So what is it like to be a High Priestess of Wicca? If you’ve been following my journey for a while you know that I became part of Wicca while on a quest for a spiritual path that encompassed my philosophies about life. You also know that, for lack of a better term, I began as a reluctant High Priestess. I guess the next logical question is, once I reluctantly agreed to take the position, what did I do with it?
Being a High Priestess in Wicca, to me, means wearing many hats. Yes, you do lead rituals of worship and other rites of passage, but there’s so much more. You’re the living representative of the female deity that we call the Goddess. You’re also a teacher, a counselor/spiritual advisor, and a spiritual parent. There’s a great deal of responsibility that, I feel, should never be taken lightly.
One of the interesting things about Wicca is that although there must be a High Priestess in order for there to be a Coven, there doesn’t have to be a High Priest. It’s very pleasant and much more balanced if you are lucky enough to have one, but not necessary. It truly is a matriarchal religion. The recognition that, to quote a Charge to the Goddess, “From me all things proceed and unto me all things must return.”, places the ability to act as both High Priestess and High Priest in the hands of the High Priestess. I have known quite a few High Priestesses who have had Covens without having a High Priest. I, on the other hand, have been both privileged and fortunate enough to have worked with two High Priests over the course of my 38 years on this path.
Having said all that, I return to the fact that the High Priestess is a spiritual parent, mother to be exact, to her Coven members and the High Priest, if there is one, is the spiritual father. What exactly does that mean? It means you take responsibility for those who come to study and worship with you. You see to their learning, spiritual growth, and help keep them safe as they journey down this new path of enlightenment. Sometimes, just like regular parents, it means making sure they are doing the work necessary to their growth and understanding of the path and sometimes it means correcting them when they make mistakes or fail to do what they have agreed to do in the course of their learning. Taking on a student means taking responsibility for not just their training, but their well-being as long as they continue to study with you.
Whether it’s being a spiritual teacher or spiritual advisor, it is never about feeding your ego. Quite the contrary. It’s very humbling and a great deal of responsibility to guide another person in their quest for growth and understanding of themselves and their world. It’s not about molding them in any preconceived image you have of what they should be, but helping them to become the individuals that they came into this life to be. It’s about helping them find their purpose through self-knowing. You are merely a guide – someone with additional information and another perspective that may help them discover what’s hidden inside.
As a High Priestess, even when being asked to perform some rite of passage, albeit a rite of initiation, marriage, infant blessing or funeral, the ego is set aside and you take into consideration whether this is a piece of karma in which you wish to be involved. Unlike many other faiths, we are pretty insistent on knowing the person or persons that we are being asked to perform the rite for. To us, there is nothing frivolous about the responsibility of performing these sacred rites.
Did I always feel this way? Yes, I believe I did even when I didn’t realize all that was involved in being a High Priestess. Sacred is sacred in my book (of shadows). I take the responsibility of this position with both the mirth and reverence that the Goddess asks of all who follow this path. For this reason, when I reluctantly agreed to be the High Priestess of Temple of Wicca, Coven Oriana, I dove in with dedication and sought to give those who asked me to take the position, and those that followed later, the best training I knew how to give.
In actuality, this became a win-win situation. Since we were all so new to this path, it continued to be a learning Coven with myself, as well as others, creating classes and teaching classes that we all learned from. With the help of the Universe/Gods and all those books they would drop at my feet in the months and years to come, a curriculum began to take shape. That curriculum eventually became a 566-page teacher’s manual in 1996 complete with tests, exams, and answers to each. A copy of the manual is given to everyone who makes it to their Third Degree Initiation.
What about the rituals? Well, those of us who were working together found that no one tradition of Wicca seemed to say it all for us, so we started piecing together our own rituals from ones that were published and original material. Sometimes that “original” material would come through to me just before we were to perform a ritual. With only an electric typewriter and a copier, I would type what was “dictated” to me and make copies to hand to those participating – sometimes that very night!
After the experience I had had with Lady Morganna and my initiations, I didn’t want to turn out any half-trained Priestesses and Priests. I felt that when someone was sincerely seeking to be a leader on this path, they deserved the best I could offer. Standards for initiation were set in place. These included what classes were to be taken, what grades needed to be maintain, what books had to be read, and even how many rituals needed to be attended. Never wanting this to be a dictatorship, the decisions made surrounding all this were made, after much discussion, by those who originally formed our group.
It became clear to me, and the others, that we couldn’t call our tradition by any of the conventional tradition names so we even made a decision about that. Our tradition became known as the “American” tradition. We all felt this was appropriate since, like our country, we were, and still are, a “melting pot” of traditions.
The years and decades have passed and Temple of Wicca still exists. It has seen many students come and go. Some of them completed the training, others didn’t. I feel like, even the ones who didn’t finish, they all walked away with something – even if that something was to learn that Wicca, as it was taught by us, was not for them.
Even though I have become an Elder, and am somewhat retired from most of the activities of a High Priestess, I am still open to hearing the call of the Lady and Lord and, with honor and humility, will serve in whatever capacity they have need of my talents and abilities. I haven’t taught a Wiccan student in years, but should one come down the road with a sign (visible or invisible) that says, “The Goddess sent me.” I would most assuredly put my teaching hat back on with pleasure.
May you find the enlightenment you seek, whatever path you choose.