I’d like to spend a little time talking about priesthood.
If you’re asking yourself what this Jedi, who is neither ordained priest nor minister, nor even in seminary, is doing talking about priesthood then you shall soon find out.
First off, I would like you to take yourself away mentally from your current surrounding, and imagine the situation as I present it.
You are in a room that is quite dark.
You strike a match and light the candles in front of you - black, red and white, the wax on the wick spits as it suddenly heats.
The incense follows after and the smokey scent of cedarwood begins to envelope the space. You speak the words of the rite you have written; slow, purposefully, in even tone. You feel the meaning of those words fill you, and you begin to feel a connection to your god. His strength becomes your strength, his wisdom becomes your wisdom. In this moment you make a connection to the divine essence and your connection to the world itself grows. A bell is rung and the ritual ends.
You are not in a church or temple, but at an altar in your living room. You are not an ordained minister or priest, you wear no special robes, and this is not your life calling. You are just you.
Priesthood is usually seen as a kind of ‘life choice’, a ‘calling’ that one has that results in them becoming a teacher, a mouthpiece for their god, a funnel for their wisdom. They administer the rites of that deity and help others find their connection to the divine. Priesthood has had various faces during history.. the modern priest is social; they tend to the spiritual health of their congregation and are often a part of different life events such as marriage; they may even listen to problems a person has, offer counselling. In Ancient Egypt, the priest was different, there was no social aspect; the priest lived in the Temple and tended only to the needs of their god. Two very different versions of a priest.
It’s tempting to think sometimes that only certain people are ‘made’ to be priests, that you have to have some kind of calling. Another possibility is that you don’t believe in god, or aren’t sure... the idea of god can be a confusing one, especially when your gut tells you that gods aren’t possible. It took a long while for this agnostic to come to terms with the idea of having a ‘personal god’. There’s a value, real value, in having a connection to a version of god even when there’s no belief that they are, in essence, ‘real’.
If priesthood is the means by which someone becomes a vessel for the spirit of the divine, then there is no reason why each person cannot themselves become a priest. The word worship itself comes from the Old English word weorthscipe meaning the acknowledgement of worth. Worship does not have to be kneeling in a religious building and praying, it can simply be the everyday acknowledgement of the value of that divine essence that connects every one of us.
Sometimes, putting a ‘face’ to the Force (I use the capitalisation on purpose) can be useful, other times it may be a hindrance, it’s up to the individual and the situation. I think of it a little like cloud watching.. sometimes you look up and the moisture in the air doesn’t coalesce, other times you’re looking it has coalesced into clouds that you can see images in. Sometimes the ‘face’ of the Force may need to have the face of the god of wisdom, or the face of the god of love; it doesn’t mean that you’ve started bowing or worshipping an omnipotent figure, just that you’re using a tool, imagery, to connect.
I have had a personal god in Set/Sutekh since I was a teenager. He’s where I find strength when I’m struggling to feel like I fit in, who I look to for inspiration… the personification of certain qualities and behaviours manifests for me in Set. I don’t believe he’ll strike down my enemies or answer my prayers (if I ever did get around to praying) but I do know that I have a connection to this 'god who isn’t a god’. Whenever I was taking exams, or needed to find some wisdom, the power, the energy, the Force, would form as Thoth instead, the Egyptian god of knowledge and wisdom.
When the power of the universe manifests for me as Set I am making a connection to the constructed god which represents all those qualities that I aspire to, but in reality my connection is being made with the essence of the spirit that is in every single one of us; some would call that spirit divine.
I am his priest in the same way as those ancient Egyptians were, attending to his existence and laying offerings at the feet of his statue. Except that attending to his existence means bringing down into myself his strength, and the offerings are me living the wisdom that I have come to understand. I don’t need those rituals anymore, it has become an automatic thing, although ritual can be a powerful tool.
Priesthood is, in essence, the administering of the rites of one’s god or gods, whether that be by ritual or service, to be a vessel of the spirit of that god, a funnel for their wisdom. What I believe is that it doesn’t matter whether you believe that god is ‘real’ or whether he or she is your own construction; every Jedi here is a funnel of the Force.
Priesthood need not be a life’s calling, but a momentary connection to the divine, the spark, the universal Force.