Becoming a Priest/ess
The rôle of Priestess/Priest is both very ancient and very new. Many women (and some men) are called to mediate the Goddess, or “female face of the deity” in this world, but until recently, there have been very few opportunities to do so. However, more people in more countries are now setting up and running training courses.
This contribution is from Katinka Soetens about the Priestess of Rhiannon training that she facilitates regularly each year.
Sisters, Sisters, I am calling you, through the long age of forgetting, through the times of destruction, of undermining, of shaming and blaming, Goddess is rising again. It is time to remember Sisters! It is time to rise in love, to let go of our own avoidance, the fear of our shine. Time to lovingly let go of the victim place, which was an important part of the awakening of our consciousness, to move past the blaming mode of reclaiming, into the full owning of our responsibility for own patterns. Time to see our shadow and participation in Patriarchy, so that we may become the light beacons, the Illuminators, the Lantern Bearers, the ones who are and will initiate the new age and MotherWorld. It is time to reclaim and own our bodies as sacred: Her temple, and our sacred sexuality and sensuality as the direct forms of our embodiment of Her. It is time to reclaim our Sacred Sexual Priestess Self: she who serves the Goddess of Love.
Many of us resonate with the collective memory of the Sacred Sexual Priestess. Whether it is through a connection to Asherat, Isis, Minoan Snake Goddess, Oshune or Astarte, or through the reclaiming of the Magdalene as priestess rather than whore, the awakening of the Sacred Sexual Priestess is rising. When I first felt the call of this particular path of serving Goddess, it led me from the Priestess of Avalon training spirals, through Doula and active birth work, moon lodges and empowerment workshops, into tantric study and practice, to the homecoming in our Celtic heritage, where the Sacred Sexual Priestess of Love has manifested as Priestess of Rhiannon. Living the active path of priestessing sacred sexuality brings me so many gifts and places of real transformation, that it is my great joy to share what She continues to show me in the 2 years of the Priestess of Rhiannon training held through the Glastonbury Goddess Temple.
Rhiannon, Celtic Goddess, whose name comes from Rigatona, which means Great Queen, asks us as Great Goddess of Love to become aware of and change the patterns of Patriarchy. This monstrous sickness influences our ways of behaving to such an extent that we are often not even aware of how much of our communication, interaction and relationships both with our self and with all others are held and influenced by it. Rhiannon asks us to ‘shadow-hunt’ the places within us we most would like to avoid owning or looking at. She asks us ‘to clear the glass of the lantern’ so we may shine our love, our soul-light, our radiance.
It is our responsibility to awaken, to become conscious, to break the destructive patterns within us and in our society and to be the trail blazers, the healers of the Earth, of our bodies and our communities. It is up to us to become the new Elders of the MotherWorld, to reclaim the Priestess of the Goddess and in particular the initiation into presence and surrender that the Sacred Sexual Priestess is the gateway for. We are asked to walk the priestess ways of the Goddess of Love once more.
For us to relearn the flow of aliveness and sexual energy in our body and to open our heart in gratitude and love we need to re-learn and, perhaps for the first time, discover the sacred source within us. This will enable us to drop our shielding, our poisonous knives and swords, which we wield so effectively against our self and others. This will allow the journey of surrendering to being once more the vessels for Divine presence. We must be courageous and gaze deep into the Mirror of Rhiannon. Here we may see what is, and what the shine of the Healthy Mature Feminine looks like. Here we may see how to love our bodies, as Rhiannon teaches us how to live in sisterhood circles, dance with the Masculine, and ways in which we can initiate relating as the living Path of Love.
The teachings of Rhiannon reveal themselves through Her wheel of the year, a format through which She expresses as the seasons, the elements, moon faces, menstrual/fertility cycle and the archetypical faces of the Feminine. To be Her priestess is to reclaim the sacred sexual priestess self and to walk Her Path of Love through the seasons of our life and the archetypical initiations of our soul journey.
The wheel of Rhiannon is based on the wheel of BrigitAna as researched, re-claimed, designed and taught by Kathy Jones in the Priestess of Avalon training in Glastonbury, UK. I am forever grateful and indebted to the work she has initiated in her writing and teaching, without which none of Rhiannon’s teachings would now be manifesting.
On the compass points (N, E, S, W) we find the elemental Archetypes of Goddess Rhiannon: Enchantress/Soul Song Singer (N), Explorer-Path Finder/Snake Dancer (E), Mermaid/ Deep Diver (S), Queen/Freedom Rider (W). Meanwhile Her aspects Wild Maiden (NE), Lover (SE), Mother (SW) and Wise Woman Crone (NW) are held on the cross point directions. Each of these directions also represents a part of a moon month, the dance between fertile ovulation and deep releasing menstruation, the flow of not only fluids, but of information and creativity within our bodies: a way in which consciousness becomes matter and through which thought creates reality.
