In The Desert Of Seth

By G. B. Marian

More On the Concept of Priesthood

The Obsequies of an Egyptian Cat (1886) by John Reinhard Weguelin

From the Kemetic Round Table:

Priests were a large part of the Egyptian religious structure in antiquity. For this round, Kemetics discuss what role priests may play in the modern era.

What about modern priesthood? What does being a priest mean in the modern era?

I’ve already explained my idea of what it means to be a priest or priestess in two of my earlier articles, The Companions of Seth and On Pharaohs and Priests. However, it might be good for me to reiterate the LV-426 concept of “priesthood” here (though I’d still like to encourage everyone to read my aforementioned writings, if they haven’t already).

We leave it for other congregations to use terms like “priesthood” and “clergy” as they see fit; but for our own purposes, we consider anyone who interacts with one or more Deities on a daily and devotional basis to be a priest or priestess of those Deities. This is literally the only thing a person needs to be a clergyperson in our opinion; they don’t need to be licensed counselors, therapists, social workers, public speakers, volunteers in charity-based organizations, or anything else to that effect. They don’t even need to be theologians, historians or archaeologists. A priest or priestess can be one or more of these other things if they like (and I’m not saying they shouldn’t be); but these lines of work are entirely separate from serving as polytheist clergy. In the LV-426 view at least, priesthood is based strictly on what one does for one’s Deity or Deities; it has nothing to do with what one does for other people. Furthermore, this definition extends not only to people who have daily devotional relationships with polytheist Deities, but to people who have such relationships with monotheist Gods as well (including Jesus and Allah). Even though she’ll most likely never be legally ordained through the Roman Catholic Church, your pushy uber-Catholic grandmother who talks to and about Jesus all the time is what we’d call a priestess of Christ (for better or worse).

There are different kinds of priests, to boot. Some of us relate to our assigned Deities as parents, grandparents, or perhaps even older siblings. I would contend that “godspouses” are actually clergy as well, and that they correspond to what the Egyptians called “Gods’ Wives” (or in some modern cases, Husbands). I personally think of these individuals as being like the “nuns” and “monks” of modern Paganism (which isn’t to say they are necessarily “celibate,” though some might choose to be). Some priests might have a knack for writing and/or performing complex ceremonial rituals, while others might just keep their shrines from getting dusty. Some might disseminate information about their faiths to the general public (as I do), and others might never openly discuss their commitments at all (like my brothers). Still others might lead groups of like-minded believers (like Wiccan covens) while others might be completely solitary. Basically, it all comes down to whatever it is your God or Gods want you to do for Them in your private interactions with Them.

In LV-426, we see ourselves as a family of priests that operates completely democratically (well, on the human side at least; the same can’t always be said for our Lord). We exist to help each other in our walks with Seth and to accomplish great feats together in His name. (Not that we bring down supervillains or anything like that – though that would be awesome, and we would if we could. Our “great feats” tend to be much more localized, like finding decent jobs, taking care of our families, or making it through each day without throwing ourselves in front of oncoming traffic.) Tony is what we call our “bard-priest”; his greatest passion is music, and you might say that the songs he writes with his band Hexlust are like the LV-426 equivalent to gospel music. Whether they’re specifically about Seth or not, they contain His Typhonian energy and presence, and anyone who listens to them is listening to Big Red Himself (as channeled through the Tonester’s brain). Patrick, on the other hand, is the “sportsman-priest” who relates to the Big Guy through video games a lot of the time. That might sound pretty damn strange to some folks – and I intend to explain this further at some point – but trust me, Patrick is really on to something here (and that’s why I’ve been posting episodes from his YouTube show, Easily Distracted). As for me, I’m the “scribe-priest,” and I reckon it must be pretty obvious to everyone by now as to just why that is. I love using words to paint mental pictures, and Seth seems to enjoy it when I do this (especially when it’s in His honor).

I should point out that unless you’ve taken some kind of oath that says otherwise, a priest doesn’t necessarily have to be a priest 24/7, 365 days a year. Some people are meant to be priests for life, but are allowed (and perhaps even encouraged by the Gods they serve) to be laypeople every now and again. Others might only be intended to serve as priests for a limited time and will become laity or something else for the rest of their lives. Many people aren’t meant to serve as priests at all, but are only meant to have occasional devotional encounters with Deities (which is what we here in LV-426 consider to be a “layperson”). There is nothing wrong with this, and the idea that “Everyone needs to be a priest” is misguided (to say the least). You can also be a priest for one or more Deities while also being a layperson for certain others, and there are those who are only meant to be friends, allies, or prodigies of certain Gods. In our vocabulary, to be “friends” with a Deity means you’ve met that Deity but don’t interact with It under normal circumstances; to be an “ally” means you interact with the Deity but only in a strictly non-devotional sense; and to be a “prodigy” means the Deity blesses and watches over you without your knowledge. For example, I’m a priest of Seth and a layperson of Ishtar, but I’m just friends with Anubis, Isis and Osiris. (And I don’t know if I’m a prodigy of any Deities or not, but that’s part of what it means to be a prodigy.)

