cara Shulz on the Wild Hunt brought some of this focus into my mind yesterday. A serious medical diagnosis for her has changed a lot of her focus, and has certainly brought areas of the world into focus for her. Cara and I have had our run-ins on Facebook over the past few years, and mostly because I was being a flippant ass. Her sharp rebuke of me over my behavior was appropriate at that time (and would be as well today). Despite that, I have a lot of respect for her, as she is very dedicated to showcasing Paganism through her stories on the Wild Hunt. Both the good and bad sides…after all, we learn from good stuff, as well as the bad. Her individual story from yesterday is not easy to read. Even this morning, knowing what is said within it, brings tears to my eyes. But another side of her story made me realize that I am approaching this entire concept of “Priest” from the wrong angle.

See, I keep looking at Priest from a religious clergy perspective. There is a lot more to being a Priest than just the religious perspective. Priests also look after the folks that are part of their parish, congregation, group, whatever you want to call it. They also look (or should) look after the people in their local community – even if they aren’t of the same faith as the Priest. Let’s face the facts though – many people who perform the role of Priest or clergy for their group don’t really care about those outside of their small circle. Which goes against some of the points that Jesus ben Joseph made to His followers. But this post isn’t about indicting Christian believers over what they do or do not do in the area of consistently following the teachings of their risen Savior. Thus, I digress slightly (as I always tend to do).

In a recent post, John Beckett pointed out that change does not readily happen from the top-down. Its far more beneficial and long-lasting if it comes from the bottom-up. This holds true for this as well. We can all lament how others have not fulfilled the conceptual role of a Priest when it comes to administering to the needs of others, particularly in the Pagan community. We make the offerings to the Gods on behalf of others, but sometimes its not the offerings that they need. Sometimes, they need people to come over and tidy up the house, do the dishes, mow the yard, run out and do some grocery shopping, help out with the laundry. Sure, they are ill, and the offerings to the Gods are done to assist with getting them to better health…but what about rolling up your sleeves? And before someone wags a finger at my Solitary ass, let me be the first to point out – I am far more guilty than many others in this respect.

So, I definitely need to do a lot more rethinking on what a Priest is. And I need to start by ditching the Christian and mainstream definitions of just what that role is. Perhaps a better way for me to approach this, is to define what the role means to me, and apply it right here – and not project it out onto others. Start at the base of what the definition is, and work upwards from there to build and strengthen the word’s meaning to me, and me alone. And to remember that the application of that meaning is for me and me alone. How I perform the function of Priest becomes something that inwardly is between myself and the Gods – and is projected outward into how I work within my Community….both mundane and Pagan.

Perhaps, instead of trying to shun the label, I need to embrace it. I can be a Priest, just not the way that the mainstream definition holds to it. By ditching the overtly Christian diagnostic of the term, I can utilize the term in a way that is a positive reflection of who I am, and where I walk on my Path. Perhaps, its because Druidry taught me that. Terminology should be flexible, able to grow and change with the needs of the role it describes. Definitely a thought going forward…and a lesson in how to release myself from Christian dogma that is heaped on terminology that I should see far differently.


I’m not a Jedi-Knight … Yet

So, you’re a Druid. You perform blood sacrifices in the woods?

You’re becoming some kind of Priest, right?

Why don’t you just declare yourself as a Jedi in training and ditch the mystical religious stuff. Its all play-acting, right?

Nearly every time I even slightly mention my religious beliefs and am asked for an adjective, I’ll supply two:  “Pagan”, and “Druid” — in that order. Most people bypass the first one, because it seems too alien to deal with – and latch on to the second. And from that second descriptive — its usually how modern-day consumer-oriented culture has shaped their understanding of that word that provides the next steps of our linguistic dance.


The rarest of the perspectives is one that I grew up with:  Asterix the Gaul. In this comic series, there’s a single Druid that services the hold-out village in France during Roman occupation. In most English narratives, he’s named as Getafix (get it?). When I was growing up, I read these from the French version, and his name is Panoramix there (wide view – seeing all). I usually get the comment of being a “scholarly” type. Always with my head stuck in books, learning more than I could ever have a need for. And in a manner of speaking, this is correct. Its not everything that my Druidry is about, but reading is generally the first steps in any endeavor for me.

