The High Priestess sits upon the seat she has earned over years filled with effort, anguish, and exhilaration, all freely offered in service; in this moment, she is serene, centered, and focused. Her hair is dressed around a slim silver circlet high upon her head, gold glitter and dark black kohl lining her eyes. Radiating both wise calm and exuberant sparkle, she transmits a certain visceral electricity which whispers out and gathers all who are near. Around her are displayed her sacred tools and the harvested fruits of her loving labors. In front of her chair is a large, many-phased moon—“As Above, so Below.”
Beneath her is the Earth Herself, the material world, the here and now. The High Priestess grounds into the loamy and damp holy wisdom, into the right now of this dimension, sending etheric roots down into the body of the Mother, simultaneously becoming more present in her own physical body with each breath. Her bare feet rest directly upon the muddy, rain-drenched Earth so that she can best receive and then express the energies and messages that come through.
Above her glow the stars and the planets, innumerable galaxies, all which is indefinable and indescribable, the Luminous Void. The High Priestess visualizes branches growing out of her crown chakra, stretching up, up, up they flourish and expand, quickly bud, and then open into fresh, tender new leaves. Like sustenance, they draw in ancient cosmic knowledge and the energies of eternity and infinity. Trancing, her body is a channel for both Earth and Sky, a sacred container for these wisdoms to meet, mingle, and become One. Light and Dark, Dark and Light—all needed, all necessary, all sacred, all whole and holy, just as we are.
Image by Berit from Redhill/Surrey, UK (Harrison’s Cave) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
A beautiful and captivating vision filled with truth, presence, and magick; one that is authentic, and yet, ultimately, only representing a mere fraction of leadership, of priestessing*. Here is a one-dimensional picture, the illusion, the romance that is visible to the voyeur—that sweet, tempting cherry on top. A fragment, yet also one hundred percent reality: She Who Listens from the Stillness Within; the Gatekeeper and Guardian of the Mysteries who decides what to share and what to hold back, and where, and when, and how. The Minder of Transformation: her own, of those in her community, and of the community itself as a whole, which is a living, changing, dynamic entity in its own right. Over many years, I’ve witnessed a culture both obsessed with and repelled by this image of leadership, concurrently desperately desiring it and also terribly, irrationally driven to tear it down.
Like actors performing multiple parts in one production, as a leader I’m called upon to play diverse roles, to actualize many different archetypes and energies, and to do it as gracefully, appropriately, and seamlessly as possible. At various times I embody the characteristics of the Magician, Empress, High Priestess, Emperor, Hierophant, Justice, Strength, Temperance, and so on, so on, so on…
There are also numerous additional archetypes and guises I am required to effortlessly slide into, such as (amongst others) Meditator, Teacher, Queen, Accountant, Mother, Secretary, Sister, Librarian, Coordinator, Researcher and, of course, Head Custodian and Wax Scraper. And I’m frequently playing many of these roles simultaneously! I’ve found flexibility and resilience to be essential; deft juggling imperative. Thank Goddess I have multiple arms! Oh wait…
Ten-armed Devi annihilating demons; Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Once necessary tasks are taken care of—calendaring, communicating, shopping, cooking, setting up, taking down, sweeping, dishwashing, etc., the bulk of my work takes place within the hidden realm of the Underground Stream: repeatedly finding the necessary courage to traverse the Underworld, to surrender to and float down the Dark River without flagging or drowning, to bring back to my community the Mysteries discovered and the messages learned; most often returning bedraggled, covered in mud, clothes torn, hair in knots, fingernails broken and bleeding, heart broken. None of these particular responsibilities are pretty, elegant, or refined—and although they sometimes appear alluring, I’ve found them instead (and most often) quite terrifying.
I once heard priestessing likened to a coin. I think it’s more a dazzling, exquisitely-fragranced flower. What is apparent is the beauty of the bloom: the confidence and charisma of she who is leading the rite, working the energies, Goddess drawn down into her body, one with Earth and Sky. The other side is buried deep in rich earth: the roots, the bulbs. Only when the veil is scraped back are the struggles, the Shadow, the dark nights of the soul exposed. When my work is done properly it’s invisible from the outside—as it should be—appearing easy, effortless, flowing. And yet there is so much going on quietly concealed below the surface: an unrelenting series of growth spurts and painfully slow growth, of diligent watering and fertilization, of careful pruning and cutting, and of brave dying and rebirthing.
There are so many things I want to share with you: questions to ask and attempt to answer, support to give and receive, stories to hear and tell, processes and themes to dig deeper into. I must remind myself that this is just the beginning, my first post.
So I invite you to meander along with me in this blog of my adventures and contemplations. Here I’ll do my best to write about what it means—to me—to be a modern Priestess: my own processes, successes, and struggles; my misadventures and good fortunes, delights and heartaches, triumphs and failures, including the messy and real “human stuff”. What does leadership-from-within look and feel like? What about public priestessing? What is it like to stir the cauldron of an open community every single day? Throughout this journey, I’ll delve into communication, authenticity, truth-speaking, empowerment, power, manifestation, and whatever else strikes my fancy, sharing what I have—and haven’t—learned in my almost-thirty years on this labyrinthine, frequently misty and jagged, Path.
Photo by Yours Truly
I do not and will not ever claim any sort of absolute or exclusive authority on any of these matters—I am but one vessel with my own experiences, perspectives, and thoughts. Yours will differ and, as we go along, I’d love to hear about those, too. What roles do you play as a leader?
With Gratitude, Lady Jesamyn
* As a woman living in a patriarchal/kyriarchal society writing about my own experiences serving as a Priestess of the Goddess in a matriarchal community, I choose to intentionally write “she” and “her,” and to frequently use the terms “Priestess” and “priestessing” to describe my work. Please use your imagination and change the words that do not feel relevant or inspirational. Here you are always free to take what works for you and leave the rest. Blessed be!