Signs of a True Elder, Master or Priest
Author: Patricia Telesco
I have been very disturbed by the increase in the use of titles like Priest, Priestess, Elder, Teacher, Shaman, Lady, and Lord in our community, specifically by those who really do not have the training to claim such honorable terms. You would not see anyone in the Christian church calling themselves by such a title without ordination and schooling, yet among neo-pagans it seems that nearly anyone who wishes to can take up a title and wield it for boon or bane.
Now, I realize that at the heart of things we are our own Priest and Priestess, but that’s far different than being the spiritual guide for many people (not to mention the difference in Karmic implications). To use a title without having earned it in the eyes of others, through training, or by calling is to dishonor all those who have earned their place as our teachers, elders, priests and priestesses. It also doesn’t present the most positive, responsible image of neo-paganism to outsiders who view such antics as manipulative power trips (often rightly so).
Reading one book does not make anyone an expert. Attending a year’s worth or rituals does not qualify a person for eldership or priesthood! In a world of seemingly shake-and-bake shamanism and instant priesthood, the route to true magical mastery isn’t traversed quickly or without sacrifice, and it can’t be found in the yellow pages. And it certainly has very little to do with a fancy or powerful sounding title. At its pinnacle, adepthood isn’t about impressing people; it’s a way of living and being. In other words, the focus is not on “talking the talk,” but on “walking the walk.” What are some of the signs of a true elder, master or priest?
How about someone who:
Reclaims ancient knowledge, tradition, and powers, keeping them alive for future generations
Safeguards magical history so that we can learn from the past in building the future
Personally accepts the responsibility implied by gaining and using mystical knowledge and skill
Honors the earth as a sacred space and use its resources wisely
Acknowledges that life is an act of worship, and strives to keep his or her words and actions in accord
Respects individual diversity, knowing there are many paths to enlightenment and that each person is a sacred space unto themselves.
Embraces creativity and change as a fundamental necessity in keeping magic vital
Encourages balance in all things, especially in his or her own life
Teaches others the ways of magic in simple, understandable steps (no “instant enlightenment” no fluffy bunny magick).
Offers metaphysical aid, consultation, and insights freely to those in need, without personal expectations of gain
Gives back something to their art, or those who practice it
Realizes that tools are only helpmates to magic. Real power comes from the mind, heart, and will working in harmony with earth and Spirit.
In some ways a priest or elder doesn’t ever “arrive” — we are always getting there, realizing that the more we know, the more we realize how LITTLE we know (smile). When we finally reach this understanding, we’re often ready to teach and lead with both heart and head; in balance is spiritual wisdom. In fact, I would hazard to guess that most people who are truly our priests, priestesses, elders and teachers are those who don’t have to say so – we just know it by the example of their lives!