The next two narratives are the more typical. Me becoming some type of Priest, or finding a better descriptive facing towards emulating the Jedi order in George Lucas’ Star Wars’ films. The easier one to deal with is the jedi aspect. Typically, I laugh. While Lucas has created a fantasy order of fighting monks that work towards being the troubleshooters and peacemakers of the known galaxy, I know its fantasy stuff. Very attractive in its positioning and perspective, but fantasy nonetheless. Besides, if I had to go the fantasy route, I’d honestly rather be in the order that Gandalf belongs to in the Hobbits and Trilogy of the Ring movies. At least there I get a chance to meet Tauriel, and try to find out why her character wasn’t in the books. ::wink:: As for the Priest part of these types of questions….I tend to waver between the idea of being a Priest to a congregation of one, and not even desiring the idea of such a title in the first place. The reality of it all, is that I am not on my path of Spiritual Belief to become a Priest of anything. I am trying to discover and nurture my connections to the world around me. If it turns out that it makes me a Priest of anything…so be it. But its certainly not any focus of my own.

Me at the 2015 ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat (photo by John Beckett)

The last one is where I have the hardest time even conversing over the topic with an individual that asks it. The idea that I do blood sacrifices. Well, that’s just crazy stuff. I get it though. There’s a part of written history that details such things happening. How accurate are those writings?  I have no idea. Nor does it really bother me one way or another. As a student of History, I know that one of the spoils that the victor gets to enjoy is that of writing the History. And typically, the loser is painted in a very dark light – after all, when the accolades of why we fought this war or conquered these people is told to future generations – there’s a desire and need to paint it in a manner that makes the victors into heroes. Over time, that glossy shine will be all that is ever known… My usual response to queries like this is that I practice my Druidry as it focuses on today and tomorrow. What has already happened, particularly so far into the Past that it is easily distorted through the viewing lens, needs to remain firmly in the Past. I’m not here to “re-construct” anything.

In the end, the conversations turn one of two ways. The first, more desirable way, is that the individual(s) and I step away and go home – both knowing that our interaction has allowed us to understand one another. Plus, we have been able to grow not only that understand, but a mutual respect for our different approaches to the world around us. The second, and unfortunately more common way, is that we walk away from one another, confused, anger, hurt, and feeling misunderstood. Usually, that’s because of bad communication on both our parts, or a stubbornness born out of accepting no other way of seeing and interacting with the world than our own. I’m not going to sit here and blow sunshine up your skirts. There are times that I can be stubborn and unwilling to hear another side. I’m a freaking human being…I have feelings that can be trampled on and hurt…I react just like any other person might. …and…well, I’m not a jedi-knight yet….

Doing Means More Than Titles

A long while back, I wrote a post about accepting the idea of being a “Priest”. In that post, I made the following statement:

Yes, I am a Priest – just as you are. I may not fully embrace the title or the term, but I embrace the workings that are part of it. And in my estimation, that is far more important than whatever descriptor I attach to it. I celebrate Life every day. In every breath that I take. In every action I perform. When I add mindfulness to that equation, I discover where I am on the Pattern, and how my strand of the Song fits in. And at the end of the day, when I step out on to my porch to wish the Sun well on its journey to the other side of the Planet, and greet the Moon as She rises in His place – I celebrate what I have managed to create. I celebrate my workings as a Priest.

I have always thought that this final statement was a fairly good closing descriptor of my position, but apparently it was not. A few weeks ago, I received an Email from a reader noting that following a Pagan Path – particularly a Path of Druidry – is to follow a path towards priesthood. I have to say, it was a little difficult to not fire back in a sarcastic retort, but I maintained my calm the best that I could – and attempted to write a reply Email….and didn’t get very far.

To be perfectly honest, it would have been far easier to write a sarcastic retort – but that would have also been far less productive. So I let the entire issue sit and percolate in my brain-meats for a couple of weeks (three now), before I decided to write this blog post as a response – of sorts.

