Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Public Service Message

Another track of my Initiation year is that of learning about CAYA's actions in the realm of public service. Last Saturday I joined a group representing our coven in a day of gardening at City Slicker Farms in Oakland, an organization that offers free produce to the neighborhood. To clearly understand how this is meaningful to the role of a Priest/ess, it is helpful to ponder the meaning of service itself.

When I was a young lass dreaming of being a Witch, my images ran along a decidedly fairy tale theme gathered from fairy tales and Hallowe'en. A Witch had a gingerbread house, a magic wand, a cauldron, a black cat and a long, pointed hat. But what did a Witch DO? She rode a broom, she mixed icky concoctions, she sang strange words under the moonlight, she (always she) captured and imprisoned little kids to prepare for supper.

Now, I really didn't GET any of these actions. Most of them might be fun once in awhile, but as the whole agenda, it did not attract me. Brooms seemed like an uncomfortable mount. So why did I long to be a Witch? That is something I'm still learning, but I have some ideas…

Somewhere in the tales I've heard over the years, I started noticing that when things looked grim for the hero/ine, it was the well-timed appearance of an unusual person that turned the tide. Whether a flitting pixie with a secret word or a smiling fairy godmother waving a sparkly wand or an old lady with magic beans— or even an old tinkerer gentleman, a bold dwarf (always a he) or a flute-playing tramp— if this person had not appeared, the story would not be worth telling. This outsider had something the hero/ine needed, and often the only true payment they asked was some form of noble behavior on the part of their clueless client. They might demand a coin or some other treasured object, but it was really the spiritual growth of the hero/ine with which they were concerned. If the protaganist #%!@ed it up, a punishing price would be extracted, motivating the young fool to get the clue they lacked. What might have seemed fierce, or even cruel, turns out to be an act of love. The strange outsider is the one who holds the mirror to the seeker.

In this exchange, I see the roles of teacher/student, mentor/apprentice, Priest/ess/Initiate. This is one of the many services an ordained member of the clergy performs. To be a Priest/ess is to be of service. In my understanding, service is an action taken not for any form of obligation or personal reward, but for a higher good.

Some service is quite tangible—taking out the recycling after a ritual.
Some service is a bit more abstract—coordinating the meeting time and place for a rehearsal.
Some services may seem odd to outsiders but fit the expected job description—preparing offerings for a deity.

Then there are actions which contain layers of service. Volunteering in a community garden performs the direct service of facilitating food production, AND it also presents Pagan Priest/esses to that community as regular folks who wish to contribute to their well being.

In the storybooks it is dramatic to present the Witch as a kooky spooky outsider, however in practice it is more helpful to make oneself approachable to the public one serves.