1. Why do you want to be a Priest, and what is your plan for making that goal happen?
I have had a calling to priesthood since I was in elementary school, but in each phase of my religious journey, I have hesitated to seek (or been denied) access to the priesthood. This was no different when I found ADF. I devoured my dedicant year, completing the DP in just 11 months, but I fully intended to proceed immediately into the Initiate’s path. I knew I had a calling to clergy, but I also was a solitary druid and had no idea the changes that would come about in my life and my practice over the next year.
Shortly after beginning my work on the Initiate’s Path, I started a study group. I have led that group for three years, and now they are Nine Waves Protogrove and are in the process of preparing to apply for a grove charter. In that time, it has become crystal clear to me that the work that I have spent my life preparing for is this work – the work of building a church, of leading this little group, of being a resource for them and teaching them what I know. I’ve gone from a solitary, introspective pagan to trying to be a public presence in my community (or as close to that as I can get, it’s a work in progress). My calling to serve these people is stronger than ever, and it expresses itself in the oddest of ways. Since I began the preliminary courses, I have become a spiritual resource not only for my in-person community, but for my online community as well. I regularly provide spiritual guidance and counseling to people online (both in and out of ADF), and mentoring those folks is as important to me as the mentoring work I do in my Protogrove.
From my Baptist minister grandfather, I learned how to care for people, how to talk to them, and how to lead them; I learned how to be a minister. From the Methodist church, I learned how to step away from the inevitable drama while still taking care of the people who needed help. From the Catholic Church I learned personal devotion, private prayer, and the effect that private practice has on public service (and a minor addiction to prayer beads). As a solitary pagan, I learned how to create my own, meaningful spirituality. From my Wiccan coven, I learned the power of a devoted small group of individuals, I learned how to serve the gods, and I learned how to learn a new tradition from scratch. From my Protogrove, I’m learning patience, humility, perseverance, and the virtue of building something from the ground up. I’m learning to live the virtues in public and in private.
From all of these paths, I have learned different aspects of what is needed in a priest. It is now up to me to fulfill that calling, and to do the work necessary to become the priest I’ve spent pretty much my whole life preparing to be. From a purely practical standpoint, I intend to complete approximately one course a month until I have finished the First Circle of training.
2. Why do you want to be an ADF Priest in particular?
ADF is my spiritual home. I’ve studied a lot of theology, and tried on a lot of religious hats, but it wasn’t until I found ADF – and specifically a devotional polytheist current within ADF – that I truly felt like I’d found the tradition I was supposed to call home for good. In ADF I’ve found a tradition that values both study and piety, ritual and action, history and inspiration. Reimagining the Indo-European religious practices has given me a depth and breadth of spiritual practice unlike anything I’ve known before – and unlike my days studying Christian theology, the more I study, the more sure I am that I’m in the right place.
3. What does being a Priest mean to you in the cultural context of your Hearth Culture?
Sadly, the concept for an Anglo-Saxon heathen priesthood is troublesome and really exists only through secondary accounts. Pollington believes that it is evident that “certain people had to perform specific ritual functions at public ceremonies, but who these people were and how they were chosen is nowhere made clear” (Pollington 116). Perhaps the term “ritual specialist” is more applicable, as presumably people had duties for opening and closing public ceremonies, guarding holy symbols, and caring for sacred groves. Pollington offers the following description of what an Anglo-Saxon priesthood probably looked like:
The notion of a priest as an ‘officiant’ is probably closest to the heathen idea: the leader of the community held sway in religious, legal, and secular matters. He presided at feasts, in acts of worship, at court and in war. He was able to mediate with the gods on behalf of his community. He kept safe the holy objects used in ceremonies. (117)
I should mention as well that all of these “priests” were male. While there is evidence of sacred roles for women in Anglo-Saxon England, they were not typically chieftains and priests, though it is possible that the existence of such women would have been suppressed by the Christian monks writing about them (Pollington 120).
This is not at all the model of priesthood that I intend to follow, merely being a keeper of religious objects and a person who knows how to make sacrifices. I think there is a need for real spiritual leadership in our communities, and that leadership extends beyond simply knowing when and how to have a ritual. Mentorship, spiritual counseling, teaching and sharing wisdom are as important to my definition of priesthood as are things like being able to host a ritual or perform a wedding. A priest also should not (in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group, though leading feasts sounds at least like it might be fun and less like it would be a huge conflict of interest.
Pollington, Stephen. The Elder Gods: The Otherworld of Early England. Little Downham, Ely, Cambs: Anglo-Saxon Books, 2011. Print.
4. How long have you worked the ADF Dedicant Discipline, what has been your experience of the Work, and what do you expect when you begin the Clergy Student Discipline?
I have been an ADF Dedicant since October 3, 2013. As part of my dedicant oath, I drew the following omen:
- Jera: Year, the harvest, hard work
- Fehu: Cattle, Wealth, Generosity
- Algiz: Elk-sedge, Offensive/Defensive Balance
Though I no longer read with the Elder Futhark, I have always taken these runes as both a blessing on my dedicant year and as a prediction for the work I will do as an ADF Dedicant. It has been a path of hard work and also great reward– I have started a Protogrove, and am actively leading them toward Grove status. That work has involved a great deal of my time, money, and energy – time, money, and energy that I give generously, because that is part of my calling. But it has also been a work of determining boundaries – like the elk-sedge determines the boundaries between dry land and marshes, and protects both. I cannot give everything – I must refill my own cup before I tend to filling the cups of others.
I have kept to regular daily and monthly practices for the last two years, as well as recently adding a weekly devotional. I fully intend this work to continue as I set forth to do the Clergy Student Discipline. I expect that the demands on my time and energy will continue to grow as I grow toward my ordination, and I hope that these runes that have defined my dedicant work– rewards for hard work, reciprocity and generosity, and setting appropriate boundaries – will continue to bless me as I move along this path.
Several questions have arisen concerning your application to enroll in the Clergy Training Program. Please respond back to me and I will pass the answers back to all the Clergy Council Officers.
You stated: “A priest also should not(in my opinion) be the same person who leads you in war and makes legal decisions for the group…”
- Comment #1: I would like to see her clarify what the conflict of interest is to her with a priest assisting to “make legal decisions”.
- Comment #2: I would like to know what “war” means to her in a modern context as well as how she interprets “making legal decisions”.
We look forward to your clarifications.
Hi Drum –