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Priestess or Witch?

Priestess or Witch?

The titles of both Priestess and Witch are being widely (re)claimed and becoming increasingly common in new age parlance as people identify with either or both in their spiritual practice or journey.

Are they the same or different? What are the differences? Can you be both*?

Certainly, they both require a calling of sorts. You don’t wake up one day and decide I’m a witch or I’m a Priestess. Both take dedication and work to learn the teachings, from books and lived experience, from cycling with nature again and again, season after season, year after year. There is no end point, it’s a continual path of learning, evolution, experimentation, mishap, mistakes, unlearning, intuition, blood, tears, loss, joy, grace, understanding, confusion, soul deep exploration, rejection, connection, unearthing, grounding, discovering and listening. It’s ownership of, and a choice to pursue, this path. And I’ve just scratched the surface. All the while carrying on with the day job and probably in the safety of the broom closet.

Unless of course the “calling” is from instagram and the current interest and trend for all things witchy is making you a few bob as a “spiritual influencer” looking ethereal in floaty frocks wafting smokey materials on certain days of the year…

Both Priestess and Witches work with rituals, sacred days/times/seasons. Some may cast circles before commencing rituals or work, some may not. Both understand the nature of balance and the cycle of life. Important point to note is that here is not devil worship in either case.

What is a Priestess?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary she is a female priest of a non-Christian religion. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a Priestess as (i) a woman authorized to perform the sacred rites of a religion and (ii) a woman regarded as a leader (as of a movement)

My own meaning of what a Priestess is, can be described as but not restricted to a woman in service to those who need her (her community) and to the Great Mother, Divine Feminine. She has usually undertaken some formal training. Training in counselling and spiritual coaching has to learned properly and will cost. There are many different types of Priestess too : High, initiated, earth, shamanic, women’s spiritual leader, oracle, medicine woman, ritual leader, ceremonial leader, wise one, ancient, modern-day, in-training and more.

Ancient Priestesses across the globe in matriarchal societies prayed to and were devoted to the Great Mother. They were revered by their communities for their wisdom, their experience, their leadership and their connection to the Divine. They lived by nature’s cycles and performed and facilitated rites and rituals. They both lead and served.

Modern day Priestesses are reclaiming and remembering the Goddess, bringing back the understood or interpreted ancient teachings as best they can and making them relevant to modern times. A Priestess today is not living in seclusion on an isle shrouded in mists (although that does sound immensely appealing), she could be your kid’s teacher, the checkout operator at the supermarket, your dentist! There is an association with the role of the Priestess that she must be holier-than-tho in that nice/lovely/glittery/good-girl bubble of saccharine, when in fact she may be hated or distrusted because the woman has unshakable boundaries. A Priestess is compassionate, respectful and strong because of her boundaries.

Regardless of the time, a Priestess is continually doing the work, exploring the depths of herself and who she is in order to serve the Goddess – be it Gaia, The Great Mother, or any number of deities from the world over, from any number of pantheons or the Goddess that resides within all – as well as both serving and leading her community.

What is a Witch?

We all know what a Witch is, right? The Oxford Dictionary is pretty succinct in that she is a woman thought to have magic powers, especially evil ones, popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat and flying on a broomstick. And Merriam Webster similarly states one that is credited with usually malignant supernatural powers especially a woman practicing usually black witchcraft often with the aid of a devil or familiar . Yep, evil, magical hags not to be trusted, rather than wise women with skills and knowledge in the healing arts, midwifery or in gardening. Patriarchy and the church did a sterling job demonising women they saw as a threat and persecuting many innocent, mainly women, for “crimes” they did not commit. We all know of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93 in Massachusetts , where 200 people were accused and 20 people executed as witches. In Scotland, our shameful history is far greater with 4,000-6,000 accusations and 1500 recorded executions during the burning times of the Witch Trials. The Scottish numbers were 5 times higher than the rest of Europe, such was the pure hatred and fear fuelled by the kirk.

A witch by my definition is a woman (or a man) who is in service to no-one unless she chooses to be and who practices witchcraft. It is a craft like any other and has to be practiced and developed over time. The craft can include an array of specialisations from divination, spellwork and herb and plant work to intuitive guidance, life coaching and healing via complimentary or traditional medicine. It is not an exhaustive list, just like the list of types of witches is not exhaustive either. The main types of Witches are : Green, solitary, garden, kitchen, moon/lunar, Pagan, Wiccan, coven, hedge, hereditary, traditional, faery, sea, grey, elemental, crystal, eclectic, hearth, weather, energy, artist, magical, forest, urban, healing, spiritual, nature, new/apprentice, new-age, you get the drift! I have probably left our more types than I can remember.

To be a Witch does not automatically mean she is Wiccan or Pagan. Not all witches are Wiccan, not all Pagans are witches!

