Friday, July 30, 2010

The Hellenic Priesthood

NOTE: These are completely my own observations and conclusions. In no way do they represent a universal point of view or a concrete belief in Hellenism.

Before I discuss the Hellenic Priesthood I believe first I have to define what a priest is.

1. In many Christian churches, a member of the second grade of clergy ranking below a bishop but above a deacon and having authority to administer the sacraments.
2. A person having the authority to perform and administer religious rites.
tr.v. priest·ed, priest·ing, priests
To ordain or admit to the priesthood.

Obviously, I'm keeping the second definition. A priest is a person having the authority to perform and administer religious rites. How does that work in Hellenism though?

The Hellenic Priesthood is a bit different than other priesthoods such as the Priesthood of the Wica. First of all, it is divided into two different forms. I will call those "Liturgical Clergy" and "Devotee Clergy".

"Liturgical Clergy" is the term I use to refer to the part of the Hellenic Priesthood that holds the duties of performing and administering religious rites (as per the dictionary definition). However, the difference from other clergies is that the Liturgical Clergy is, more often than not, elected by the community or the organization they may be members of, they rarely undergo formal training and usually are simply chosen ritual leaders (as in people chosen to lead a ritual or ceremony without being ordained).

"Devotee Clergy" is a peculiar and less public part of the Hellenic Priesthood. On par with our ancestors' ways, the Devotee Clergy is a category composed by those people who may or may not be formally ordained and who may or may not have received training but are wholeheartedly devoted to specific deities and serve under them.

Before I further explain those two branches, I ought to present my sorting of the Hellenic religious scene. Note that this is not a hierarchy, merely a presentation of the religious scene. Everyone in this is equal to each other even though their duties might differ.

First Stage: Average religious follower: Any Hellenic Pagan may fall under this category. It's about your basic follower, that observes holidays and worships the Gods as well as delve into whatever practices they deem fit. Their relationship with the Gods and the community might be sincere and true but does not extend to service of either. Most do have patrons but not necessarily all of them do.

Second Stage: Liturgical Clergy: Any Hellenic Pagan may be elected to act as a priest/ess for a set time. Certain groups exist solely for this purpose and their members are permanent priests. The latter tend to also seek out formal training and possibly, ordination. Their relationship with the Gods and the community is again sincere and true, but in this case it extends to service towards both. Generally, a Liturgical Priest/ess may have patron deities but they usually perform rites regardless of the deity involved. They offer their services to the community by taking the role of leading rituals and ceremonies and occasionally offering counselling and other clerical services, albeit in a limited manner.

Third Stage: Devotee Clergy: Any Hellenic Pagan may reach this stage. A Devotee Priest/ess always has patron deities, usually seeks some sort of training and is considered a "specialty priest/ess". The reason is because their duties are specified to the specific Gods they serve (although of course they are able to perform other rites as well). They offer their service to the community in relation to their specified duties. This is similar to the ancient Greek priests/esses of the various deities. Those were responsible and in charge of a specific shrine/altar/temple and served a specific deity alone.

Most known priests/esses in the Hellenic scene today are Liturgical. The Devotee ones are less public and less encountered, usually because the Pagan community of today does not always have need of "specialty priests/esses". In addition, most people do not necessarily wish to take on such a duty (another reason why most Liturgical Priests are also temporary). A Devotee Priest is often called by his/her Gods to their explicit service and that is also a variation of a patron relationship. Not all patron relationships form priests.

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