In some religions the priest is a single figure of authority, who dictates the terms of worship, and acts as intermediary with God. Within Wicca, however, there is no congregation, and all are priests and priestesses. Each must develop their own relationship with divinity, without depending on intermediaries. Each person is responsible only to the Gods to whom they have dedicated themselves, to themselves, and to the Craft which they represent.
Becoming a priest or priestess is no small undertaking. By taking certain oaths and undergoing initiation, one submits oneself to compelling forces that will from that time forth shape one's life. A priest or priestess is a servant of the Gods, and strives constantly also to realise the divinity that is within themselves.
There is a traditional minimum waiting period of a year and a day for initiation, after which training begins in earnest. This waiting period gives the candidate and the coven time to evaluate each other, and allows the initiator to identify areas of preparation that the candidate needs to work on. The initiatory currents are powerful, and will cause subtle but far-reaching shifts in the candidate's psyche; if the candidate is not properly prepared these shifts can be difficult and unpleasant.
The Wiccan priesthood is a system of three degrees, with an initiation for each. Each subsequent degree brings a new energy, new experiences and new responsibilities to the Craft. Some choose to go no further than first degree; others choose to penetrate the second and third and take up teaching and leading as High Priests and Priestesses.
The structure of Wicca is that of autonomous covens, each run by a High Priest and a High Priestess. The nature of the Craft is that groups continually change, and those priests and priestesses who show ability are encouraged to take their higher degrees and hive off to form new covens and teach others.
Although covens are separate, they are part of a greater informal community of elders who safeguard the Craft and keep Craft law.
Priests and Priestesses
Within Wicca the roles of priest and priestess are different and complementary. Although ultimately each person will strive to manifest and unite the aspects of both Goddess and God that reside within them, it has been found that for the practical purposes of creation, learning and manifesting change, polarity is more effective than union.
Given Wicca's emphasis on polarity, we are sometimes asked whether the Craft has any place for alternative sexualities. The answer is simple. Love is one of the greatest magics of all, more sacred than any dogma. "All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals," sayeth the Goddess. More information is available from the Wellhead.