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This Fellowship of Isis website has been authorized by the FOI Foundation Center: Clonegal Castle, Enniscorthy, Eire

FOI Online Liturgy
Ordination of Priestesses and Priests
By: Olivia Robertson

Printable PDF File

The Way of the Priestess
An Introduction to the Ceremony

The difference between Deities and humans is that Deities know that they are immortal. The Greeks addressed them as "you happy Gods that live forever". Human beings cannot say this of themselves, though they may have faith in the possibility of eternal life. Only when humans have mystical experience of eternal reality can they know immortality.

The seed of Divinity lies within all beings. Consciousness of this truth brings willing participation in the Divine Plan. It is to become son and daughter of the Deity whose work one undertakes, rather than an unconscious tool serving through faith and hope. Every human being is potentially of the Priesthood. Conscious acceptance of this, and willingness to serve the cause of Deity makes your active Priest and Priestess.

There are two phases in the Priesthood. The first degree is when the devotee faces the Deity as a prostrate worshipper, expressing obedience and service. In this relationship there are two participants: the Deity and the worshipper. The worshipper may not speak as the Deity; for he is the created, not the Creator. His task is to repeat what the Deity says and interpret the Divine Will for the benefit of the faithful. Such a religion expresses itself through hymns of praise through supplications for mercy and grace; through penitence for sins committed against the Deity concerned; through gratitude for salvation. For in love there is a giving and a receiving. Such a love produces intense activity in making converts, helping others and in trying to change oneself into the image and likeness of the Deity.

The second phase of the Priestly life is a reversal of the first. It has been enacted by prophets and visionaries, and has often led to a direct conflict with the established Priesthood. One may describe it as "backing into the God-form". There is identification with the Divine Archetype. This degree of the Priesthood demands a greater surrender of the consciousness at the outset, because the Deity "takes over" the human channel and then speaks through the mouth of the Priest or Priestess. So Woman is particularly suitable for this form of service. She does not appear to have a fear of the supernatural. Woman, with her natural psychism seems to understand this process, possibly because of her own connection with birth. A child is part of her, and yet not part. She does not fear to lose individuality through union with Deity.

When the Pharaoh and the Great Queen took part in rituals in Ancient Egypt, King and Queen were held to be God and Goddess. Indeed, every departed soul was called "Osiris", "Hathor" or other divine names. In the great Eastern religions this relationship between the Great Self and the small selves has been treated in a scientific manner. Procedures of meditation are undergone systematically, with the end that the devotee becomes consciously a microcosm of the Greater Self.

The Hebrew prophets were taught the same procedure when they spoke with the voice of God, prefacing such divine communications with the words "thus saith the Lord". Deity is expressed through every galaxy, every solar system, every star, planet, creature, atom. As consciousness expands, more and more of the nature of Reality is experienced. But the Greater not only comprehends the lesser, but realises its own ignorance before that which is greater than itself. So the paradox is that the true Priest or Priestess who allows Deity to manifest, at the same time learns a deeper respect for the unknown. The sphinx is ever a mystery.

A French poem written by the great occultist, the Comte de Saint Germain, illustrates the dignity combined with humility of the Priest. He describes his study of the principles of Nature, the mystery of the soul making its home within the mother, the wonder of the seed within a grain of corn; he seeks the fundamental laws upon which the Universe rests. Yet he ends: "Je mourrai, j'adorai, je ne savais plus rien". "I die, I adore, I no longer know anything". One remembers Newton's professed ignorance before all knowledge; lie held in his grasp but a grain of sand.

This humility is essential for those following the path of the Mysteries. As Theresa of Avila advised a devotee: "Let prayer be your foundation; humility your footstool". To gain a further degree, the Priestess needs to contain and use that learnt in the first degree. To pray is to ask for help, to follow the advice given, and to give thanks. Yet we notice that humility is placed as a footstool rather than as a crown. It is a basic quality.

Each age calls for its particular need. In our time we need to bring to flower soul qualities trampled upon by our rush into technological involvement. Over-emphasis on material conditions leaves the soul starved. Hence, although the Priests and Priestesses live their devoted lives often disguised in every-day dress, as doctor, nurse, welfare worker, psychiatrist: there is need for beauty, for an outer acknowledgment of innate divinity, expressed through the symbols of art and ritual.

The Priesthood of women has for too long been in abeyance. For, though we may accept such great women as Teresa of Avila and Florence Nightingale as Priestesses, they are not so acknowledged by the world. Possibly the taking over of the powerful role of Priest was deemed psychologically and politically necessary in a centuries old era well labelled the Iron Age.

Patriarchal rule, establishing itself during the Age of Heroes, continued with the development of practical sciences. It was thought expedient for men to defend religion and the law through a male dominated Priesthood. Woman was protected behind her veil "Paroketh". There, hidden from the vulgar eye, she might attain spiritual purity. She was not expected to put her views into manifestation through her own activity. Representing the soul, the country, and various appropriate virtues, she was on a pedestal. Nor had she the power to help her own sisters who had somehow tumbled off the pedestal!

