At a recent festival I was asked what made me a High Priestess?
My answer was this:
Although my path now is that of a Kitchen/Hedge Witch when I first started I trained in Wicca and I worked through the three Wiccan degrees (with two different groups) and eight years after starting my study (with a slight hiatus in the middle due to having a baby) I was honoured to be given the title in a ceremony conducted by my High Priest .
At the Kitchen Witch online School we run a similiar three tier structure but we teach a broader spectrum of pathways, not focusing on Wicca particularly but encouraging the student to find their own individual way but also teaching them all the basics of The Craft. Once a student has finished the three levels there is the option of taking on the High Priest/ess training, however this is not a choice that everyone makes, it doesn't suit everyone and it is a decision that we make together - with the student and between myself and my co High Priestess at the KW Coven...not everyone will be given HPs training, sometimes it just isn't the right choice for them.
If you join an initiary Wiccan tradition then the pathway to HPs is usually on a similar three tier structure but you will also find other people out there in the pagan world that call themselves High Priest/ess without having worked through any formal training - because there isn't any written law that says you have to. If you want to start a coven and call yourself the High Chief Pooh Bear Wanglestaff the Third then you can...there are no laws or doctorates that say you can't.
However...you don't have to have all the certificates to be a good High Priest/ess, there are some absolutely amazing HPs out there that have earnt their title and position through experience and working hard within a coven.
So what makes a good High Priestess?
Well...now there is a question and I can only answer from my own personal experience and I will also be the first to put my hands up and say I don't always get things right, I am human after all but I do my very best.
For me I think these things are required:
Experience - there is no short cut to experience, you can read all the books you like and take all the courses that are offered but until you get out there and do it you won't really know 'how it all works'. Experience also takes time...I have heard of 16 and 17 year olds calling themselves High Priestess - sorry guys, that just doesn't cut it for me, you don't have any experience of life yet, let alone witchcraft.
Knowledge - now I certainly don't profess to know it all, in fact I have probably only scraped the surface and I continue to study and learn even now a gazillion years later, we never stop learning. But you do have to have a decent knowledge of the practical and magical aspects of The Craft.
You also need organisational skills to be able to bring coven events, lessons and teachings together and to be able to run a ritual. For this you also need what I call 'gobby' skills, in ritual I am loud and bossy - because if you aren't then a. people won't be able to hear you in circle and b. it will all fall apart at the seams. Not that we are strict in our Kitchen Witch rituals - far from it!
People skills - now this is hard, sometimes really hard because whenever you get a group of people together there will inevitably be some conflicts or personality clashes. People need to feel that you are approachable and easy to talk to, they also need to know that you will listen.
Sharing/Teaching - part of being an HPs is to share your knowledge and experience. We do this in a structured way at the online school but I also go out and do talks and workshops and am always available on the end of an email or fb message to help if I can.
It isn't about power and it isn't about glamour or 'collecting titles' - being an HPs is a vocation and sometimes it is seriously hard work but a lot of the time it can be rewarding too.
In actual fact I have never really used my title very much, when I was first made HPs my close friends joked and would curtsey and call me 'Lady Tansypants' (sheesh you just can't get the staff...) but as my pathway has taken me away from Wicca and onto a more wild craft journey I don't feel the need to use it however I am still very proud of the work that I put in and the achievement.
At the Kitchen Witch Coven I prefer to use the title 'Elder' coz I have been doing it for a very long time.
Ultimately I do believe the path of a High Priest/ess is a vocation and one that takes time, hard work and experience. Some people are naturally inclined towards the position, some have to work much harder and for others it just isn't a good fit - but a coven needs different people with different skill sets to make it all tick.
Originally posted on Beneath the Moon, Patheos Pagan - 3.9.16