At Winter Solstice, which is the North segment of the wheel, Rhiannon of Air manifests as the Ancestral Enchantress of Destiny, She of the Magical Birds, deep dreams, soul songs, sweet scent and clear vision. Rhiannon of Air is the perfume of Love, She can intoxicate as well as challenge you to fly, and lends the wings for soul flight. She is also the great Nothing, the Void into which we drop when we surrender in ecstasy, trust, faith and death and the Soul Song longing to be sung into being from within the Void itself. As Singer of this Soul Song, Rhiannon of Air holds the karmic pathways of the Path of Love and guides us to our destiny. On the menstrual/fertility wheel, Rhiannon of Air holds the time of menstruation, especially the last few days, the deep empty place we can enter once a month through attunement with the wisdom of our body.
At Imbolc, which falls at the beginning of February, but which is really at the time when the energy shifts in nature and the first signs of life returning become noticeable. When the day light lengthens, the first snowdrops emerge, the first meltwater runs, whenever that is in any particular year. On the wheel in the direction of the North East, we find Rhiannon in Her Maiden aspect: Wild Maiden. She is the truly free and authentically wild, as in completely integral to the wilderness of both the natural world outside of Her as well as the inner landscape of Her uniqueness. She is the Budding, promise of all potential. She brings the journey with the young shadow parts of the feminine: shielded maiden and the princess, to show us how un-free, how trapped in our fear-based patterns we often are. Maiden Rhiannon also is the new cycle re-starting in our body with the buildup of hormones orchestrated by the hypothalamus (FHS – follicle stimulating hormone-, a neuropeptide, and leading to LH –luteinising hormone- increase) awakening the ripening of a follicle/egg cell.
At the Spring Equinox, when light and dark stand in balance for a moment and we enter the light, fire-filled half of the year, in the East of the wheel, we find Rhiannon of Fire. She manifests as Path Finder and is the courageous Explorer of Herself, as well as Kundalinior Snake Dancer. As young healthy feminine archetype She holds the place of true originality and anarchy, the opposite of both conformity and rebellion, and guides into healthy exploration of the self, both in relation to others and as trail blazer daring to be different. At this time, none of us experienced this exploration in fullness, as we all come from and through patriarchy. This has far-reaching consequences for the initiation into healthy womanhood and the mature feminine archetype of the Queen on the opposite side of the wheel. Rhiannon as Path Finder helps us to find our way back to the Real, to the Radiance of Goddess within us and lights our Kundalini fire. Rhiannon Path Finder represents the developing follicle, the ripening of te egg cell and the increasing levels of Estrogens (rising to a peak) in the body. She is our fertile energy of action and exploration of how life might want to sing in us.
Beltane, in the South East, at the time when the sap is rising and nature is blossoming, is the home of Rhiannon Lover Goddess and Her festival of life, fertility, love and sexuality. Lover Rhiannon is the Dakini, the full sexual embodiment of the Feminine in all her authentic power. Fertile, sensual wellspring of life force, the Flowering, powerful blooming of all potential. Lover Rhiannon is wisdom keeper of our true Yes and No, and dances with ease on the edges between resistance and healthy boundaries, helping us to become more authentic by moving within us and asking us to look deeply into Her sacred mirror of Love. Lover Rhiannon teaches Sacred Sexuality and is the peak of Estrogens shortly followed by the peak in both FSH and LH and the highest Testosterone level in the whole cycle in our body. The high libido peak of pre-ovulation: the whole body ripe and preparing for the great act of creation, of birthing fertility into being, the great time of receiving all possibility which we can access once a month through the wisdom of our body.
Summer Solstice in the South of the wheel follows with Rhiannon of Water, Goddess of flow. The Deep Diver into truth, sexuality as well as deep shadow. She teaches the owning of emotions. She is the Mermaid self, Vessel for the Divine energies, watery mirror of the deep tides, completely free in her joyous expression of self, celebration and sexuality. She holds the comb to untangle that which belongs to us, from the expectations and projections of others. She brings the gifts of insight and compassion and sings the irresistible soul song of the heart which calls our destiny towards us and into being. Rhiannon of Water is ovulation: the bursting of the ripened follicle and the releasing of the egg cell, accompanied by increased mental and emotional creative receptivity, the watery white flow of our yoni. She is the journey of life’s creation from the ovaries through the deep mysteries of the fallopian tubes into the centre, into the womb. At any time along this journey Egg can be inseminated, we can conceive, and so Rhiannon as Deep Diver brings our deep receptivity and the surrender to go with the flow of life in the wisdom of our body.
