Priestess Semantics (#30DaysofDissertation)

IMG_9643-1I revisited one of my first posts at SageWoman yesterday as I continued to type notes from Under Her Wings.

“The journey to become a priestess…(even of the urban variety) remains a grueling task, not something capable of being conferred by a few weekend workshops or sweat lodges. The glibness with which such terms are used can be infuriating…” –Vivienne Vernon-Jones in Voices of the Goddess by Caitlin Matthews

Source: Practical Priestessing: Who Does She Think SHE is?! – PaganSquare – PaganSquare – Join the conversation!

Nicole Christine also addresses the fear, the chastisement, of “who does she think she is?” as she describes working with her first group of initiates:

“This is when the priestess within came to life! Many wanted me to tell them how to be a priestess. Now, through direct communion with the Goddess and the priestess within, we were, each in our own time and own way, discovering what it means to be a priestess in these times.

Facilitating, rather than directing, I was in continual awe over what was seeking expression through us.”(p. 69)

She reached a conclusion with her group: “And we concurred that to be a priestess in these times was about inner mediation between the Goddess Within and our woman self, rather than serving as an intermediary between the Divine and humankind” (p . 68). But, she also acknowledges a shared fear that I find reassuring in my own work:  “A split in consciousness regarding use of the term priestess existed in the first circle of initiates. Most fear ridicule and/or misunderstanding if they openly identified as priestesses, and also felt somehow unworthy of such identification. But when time came for their ordinations, these women radiantly reclaimed their worthiness and courageously broke ground for new priestesses” (p. 81).

I marked one more quote on the topic of self-worth, since I struggle here a lot as well: “[a priestess in the initiation process] shared her inner pilgrimage process. ‘I kept trying to be a priestess and feeling more and more worthless because I wasn’t being what I thought a priestess should be. Finally, I realized that a priestess, more than anything, needs to be honest with her feelings—that is where the power and self-worth are” (p. 96).

Switching gears, I realized that in all of my 311 pages of typing so far (plus 154 pages of research participation questions, I’ve almost totally overlooked an entire element of The Priestess (as archetype) and that is the sexual priestess. I think my knee-jerk reaction is to completely dismiss “temple prostitute” type of verbiage in literature as an artifact of patriarchal conditioning/interpretation. i.e. I don’t know that I believe that the role of ancient temple priestesses actually had anything to do with sex per se, instead I think that later historians/archaeologists have trouble understanding that female religious leadership could be in a capacity other than sexual and so they dismiss priestess evidence as “temple prostitute” (much like dismissing all sculptures as “fertility icons” instead of goddesses). But, in that rejection of what I see as the temple prostitute “myth,” I am missing out on a whole category of responses or interpretations.

Nicole Christine actually addresses this subject in some depth in Under Her Wings:

“The author [of The Sacred Prostitute] affirmed my knowing that it is the sacred prostitute/sexual priestess who actively brings goddess love into the human realm” (p. 93).

(Though, I kind of scratch my head here. I recognize that I’m probably layering on some of my own culturally ingrained judgements/stereotypes/conceptions here, but to me, I see and experience many ways of bringing goddess love into the human realm that have nothing to do with being a sacred prostitute/sexual priestess…)

Actually, as I type now, I realize I didn’t completely overlook it, because I did read Aphrodite’s Priestess by Laurelei Black. I listened to several Voices of the Sacred Feminine shows that related to “sacred courtesanship” and I participate in enough women’s empowerment focused Facebook groups to know that some women embrace themselves as “dakini” or priestesses of the sexual arts. Though, it has also only very recently caught my attention that some people, other than those patriarchally blinded archaeologist types, actually perceive Priestess as a synonym for Prostitute! I mean more that I overlooked it as a serious area for further exploration and discussion. I also just found out about this book, but I don’t know that I have time to add another book to my pile!

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Categories: 30daysofdissertation, dissertation, feminist thealogy, practices, priestess, quotes, readings, resources, spirituality, women, woodspriestess | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Priestess Semantics (#30DaysofDissertation)

  1. What a wonderful meditation on these questions – thank you. I appreciate your way of exploring, enquiring, pondering. Goddess Bless!

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