Not THAT Kind of Priest: or why I don’t proselytize for the Morrigan

Putrification - Valerie Herron http://www.valerieherron.com/

Putrification – Valerie Herron
http://www.valerieherron.com/

What causes a particular god or goddess to surge in popularity and how does that affect the community that is already in relationship with that deity?   In many cases of this phenomena the media has a role to play in popularizing the deity, and the public interest in said deity spikes after a particular movie, television show, or book appears on the market. In some cases the particular deity has an aspect that resonates with people because of the political or physical atmosphere that the individual exists in. Sometimes, there is a rare occurrence where it appears that the deity themselves are actively recruiting devotees into their worship. In the case of the Morrigan all of these factors seem to be in play to one degree or another. There have been a number of appearances of the Morrigan in popular media, all of them rather horrible, portraying her in a juvenile light, petty and vengeful and of course sexy. A Google search for images of the Morrigan leads one to a wasteland of video game characters and gothy waifs with ravens, with a few stunning images thrown in. The Morrigan does indeed have aspects of who she is that resonate with people because of the social and political climate that we live in. The concepts of personal sovereignty and fighting for what you believe in speak to people in a world where our sovereignty and integrity are challenged every day. People look to the Morrigan for the strength they need to stand up to a system that marginalizes all but the wealthiest and whitest male members. It is these aspects of the Morrigan that call some people to her. Sometimes though, she calls to people herself.

Being a public priest of the Morrigan has been an interesting journey. One of the benefits of it has been that I have been able to connect with a surprisingly large number of people with very similar experiences. The most common pattern goes along the lines of “I keep having dreams, nightmares or visions of the Morrigan and I don’t know what to do” or “The Morrigan has shown up in my life and my life is chaos now”. The sheer number of and commonalities in these experiences are significant and point to a metaphysical reality that is hard to deny. The Morrigan is active and is calling her people. It leads to the question: as her priests, how can we best serve not only her, but those that she calls as well?

The nature of this dynamic creates a situation where the practice of proselytizing, the active and sometimes aggressive recruitment to one’s religion commonly practiced by some, is unnecessary, presumptive, and potentially harmful to some.  Proselytizing is spiritual arrogance, the self aggrandized mentality that you have found the “true” path that is not only right for you but the proper path for all.   Let be honest, save the tragically lonely, nobody likes having Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormon’s show up at your door to try to convert you to their particular brand of religion.  As well-mannered and polite as they almost always are, having someone show up at your door to sell you something, be it a product, insurance, or a belief system, is an imposition, often annoying and patently insulting.  The other side of proselytizing, the practice of traveling to other cultures and pushing your religion on tribal communities and the very poor,  is even more harmful and criminally self-serving.  As Pagans, we should strive to avoid this type of imposition on others.  Spirituality is not a one size fits all concept.  Paganism is not for everyone and we shouldn’t act as if it is.  If we want to show the world that our path is a viable one we must do that with our actions, not our arguments.  We must be the type of individuals that people look at and want to emulate, not salespeople and charlatans.

In the case of those of us called by a goddess such as the Morrigan, proselytizing is even less appropriate and potentially harmful to people.  The Morrigan is not the right fit for everyone.  She is a goddess that demands valor and sacrifice from her children.  Working with her can be demanding and disturbing.  She is a goddess that challenges you, mentally, physically, and spiritually. She will almost always drag you kicking and screaming from your comfort zone and destroy the constructs in your life that compromise your personal sovereignty. If you accept her call, the path she sets you on is a path of shadows and terror, and also a path of service and accountability. She asks us to face aspects of existence that are uncomfortable and frightening to most.  She is not for the faint of heart or the weak, for the process of coming to terms with these concepts, death, battle, violence, can be damaging to some, and disastrous to fragile personalities.  And yet, we are often asked by people why we don’t “talk about the more positive aspects of the Morrigan” or “encourage people to follow her”.

The short answer is that we do talk about the positive aspects of having a devotional relationship with the Morrigan, when its appropriate. We also talk about the dangerous aspects of that same relationship, because in our experience the gods are real individuals. To us the gods are not interchangeable and of no consequence. All goddesses are not just aspects of “the Goddess’ and all gods are not just aspects of “the God” but real individual entities that have agency, agendas and the power to affect the world and our lives.

