The Prytani Tradition|
Posted: March 3rd. 2001
Times Viewed: 26,420
I was taught that Prytani (pri- tah- nee) was the first of the traditions of the Craft. An ancient, oral methodology, drawn from the Celts and ancient Druid priests and priestesses, there is almost nothing in print with regard to this sect, because of the strict historical ban to write anything down. Through my own research, I have traced what I consider to be similar techniques and beliefs back to the ancient and learned ones of the Isles of Iona and Avalon, and further even, to the mythical Pheryllt priests of Atlantis. The further back in history you travel, the more difficult it is to find unbreakable proof, but I have satisfied myself, within my own mind, with regard to the roots of my tradition.
The Prytani follow the Wiccan Rede, and the standard concepts of reincarnation, the Law of threes and karmic retribution. It is believed that karmic payback (whether positive or negative) can follow a soul through various lifetimes. That's not always a comfortable thought, but it explains a lot. We believe that we choose which lives we will take, based on what we have yet to learn, to develop the soul appropriately. The magickal technique we use is dramatically different from other traditions I am aware of, because it does not rely on props, moon phases, or specific astrological times, but instead, a learned mindset. Our spell is our word, and so we learn quickly to guard our words well. We adhere strictly to the Metaphysical laws, as guidance in all matters, whether magickal or mundane, accepting them as the codes that form our universe.
As a rule, our covens are small, though not limited in size, and students progress through a nine degree system at their own rate. There is no 'year and a day' between levels of knowledge, as there is in some other traditions. We encourage our students never to sell spiritual knowledge, but give it freely, as it was taken, and they make vows to welcome students themselves, as they rise to the priest or priestesshood. No particular Deity structure is assigned to this tradition. Each coven is expected to deal with this on an individual basis. My coven of origin utilized a Norse Deity structure, and my personal coven is mixed in nature, with some of Pagan and some of Christian Witch orientation. It is the mindset and core beliefs that pull this technique together and make it work. What you believe in has power. We recognize a balanced God, one with both male and female aspects. Some of our members consider themselves polytheistic, and some monotheistic. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and as a group we accept this tenet, and respect the diverse beliefs of those within our covens. We believe also, that someone of an unethical nature, or one who uses their power negatively and without reason, will eventually undo themselves through karma. Power is a gift for wisdom and knowledge well used, and misuse of that gift means personal power will dissipate.
Role of Clergy:
As 'Outer Court students' each new seeker makes a vow to discover the ways of our tradition, and upon reaching the first degree (where the title of 'witch' is bestowed) they vow to strive to obtain the priest or priestesshood, and welcome students of their own. The Prytani tradition is usually based on a one to one, student to teacher setup. The student owes nothing to the teacher, but the teacher owes the student a debt instead. The karmic debt to be paid, is one of sharing knowledge, as they received it when they were a student. The teacher honors the student, and even if the student leaves the coven and acts dishonorably in some way, the teacher must accept the student with open arms upon his or her return.
The teacher spiritually shields the student until they reach the third degree, and become a priest or priestess in their own rite. Only when a student reaches the third degree, can he or she be released from the teacher's shields. The shields the teacher erects around a student protect him or her from spiritual negativity. They will allow positive magick to escape, but nothing negative. If a student attempts negative magick, while within a teacher's shields, it will not work, and the teacher receives the karmic retribution. This can be a frightening concept for new priests or priestesses, but the bottom line is, it forces the teacher to get to know students on a personal basis, and choose and train them well, not only in magick, but philosophy, history and ethics as well.
With the Prytani, magick is the icing on the proverbial cake; it is the spirituality and ethical nature that must always come first. It also means that the teacher must make every effort to refrain from teaching that which the student is not ready to learn. We do not give tools to students who are not ethically ready to deal with them. We highly discourage illegal drug use, or practicing magick or ritual when intoxicated. Because the technique relies on a learned mindset, we reiterate regularly that the mind must always be clear and rational while practicing this technique. We do not turn away students, but sometimes redirect them, to a teacher that may be more suited to them. Sometimes, a new seeker is able to choose their own teacher, if there are enough priests and priestesses within the coven. The high priest and priestess of each coven lead rituals, or call for volunteers from within the coven to conduct certain parts or host a ritual.
Prytani covens have a high priest and priestess (if available) and a range of students at varied levels of learning. While the high priest and priestess generally make any group decisions, oftentimes the coven has an inner circle which may include other priests and priestesses within the group to help make choices. Anyone of third degree or beyond has the right to take their own students, and bring them into the coven, or form their own group if they so desire. We recognize balance, and the need for both men and women to be a part of each group, but the tradition is historically matriarchal in nature, and with a male and female member of the same degree, the woman would be viewed as having more 'power' than her counterpart. As students progress to the third degree, the high priest and priestess may assign additional roles.
Within the Prytani tradition is the coven role of 'Kel'. The person chosen for this role works with the high priest or priestess in any instance where a covener is in danger. Under the circumstances, it is believed that Kel is given the ability to tap into a Divine core of power to protect his fellow covener magickally. Another coven role is that of 'Coven shopper'. When chosen by the high priest or priestess, the covener is attuned to assist in the finding of magickal tools whenever called upon. It is believed that if tools are chosen for use, there are specific ones matched to each witch, and if any difficulty arises in finding their own tool, the Coven shopper is called into play.
We celebrate the eight typical Sabats at their appropriate times, and often utilize Celt-like traditions with regard to our rituals. Generally each coven holds their own Sabat rituals, but sometimes groups may meet with their grand coven for Yule or Samhain. Occasionally, and depending on the interest of the individual coven, rituals may be held for full moons, or special magickal reasons.
Standard of Conduct:
The most important mandate of behavior for members of a Prytani coven is confidentiality. We are vowed to never expose the names, addresses or otherwise identifying information of other members, under penalty of expulsion from the coven. Because of the closed minded social environment of our times, we view this mandate most seriously.
Ways of Worship:
My coven of origin practiced skyclad (without the benefit of clothing). It was mandated in this group, because of the High priest's belief that this practice eliminated social status and brought the coveners closer to absolute nature. My coven, and others that I know of do not practice skyclad, but instead either wear street clothes, or garb, chosen from the period in history the individual feels closest to. We wear hooded capes to unify us as a group, and any other ritual clothing is left to the preference of the individual. Within ritual, the high priest or priestess casts circle. Whoever calls the quarters, must also retract them in the same manner. We may follow given Prytani ritual, write our own and or include interfaith tenets, based on those in attendance. We reserve a place in ritual for any magickal needs, which may be enacted alone or as a group. Traditionally, we hold a 'potluck' meal afterwards.
Reading and other Reference: At this time, I am aware of no printed materials with regard to my tradition. I have however, created an extensive personal webpage with reference to my personal beliefs and practices. It can be found at http://www.angelfire.com/pa2/haveaniceday/index.html
in love and light,
Notes on the author: Ceridwyn Pheryllt is high priestess of a Prytani coven in western Pennsylvania, who has formally practiced for five years, but has had a lifelong sense of the Craft . She recently founded the first Pagan coalition in her county to meet for socialization of like minded souls, exchange of knowledge, and interfaith based Sabat rituals. An elementary teacher by trade, she has written numerous free lance articles for local publications, and four Pagan-oriented books, which she hopes to someday have published. You can visit her personal webpage for further information on her views and practices.
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