When You Realize You’re Not Cut Out for the Priesthood

Image courtesy of Averie Woodard at Unplash

Two years into the pandemic and I’ve made peace with some things about myself:

  • I will never be great at cleaning house. I exist in a perpetual goblin-esque den of hoarded trinkets.
  • I prefer to sleep/wake up/eat/read on my own schedule and intensely resent being confined to a traditional workday.
  • I am happiest when I interact with people online, not face to face.

This last realization was the hardest because it directly called into question how effective I would be at one of my dream jobs: a Pagan priestess. How could I minster to people and help them realize the blessing of the gods if I dreaded sustained, regular human contact?

In an ideal world, there would be different types of priests in service to the gods:

  • Priests that tend the temples and its grounds to keep the whole shebang running smoothly
  • Priests who curate and maintain the holy records/images/stories/crafts/relics of the gods
  • Priests who minister to the people and preside over public functions
  • Priests that tend to the dead

If I had my druthers, I would fall into that second category, and would probably spend a good bit of my life holed up in a temple library. Our current community situation makes that incredibly unlikely, because 1)we don’t have large, sustained temples and 2)we’re still wrestling with removing the trappings of Christianity from our Western Pagan mindsets.

Christianity isn’t all bad, but it has introduced to people the idea that their priests/holy folk need to be all things to all people, from a minister to a fundraiser, counselor to charismatic leader. It’s an awful lot of hats to wear, and the ones who can do it successfully often have a substantial support network of people to turn to when they need help. Paganism, for the most part, just isn’t there yet.

I’m turning 36 in January, and I’ve realized that life is too short to be all the things. I’m also too scatterbrained and prone to burnout to attempt to do all the things I think I need doing. As I’ve effectively hit middle age (I am under no illusions that poverty will allow me to live into my hundreds), I’ve had to consider how best I can serve the gods in the time that’s left to me with the skills they’ve given me. And this simply does not include the priesthood as Pagans today understand it.

My love and talents run towards words, stories, ideas, and (hopefully) inspiring others. I’m most interested in sharing the sacred stories of my gods, helping publish stories that uplift the Pagan community, and supporting our religious workers with any profits I make from these things. Lately I’ve begun to see myself more truly in the images of bards and skalds, and I wonder if my adoration of the gods wouldn’t flow more purely from behind a monitor than it would in front of a congregation.

It’s a hard thing to let go of a dream and admit that you might not be cut out for something, but it’s a sweet thing to realize that letting go frees up your arms for other blessings.

[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]

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