“Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m a Priestess!”

I love BBQ.

I married a Southern Gentleman from coastal North Carolina, and I am not entirely sure if it was him or the BBQ that won me over. I happen to be a fan of Stubb’s BBQ sauce. I am telling you, that moppin’ sauce of his is A-MAZ-ING. One of the more charming aspects of Stubb’s is the catch phrase written right on the bottle, “Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m a cook!” I’ve always found the self-determination of that statement almost elegant in its simplicity. Stubb’s wanted to be a cook, so he was a cook. The exuberance of the exclamation point is almost poignant. You can almost feel the joy of a realized dream, of a life lived to its fullest, of a person so certain of their identity that one sentence was all it took to become that thing.

The first thing you learn when you learn a second language are the “be” verbs. “I am” is quite possibly the most magickal phrase in the human tongue. It is defining, it is definitive, it is self-fulfilling. So frequently we focus on the things we are not, the things we wish to be, the things we could be if the circumstances were different. Personally, I try as often as I can to take a page from Mr. Stubbs. I am exactly what I tell the world I am. (More on language and magickal thinking in future posts…)

When my “co-priest” first brought up the idea of joining the ADF and pursuing the clergy path, I think he was shocked at my enthusiasm in joining him, which may have seemed to outsiders completely out of the blue. While friends knew I was some kind of Germanic-y, Heathen-y Pagan, it was not a topic I discussed freely. When we first started to perform rituals, I was terrified. I felt like a phony playing at being a priestess, undeserving of the title. My co-priest was so much more knowledgeable and comfortable with the liturgy, where as I just wanted to say as few words possible and get off the stage. On top of everything else, I have this fear of being taken seriously. I have this sarcastic, “Mae West one-liner” persona that has been my defense since childhood, and the thought of shedding that armor, having to stand before others and be not only sincere but devout was like staring into the abyss. The first ritual we performed was a Hellenist Orphic Autumnal Equinox rite (my co-priest is a Hellenist, and our congregation is mixed so we try to trade off different traditions). The ritual was beautiful, and I think I did rather well, even if I was shaking throughout. (Some people may quibble with the fact that neither my co-priest and I are officially ADF clergy yet, however our group actually formed long before we decided to go the ADF route, and he actually performed my wedding ceremony a few years ago.)

The second ritual, a Proto-Indo-European inspired Samhain and the first to completely conform the ADF core order of ritual, was a steaming hot mess.

We started with very lofty ambitions, created animal masks to represent our totem animals to protect us, bonfires, torches, and a goat sacrifice (calm down, the goat was made out of straw). At the last minute, everything started to slide sideways, my co-priest had foot surgery, I had a German midterm the following week, one of our congregants broke her wrist and couldn’t come, 2 others had a month of hellacious traveling and were too worn out to make it, and so on. Half our group would be missing and those that would be there were sick or crippled. We persevered, I made a fantastic bear mask, my co-priest was an owl. We did a couple walk-throughs, rehearsed our liturgy, checked out props and timing, we thought we had considered all possibilities… ah the best laid plans…


The Lemur, the Crow, the Bear (me), the Peacock, and the Owl (my co-priest). My husband, the Bull is taking the photo.

As the ritual began, we turned off the lights, as it was to be conducted by firelight. I tried to read my script… only to discover that in the dark my bear mask made it impossible to see anything with my 42 year old eyes. I stammered and stumbled, whacked one of the attendants in the face with my corn husk censer during the purification, was unable to light the bonfire, and generally fell apart like Mary Tyler Moore throwing a dinner party (if you are under the age of 35, you will not get that reference.) I was frustrated, embarrassed and generally not feeling the ritual vibe.

Then came the reading of the names of the dead. Every member of our grove had written the names of the loved ones they had lost over the years, and I read them out loud as each member placed a clove into an apple for each person they wished to honor. I could actually read these, as the print was larger, and as I did so, the feeling came over me; a reminder of why I was there, of who I was serving, and the reason for the ritual. A ritual is a party you throw for the gods, ancestors, and spirits you want to honor. Sometimes, even the most disastrous party can be memorable and endearing. In the end, I think everyone felt a sense of catharsis, and the ritual ended much better than when it started. This made me realize, performing a perfect ritual doesn’t make you a priestess, having an official clergy license doesn’t make you a priestess.

I am a priestess because I am willing to take that chance of making a fool of myself so that the gods and ancestors can reach out to us.
I am a priestess because I am willing to spend my time educating myself about the gods and the ways of our ancestors.
I am a priestess because I am willing to pass on that knowledge to those who want to learn it.
I am a priestess because I am willing to spend 2 months of my life preparing for a ritual regardless of how many people show up. We don’t do these things for the “audience”, we do them for the gods, spirits, and ancestors.
I am a Priestess because I am willing to change the things about myself that I see as an impediment to my relationship with the gods. I am prepared to mold myself into a more appropriate vessel, a more loving and forgiving person, a more disciplined and dedicated scholar, and a manifestation of both their will and my own.
I am a priestess because I have chosen to be a priestess. Because I was called to be a priestess.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I AM a Priestess!

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2 Comments

  1. Ryan said,

    November 12, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    With just two posts, you are already one of my favorite pagan bloggers, ever. This post is just so perfect in every way, and I think many others can relate to the Samhain situation you described so well. I likewise wasn’t “feeling it” until the reading of the Ancestors, but I completely agree that in that moment something intangible changed and the entire ritual became a powerful, cathartic experience for everyone there.

    That you found inspiration and wisdom in a catchphrase from a bottle of Stubbs BBQ Sauce is one of the many reasons you continually surprise, delight, and outright astound me. I have this tendency to get all high and mighty with frequent quotes from Plato and Proclus and poems by modernist writers and Victorian scholars no one else has ever heard of. And yet you have the admirable ability to find meaning and value in a bottle of BBQ sauce and recognize Stubbs the unapologetic cook for the sage he most certainly was.

    All hail Christopher B. “Stubb” Stubblefield, Sr.! On behalf of our grove, we hereby honor you and remember you! 🙂


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