Priestess for One
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Article ID: 8830
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 5,435
Times Read: 8,833
Author: Gail Wood, Blaze
Posted: December 26th. 2004
Times Viewed: 8,833
Solitary. The word conjures up images of windswept and lonely landscapes without access to other humans, especially people with similar spiritual beliefs. In many cases, this is the correct scenario and Pagans are solitary by necessity. More and more, Pagans are solitary practitioners by choice. Even in the midst of nearby thriving communities, Pagans choose solo practice for a variety of reasons. There are also people like me who maintain both a group and solitary practice. I am proud to be an active member of a coven, a tradition and a community, but I still identify myself as a solitary practitioner. I serve as the priestess of that solitary practice.
To be a priestess for myself is joyful. I know that I can, with confidence stand before the Goddess and God and feel their presence. Through my own rituals and meditations, I feel the presence of the Divine inside me and around me. I have experienced their energies in direct ways and I know that they are dynamic presences in my daily life. I know that I can work magic with the blessings of the spirits because I actively stand in the flow of their energy on a regular basis.
This practice is the result of twenty years of deliberate planning along with serendipitous lessons thrown in my path. I have stumbled and fallen; I've been bruised and hurt. I've picked at my wounds in disgusting ways until I learned to let them heal. I've also had wonderful luck and beautiful epiphanies. I've continued to move clumsily and gracefully to the steps of a cosmic dance led by the Goddess and the God.
In the beginning when I approached Pagan spirituality, I drew on my religious training as a fundamental Christian and my childhood Baptist upbringing. Baptists stress that every believer has direct access to the Divine; nothing else is necessary. The conservative fundamental group to which I belonged elaborated on that teaching by saying that each individual believer had the responsibility to actively grow in faith and relationship to the Divine. They recommended four ways to develop this relationship: study, evangelism, fellowship and prayer.
I transformed those four ways into four elements, corresponding to the elemental energies found in all sacred life:
Air is Study: This may seem like an impossibly tall order, and yes, it is an ideal. But this kind of loving and direct practice can be achieved one step at a time. Two things are needed to be the priestess in a solo spiritual practice: persistence and forgiveness
To increase my understanding of Pagan thought and practice. To deepen my relationship with the Divine by gaining a breadth and depth of knowledge. To gain new skills and practices, and to actively devote myself to improving my abilities.
Fire is Magic:
To feel passionately the energies of the Universe and to work in harmony with those energies to create change in myself. Christian evangelism is the passion for change; when evangelical Christians seek change, they seek to change the beliefs of others. Through magic, I seek to change myself to be more like the Goddess and the God; in living deeply connected to the sacred, others are changed as well.
Water is Ritual:
Through ritual I interact, heart and soul, with the spirits of this world and the other worlds. I commune with these spirits and move my spirit into harmony with theirs. In Christian terms, fellowship is the interaction with likeminded believers. In solitary practice the interaction is with the spirits of the sacred, elements, the directions and the Divine; and a celebration of the interconnectedness of all sacred life.
Earth is Prayer and Meditation:
Meditation is communication with the Divine. I speak and listen to my own internal sacred nature; and through prayer I speak and listen to the transcendent Universe. As Pagans we draw wisdom from the Divine resident within each of us; and we reach out to the sacred world and the spirits of the worlds that intersect with ours. Like the stability of the earth, we are held in the loving arms of the Divine as they whisper their love to us. Prayer is the active expression, back and forth, between the seeker and the Divine. Gratitude, blessings, thanksgivings, petitions, and questions are all part of this deep interaction and communication.
It takes a passionate desire to pursue a spiritual path alone. The energy of persistence keeps me going and sustains me when I am tempted to be lazy. Life has a way of pushing you around when you least expect it, but most often it is the boring times when nothing happens that are the most challenging. Rather than highs or even lows, it is just the flat middle that really challenges us to keep going. These are the times when persistence counts. Sometimes we just have to keep practicing when nothing seems to be changing. To behave as if magic is happening beneath the surface and just beyond our sight and perception. These are time when we may have to find a different approach to enliven a languishing practice. We also have to have the wisdom to know the difference. And if we make a mistake, we have the ability to recognize the error and go back and start again.
Many years ago, I set a goal of observing and celebrating the moon through all her cycles for a couple of months. It was an ambitious plan of ritual observances every couple of days. The New Moon came and went, and I did nothing. I berated myself, thinking that I had screwed up again and I was never going to be a good Pagan. That went on until I recognized that the moon is round, but so is her orbit. I could step on that circle anytime and seamlessly become part of the never-ending cycle of waxing and waning. You always have a second chance if you have the gumption and energy to take it.
And then there are the times when life is not boring. None of us are exempt from the inevitable; life has away of taking us by surprise, blindsiding us with breathtaking speed. Birth, death, taxes, graduations, job challenges, windfalls, and everything in between. These things, no matter how awful or how great, can really take us down a peg or two. Change becomes imperative and that is never planned. That is when we recognize that life and our spiritual/emotional response to it is just one grand experiment. These are the times when forgiveness is so important. It is important to forgive yourself and to forgive others. When your pursuit of your spiritual path doesn't go the way you planned, it's time to let go of your plans and forgive yourself for perceived mistakes. It is good to have standards but it's also important to remember that you and only you set those standards. The Goddess and the God readily forgive you because all they ask is an open, loving heart and a willing spirit. They delight in you and in their dance with you.
My belief that each of us is the priest and priestess in individual spiritual practice has influenced the way I teach Wicca and other related topics. When I teach beginning Wicca, I have two goals: (1) to give each student the tools and understanding to develop and maintain their own individual, solitary practice, and (2) to give each individual student the knowledge to be able to function well in public, open Pagan events and rituals. This is accomplished in two ways. One is to teach the students the basic knowledge and skills necessary to practice their path; the second is to lead them through a series of experiences that allows them to understand what they know and believe. I help them to draw their own conclusions and follow their own heart. I don't tell them what to believe but I lead them to own their beliefs.
That isn't to say that my students don't lead groups or facilitate group activities and rituals. Far from it. I am very proud of the fact that many of my students very ably create and lead wonderful rituals. They can, if they choose, design and pursue their own private practices. It is their choice. They have the skills and experience and along with their own passionate persistence, they follow the dance of the Goddess and God, uniquely designed by their own Divine heart. Just as each one of us on this path dances the beautiful dance of the interconnected sacred.
1 I use the word priestess since I speak from my own experience and I am a woman. I believe that this also applies to men as priests. Moreover, I really believe that we as beings contain all-that-is and so we can each say, regardless of gendered identity, "I am priest and I am priestess of my spiritual path."
Gail Wood, Blaze
Location: Salisbury, Maryland
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