I am a Priest – Sort Of

Every day that I rise from bed, my eyes look to the skies to find the sun. Yes, even on cloudy days. The Sun is my constant companion throughout the daylight hours – and even into the night-time hours through the reflection cast across the face of the Moon. Each day provides me with a new opportunity to explore new-found connections with my

environment, as well as finding even more connections that I was not aware of. I work in a data analysis position, so I am given time to explore connections through data-centric models – a connective measure I had not really considered until a few months after I accepted the job (I started in September of last year). I perform rituals, for myself, on a daily basis as well as on marked aspects of the Wheel of the Year. I commune with my patron God, and the Spirits of the Land in a large variety of ways. And I am aware that every moment I have in the “here” moment of Life is unique, even when it seems very similar to another moment from the previous day(s). Its taken a lot of time for me to get beyond the idea that being a Priest means that I have followers, students, and a congregation of some sort.

Titles Mean Little to Me

Followers. Students. Congregation. Yeah, I have to shake my head at that notion. That is steeped in Christian definition. An individual that practices on their own is not a Priest within the Christian definitions. Rather, that image is provided a different definition, such as Lay-man, Monk, Mystic. But honestly, I could embrace the notion of any of these terms. And yet, I would rather eschew titles such as these. If I was to ascribe myself to a title, it would be this:  Me. Yeah, I follow some of the concepts that define the term “Priest” in what I do on a daily basis on my own Path, but I really doubt that a title is going to transform me into any sort of a holy man. My actions and studies will do that for me. Smeg, if a title was going to instantly transform me into something — I’d like to be a jedi, please.

If Titles Mean Nothing….

So, if titles mean nothing, then why am I studying the OBOD Bardic Grade course? Why am I taking a class with Cat Treadwell on Druidry? Why do I hold a Bachelors degree in Computer Science? Why do I hold a Masters degree in Information Systems Management? Why do I hold a Masters degree in Business Administration? Why am I continuing my education towards a Bachelors degree in History?

Well, its not some wildly complicated answer. I do all of these things because I like to learn. Each of those areas of learning afford me a different angle in Life. And seeing through that myriad of angles, I can find even more connections to the world around me. And the people within it. And the animals within it. And the plants within it. And the Gods. And the Spirits of the Land. And myself. I do these things because I want to understand the connections to the world around me. I do these things because I want to experience the world around me. I do these things because this is who I am.

Just Being…

Its really hard to explain any of this beyond those words. This Path works for me. I could give a hang about the titles. Call me whatever you like. Priest, Solitaire, Solo Practitioner, Me, whatever…it makes no difference to me. I know who I am. I know why my feet leave footsteps on this Path. I want to know more and experience more on this Path. I am only starting to understand my thread within the complex rhythm and sound of the Song we all sing together. And that alone compels me to continue my daily exploration – finding the connections within this world, and others.

Yes, I am a Priest

Yes, I spend a lot of time reading - even when I go to the beach
Yes, I spend a lot of time reading – even when I go to the beach

If you have been reading the blog, you would have noticed that I posted a review of “Paganism 101” from Moon Books (editor, Trevor Greenfield) – a book that has given me many, many writing prompts. Today’s blog post will be no exception to that, as I tackle a concept and descriptor that I have eschewed for most of my life: “Priest”.

Anyone who has read this blog or listened to my long period of podcasting or even knows me personally – is aware of my hardcore avoidance of the term and title of “Priest”. I am no Priest for anyone except myself. I have always avoided the usage of the term where I was concerned, so that I would not be wrapped up in any misconception over my role as a Solitary Pagan practitioner. I am a group of one…me. And yet, as I have learned over the years as a podcaster, by placing myself out in the public through my podcasting and my blogging – I am more than just a group of one. For the longest time, I avoided the descriptor of “teacher” – until I understood that even standing up and talking about my manner of being a Pagan on a Path of Druidry placed me in a position of being a teacher. I am not teaching anyone about the mysteries of a belief system. I have no formal students, but I am showing people where I stepped along the rocky Path of my beliefs. In essence, I am showing them where the slippery rocks are, and where I had slipped and stumbled. And for some folks, its a helpful learning lesson that they utilize, and pass on to others. Strangely enough, I am finding out the same thing about the descriptor of “Priest”.

In “Paganism 101”, the very last section is titled ‘Celebrant Work’ and the introductory paragraph is written by someone I admire a great deal – Cat Treadwell. Considering the large amount of celebratory works that Cat conducts through handfastings and other rites in her local area, I was hardly surprised to find her writing this particular introduction. In reading through her essay, I found several passages that have really managed to grab me by the throat and make me take a longer look at my perceived discomfort with the word “Priest”.

