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How To Become Pagan Clergy

Updated: Sep 12, 2023


Over the years (I’ve been a pagan for over 35 years) I’ve had a fair number of people ask me how they can become Pagan clergy or priesthood? There was a time when I asked the same of my priesthood. There are many pagan religions out there so do remember that this is general information. But for most pagan paths that I’ve run into the priesthood is open to anybody willing to put in the time and effort. There’s a lot of both needed plus the fact that it’s very demanding of a person if you take it seriously, which you should. It’s not for everyone.


Who Can Be Clergy?


For the most part, either men or women can be priesthood in most modern pagan religions. These differing traditions may have no system of training, a casual approach to training or a very structured curriculum. There are a few traditions I’ve run into where only women were eligible for priesthood, but I’ve never heard of a group that only admitted men. Usually, one is accepted for basic training in the religion you’ve chosen by someone who has already earned the rank or title of priesthood and spend a time (often 13 months, but it could be more or less time) learning the basics of that path.


This material can vary greatly from path to path in both amount and content. This often leads to an initiation to a First-Degree level where you would now be a member of that faith. Again, the rights, obligations and duties to and within that faith vary greatly, so be clear on what they are.


My Tradition


In the tradition I was taught, (the Druidic Craft of the Wise in America or DCWA) getting to the First Degree consisted of two classes or courses, a beginning and an advanced one. The beginning course took 13 weeks and covered the basics of magic, the religion and witchcraft in general. The advanced course took around 18 months and went into great detail in many subjects: magic, writing ritual, philosophy of the Craft, teachings of the DCWA, and so on. Completion of this course allowed you to petition to be admitted into the Order.


This tradition has 5 degrees: Initiate, Teacher, Priesthood, High Priesthood and Elder High Priesthood. Each one requires more training for one’s self as well as learning how to teach and teaching others. The various degrees confer no authority over others to the degree-holder aside from the right to choose whether or not to train a person. A person can always seek further training from another priesthood, in that case. These things vary greatly form tradition to tradition.


Different traditions also refer to their priesthood by various titles. Some call them Priest and Priestess, some call them High Priest and High Priestess. Others may call them Arch Priest and Arch Priestess, Lord and Lady or practically anything they want to call them. You also have the chance to meet some that have assumed the title with no real training or knowledge at all. So ask questions when deciding upon a teacher or priesthood (see our post on the subject here). Caveat emptor!


What You Will Be Learning


Priesthood needs to know much more than the basics of magic, the Wheel of the Year and the lunar cycles. This is a serious leadership sort of thing and you’ll be called on to resolve disputes between members, advice on a rainbow of topics, questions on course material, scheduling for Sabbats, Moons or other rituals, and so on. Plus you’ll want to keep learning yourself because students will ask you the damndest questions you never thought of in all your life.


Most traditions do follow a similar system of levels of initiation to train their clergy. Some are very systematized with set lesson plans and curriculum while others are more free-form. They may include books to read, written assignments on various topics, tests both written and performative and the demonstration of the skills and knowledge you’ve learned. You might even be assigned as a mentor to newer students.


By the time that you’ve gone through all of this training, you should be much more comfortable in a leadership position then when you started out.


In my case, I spent 7 years earning my priesthood and I was doing double-duty on a lot of it. Now having earned your priesthood certainly doesn’t mean that you have to hare off and start your own group, coven or whatever it is your tradition calls it. It most likely means you will be required to fill in for other priesthood at need, say, if they have a class but are sick. Or answer questions that new students may have. Most traditions do have a point at which you can form your own separate group and these sort of things can vary a good deal.


The Legal Things


It’s good to be aware that most traditions do not have the ability to confer the ability to do such priestly things as performing a marriage, solemnize a funeral or act as priesthood visiting the sick at a hospital. It does depend on the state that you live in here in the USA, or the local laws where ever you might live.


Ohio requires you to be licensed by the Secretary of State’s office before you can perform a wedding. Arkansas requires ministers to have a certification on file with their county clerk. Maryland is far less formal, allowing any adult to sign as clergy as long as the couple they are marrying agree that they are clergy. California has no registration requirements but you need to be an ordained minister. There’s a lot of online churches that will perform this ordination very quickly and easily, such as the Universal Life Church (www.ulc.org) and at no charge. That’s what I did and I can tell you it’s free and painless and no, I don’t get paid to tell you that.


I hope that gives a good idea of the process of becoming priesthood in the pagan world. Do remember that there is a great deal of variety in the pagan world and this is based on my own experience. Your experience may vary. So feel free to add a comment below on your experiences, ask questions, make observations or just open a dialogue. Love to hear from you! And subscribe at the bottom of the page to get notified whenever there's a new post, event or whatever coming out.


Blessed Be!

Sterling Knight



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