RESPONSIBLITITIES OF A HIGH PRIEST/ESS
This article was a response to another group leader who was about
to lead a workshop with the above title
* * *
The subject of leadership can be a vast one, and a workshop on
leadership could cover many aspects of that vast subject. Many
questions could be asked, each valid and important, each with many
answers. Because we are, however, pagan/Craft folk, I will assume
the questions would be asked in a Craft concept: What does it
mean to be a High Priest/ess? What does it involve? How can we
be the best High Priest/esses possible? What word, what key word
best describes what it means to be a High Priest/ess?
We all have our opinions on that one, but in order for me to give
my opinion, I first have to describe what a coven is to me,
because a High Priest/ess is the leader of a coven.
Before I begin, let me admit right away that there are those who
will not only disagree with me, but may even take offense at what
I am about to say. I cannot, however, say anything meaningful if
I worry about that, so I'll say this...I do not set out to offend
anyone. If my words do make you angry, I'm sorry...for the anger,
not for what I'm about to say.
What is a coven? An encounter group? A study group? A support
group? Absolutely...and absolutely not. It is no one of these
things, but it is all of them, and more. A coven that views
itself as only one of these things is missing the mark. It can
serve the purposes of all of these things, but if these are the
only things it does, it is not, to my mind, a coven.
A coven is a religious organization (funny word to use for
anything pagan...organization, that is), not a social one, not a
political one. It has but one purpose, though it may accomplish
many other objectives. It may well provide support, information,
comfort, nurturing, teaching, but those are not the foremost
purpose of a coven. The purpose of a coven is to serve the Gods.
Each coven finds its own way to do that, each serves in its own
individual way. Our coven does this by learning, studying,
striving to grow, building our personal relationships with the
Gods, and trying to become the best "us" it is possible to become.
Yours may concentrate in other areas, although I would hope your
work would include what is described in the last phrase.
Now, with that in mind, let's go back to our discussion of being a
High Priest/ess. I think by answering the last question, I can
give you an idea of what my answers might be to the earlier ones.
What key word best describes what it means to be a High
Priest/ess? There are many, but I choose "Responsibility."
That's a horrible word to some people, but if you are one of them,
do us all a favor and go away. Whatever you do don't become a
High Priest/ess, and if you are already one, Goddess help us!
A High Priest/ess is responsible for making it possible for
his/her coveners to grow, to learn, to serve, and to become the
best possible "them" they can become. A High Priestess is
responsible for seeing that rituals are performed, that the
students are trained well, that the group functions well, that the
coven serves its purpose by serving the Gods.
A High Priest/ess is responsible for setting an example, for
showing the coveners that our religion can be lived, our
principles put in to practice, our laws obeyed. A High Priest/ess
is responsible for seeing that the students are taught that which,
according to the coven's tradition, they should learn. A High
Priest/ess is responsible for seeing that the coveners are given
spiritual guidance. A High Priest/ess is responsible for helping
them come closer to the Gods.
What? I'm leaving things out? How about "Facilitating?" Yes, you
do some of that, too, in discussions. "Conflict resolution?" Yes,
that, too." But let's go back to my definition of a coven..a
religious organization, not a political one, not a social one. If
you will think of the responsibilities of a coven leader from that
point of view, you might find that "facilitation" and "conflict
resolution" are a very small part of those responsibilities.
A High Priest/ess is responsible for deserving the trust of the
members of the coven. This means no power trips, no lying, no
cheating, no taking advantage of the students.
The responsibilities of being a High Priest/ess include serving
the Gods by serving as the best group leader you are capable of
being. Taking on the responsibilities of a High Priest/ess means
effort, and time, and sacrifice, and disappointment, and
heartbreak...and going on in spite of the heartbreak. It means
striving to grow as hard as you encourage your students to
try...striving harder. It means being aware that you have been
given these students to guide and lead the best you can.
You can take seminars in conflict resolution, or facilitating or
psychology or whatever, and it will not make you a High
Priest/ess. Only the willingness to take on the responsibilities
of this office, and to do all you can to fulfill them with all
your heart's love and spirit's strength--only that will make you a
Ellen Cannon Reed