What people seem to be looking for in The Person Leading the Rite (whatever their title) is someone to do precisely that. An experienced, preferably trained individual who is capable of holding together a group of varied individuals, leading them to a specific purpose. To act as a Priest, in fact, as this term would usually be understood by the wider society. (p.251)


There is very little, in fact, that is common to all Pagans, except for our reverence of and for Nature, and our active lives within it. (p. 252)


Every Pagan worth their salt has to be able to justify their beliefs on demand. We’ve all heard that simple question: “So, what’s a Pagan, then?” or “What exactly do you do?” The extent of our answer depends on our own deep (or shallow) understanding of what it is that we actually do. Those questions still make me question myself, my own beliefs and practices. And that’s before we even get into the muddy ground of explaining ourselves in a way that is actually understood. (p. 253)


Remember: those who do this are standing for the rest of the community. As I said, each of us speaks for every other Pagan when we’re describing what we do. Imagine that, multiplied to include everyone who is watching. I always have that awareness in my mind when speaking publicly: do I accurately represent each and every one of those Pagans out there? If I saw myself on the television, would I roll my eyes and turn away, or nod and smile? The responsibility is terrifying, and for someone who isn’t a natural show-off, never, ever fun. At heart, I can only ever be myself. But I promised to do my best for my community, and so I do. (p. 254-255)

Four simple statements. And in reading through them, some of you might see these and say – “How in the Nine Hells are these related Tommy?” But they are, my friendly reader. They are. Taken individually, these statements may seem like simple individual statements, but for me – they are pieces to a small puzzle. The first statement shows the typical response to the notion of what a Priest is – an individual that leads participants in a Rite or Working. The second statement is a reminder of what binds all of us on this wide-arching set of beliefs together – as Pagans under the wide big-tent of Paganism, as my friend John Beckett has mentioned a few times on his blog “Under the Ancient Oaks“. For me, the third and fourth statements combine together as a reminder – we can only be ourselves. No matter what training we have received, no matter what order or group we have made ourselves a part of. In the end, we can only be ourselves.

In “The Wakeful World: Animism, Mind and the Self in Nature“, Emma Restall Orr states:

Every ecosystem is a community of beings, perceiving, sensing, experiencing, responding, and more, each community, the whole community of life, being in a constant flow of interactions. A community, then, is a pattern of relationships; within each pattern there are countless smaller patterns, and each pattern itself is a part of a larger pattern and a part of other different patterns. (p. 200)

Taken in with the quotes I have brought here from Cat’s essay, for me its a fairly easy perspective of seeing the role of a Priest. The Priest’s role is to help celebrants locate and experience the interconnected aspects of the web that weaves us all together. If we looked at everything around us in the context of a Song that is sung all day, throughout the day – the verses strung together by our thoughts and actions, with participants in the song constantly stepping into and out of the verses – the Priest is there to bring the chorus into focus, to help bring the Song together between each verse. And where are the Priests exactly?  Who are they?  We all are. Each one of us adds a voice to the Song, adds a strand of a verse to the Song, helps hold down the rhythm that weaves its way underneath that Pattern.

I am a Priest. Whether I want to believe that or not, I am. Just as you are. Every day we add to that pattern, add to that celebration of being alive, in the here and now, living each moment so that the future continues to unfold in front of us. We sing the Pattern of the Song, so we can celebrate each moment as we experience it, but also so we can remember the experiences as we go forward. Each strand we weave into the Pattern of the Song is important, no matter how great or small – each strand helps to create the Pattern we are.

Yes, I am a Priest – just as you are. I may not fully embrace the title or the term, but I embrace the workings that are part of it. And in my estimation, that is far more important than whatever descriptor I attach to it. I celebrate Life every day. In every breath that I take. In every action I perform. When I add mindfulness to that equation, I discover where I am on the Pattern, and how my strand of the Song fits in. And at the end of the day, when I step out on to my porch to wish the Sun well on its journey to the other side of the Planet, and greet the Moon as She rises in His place – I celebrate what I have managed to create. I celebrate my workings as a Priest.

— Tommy /|\