In order to fully explain this, I must go back several months to a gathering where we were talking about Tarot cards and their significance. The High Priestess card has always stood out to me. I have always considered it as a role that is not sought- but is accepted out of necessity.
The High Priestess- High- 1. of great vertical extent. 2.great, or greater than normal, in quantity, size, or intensity. 4)Elevated in status, esteem, prestige; exalted in rank, station, or character. 5) Of great importance and consequence: grave (if negative) or solemn (if positive). These seemed most applicable to the card Priestess 1: a woman authorized to perform the sacred rites and duties of a religion 2: a woman regarded as a leader (as of a movement) a woman priest A woman priest, a clergyman in Christian churches who has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites; one of the Holy Orders a woman who officiates in sacred rites.
. So, to string this together into coherent thought- A High Priestess is a person who is female and charged with performing the sacred duties and rites of religious practice. Their job involves being an intercessor, being the conduit between the sacred and profane. They are the channels- and the leaders of the people into the light of holiness.
Sounds awesome and cool right? To be the leader and the person who brings people to the knowledge of the Divine, by whatever we call it?
Yeah- that can be cool. Being the pretty face that leads the rituals, whose word is pretty much the be-all and end-all in a religious context. Sounds great. But look closely at the tarot card. Though the face appears serene, there is an element of strain in it. That scroll she is holding in her hand might look light, but it is a pretty heavy thing to be carrying. She doesn’t look very happy, does she? Go ahead- look at the card, I’ll wait. Everyone sees the cool part. Nobody wants the work. She looks a bit strained- yes- she’s presenting her face in a positive light. But that scroll of law- is probably hand-copied work and had to be memorized. The thing that hit me as I was sitting there pondering the card was “I do this job. I have to.” I made the comment that if I walked away from a group, I managed that it would collapse on itself because there is not one single person who would do the jobs I do. Everyone could quit tomorrow, and I could fill the organization up again, but nobody wants my job- except when it is fun. Wielding power can have some fun elements- I won’t deny it. But to quote a favorite movie of my daughter’s “With great power comes great responsibility.” And that is very true. As High Priestess- I am the face of the group. I am the person who deals with the crank calls, spam emails, websites, organization, education, membership, reminders, and any hostilities- and often hostilities are aimed at me, because I did something that someone didn’t like- or wasn’t done the way that they wanted.
I am the person who does most of the ritual writing, design (and leaving heavy set- up to others if I can’t do it myself.) I plan the rituals, write them, plan the feasts around them and the classes. I am currently the lady of the house (meaning that I am the default- Hof- Keeper or housewife) which means I also do a lot of cleaning. In a way- it is a lot like being a Mom. Except that I am doing this for grownups. (And no offense- but some grownups can be worse than kids if things don’t go the way they think that things should go.) I was put in mind of a woman that wanted to be High Priestess of a group I was in years ago. Most of the group wanted me as the leader. I maintained the ritual space, I wrote rituals, I cooked and cleaned for them. I worked my butt off until the ritual started- then stepped back and let someone else take the role of Priestess. I had done all the work- so the path was smoothed for the person who led the ritual. One day, we had chosen to do something special for my particular deity and path. And again- I put in all the mental and backbreaking physical work required. I went to the group and asked for a single hour delay- so that I could rest and be ready to perform my duties as a priestess (not like I hadn’t already spent 4 days working on it with no help, except a toddler and infant… and we know how much help they are.) Everyone agreed- except the woman who had taken the role in the past. Had this woman done any work at all, made food to bring, helped organize, build the altar, build the fire pit, set up anything- I might have stepped completely back- again. But this was my ritual- for my deity- for my purposes. I could not walk away from the responsibility. The woman had the brass cojones to tell everyone I was faking my tiredness and being sick. It was obvious I was not and had not. She was told to leave my home immediately and not to set foot back there again. (Harsh, I know, but enough was enough)
I then sat down and told everyone in the group that I refused to do all the work for them. If they wanted rituals held at my home (which was not a dorm) then they needed to contribute. They needed to help with the food, the cleaning, the organizing- all the jobs I had done alone- while being a wife and mother. If they did not want to do so- they needed to find other people and places to work with. The sad part was- everyone wanted the fun parts of the ritual and feast- but nobody wanted to work for it. That seems to be a recurring theme. Everyone wants the job- until they realize what it really entails. And those of us who don’t really want it- often find ourselves taking it on out of necessity. In the old days- priestesses were chosen. They often had little say in the matter. There was often a gift involved- something the community needed or wanted. And the person was given little choice. True, the positions sometimes came with honor, but the work could be more than a person could handle. As High Priestess- it isn’t enough to just serve the Gods quietly. I would prefer that a lot of the time. I am the intercessor. I make it possible for people to communicate with the Gods. I am the person called at midnight during a spiritual crisis. I am the person who feeds the hungry man on my doorstep. I perform weddings and hand-fastings. And often, I am the person turned to during the troubles in the marriage. I am the person called on in times of grief- to help others through- when I myself am grieving. I have held the hands of the dying. My job is to be there. To help people. To minister to them. There are some perks- joining people in marriage is a perk. But often it is a lot of work. Not just physical work- but mental and spiritual work as well. My daughter told me she wanted to be a High Priestess someday. I told her that the first step was to take off the robes of the office and get her hands dirty. Clean the home and hof space, cook the food, write the ritual. Don’t ask or expect me to do it. EARN it. Gods know I have earned the job- even though I never wanted it. I do it because it needs to be done.