Unless a witch is part of a coven, there is no formal training that has to be completed before being able to call oneself a Witch. It is not a title that one ought to take lightly however. There are courses a plenty online for how to be or how to practice, but getting outside and attuning to nature is as worthy a teacher as any course. Books and blogs for guidance are helpful but not vital (I am happy to recommend many books I have read over the years if anyone is interested and wants to know). The costumery of witchcraft is not necessary either – wear a hat or cloak, don’t wear a hat or cloak, have a broom, don’t have a broom, have a black cat, don’t have a black cat ( have a dog or a gold fish or a chicken or no pets coz allergies- it doesn’t matter!) Fun yes, necessary no.

I haven’t claimed the label of witch for myself but have been assigned it by others. I never claimed it as it is a powerful word and one that when I hear it, still makes me a little uneasy, despite my life long love of “witches” and decades of personal practice. This is in part to perception, the old fears and hatred of witches deliberately driven by the kirk have been replaced with scorn and ridicule by the general populous. In the modern world where, for the most part, the fear of being burnt at the stake is a thing of the past, in certain company it is easy to discuss openly the hidden world of witches and priestesses but not really generally and not always comfortably, and caution is exercised as there is still much of the foregone stigma heavily attached to either word, though predominantly on the Witch word. I feel as I am moving into a Priestess-type role in my work though I don’t call myself a Priestess. I am completely self taught through experience and books, but am looking into more formal training. I am serving others in circles, priestessing women through rites of passage ceremony and ritual. I honour and revere the Divine Feminine, the Great Mother in all her aspects, channeling her energy as required. I chose to call myself at this time, a Flame Keeper – stoking the fires of the mysteries, protecting and remembering who we are and inviting you to reclaim your soul truth and essence, igniting the spark of curiosity to aid you on your journey to yourself.

Does this answer the question: Priestess or Witch? Or muddy the waters further? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this, being as this is purely my own ponderings and observations on the matter.

Lissa xx

*Yes I believe you can

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Spirituality: What does it mean?

Spirituality

Spirituality. What does it mean? Seriously! What does it mean to be ‘spiritual’?

What do you think it means? I’m not being sarcastic, but really asking, what do you genuinely think, when you hear the words Spiritual and Spirituality?

I think it means different things to different people.

Spirituality has become one of those terms used and, at times, over used and not always with clarity, but rather an air of mystique or pretension; there is an element of wankery attached to the word as it is banded about to express ones enlightened state of being (see what I mean about the wankery?).  But it also a sincere description of what some people experience or believe whether instead of or alongside their religion.

Is that any clearer? I’m not actually convinced that it is.

I had a friend tell me years ago that neither she nor her husband were religious people, but they were spiritual; I remember at the time thinking “what the fuck does that mean?” but not wanting to look ignorant, I just accepted the statement.

Only recently have I given the word any pause for thought. It hasn’t ever been  part of my consciousness when considering my path and beliefs, until I started hearing and seeing it used more and more on social media.

From a personal perspective, I do not consider myself ‘religious’ (I was christened as a baby into the Church Of Scotland, but at 8 weeks old, that choice was not mine to make. I have never felt any affinity with the church and haven’t attended a service other than for weddings or funerals since I left school). I don’t believe in God. I can accept that Jesus was a real man but that his miracles were more symbolic rather than literal. I don’t believe in heaven and hell other than that they were man-made constructs created to instil fear, compliance and obedience.  I do however believe that we are all part of something greater than just this existence on this one planet. There has to be life elsewhere, space is MAHOOSIVE!  We cannot possibly be the only creatures. I also believe in the Law of Attraction, energy, ghosts, reincarnation and that we are souls inhabiting a human body. Oh and I celebrate Christmas as it is a time with and for family.

Since high school I have identified as atheist, although at a guess I would say that that 2001 census has me down as CoS as I lived with my parents and they completed the form. However in the 2011 census I listed my religious beliefs as Pagan.

Pagan Wheel Of The Year

For 9 of the last 10 years, if I had to attach a religious label to myself, it would have been as Atheist Pagan. I follow the Wheel of the Year, the cycles of nature and the moon. I listen to my intuition and use divination tools and meditation for guidance.

I have had a life long love of witches and astrology, have visited various mediums (spooky wives) during my 20’s, but I never called myself, or considered myself to be spiritual.  

The past couple of years has seen my journey take a turn down the path of self development and exploration. This has lead me this year, to the Divine Feminine and Goddess / Priestess culture; Herstory if you will.  It’s fascinating and I can’t quench that thirst for more knowledge. Once I have read one book am ready to dive into the next and the next. The Goddesses or the Divine Feminine resonate with me, not as a woman up in the sky like the Big Man with the white beard, but as an energy that lives within each of us. She is always present, we just need to find her.  The use of Goddess Archetypes is helpful in doing this, to assist channelling the energy required.

This may read like utter bullshit and that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone will be on board with this line of thinking or belief. Each path or journey is as unique as the individual travelling it.

So, in answer to my question : Spirituality, what does it mean? I think it means whatever you understand it to be, in relation to your personal belief set.

Is it just semantics? Am I a spiritual person? Are you? Does it even matter? Probably not in all honesty, it’s just another label, but surely it’s down to personal opinion and what feels right?

I would love to know your thoughts on the subject if this is something you have an opinion on.

Lx