Should Modern Hellenic Polytheists Have Clergy? Part 2

This post is continued from Should We Have Clergy? I

It has been suggested that we don’t need clergy to teach us the basics of our religion.  Instead academics, “serious amateurs”, and those with a degree in the classics can serve as our sole experts.

However, there are a couple of problems I perceive with this proposal of relying solely on those immersed in academia.

Ivory diptych of a priestess of Ceres, defaced...

Ivory diptych of a priestess of Ceres, defaced and defiled by Christians Image via Wikipedia

First, a classics degree does not provide people skills.  We need not only people who are trained not only to offer accurate information necessary for practicing our religion, but also who also are trained to be spiritual counselors.

This is not to say that one person or a small group of people should be deemed “right” in all things or the supreme authority, holding elitist power over everyone else.  As I’ve stated earlier, I abhor dogma.  And no, I don’t think anyone should be considered to have exclusive hot-line to the gods.  We all must take responsibility for our religion and practice and have a sense of ownership for its direction.

I’m talking about the use of (and dare I say, need for) a trained group who are equipped to handle crises.  Chiefly, I’m thinking of death.  Having observed my parents serve in these situations, grieving families aren’t just asking “how”, the are asking “why”.  And in my profession (Psychiatry) I work with a lot of families who make use of religion, and spiritual counselors within those religions, to help them cope with mental illness and family members who are mentally ill.

Second, we are trying to reconstruct a religion.  Yes, that does not mean reenacting it in ALL of its details, but priests and priestesses played an important role in antiquity.  They were a major part of the religion and we should have a mind towards restoring that aspect of Hellenismos as well if we mean to reconstruct it.  HOWEVER, I strongly feel that we can update the practice of priest/esshood and them into what we want having learned the lessons from other religions, but with an optimistic eye towards the future.

Please know that this is my opinion, and I do not represent Hellenion with it.  Please also know that I respect caution expressed on the abuses other religions have made through clergy institutions.  However, I must respectfully disagree that clergy = bad, priest = bad, but rather see preventing clergy from forming as both problematic and unnecessary.


10 comments on “Should Modern Hellenic Polytheists Have Clergy? Part 2

  1. Kullervo says:

    In my experience, academics–especially in the humanities–are incredibly good are deconstruction, but demonstrably inept at other kinds of construction.

  2. Kullervo says:

    Moreover, I was raised in a religion that has only lay, i.e. untrained clergy, and I can resdily speak for the garbage that you get out of that setup in terms of pastoral counseling.

    Clergy and spiritual advisors can play an incredibly important and healthy role in human life, but there has to be some kind of professional training and some kind of accountability.

    • Thank you for your comments! That’s exactly how I feel – and am planning to apply for the Hellenion clergy education program. It has a great deal of emphasis on study and research, but also leading a certain number and variety of rituals. One of the biggest challenges is establishing a relationship with a funeral home and making sure they can accommodate a Hellenic Polytheist funeral. With these experience comes the cultivation of people skills, which is essential for serving the community, and a very different emphasis than simply providing information.

      Furthermore, we will create temples in the modern day, and we will need clergy to care for them.

    • Zoe says:

      I have had very disappointing experiences with pastoral counseling, and people locked into cycles of advice-giving and rescuing, and then doing the other side of the coin – rejecting (some people are direct about “take my advice or I reject you” others are more subtle.) Thus I was relieved that Hellenion’s position is:
      They are not permitted to provide any type of pastoral or therapeutic counseling other than on matters of ritual practice unless trained and licensed to do so.

      you will see that is consistently the Hellenion position

      I think it’s smart to have a list of places that give MFCCs their clinical hours, and are VERY low cost

      • I agree that that is a problem when the individual isn’t trained or licensed to give advice or counseling and being in a position to do so. Thus, as Hellenion doesn’t train or license those skills, it’s appropriate to have that position of not permitting pastoral or therapudic counseling unless the individual has outside training or licensure.

        However, I think that clergy should be trained to give advice (or at least have a mechanism to get that training if they want to take advantage of it). It would be optimal to be able to put on both the “why” and the “how” hats when answering questions in emotionally charged situations.

  3. I think listening (and like you say, help the person listen to their own best counsel) is an inherent part of giving advice (at least, good advice!). Techniques for that, turning the focus back on the person seeking counsel, and diffusing tense situations, are all part of the training I’d like to see.

  4. Zoe says:

    Advice giving is a very dangerous thing. It’s honestly my experience that it’s better to listen (and that is a skill that takes a LOT of practice) and help the person listen to their own advice (their own still small voice after they have sorted out their feelings).

    Advice often says more about the giver than the recipient, and when it’s an ill-fitting coat the person can get REALLY cranky:
    – they don’t feel heard
    – now they have two problems (the original and now what to do with the advice…. debate or people please) and really…. I have gotten into some ugly discussions over not adoring someone’s advice (who was a trained professional…. and yeah, I stayed with my feelings and shot back “angry; now I am feeling angry with your interference!”)

    I really like the place I went to for “developmental skills training” I went to, and like their method.

  5. Zoe says:

    I would STRONGLY recommend Hellenion clergy getting through at least kit 1 in this system

    (hey, you could go to this Monday )

    Amazon has the book cheap
    The Pathway : by Laurel Mellin
    (no surprise my spare copy was never returned despite my name being all over it)

    • Interesting… what kind of results do they have after training through that system? Do we know anyone whose gone through it?

      When I have a moment, I may look into other sources for training that could go in tandem with clergy training through Hellenion.

  6. zoe says:

    Well, I have spent a huge hunk of time and money with them, including going to a retreat. I was impressed with what kind gentle reasonable people they were. One trainer got burnt out, and could actually even say that to the retreat, and someone else stepped in. I could even tell an authority figure I was getting angry about her comments, and it was considered totally fine. (okay, I still made jokes about how Judy will never forget me, or that she was going to tell my primary coach about “now I am feeling angry about what you are doing” and standing up to her LONG STORY)
    That said, I didn’t even finish kit one, but I could show you the materials, do a cycle, and explain the juggling act (they are really serious about keeping your body in balance, and getting enough movement in. Exercise is critical for stress management, but DANG those 30 minutes are hard to get in!)

    There is a lot you can get from the library, and not have to spend money.


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