In the South West on the Wheel, at Lammas, we find Great Mother Rhiannon, Nurturer, sweet Goddess of belonging and homecoming, Forgiving One, Midwife, the Fruiting of all potential. In Her aspect as Mother Goddess, Rhiannon shows us especially how to work with deep places of betrayal and trust, shame and blame: patterns of undermining amongst women. She mid-wives healing of the wounding in our motherlines. Mother Rhiannon brings the gifts of Birth, Fruition, and Forgiveness and teaches us to re-learn healthy sisterhood. In the fertile/menstrual cycle, Great Mother Rhiannon is conception, or the unfertilized egg arriving in the womb ready for implantation. A time of expectation: the readiness of our womb to hold, grow and create and birth life. The follicle that released Egg becomes the corpus luteum producing hormones, specifically progesterone, to make the womb receptive and focus all creative energy of the body on maintaining this expression of life. Rising levels of Estrogens help the new life created with the power of love to the nest place of the womb. Great Mother Rhiannon holds the receiving and protecting of all that we mother; the fullness of life already dancing in you.
In the West, at the Autumn Equinox we find the other point of balance between the light and dark in the year, and here we meet Rigatona: Great Queen Rhiannon, She who is the manifester and owner of Her realm. She chooses responsibility and is the Freedom Rider of Her own Path which She determines with clarity, dignity and ease. She has gained from Her life’s experience and the full extent of the path finding Her Explorer self has undertaken. With directed action She knows how to stay present to receiving. She brings her gifts of self-responsibility, gratitude, joyful maturity, menopause, empowerment, and abundance. In our monthly cycle, Queen Rhiannon holds the knowing that implantation has happened and that you are pregnant, or, more often, that the life force and focus of this egg will not manifest in you as a new being, and so its creative energy becomes free for you to focus with choice, directed action and intention. Both Estrogen and Progesterone levels drop and the Corpus Luteum starts to die and the deep knowing rises in the body that you own the realm of your womb for your intention. The gift of this knowing and feeling the approaching ending of this cycle, leads to the realization that now is the only time you’ve got and so to stand in your power of each moment.
In the North West, at Samhain, the entry into the dark time of winter, Wise Woman Crone Rhiannon is the Setter of Tasks and the Giver of Gifts. She is the Seeding, Holder of the Dark Mirror and Initiatrix, both sexually and as gateway into the mysteries. She is the Challenger and bringer of change, which we sometimes try to ignore or resist, but Her wisdom always finds the way to facilitate our greatest growth. Crone Rhiannon holds pre-menstruation, time of the dying of the old, the time of knowing in the body that egg and womb nest have died and will need to be released. Hormonal shifts, LH levels rising slightly while FSH drop, the only time in the cycle that LH levels exceed FHS, express this energy in our body that we are often resistant to fully feeling or owning. This is a time of harvest and reflection, as our feel good hormone levels plunge, often a time where what we have put up with in our self and in others around us, as well as what we have hidden from our selves, becomes un-avoidable, un-bearable and we move into manifesting change. Crone Rhiannon can be turbulent, but really only because Her wisdom has been ignored and Her energy denied. She also brings a libido peak, amazingly not directly triggered by our hormones but by the physical neuron stimulation in the body as the womb and cervix prepare to release: deep surrender into our sexuality.
Finally, in the Centre of the wheel sits the Great Goddess Rhiannon: She who is the flame and mirror of Love, Hearts’ longing, Soul’s Destiny, Mistress of the Labyrinth and Illuminator of both shadow and the Path of Love. She holds our Sacred Sexual Priestess self, the part of us hearing Her call which longs to Serve Her. Her loving light illuminates all parts of the Wheel, changes everything it touches, and is the constant compass on the journey of the Priestess of Rhiannon.
Katinka Soetens is Priestess of Rhiannon and of Avalon. She teaches the Priestess of Rhiannon training, which runs every year through the Glastonbury Goddess Temple, staring in October and ending in September, through 8 weekends. Her first e-book ‘Teachings of Rhiannon is available through her website. If you feel drawn to the training, please find more information and contact details on www.goddesstempleteachings.co.uk or Katinka directly through www.Herpathoflove.com.
All photos © Katinka Soetens