One problem I have with the usual monotheist concept of priesthood is the assumption that priests must always be “go-betweens” who act as intermediaries for Gods and “regular” human beings. This idea existed to a certain extent in ancient polytheism as well, but only in a civil context. In Egypt, priests collected state taxes (i.e., food) and were responsible for keeping the economy above water. But aside from carrying sacred icons of the Gods throughout the streets of their towns during festivals, they never went out to “bring the good news” to their people. The common people were already perfectly capable of interacting with Gods and Goddesses on their own at household and neighborhood shrines. At the same time, many of these laypeople don’t seem to have concerned themselves with the affairs of the Gods too much. While the evidence we currently have is far from conclusive (considering that commoners couldn’t write), it would seem that they were generally more concerned with honoring their ancestors and working protective folk magic. Things aren’t that different today; most Pagans I know offline are more interested in casting runes, divining with Tarot or casting spells than they are with actually having intense personal relationships with specific Deities. (In fact, some of them seem to get uncomfortable when I talk about my commitment to Seth too much, ostensibly because it reminds them of how Christians talk about Jesus.) Some polytheists I know are really bothered by this sort of thing, feeling that more Pagans should be acting like priests in the context I have described. But while I sometimes share their frustration, I don’t think this situation is really all that different from how things were in ancient times.

And finally, there’s just one more thing I feel I should say about this subject…and I know some people probably won’t like it, and that it might spark a terrible argument of some kind. But at the risk of sounding confrontational, I think that if you don’t have a daily devotional relationship with what you consider to be a personal God or Goddess, then you can’t really be a priest or priestess of any kind. This not only precludes Pagans who are more concerned with magic than they are with worship; it also precludes atheists and agnostics by definition. Now this isn’t really an issue when it comes to most atheists, but there are some non-theistic spiritual paths in which the term “priest” is used (e.g., the Church of Satan). Again, this isn’t to say that the leaders of such movements can’t be good, valid, or authentic in their own unique ways; I think the 14th Dalai Llama, for instance, is one of the holiest people walking the Earth today. But I wouldn’t call him a “priest,” and since he’s an agnostic, I think he’d probably agree with my assessment. You don’t have to believe in any Gods to be a magician, a mystic, an occultist or a witch, but I personally think you have to believe in Gods to be a priest or priestess. Naturally, I expect that many other people will disagree this statement, and they’re certainly entitled to do so. Like I said above, anybody can use the word “priest” in any way they like outside of LV-426; we can’t stop them, and we don’t care to try. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept their definitions, either. That’s just my opinion, so take from it what you will.

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4 responses to “More On the Concept of Priesthood

  1. Rev. Dragon's Eye March 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    Well,

    There are quite a few “atheist priests” (or, be they ministers) on a few other so-net groups I am a member of. I sometimes look quizzically at that idea, but there again – to each his/her own.

    Like

    • G. B. Marian March 25, 2015 at 6:32 am

      Actually, you bring up a really important issue I forgot to discuss. I do consider there to be a difference between a “priest” and a “minister,” for the latter basically means “public servant” and is used in both a religious and a secular context (e.g., a Prime Minister, the Ministry of Defense, etc.). The way I see it, ministers don’t have to believe in the Gods but are basically there to provide legal ritual services to other human beings, such as legally-recognized weddings and/or funerals. This is why I support things like the ULC Monastery, where anyone can become an ordained minister regardless of what they believe or disbelieve. People reject the ULC Monastery as “invalid” because it isn’t really a religion per se and they think we should all have to go through much more rigorous training to become legally-ordained ministers. But they’re missing the real point here, which is that all religious and non-religious groups should be able to have legal weddings and other rituals that reflect their own beliefs and values, regardless of how small or underrepresented they might be. People shouldn’t have to settle for having either a Christian wedding or a purely clinical judicial wedding if they don’t want to, and they shouldn’t have to go all the way to Las Vegas if they want to be married by Elvis either. So for me at least, atheist ministers aren’t a contradiction in terms because a “ministry” should be understood as a purely legal concept anyway. Priesthood requires up close and personal belief in Deities, but ministry does not.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Rev. Dragon's Eye March 27, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Most of the adversarial attitudes towards the ULC, is by the (for-profit) “churches” because THEIR “seminary schools” are among the most expensive to attend. Plus, these “seminary schools” are more about indoctrination, than truly learning more about the Spirit.

        A “priest” is a position, a job-description, or even a “rank”. A minister, at least to me, is an avocation, a “calling”, and/or a profession towards the dedication of service to others (which many of those “elected” governmental “ministers” so conveniently ignore these days).

        And then,

        The ULC does us one greater service by how they do things: The are another aspect of the “free market”, in that people of any faith can become legally ordained – and the ULC, get this all you deniers, IS A LEGALLY-RECOGNIZED RELIGIOUS INSTITUTION AND A 501(c)3 NON-PROFIT ONE. The ULC has been around since about 1959(?), and ordained many world-famous peoples.

        Good enough for me too.

        Thank you for your insights!

        – * Reverend * Dragon’s Eye, ULC-Ordained: 11/10/2009.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. lornasmithers April 1, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing this very clear piece of writing on how you define priesthood within the LV-426 tradition. Within Druidry I’ve tended to see priesthood as mainly service to human communities, such as leading rites etc. although I know of a few people who also serve gods and a role between humans / land and deities.

    ‘we consider anyone who interacts with one or more Deities on a daily and devotional basis to be a priest or priestess of those Deities’ makes perfect sense within your tradition.

    In a sense this coincides with my relationship with my (main) deity, Gwyn ap Nudd. Part of my service to him as an Awenydd is daily and devotional, although I do share alot of my insights and poems for him and related deities and spirits in writing and performances. A bit like your bard-priest friend. And I serve other local deities and spirits in other ways, whether it’s poems, leading walks on sacred places or litter picking.

    Liked by 1 person

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