Modern warfare and technological advance have made the protective roles of warriors and priests redundant. Woman must now protect her children and herself through her own intelligence, her political activity; and, as the world situation continues to be menacing, through her long neglected psychic powers. For when a race is faced with possible annihilation, meaningful mutation may occur. And this is best done through the creative imagination of the Mothers.

Spiritual power is by its very definition spiritous, on a high level, beyond the illusion of duality. Spiritual souls tend to return no more to earthly conditions. On the other hand, physical power is proving dangerous to life itself. The soul, however, is the intermediary, the half-way symbiosis between the spiritual and the physical that unites angel and beast in harmony.

A modern Priestess who wishes to combine angelic qualities of spirituality and compassion, with intellect and strength, must turn for inspiration to the Goddess forms in the art of past ages. Queens were Priestesses in Egypt, China and Japan. In such paintings and sculptures there is a blending of the divine with the human; mind with feeling; gentleness with strength. These are our Archetypes.

The young girl of fourteen, representing the New Moon, may well show forth the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. For she is both virgin and child in herself. Although, related to the Element of Water, she may only respond to cruelty and violence by exuding miraculous tears from her image, yet in her true being she is Maiden of the Dove, the highest spiritual Truth.

But the Priestess may not confine herself to everlasting youth and simplicity. The resplendent form of the Queen is of the sun; and the dark moon in its greater form is the universal Matrix, Outer Space that holds all galaxies.

Identifying with an appropriate Archetypal Goddess, the new Priestess of today and tomorrow has by her very nature the key of the second degree. For woman has the equivocal advantage of past suppression. She has learnt charity and endurance. For only those who know how best to serve may have the ability to rule well.

Yet what does the Priestess rule? Not men, nor races. She rules the striving elements of her own being, and through understanding the law of transmutation, creates harmony of mind, heart and body. So may she teach others that which she can do herself.

Yet she needs her traditional reverence for transcendental Deity. She is not ashamed to receive help. First the Goddess' aid must needs be invoked, so that the psyche of her Priestess may be used as deific channel. Then the Priestess, having attained purposeful harmony with the Goddess, a knowledge of her own innate divinity - may after her ritual have the commonsense to go downstairs and make bread, cook a meal, clean the house. Her baby cries - she feeds it. Gazing upon her baby, she is not likely to become lost in trauma of self importance!

Along with natural simplicity, the modern Priestess needs her insignia. For although uncrowned Priestesses perform tasks in office and on the land, in school and in factory and the home: yet it is fitting first ritual acknowledgment should be made of their noumenal worth. Symbols are the interconnecting language of souls.

Hence, I felt inspired to produce this Rite for the Ordination of a Priestess. This Rite is not one in which the candidate goes through a ritual "death", and is reborn into an Order with new name and new obedience. The candidate need not forswear any family ties or her usual work. She keeps her own way of life. What she does do is to dedicate her life to the Divine Purpose. The Scribe, Keeper of the Records, during the Ordination ceremony reads out her degrees, appointments and achievements. She offers all this to the divine service, and presents tokens of dedication on the altar. The artist offers a picture, carving or pottery figure. The musician gives a piece of music, the architect, a plan. The offering of a loaf of bread baked by the candidate has a tradition of thousands of years to recommend it.

The Hierophant of the Rite accepts these offerings in the name of the Goddess, and in turn bestows the Divine Blessing on the candidate. The Ordination is performed through the Hierophant anointing the candidate with oil. The new Priestess is then crowned and receives her stole and wand. These three represent true vision, the heart of love and the will to use creative power for good.

The Rite is witnessed by Priestesses and Priests who declare that they accept the new Priestess to their ranks.

Our Rite emphasises second degree Priesthood, because the Hierophant declares the new Priestess to be daughter of the Goddess, and bids her to reflect her Mother's Glory.  She is daughter of Demeter, because she awakens to the fact that she is not only Hades' Queen; she is also daughter to the Goddess. She now has conscious enjoyment of day and night, summer and winter, sun and moon. She is whole.

A Rite of Ordination of a Priestess took place at Huntington Castle on the Festival of Lughnasa, on August 1st, 1976. We had intended to ordain one Priestess of Dana: then we included the Ordination of a Priestess of Isis.

In formulating the Rite, I felt inspired to use a triple invocation of Deity, involving the names and attributes of three Goddesses. In a more elaborate ceremony one could invoke the Holy Seven, or the Ten or the Twelve. Naturally in a Rite involving a God or Gods, the Rite would take the appropriate form. In this case the divine attributes were taken as Beauty, Compassion and Wisdom. The Three Goddesses invoked were the Irish Dana, Kwan Yin of the Orient, and Isis of Egypt.

