Priestly Training for Neo-Pagan Solitaries
When I was a very young Witch, I felt myself called to service as a Priestess. I didn't have any particular delusions of grandeur along those lines. I didn't want to be a Priestess so I could say that I was more important or more knowledgeable or more anything. Truthfully, I felt called to serve. I didn't know what that service was going to look like, but I knew that I had work to do.
I was a solitary practitioner of the Craft, though, and I didn't feel right about simply claiming the title of "Priestess" for myself. Sure, lots of others had done it. Plenty still do. But I felt like there was something dishonest in that. The ancient Priestesses devoted years of their lives to study and practice. They had codes of accountability and standards of quality. They were supervised by somebody who had already completed the same program of study. I wanted training.
So, I developed a training program for myself. I lacked a teacher at the time. I only had myself and my goals, but I made a commitment to accomplish thirteen tasks before I could call myself a Priestess. I share here a revised version of the thirteen tasks with any aspirant to the Path of Service. (It is revised because, having worked as a Priestess for several years, I see how naïve and immature some of my early tasks were.)
Dedication to the Pagan Path - In order to serve as a Priest or Priestess on this path, make an official commitment to work as a Witch. The work of the Witch is not easy, leaving the role of clergy out of it.
Dedication to Priesthood - Make a specific commitment to the work of the Clergy. Define that for yourself first. Will you be a counselor, a teacher, a ritual leader, a healer, an oracle? Some combination of the above?
Read and Complete Exercises in Foundational Texts - You could choose to go the Buckland amp; Ravenwolf direction, or you may choose to look at Old Craft practices as described by Nigel Jackson and Doreen Valiente. The key is to become knowledgeable in the lore and practice of Witchcraft as you wish to practice it.
Observe Every Full Moon for Three Years - If you are going to claim to be knowledgeable regarding moon lore and magic, you need to work with the moon's special powers consistently and over a period of time. Don't skip any
Observe Your High Holy Days - If you are Wiccan, observe the 8 Sabbats without fail. It doesn't matter if you work with others or completely on your own. Just get yourself in turn with the Wheel of the Year. The same is true for any path. If you are more Hellenic in approach, research and honor the major festivals of the Olympians. The key is to attune yourself to the cycles of life, death and rebirth that are present in the year. These cycles hold the keys to so much wisdom and mystery.
Read Craft History - Approach books like Drawing Down the Moon, Spiral Dance, and Witchcraft Past and Present for information about how Pagans have practiced in the last 60 years. These are important texts that allow you to have a broader scope of the religion you are representing.
Practice Magic - Don't just think about leading a magical life. Lead it. Write your own spellcraft. Conduct rituals. Use other people's spells and rituals in the beginning, if you need to. Don't rely on them forever, though. Part of magic is the act of creation. As you grow, magic should be an integral part of your life on a daily basis.
Learn Divination - Whether it's one form or three, become masterful at divination. This is a tool that will guide you throughout your career as a Priestess. Tarot is a rich tool with abundant information available. For beginners, choose a basic deck, like the Universal Waite. You'll become familiar with the standard symbolism that way.
Seek Counsel and Guidance from and Elder - The Internet provides abundant opportunities for you to connect with Witches who have been practicing for years - even decades. Don't settle for the dogmatic advice of your friend who claimed the title of Priestess for herself two years ago. Find someone who can give you feedback and support who has actually been walking this path for a while.
Journal - I can't begin to express how powerful a tool the Witch's book is. Not the one where you keep your spells, rituals, tables of correspondences, etc. That is simply reference material. The really important book is the journal - the place where you write down and work through your daily tribulations, spiritual insights, plans, etc. Make a commitment to fill up three pages in your journal every day. It doesn't matter what you write about. Just allow yourself to write those things that are on your mind.
Help Others - Make a point of volunteering somewhere or helping your elderly neighbor on a regular basis. Pagans typically see interdependence within the web of life. As a Priestess, you will be called on to help your family, community and the Craft. Start now.
Get Involved in the Community - You don't have to be a social butterfly, and you don't have to be a big-wig. Just show up to your local Pagan Pride Day every year, or attend some of the open rituals hosted by others in your area. If you are truly isolated, get involved with like-minded people online. That support and communication will be vital to you as you grow.
Learn Devotion - This may be a controversial one among practicing Pagans. Not everyone does this. However, I hold forth the idea that it isn't enough to call on the Gods to work with you in your magic. Learn to honor them and give something back. An outpouring of love at their altar will connect you with the Gods and Goddesses in an amazing way. If you have been called to serve as a Priestess or Priest, you are probably hearing their call. Don't neglect them along the way.