As a priest of the Morrigan, it is not my job to my goddess by emphasizing her gentler aspects and glossing over her fiercer and scarier aspects. As her priest I have an obligation to face and to attempt to understand some of the darker sides of human nature and our existence. War, death, rage, blood, and decay are not only foundational parts of the Morrigan, they are foundational parts of the world. They are not aberrations that we can or should strive to overcome through some sort of “spiritual enlightenment”, but in fact true spiritual enlightenment comes when one starts to be a peace with these aspects of the process of life and to attempt to understand their roles in the natural world. “World Peace” is not a thing. There has never been a time in our history where there was global peace and there isn’t going to be an era of world peace in the future. Nature is not peaceful, therefore we are not peaceful. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t make efforts in our lives to make our world safe and just, but it means that by turning away from these more undesirable or frightening aspects of the natural world we cripple ourselves. We futilely attempt to distance ourselves from things that will not be denied, and when those undeniable things creep up on us, sidle up to us, or kick down our door, we end up being woefully unprepared to face them. As devotees of a goddess that is intimately tied to battle, terror, and violence, it would be foolish for us to try to avoid facing and understanding these things, and as a public priest of the Morrigan, it would be irresponsible for me to gloss over the more terrifying faces of my goddess’s nature in order to avoid scaring people away from making binding oaths to her before they had a nuanced understanding of her.

This is why I do not proselytize for the Morrigan. My duty as her priest is not to tell people of the “good news” of the Morrigan, it’s not to convert people into starting a devotional relationship with her, and it’s not to make the Morrigan more palatable to the general public by emphasizing her safer aspects and downplaying the more dangerous ones. The Morrigan calls you if she wants you and if and when that call comes, you have the choice of what type of relationship, if any at all, that you would like to pursue with her. As her priest it is my duty to assist people in navigating the chaos and challenges that almost always come with contact with her.  She demands strength and truth from her own along with determination and valor. It is a path I chose for myself and in choosing it, altered the direction of my life drastically. It was absolutely the correct choice for me and the rewards that I have received far outweigh that challenges that I face on it, but I also recognize that it is not the right path for everyone. The charge from my goddess is to walk this path in integrity and provide honest council for others that have also been called by her, to provide a realistic road map to a devotional practice with the Morrigan that honestly marks the dangers, pitfalls, and rewards of this journey so that others can make informed decisions about the steps along their own paths to her.

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “Not THAT Kind of Priest: or why I don’t proselytize for the Morrigan

  1. Excellent post! As a priestess of Hekate, I really resonated with everything you’ve lucidly argued here. And it’s always refreshing for me to discover that there are other polytheist Pagans out there, that not everyone falls into the reductionist Wiccan thinking popularized by Doreen Valiente (or, more recently, Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Avalon” series of historical Pagan fiction) that denies individual, culturally defined Deities of Their agency and stuffs them into the “One God(dess)” mold. The good news is, as Pagans, we’re generally in favor of relativism–what works for me may not for you and so forth. And we’re more than okay with that. I also don’t go about extolling the virtues OR describing the hardships of my devotional practices to Hekate or any of the other Powers I serve unless I am directly approached by someone who’s seeking my counsel.

    Anyhow, thanks again for this piece! Cheers! ((hoists imaginary tankard of ale at her desk))

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Pingback: Anti-Capitalist Anal-Sex Mountaineering Boots | PAGANARCH

  3. This is an excellent piece for a variety of reasons–your explanation of the “why not” (as in “why I don’t/why no one should”) of proselytization is spot-on, and the tactics that people always try to use in doing so are never helpful or useful, and only create false expectations when the full range of a deity’s personality comes to bear on someone and they’re not ready for it because “I only believe in the nice aspects of XYZ,” etc. Nope, sorry, one doesn’t have that choice, with humans or with deities–it’s the whole package every time or none of it, and one doesn’t get to pick and choose which bits to accept or reject.

    Needless to say, I’ve resisted this pull that people have often expressed as far as Antinous is concerned: can’t you come up wtih a “catechism” for him? Can’t you do an elevator speech about him? Nope, and no…and even if I could compress him into an “elevator speech,” I wouldn’t want to, because he’s far too complex to be characterized that easily (and unfortunately, too many people have characterized him in a not-even-one-dimensional fashion already).

    Anyway, it’s an ongoing struggle, but one that is consequent on the fact that our deities are individual volitional beings who are just as complex as any human, and more so because they’re older and more far more powerful.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reblogged this on alleyscat and commented:
    This is one of the most intelligent, balanced essays I have read regarding The Morrigan and Paganism in general. I don’t reblog as a general practice, but it speaks deeply to me. Thank you.

