Tag Archives: priest

The economics of spirituality

One of the things Paganism doesn’t really do, is enable people to live full time as devotees to their path. Many religions have monasteries, allowing people to make a full time commitment to spirituality. Many religions have paid posts for priests so that the person called to work in their community has a viable way to do that. 

This kind of infrastructure isn’t possible without the religion itself being organised and having a hierarchy. Pagans tend to rebel against that sort of thing. We mostly want to be independent and free to follow our own calling, but the trade off means that there are economic restrictions on following your own calling.

Yes, we have paid priests, but that income is occasional and unpredictable. Doing a job where part of the job involves chasing the work and trying to make yourself financially viable is a lot of extra job for the money and it takes a toll. 

The calling to work as a Pagan can also take people into writing, healing, teaching, divination, making clothes, tools, and other materials, and offering guidance. None of these jobs pay a person much unless you also spend time promoting yourself and your work – this doesn’t always go down well and can lead to resentment. Pagans all too often resent it when other Pagans need to be paid for the work they do. The jobs that might make you a full time Pagan actually don’t make you a full time Pagan because of time spent on marketing and accountancy and business type things.

I don’t have an easy practical answer to any of this. Clearly there are a lot of Pagans who feel the call to be full time in just the way many people around the world feel called to centre their lives in their beliefs. We don’t have the support systems to make that possible and I doubt we ever will. But we’re also not really dealing with the implications of that. We could do a lot better in socially supporting our would-be full time Pagans and we could at least have a culture of treating people kindly when they step up to this way of working and being.

We exist in a capitalist society, and Pagans have bills to pay just like everyone else. Much of the work a person might do is not spiritually nourishing. Those of us able to do work we find ethical, rewarding and intrinsically worthwhile are in the minority. Not everyone can balance part time work with part time Paganism. At the same time, not everyone can afford to pay for the kind of work we want and need Pagan priests to do for us. The answer is not to get angry with our full time Pagans over this. As is so often the way of it, the actual solution will lie in dismantling capitalist systems, so that we can all live on better terms.


Modern Druidry and Priesthood

One of the most striking ideas in 20th century Paganism was that we could and perhaps should all be our own priests and priestesses. In many ways this is a wonderful idea: No submitting to someone else’s authority, no dogma, and the equality of all being able to speak to the divine on our own terms.

There are however, downsides. Being a priest or priestess is a lot of work. I’ve sauntered towards it in the past. What I notice is how often I wish there was somewhere I could easily, regularly go and just sit in, where showing up would feel meaningful. Sometimes, finding the ideas, energy and inspiration for maintaining your spiritual practice is hard. Sometimes guidance is needed, or just not having to carry the weight of the whole thing.

Of course historically, the people we tend to think of as Celts were not Druids – Druids were a group within that culture, performing specific roles. A Druid community made up entirely of people doing the Druid priest thing is going to have rather a lot of healers and diviners and all the rest of it, but perhaps not enough people focused on other things. It’s not easy being a Druid if you don’t have someone to be a Druid for. Historically, being a priest meant mediating between the divine and the people, it’s what defines that role. So, if we are all our own priests and priestess, what does that job even involve?

It’s not a question I find easy to answer. The thing about ministering is that we often need it doing for us – to be taught. To be guided through times of crisis. To be inspired and uplifted. To be healed when you need it, to be held and comforted by your path – these are really hard things to do for yourself.

Perhaps the answer is to aspire to be a part time Druid. Right now we need to re-skill and decarbonise, we need growers and makers and doers in all areas of life. To serve the earth or to serve your people or any deity associated with the natural world, I think you have to be considering climate chaos and the need to reduce consumption. We need the equality of having the right to stand as our own priests and priestesses and the right to be our own spiritual authority. That protects us all from dogma, and power gaming and gurus and all the problems that brings. But at the same time, we will all have days when we need ministering to, when we need someone else to be our Druid for a bit.

By not aspiring to be full time, and not aspiring to hold positions of authority, we might be able to have something egalitarian that is also supportive and that shares out all the different kinds of work that needs doing. I think that’s what I can see happening across the community – that full time Druids are rare and few people seem to aspire to that position any more.


Pagan Clergy

Last week I read this excellent post on The Ditzy Druid blog – https://ditzydruid.com/2016/04/23/why-i-believe-pagans-need-clergy/ which got me thinking about Pagan clergy.

In organised religions, clergy tends to mean hierarchy. It means people with more power and influence, perhaps in a many tiered system. I can’t say it’s something I find attractive. As a Pagan doing the clergy job, I’m very aware that I don’t have much of a formal support network. No one is paying me to support others through crisis or to offer guidance. There isn’t someone I can definitely go to for support myself, or advice or anything like that. I have no doubt it’s easier to do the work when you get paid for it and you’ve got backup.

In practice if I’m struggling, I’m likely to look around and see who, of the wise people I know, might have some ideas, or some spare energy. I am a celebrant, and an advice giver, but there are times when I need the benefit of someone else’s insight and experience. Sometimes I need a perspective from someone not as emotionally caught up in things. If I need a rite of passage, I need someone else to do that for me. If I need witnessing in something, I need someone else to do it. I think this is true for all Pagans.

One of the oft touted ideas in Paganism is that we are all our own priests and priestesses. We can all talk directly to what we hold sacred. However, in being priests and priestesses, perhaps we need to think about that role not in purely personal terms, but in community terms. In every tarot reading, every assist with a troubling dream, in ritual, in exchanging ideas and in comforting each other, we act as each other’s spiritual guides and counsellors.

Priestwork need not mean authority or hierarchy. It could be understood in terms of shared responsibility. We all need people to advise, support and challenge us once in a while. We can do that without sacrificing autonomy, by having it happen in a more fluid way.