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Feb. 21st, 2007 @ 11:29 pm The HPS True Calling
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A recent fun "trollish" blog questioned, "How many people do you think are moved to become HP/HPS for the power it seemingly has and the adoration of others instead of a true calling?"

(Note... for brevity sake I will use "HPS" in this blog to represent "HP/HPS". )

I found this question to be thought provoking as well as entertaining.

To reduce the scope of my analysis, the first thing I will do is differentiate between the HPS, the 3rd Degree person and an Elder. The original message only referenced the HPS, a very specific position in the Craft community. This is what I will address here. While the Elder and 3rd Degree person have their own experiences of "power and adoration", they are not an HPS. It is the matter of another article to examine these related, but dissimilar, Craft roles.

So what is the role of an HPS? The most exalted role is that of clergy. The dictionary.com definition for clergy is:
The group or body of ordained persons in a religion, as distinguished from the laity.
The definition of ordained is:
To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
This puts the clergy role of the HPS into the proper perspective of having authority over holy matters. This is a role that the HPS has all at times. This is not a matter of compromise. If need be, an HPS may step down to 3rd Degree/Elder status if they chose not to embrace the role of religious authority.

The critical secondary role of an HPS is as teacher and mentor to students. The overarching goal of the HPS is to create 3rd Degree students capable of becoming an HPS themselves. While it is not a requirement for an HPS to have students at all times, a successful HPS will have a good track record as teacher and progenitor of HPS offspring.

What of the power and the adoration? The role of HPS is not mutually exclusive from power and adoration. These do come with the job of HPS. The authority of clergy has a power in itself. A good teacher will have adoration from their students. A respected HPS will have a place of both authority (power) and respect (adoration) in the Craft community. These are perks of the position.

The position of HPS carries a lot of responsibility. The dual position of religious leader and teacher is double burden. Burn-out is not uncommon, causing the harried HPS to step down. When the hats of public relations official, politician, deal-maker, parent, and world-mover are thrown in, the perks of the job help make it palpable. Sometimes they are desperately needed to maintain sanity while being an HPS. Sometimes they are absolutely necessary to continue efficiently functioning as an HPS. Without a power base grounded in respect and recognition, the HPS is little more than a 3rd degree person with a title. More than just a title is needed to support calling of the HPS.

What is the true calling of an HPS? My brief analysis shows that an HPS must have the calling to be both a religious leader and a teacher. These blend into subtasks of mentor, energetic mate, counselor and task master. The HPS has power. With this power comes responsibility. The salve for the harshness of responsibility is adoration. In the end, the calling of the HPS is one of simultaneously ruling and serving. There are not many people who are equal to the challenge of mastering these. Thus, it is the rare person truly called to be an HPS.

What is the true measure of an HPS called to service? How does a person recognize the power hungry 3rd Degree person from a functional HPS? IMO, when respect is given to the way power is wielded, and students are successful both in the Degree path and outside, a person can be considered to have a true calling. Those moved for the wrong reasons will fail in some way, while those worthy of the title of HPS will thrive even as they help the Craft thrive.

Does anybody have more to add to what the a "true calling" is for the HPS?
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Date:February 22nd, 2007 05:32 am (UTC)
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"The position of HPS carries a lot of responsibility. The dual position of religious leader and teacher is double burden. Burn-out is not uncommon, causing the harried HPS to step down.".

The HPS in BTW is prima inter pares (first among equals), with the HP being her complimentary equal.
provision is made for needing a Stand down" it is called a Sabbatical or leave of absence, which by coven law is normally limited to a year and a day, at which time the HPS must make the decision to resume her position, permanently vacate her position as HPS, pass her position to her Maiden if she has achieved second or third degree or to another within the coven who may be an elder who is also a second or third degree.

What is the true measure of an HPS called to service?
if you are a HPS, which is supposed to be a spiritual path, connection and union with the Divine/Deity is the ultimate goal. through this connection we realize that we are servants of Spirit, not the master. the terms Priestess and Priest has meaning as someone who has union with Deity for the benfit of society, humanity and the world around them. they are also intended to see their role as to assist others with this connection. It is essential the HPS have a firm ethical and moral base, by implication, this means to obey the law you must strive to be the best you can be by accumulating experience and knowledge and pass this information on.
Date:February 22nd, 2007 04:30 pm (UTC)
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The HP/S is the person who gets bailed out of bed at 3AM to go take care of a covener in a crisis. And even the most stable of covens is going to have what I call a '3AM crisis'. They have reached one pinnacle of responsibility, but there are others ahead of it.

Something I rarely see discussed is the 'life-span' of the HPS position. Some people expect that this should be lifelong, but I disagree. If we are talking about a female, there should be a time when she proceeds from being an active HPS to one who is retired from 'active duty'. (I think that this should also apply to a male high priest, but that's a different discussion.) People rarely look beyond the position of HPS to points beyond- probably because the bulk of folks practicing this sort of faith path haven't been on it long enough to look beyond the HPS position.

A friend of mine believes that a HPS should retire at 35, or, if she must remain active, no later than the age of 42. I prefer 42, because that is the real end of the fertile time in a woman's life, and by the time she reaches that age, she should have a bucketload of experience under her hat, and some viable replacements in the lineup. When a HPS retires, she becomes a Laureate- a prequel to becoming an Elder. She is available to counsel and train, but no longer is the 'go-to' person for the coven, and no longer leads ritual, except in rare circumstances. She is still adhering to her calling, but is now able to return to her own studies and work, without the burden of running a coven to interfere.

But to get back to your questions, here are some answers from my own experience:

What is the true measure of an HPS called to service? Service. The 3AM crises, the training of newcomers, the raising and mentoring of replacements, the expanding and hiving of the coven. And the removal of 'power hungry 3rds' and other disruptive people from the group.

Power hunger 3rds are very recognizable- it's all 'I' and 'me', not 'we' and 'us'. Their ego is very obvious, as are their manipulative ways. They will start vicious gossip in order to undermine those in power and steal people to join their own coven. They are not pleasant to be around.

I am retired from HPSing. I chose not to create a coven because I know what kind of headaches they create and attract. Instead, I serve as a Laureate to the community at large, and now to anyone who finds me online. I do not run any virtual Pagan communities- my retirement is on- and off-line.

I do not go around telling people about my creds-I let my actions speak for me. That is the best way to serve.

And service is the bottom line always. That is what distinguishes your choosers from your losers.
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Date:February 22nd, 2007 05:11 pm (UTC)
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Over on NonFluffyPagan I am getting a line of thought about "the call" being one of kicking, screaming, and gnashing of teeth. Yes, hardships (i.e. 3AM crises) can be acknowledged, but there also seems to be a "cult of pain" surrounding the HP/S. The display of wounds of the job seem to pre-empt words of encouragement, however strongly cautioned, for those considering the path. What's your take on this?
Date:February 22nd, 2007 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Oh, yes- only fools go into it voluntarily. It's more a 'dragging' than a calling. I know in my core that my retirement is only a sabbatical, no matter how hard I want to be left alone.

I am not sure about the 'cult of pain'- it's more like the fraternity of military veterans- we know 'em when we see 'em, and can spot bullshitters a mile away. And yes, we prefer to discourage rather than to encourage, knowing that the Powers and Current will find you no matter where you go.
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Date:February 22nd, 2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
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That's a fair enough evaluation. Thank you.