This Priestess Thing
I am a Priestess. In the tradition I was trained in, that word says nothing about my gender, apparent or identified. It doesn’t assure you of my history, my education, my status or my authority. It doesn’t necessarily imply religion, and while it strongly implies spirituality, it doesn’t actually promise that, either.
Priestess, in my tradition, is also a verb. I am a Priestess when I am priestessing. When I am acting as a servant of the sacred. Another way to say that might be, I am a Priestess when I am acting in accordance with my values. When I am standing in my integrity – when my behavior is in alignment with my values – and when I am doing the conscious work of supporting that stance… I am priestessing. I am doing the job of a Priestess.
I learned this job in the context of leadership within a spiritual community. In the context of co-creating and facilitating ritual, mediating conflict, empowering agency, making and maintaining protected space for personal growth. Stepping into this job, I was asked: are you ready to serve the group’s experience, instead of focusing on your own?
In everyday life, when I find myself called to step, consciously, into that role, the question is almost the same. Am I ready to serve and support what I value, rather than my own immediate experience – my mood, my comfort, my desire not to be in conflict? Particularly when things that I value — inclusivity, personal responsibility, compassion, curiosity, individual authority, equality, human dignity – are being challenged.
I am fine with your definition of the sacred – what you value – being different than mine. I am fine with you relentlessly supporting your sacred, in the same way that I aspire to relentlessly support my own. What happens, though, when your sacred and mine cannot co-exist? When upholding what I value doesn’t seem possible without dismantling the systems that uphold what you value?
If you’re hoping that I have an answer for that, in this blog post… I’m sorry. I don’t.
I value your right to be your own authority. I value questioning my own certainty. I value compassionate, dignified interchange. What happens, though, when I have questioned, I have listened, I have looked with the most compassionate gaze I can summon at our disagreement, and I find I cannot abide the actions your own authority leads you to?
Again, no answers here.
The Priestess card, in the Tarot, is the number two. Exchange. But not just any exchange. Artful exchange. Skillful exchange. Exchange in service to connection and expansion.
Pamela Wilz wrote this, after listening to Cynthea Jones of Diana’s Grove talk about the Priestess card:
“The Priestess opens her upper chakras and veils her lower ones. She says ‘I offer you my heart, my voice, my intuition, and my connection to the divine. I will manage my own need for power, sexuality, and my fears about survival and scarcity.’”
What happens when I consciously take out of the equation my concerns about my own power, my own survival, my insecurities about my value and my fears about my access to resources? What if I try to put those aside, when entering into the job of priestessing in everyday life? It is, by now, second nature for me to do exactly that in the context of leadership. I am, after all, acting as servant to my values, in that role, not my ego. But in the interpersonal exchanges of my daily life, particularly when they become challenging, all of those concerns are triggered.
Most of the time, really, even in the hardest interchanges, my own survival is not threatened. It is the threat I feel to the survival of others that usually calls me into conflict, activating the need to serve and uphold what is, to me, a sacred value: the protection of those more vulnerable than I am. What if I can remember this, next time? (Assuming it is true that my own survival is not threatened. If it is, I have immediate priorities above priestessing.)
What if I can remember this image, and enter into a potentially difficult exchange with the intention to manage my own needs, and offer my best resources?
I am, at any rate, curious about it. Interested in giving it a try.
I suspect I will have no shortage of opportunities.
This post was written by Laurie Dietrich