What’s in a name?

The other day, Sorita D’Este posed a question on her Facebook page that I always give serious thought whenever any variation of it comes up:

What do you name yourself in relation to your magical or spiritual path, and what is the qualifying factor allowing you to do that?

Since I am so long-winded and tend to really go in deep with questions like this, I decided to respond in full with a blog post rather than making peoples’ eyes cross on Facebook.

She provided some more details that could be used as examples: 

Are you a witch / druid / magician / wiccan / priest(ess) or devotee for example? Are you a seeker, neophyte, Master, High Priest(ess) etc? What and perhaps also “who” decides you are?

All of these are great things to consider, though I would also add some additional categories, such as “minister” or “clergy” (or some variation of “participant” or “parishioner” too)  since these are all specific job functions in a faith community.

I identify as a Buddhist, a Druid, a minister, and a Devotee, all of which are specific to my own personal practice as well as my own praxis. As a calling, I view myself as generally clergy as well as minister (I am, in fact, ordained as a ULC minister and have been since September 1993).  Let’s examine what each of those mean to me, personally.

I am a Buddhist.

I wrote a previous post about this in detail, but what it means is that I have taken a set of vows and precepts (defined by Oxford Dictionaries as “general rule intended to regulate behaviour or thought”) by which to guide my life.  I also subscribe to many of the policies and teachings of the Zen school of Buddhism. Also, for the record, I do not view Buddha as a god or other divine being.

I am a Druid.

I am a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) working on completing my Bardic Grade studies, in which we examined various stories and methods of Druidic practice.  Lots of visualization and ritual work.  The course is written to take about a year (at minimum) but is self-guided and taking longer is not unusual.

As a Druid, I have a fairly animistic view of the world, which also bleeds over somewhat into my Buddhism.  Two things that are significant to my Druidry are support for the natural world (e.g. work WITH nature, rather than plowing it under and covering it with concrete and tarmac) and Justice (with a capital J), particularly social forms of justice and equity.

I am a Minister.

I have been an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church since September 1, 1993.  Back then, the Pagan  community was a lot different than the one that we have today.  We were mostly “in the broom closet” and the public image of Pagans (and Wiccans/witches in particular) was firmly associated with Satanism and human and animal sacrifice.

At that time, I felt it was my duty to be able to support my fellow Pagans should they need an ordained minister’s name or work in an official capacity.  At that time, I had no idea what that might look like, but I felt the call and felt it strongly.  Over the intervening years, I have found that people often come to me with problems and troubles.  Sometimes they just want to know that someone hears them, sometimes they want to get a different insight into what they’re going through, and sometimes they want help to fix what’s broken.

Since I realized that was happening, I have done a goodly amount of reading into the topic of ministry, as a spiritual counselor.  Unfortunately, most of the work out there is from a specifically Christian perspective, so I have had to do a lot of mental editing as I read.  I have also come across the topic of chaplaincy as a vocation, as well.

One of the greatest disservices to the Pagan community so far is the lack of support for specifically Pagan spiritual and ministerial education.  Cherry Hill Seminary is a notable exception, but they have been trying to fundraise so that they can realistically pursue accreditation for years.  Part of the reason for this is that Pagans are notoriously reluctant to put money out for things that don’t directly impact them.  Or, to pay appropriate prices for handcrafted items, or support any sort of professional clergy of any sort.  But that’s a topic for a different post

But why a minister and not a priest?  Simple:  I view a priest/ess as someone who is out in front of the congregation, leading ritual and ceremonies.  I don’t do that.  I’m more of a behind the scenes, making things function smoothly kind of guy.  Let someone else go up on stage.

I am a Devotee of Hekate.

A few years ago, I somehow stumbled across the Covenant of Hekate.  After a couple of years being part of their public Facebook group, I decided that I wanted to join, which I did.  The reason I decided to become an active member of the Covenant was because I finally realized that Hekate had been a presence in my life for many years.  She has never been very demonstrative toward me, but has always been willing to help me stand back up and wipe the blood off when I do something stupid.  She’s not a fluffy bunny Goddess by any means, but She seems to protect her own while making us grow at the same time.

She lights the way, she opens doors and helps me get past obstacles.  She’s definitely a practitioner of “tough love.”  I respect that, and appreciate it.

So, that’s how I define myself as a spiritual person.