What is a Priest?
I'm a licensed minister. I got my credentials back when I was in college from the Universal Life Church. I've even performed a couple of weddings. It never made me want to call myself a priest.
I was a solo-practitioner Witch for years, even conducting my own celebrations of the Sabbats sometimes. I trained a couple of other solo practitioners. None of this ever made me want to call myself a priest.
There have periodically been people in my life who have wanted to refer to me as a priest. It used to be that I never let them
I don't know why exactly I've avoided this word as much as I have. Part of it is probably a desire to not be associated with those guys with the collars. Part of it is that I haven't felt particularly religious in over a decade.
I've also tended to see priesthood as more of a social position than anything else. A priest is someone with responsibilities to his community. I've never felt myself to be part of a community to whom I would owe such responsibilities. Why should I want the title? (Well, apart from my own tendancy to collect titles, that is.)
I suppose there's the "respect" aspect, but frankly if someone doesn't respect me without the title, I can't see why the title should change his/her mind. On the other hand, I suppose there are those who would be swayed by such a title, but how interesting can a person be, if this person gives respect to titles and not to people?
Hmmm. It seems to me that I'm rambling. Enough of these musings then.
The point is that of late I have heard the word used in a way that is new to me. I have begun hearing people use the word "priest" to refer to a particular relationship with a given deity/spirit/mythic figure/whatever. I have heard phrases (well, clauses from the grammatical perspective, assuming that I recall the rules right) such as these: "He's a Freyr priest." "She's a priestess of Aphrodite."
It's a sort of shorthand, really, to talk about a part of that person's system. It isn't just tossed around though. Someone wouldn't be referred to as a "Loki priest" just because he is interested in Loki. Implicit in the statement is that the person has a certain amount of direct experience involving the entity and earned the respect of others for his efforts. Often it involves invocation (or whatever term you like).
I rather like this use of the term. I find it descriptive without limiting. After all, simply because one is a priest of one being doesn't mean one can't be a priest of others. In fact, most such priests work with several.
So, do I call myself a priest?
I call myself whatever I feel like. I just no longer feel any need to avoid the word "priest."
Four Winds Bar