Kathy B. wished to be Priestess of Dana. She was attracted to the countryside and her work involved craft therapy. Qualities of the three Goddesses were needed to produce balance: though one particular path was to be chosen for service. So in recognition of the spiritual sphere of Isis, Kathy offered her study with meditation groups. In service for others, domain of Kwan Yin, Kathy offered her work in craft therapy. Her chosen path lay with Nature and Art: so she offered Dana her "Enochian" chess set, consisting of small Egyptian god and goddess pottery figures. Marion B. offered to Dana her painting and sculpture; to Kwan Yin her studies and work in social science. It was the basic wisdom of Isis as "Aset", Foundation, that particularly appealed to her: so to Isis she dedicated her pilgrimage to Nepal: her years practising the art of meditation.

For myself, as Hierophant, I had the role rather of Joker in a pack of cards. I could take upon me the Priesthood of the Goddesses not particularly chosen by the candidates. So in this case I assumed the role of Priestess of Kwan Yin and gave that Goddess's blessing. If Paris of Troy had remembered this courtesy by acknowledging the Wisdom of Athene and the Queenship of Hera, he might safely have given the apple to Aphrodite! He needed the wisdom and rulership of the Greeks as well as the splendour and beauty of Troy.

This Rite of Ordination is not a scientific occult working for which hygienic secrecy is essential. It is rather a symbiosis of religion and the arts. The participants in our double Ordination involved birds, trees and flowers, as we held the ceremony in the ruined abbey, our Temple of Dana. Open to the sky, its floor the earth, it was richly filled with summer flowering shrubs. It was a Rite in which a pony could put her piebald head over a stone wall, a Siamese cat could leap from a bush, without distracting but rather augmenting the presence of innate divinity.

As guests we had a High Priest of Aradia, the author Stewart Farrar, and a High Priestess of Aradia, his wife, Janet. They pronounced a declamation, written by Stewart, portraying the inner meaning of the role of Priestess.

Kathy's husband, Michael was with her during the Ceremony. They had previously been married in the Temple of Isis in the Isis Wedding Rite. They now have a son Julian named after the great Emperor.

In the absence of an address from a visiting Priestess or Priest, some appropriate writing by an Initiate may be read by the Scribe. My brother Lawrence Durdin-Robertson suggested that excerpts from letters written by the Emperor Julian would be suitable. The Emperor Julian was Pontifex Maximus, Supreme Pontiff during the middle of the fourth century, and through this office was in charge of all Priests and Priestesses throughout the Roman Empire.  Some indication of Julian's ideals for Ritual may be given from a quotation from his Hymn to the Goddess Cybele:

“Are not fruits pure, whereas meat is full of blood and much else that offends eye and ear? But most important of all is it not the case that, when one eats fruit nothing is hurt, while the eating of meat involves sacrifice and slaughter of animals who naturally suffer pain and torment? So would say the wisest."

Lawrence Durdin-Robertson was Priest of the Goddess Dana for the ceremony. Jeremy W. performed the part of the Scribe, and Desmond M. was Guardian of the gate. Lucy Durdin-Robertson and Rowena R. were Temple Maidens. For music we chose a Vivaldi Concerto, which was played softly throughout the ceremony.

For the Invocation of the Goddess Dana, I chose a passage from James Stephens' mystical faery tale "The Crock of Gold."  I adapted the latter part of the Invocation to a speech by the Goddess herself, as was fitting for this Rite. For a description of an archetypal daughter of the Goddess, I used a passage from George Russell, as his pseudonym "A.E." was originally a misprint for his inner name "Aon". Both these books were published by Macmillan, among the brilliant collection of esoteric works produced by them during the Celtic Revival.

The candidates made their own crowns, stoles and wands. The Priestess of Dana was crowned with flowers and leaves; the Priestess of Isis with the silver and copper horned moon head-dress of Egypt. The Danaan wand was carved with Ogham script by Stewart Farrar. For Holy Water we used water from our well within the Castle. The well is dedicated to the Goddess Brigid of Eire.

The use of water for vision and healing is symbolic of the coming era of True Vision. In prophecy of this, nineteenth century artists had as one of their favourite subjects "La Source". The source of life they depicted as a naked woman holding upon her shoulder a tilted jar releasing a water-fall. Representing Psyche as Aquarius, this Goddess bestows upon those who long for it the Water of Life. Priestesses choose to aid Psyche in her work.

Note: Members using this Rite will naturally choose readings and declamations suitable to the dedication of the Candidate to the Deities chosen. The choice of Irish and Classical Roman readings stemmed from the candidates' work with the Goddess Dana and the Goddess Isis. The inspired use of colours, incenses, robes, music and dancing comes from group intuition. An Oracle from the Goddess through her Priestess may be substituted for the words of Dana given in the text.

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