Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Available: freelance Pagan priestess

Women are more likely than men to be religious. When women belong to a particular culture, tradition, or faith, they're more likely to be conservative about that culture, tradition, or faith (or so I think I've read; I remember it surprised me). Women--usually mothers--often play the role of cultural conservator: I think of mothers lighting shabbas candles; mothers cooking big holiday meals, sending cards, buying gifts, remembering birthdays; grandmothers attending Mass every day. Women don't often hold positions of power in religious hierarchy (though that started to change with the second wave of feminism), but they most often do the day-to-day religious work in a culture.

In Wicca, of course, especially those strains of Wicca influenced by feminism, women hold spiritual authority. (This is something of a truism, but my own experience suggests a pretty firm divide between feminist-inflected Wicca and other, more traditionally male-centered Wicca; I don't think the public face of Wicca is as feminist or female-friendly as one might expect from a Goddess-centered spirituality.) Also, since Paganisms are relatively new, historically, and often improvisational and ad hoc, and since they seem to attract seekers with anarchist or countercultural sympathies, many Pagans don't set much store by tradition. (Obviously there are exceptions, but even traditionalist Pagans don't have that many years of tradition to uphold; and Reconstructionists are, you know, reconstructing, which involves much faithfully making things up.)

I think a lot about what it means, as a woman and now a mother, to serve the Goddess, and what it means to be called to a kind of clergy-like service in a faith that has no clergy (and that some would argue should have no clergy; please forgive a new mother for not looking up all the links; I think Kerr Cuhulain made an argument to that effect recently). I think about how I want to practice my faith now that I have a child. Can I still slack off on some of the sabbats? (Pagan true confession: I never manage much for Beltane.) How will I get my child a spiritual education? (Join the UU church? Develop a curriculum for Pagan SunDay School, as one non-Pagan friend suggested I do?) Is spiritual community even more important now, and is a specifically Wiccan/Pagan/earthwise community important? How do I rustle up one of those?

In short, what does it mean to be a religious conservator and innovator within my family?

What does it mean to be a freelance priestess in my wider community? For we Pagani a sense of place--of the very earth under our feet--is important, but there aren't a whole lot of Pagans in my place. I image playing a role something like a public monastic; I imagine tending a temple and playing a visible role in a wider community. I'm a solid celebrant, though I usually have to create my own occasions and invite people to celebrate with me. But I imagine that my public role might be more counselor and healer. I'm also an excellent teacher--really, it's one of the things I do best, though I've been several years without a classroom or students.

In short, I have vision, skills, training, and interest, but I don't know how or what to manifest.

I remain open to Her call. The changes in my life in the past year alone have been tremendous. I'm incredibly blessed. I just wonder if I need to be taking more assertive action. I don't want to miss out. Yet the message I get so often is, be patient and wait.

So I turn these ideas over in my mind, I listen, and I wait.


Idris said...

Waiting, I think, is a major part of service. It is in the waiting period that faculties develop within that will emerge into public view when circumstances call for them. None of us, I feel, can be aware of the work we have been called to do until, one day, we awaken to find that we are already doing it. The challenge then is to act on that recognition and not allow the old voices of fear and doubt to impede us.

For me, the particular form these things take is old scripts which have me telling myself that I am not good enough - that I am being grandiose and self-important. That the whole thing is a delusion.

We are all engaged in a journey of discovery and no-one, by definition, can say where this will lead. We all have our own individual experiences, viewpoints and talents and these will provide different threads to the tapestry. Even paths which appear to be dead ends will contribute to this.

My big fear is that orthodoxy - the "shoulds" will develop and this will stifle the necessary explorations. My own journey as a priest - how I hate the negative associations of that word and wish that there were another! - is still unfolding and I am still, much of the time, watching, listening, waiting - but still, on occasion, falling into berating myself with comparisons with others.

None of us can, I feel, walk another's path - we have to keep our feet moving forward on our own - even when it is only putting one foot in front of another as we walk into the labyrinth where all seems dark and directionless and each step seems to take us further from any idea of where we are headed.

An excellent post - which has stimulated and encouraged me on my own path. Thankyou.

Inanna said...

Thank you, Idris, for the kind, thoughtful, and juicy comment.

Cari said...

SunDay School is nice, but I'm trying out a Moonday School over at my blog:
Having children definitely focuses you on finding a spiritual community.
Blessed be,

Yvonne Rathbone said...

Re: women being more culturally conservative. I found this to be true in Linguistics; women hold onto older forms for longer than men. My understanding is that in patriarchal cultures, women must negotiate power. A woman who explores, invents, innovates, creates (anything but a baby) is seen as a threat. All the more reason to engage more women in these activities.