    Like

  5. Well said, sir, and great topic. Though we work for difference Goddesses and have difference experiences, I can definitely see the similarities. Freya makes Her own mess, though perhaps in a less dramatic way. (I talk a bit about them here: https://thegoldthread.wordpress.com/2014/11/24/on-being-a-freya-priestess-dealing-with-the-aftereffects-of-meeting-with-freya/)

    Unlike the Morrigan, though, Freya reaches out and talks to a whole *lot* of people. She’s one of the most approachable deities in the Norse pantheon, and She’s often the first one people interact with. I have met very few Heathens who have not had some kind of experience with her, generally favorable. However, She has no movies or books or art that has made Her famous–She’s never mentioned in the Thor movies, for example–and the general public, by and large, have never heard of Her.

    I often go back and forth about how/if/why I should proselytize for Her. As Her priestess, I know that She has the ability to heal and make whole on a lot of levels a lot of people who need it–myself included. But how will people even know to reach out to her if they’ve never heard about Her (or Heathenry, or paganism, for that matter)? It’s a conundrum, particularly as I agree with all of your points about proselytization, and have made them myself on several occasions. Granted, Freya, too, though eminently approachable, is by no means “safe”; but then, isn’t the love, healing, ecstasy, and transformation that She has to offer worth it? For better or worse, that’s not my call to make.

    Like

  6. Pingback: Thoughts on The Morrigan, Service, and Diversity | Practical Pagans

  7. Pingback: A Map by Any Other Name | Trees in the Train Station

  8. Pingback: Unpacking Our Monotheistic Baggage | Strixian Woods

  9. Pingback: Not THAT Kind of Priest « WiccanWeb

  10. It was a topic for the panel that we didn’t get to at Morrigan’s Call in CT, the choice to call oneself preist our not in Her service.

    My question: why, given the controversy of such a title, do you choose to call yourself a preist?

    Like

    • That’s a good question Ed,
      Because if you would have known me 5 years ago the last thing that I would have ever wanted to be or call myself is priest. The short answer is, I choose to call myself priest, because that is what I do. I see priest more as a verb then as title. Before I was a priest I considered myself devoted to the Morrigan, and dedicated to the Morrigan (and by dedicated I mean I formally dedicated myself to her, not that I was just really into Her) but not a priest. When my life shifted and I received the call to do the work that I am doing now, the role I played in my community changed. I was no longer just a solitary practitioner, I dedicated myself (formally again) to serving my Goddess by serving the public and serving others that have been called by Her.
      This is where any controversy really is in the title of priest. Many people in the pagan world want to have to title of priest or priestess, or even high priest or high priestess, but in their lives what they are really doing is having a devotional relationship with their Gods. Priests not only serve their Gods but they serve their communities. Some of the actions that make define a priest are assisting others establish healthy relationships with their Gods and the Otherworld, performing public ritual, private counseling, assisting others through major life stages such as funerals and weddings, ect….
      Along with these acts of service to their communities, a good priest is also constantly striving to up their game, be more effective in their magical practice and maintain their own devotional practice as well.
      It’s definitely not a title that I would have chosen for myself and in all honesty, my nature makes public exposure a bit uncomfortable, but service to my community and devotion to the Morrigan have been to strongest pulls I’ve had throughout my life. Being a priest of the Morrigan is where those pulls meet.
      In another blog post I wrote I addressed it like this:
      “Service above Self. Three simple words that articulated my views on priesthood better than I have been able to do in pages of writing. For me, priesthood is a path of service. Service to your gods and service to your community. This is not an abstract concept. Service isn’t a theoretical mindset but a ‘get your hands dirty and wear out the soles of your shoes’ kind of endeavor. It’s a path that can consume your life. ‘Priest’ is not a title I hold lightly, as a matter of fact I have trouble seeing it as a title at all. ‘Priest’ is not something that I am, it is something that I do. ‘Priest’ means not going to bed when you are exhausted because the gods are vocal and want offerings and want to be heard. It means spending hours of my day answering emails and questions from individuals that are looking for help decoding their own messages from the gods. It means hours of ritual planning and business meetings. It means daily devotional practice and offerings. Recently for me, priesthood has meant marching alongside and providing first aid and support to people demonstrating in the streets so that they can have their basic human rights returned to them and be treated equally in the eyes of the law. It has meant bandaging cuts, washing pepper spray and tear gas from people’s eyes, and sometimes getting between a demonstrator and police in riot gear to prevent the police from beating that person.”

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s