Witches Soul Work: The High Priestess is Not Your Girlfriend
(Picture is Gardnerian HPS Doreen Valiente. For more about Doreen see: http://www.doreenvaliente.com/)
When I first met my High Priestess (HPS) Lady Rhiannon we were taking a course on-line together and sometimes got together for lunch. We became friends and later co-taught a class together. About a year later she invited me to join her Coven. I had studied Wicca for ten years at that point; a lot of reading and studying on line or by correspondence. I had also joined a Reclaiming women’s circle for a while and an Eclectic Witches Circle that was really a peer study group. I felt that studying under a ‘real’ HPS would be an important step for me and was very glad of the opportunity.
I remember my first Circle at her place in the forest, how exciting it was to drive into the country, park the car and walk to the sacred grove hidden within the trees. She greeted me warmly and my training in her Tradition started. She had already been a HPS for twenty years and I wanted to know what she knew! I noticed that within the Circle she seemed different; her energy was stronger and more vibrant and when she recited the Charge and called the Goddess her face shone and changed. She wasn’t just my friend anymore, she was my teacher.
This concept was easy for me to understand as a student of martial arts. My teacher in Ninjutsu was my friend until we stepped onto the mat. In the dojo he was the Sensei (Master) and we were attentive and respectful. What he was teaching us was precious and important as well as dangerous! So I knew how to switch my own hat from friend to student. In the Coven I had to do that as well but it was a little more difficult. A Coven is not a therapy or support group although we do support each other on our spiritual journeys. The friendships in Coven are not based on mundane parameters such as age, gender or hobbies but are connections at a soul level called in Gaelic ‘anam cara’ (soul friend). My HPS was now my spiritual guide, my soul friend, leading me deeper into the mysteries of my own spirituality. I couldn’t take off the Seeker hat outside the Circle because the training didn’t end when the Sabbat ended. My life had changed and so had my relationship with her.
One of the things my Sensei used to say is ‘don’t bring your stuff onto the mat’; in other words leave your ordinary problems outside and come onto the mat with a clear mind and ready to train. It was not always easy to do that! The same thing applies in Coven; we clear our minds and enter a level of consciousness that opens us to spiritual and magickal experiences. A true HPS brings the energy of the Goddess into the Circle, holds the energy and is able to feel where everyone is at during the ritual or magickal working. It’s not an easy task and takes many years of apprenticeship and practice with her own teacher. But I wanted what she had and I was willing to listen, be respectful and give up my friend hat for a while.
I have seen this become a problem in our Coven and other Covens especially when new Seekers meet the HPS before she becomes their priestess and teacher. They are attracted to her strength, wisdom, and spiritual glow; they want to be her friend! So they join the Coven and then find themselves in a different relationship. Some Seekers make the switch easily but others get angry; they want the HPS to treat them differently than the rest of the group like a teacher’s pet. They want to get together outside of Coven and hang out; they don’t want things to change. The HPS is not your girlfriend and understanding her role as teacher and spiritual mentor is also about giving up your ego. If you want to truly learn the Craft with a bona fide teacher you have to be humble. She doesn’t need to teach you! There are a lot of people who will never have the great fortune to study face to face with a trained Elder of the Craft.
Six years later when I was given Third Degree Initiation and become a HPS myself in her Tradition she said: “Now I am no longer your teacher, I am your sister!” I was very honoured to hear her say that but I responded: “You will always be my HPS.” In some ways she does feel like an older sister to me and I love her, but I never went back to just being her friend. Our relationship has become something much deeper at a soul level and I consider myself very lucky to have had that experience.