Lesson 9: Duties of the Priest

SCHOLA AETII·MONDAY, 9 JULY 2018

Priesthood in the past was in many ways much different from the demands today. In Rome, the majority of the Priests were not fully dedicated professional Priests, but often politicians or people of public offices who filled the role more as a part-time job. In other Polytheist religions the Priests were similarly tied to specific roles in the social order, the family father or someone tied closely to the chieftain or King. Priests today have no such social status, so we must find another focus. I have been advocating for a long time, that we Pagans/Polytheists turn our Priests more into a real profession, or at least take it as serious as if it were. Future Priests of Pagan religions need to dedicate their lifes to the role of Priest and take their work equally serious. It should be a step in your life the aspirant is prepared for, and a step he or she does with the greatest sincerity. The Pagan/Polytheist Priests of our time need to be highly educated and broadly experienced men and women. Our task is to both Gods and the people.

A Priest is only half a Priest, if he has no people to tend to. That side of the priestly duty is probably the most difficult to learn. While your highest duty is to your God of choice, and the Gods per se, you have also duty to the community. As people living in a society, we are no hermits, no isolated monads. We are connected to each other, each contributing to the common good, the society within we prosper. As such, a priest or sacerdos has the duty to his group, the other cultores and in general all people around him, whether they are cultores or not.
Now for the Sacerdos, there are five circles of social duty surrounding him, each in closer importance: family, group, region, nation and humanity. As such a Sacerdos or Priest is also serving as role model for everyone around him, the regular Cultor.

The first duty of the Sacerdos like that of all people is to one's own family. The Gods have blessed the family bonds of mutual respect and support. Caring for your family members and trying to keep the family together is the duty of all cultores, so it is the duty of the Sacerdos just the same. Now if one is so lucky to live in a Pagan/Polytheist family, by tradition the Pater Familias is the family priest, so to speak, but I assume in modern time it would be alright to develop it into a more communal concept, taking in every family member in the religious duties. If your family is irreligious or of other belief, you still take your family into the prayers at the Lararium and during the Sacred Days. Still, duty is to family always first. If you are conflicted with your family, I say, try to remedy it, but not at the expense of your mental sanity. For some people, going separate ways is sad but unavoidable, if you have toxic family members. But that is something not to be done lightly. A Sacerdos is always a family adviser, one where the Cultores can go to in advise, or just to have someone who listens. The family is the core of every society, so the Sacerdos nurtures the family idea and helps families staying together and overcoming their issues. That means of course, learning to help, learning about human issues and counseling.
The second duty is to your group, the Pagan/Polytheist group where you are a part of, and who elected you to be their Priest. You create the rituals, plan the festivals, but you should stay in touch with the people within your group, the average cultor, taking into account what they want from the rituals and festivals. You should not see yourself as a know it all religious dictator, but as servant who creates a bridge between Gods and Men. Try to make rituals so that the members of the group are involved and not sit in front of you for two hours passively, while you monopolize the talk. Do not make a Pagan ritual like the visit of a Church. That is one of the chances we have with small groups, that we can design the rituals in ways, that everyone plays a part, does something that he/she remembers afterwards as a fond memory. While the Roman Religion has certain guidelines and you are of course the guardian of these, try to develop things and make people involved.
Third duty goes to your region, or, the people around you, wherever you life. This may be challenging. In a very Christian region, revealing yourself a Polytheist Priest may not be easy. In the end, it is something you have to weight and decide. But I advocate that we stop hiding, that we become visible. You can start from the safety of your computer. Share some of your religious practices on social media, when there is a holiday. You do not have to go into any detail. Wish people Happy Floralia. Just mention it. Say a few words, what you did. Let people know and see we are here. Visibility works great wonders, but it takes time to have effect. The biggest problem we have currently is that most people assume we don't exist. The few who heard of Paganism, may think we are sort of devil worshipers. Just show by example, and less by words, that you are a trustworthy, decent person. Be there for people in your community, when you have the chance. That doesn't have to be in any religious way at all. But often it can open doors. Whether you chose a regional community or a virtual one is up to you. Maybe in some ways both, though the virtual community is surely easier for starters. Just try to overcome the invisibility effect.
The fourth circle of duty is to your nation. That may be a strange perspective for some Pagans and Polytheists, but we are also members of our nations, so as Sacerdos it is our duty to pray and partake for the well-being of the country where you live in. It does not have to be in any political way. A Sacerdos should have the mental skill of a certain detachment, seeing all sides and angles of issues. The priest has to be so open minded, that people of all backgrounds can come to you for counsel and help. So be not too partial, even if you have a political opinion. In your role as Sacerdos, you must be able to welcome and guide all people who seek you out. Praying for wise guidance of your nation may feel awkward to people in our modern time, but I think it belongs to the duties of a Priest that he asks the Gods to guide and protect your country. If you dedicate yourself to a certain God, you may think what positive aspects the God stands for, educate yourself in it and maybe contribute actively to the idea.
Fifth is the circle of humanity. The Sacerdos has to be open to everyone seeking him out, no matter of nationality or background. This completes the circles of social responsibility of the Sacerdos.