Again this is reflective of my own personal experiences and may not apply over to other people. Nonetheless I feel like sharing it may be helpful not only to illustrate what this sort of clergy actually can be but also for other people doing this same thing.
|Me, an Cheathrú Chaol, 2016|
I want to state at the beginning that this is not something I actually encourage people to do, although I think the Other is recruiting at this point. It is not easy or light work, and while it comes with blessings it also is a full life commitment. It changes you. It changes you physically and it changes you on deeper levels and I can't emphasize this enough. I think many people either underrate of downplay this aspect of service to Themselves when it needs to be highlighted.
Cave pulchro populo.
I will also state up front that the words clergy and priest are not the best fit for what I actually do - that would be echlach^ - but they are the closest words in modern pagan parlance.
There's a reason that I only-half-jokingly call myself the Fairy Propaganda Department*. A big part of what I am tasked to do is to carry messages and to spread information. Good information. Information grounded in actual folklore and genuine living belief, as opposed to modern fiction and fancy detached from belief. This means a lot of research, a lot of paying attention and respecting the cultures - particularly Ireland - where these beliefs are rooted and still found as they have been. It means knowing when to listen to others who know more and how to evaluate what is quality information and what isn't. It means sharing native voices and raising awareness of those people in Irish (or Welsh, or Scottish, etc.,) culture that are writing and talking about the older beliefs and keeping them alive. And it also means writing about and speaking about these things myself, and speaking up in cases where the misinformation out there is egregious and really needs to be addressed. Whether I want to speak up or not. What I've found is a lot of emphasis from them on people shedding the twee ideas and returning to older beliefs, those that are more respectful and even those that include fearing them. They don't want to be viewed as inconsequential or harmless, but want people to remember their power and what true awe is.
I am also sometimes asked to share more personal things I am told, what would be termed personal gnosis. This might include sharing a recipe from a dream which they wanted shared or a method of cleansing. I actually don't like sharing my own personal gnosis especially in open formats but this is something they insist on. They want certain things brought forward and sometimes I have to do that.
As their clergy I have sometimes acted as an intermediary between humans who are having issues with Them, and Them. In those cases my purpose is usually to identify the problem going on and help the humans to realize what they need to do to fix it. I do know how to do things like exorcizing them from a person or place, or curing elfshot, but I see these as last resorts in extreme circumstances. My role is to serve Them and help advocate for Them, not to protect the human community in general.
Another aspect of my own service is to create rituals that help facilitate their presence in the human world, and to help ground them here. I believe this is in order to reclaim places and space where their influence has been eroded. Seo Helrune wrote eloquently about this in their blog 'Restoration not Reenchantment' and I recommend giving it a thorough read. This is an issue anywhere that the Good Folk once held sway and were driven out but also can be felt in places where they may not have been initially but have moved into with the people they are connected to. I have removed iron from trees and spaces they claim or wanted to claim and I've undone energy that they were averse to, when and where I could. I've also unburdened fairy trees of rubbish in the guise of 'rags'** tied to them that was harming them - I can't not do this because preserving these trees which are sacred to Themselves is part of what I have to do.
And of course I make offerings to them. I could include that as part of my clergy service I suppose. I do make offerings as well on behalf of other humans and sometimes even to try to mitigate things done by humans. for example I once went out the site of a fire started by a carelessly tossed cigarette and did what I could to soothe the anger of the spirits there. I also will sometimes act on behalf of a group for the Othercrowd, usually for safe passage or a safe visit in a specific place.
None of the above are contingent upon my mood or feelings. I have had to do things whether or not I wanted to, and I have had to do them when I was sick and would really, really rather not. I realize how ominous that sounds, but here's the thing - at least when it comes to me but I suspect in general - when you agree to this particular service you are committing to doing what you are required to do. I agreed to be Their clergy and that means I agreed to do what they need done. Not if I want to or if I feel like it, but if they need it done.
There are prohibitions that come with this type of priesthood and they aren't negotiable. There are places I can't go and if I edge into violating that, there are real world tangible consequences. I have told the story before about the dietary restrictions so all I will mention again here is that I have had to give up two of my favourite things - coffee and chocolate - because they decided I should not have them. Why? I suspect the caffeine, which a friend suggested may interfere with connecting to them. They don't hesitate to remind me of the control they have over my body and my life, which again sounds ominous, but is a reality. My hair isn't straight anymore, my life isn't my own anymore - if it ever really was.
It's also worth mentioning that They are possessive. They are possessive of their places and their trees and anything else that they claim, including people. Shortly after I was fully claimed by them my ties to the Gods I'd been dedicated to began to shift and within six months the first had fallen away; within a year everything else was either gone or changed so that they were my main focus. They had always been in my life, since childhood, but before always as part of a larger whole. After my initiation they became the whole.
I also want to once again emphasize that this priesthood in no way makes me special or exceptional. It's important to know your own worth and not too be too humble but I'm going to emphasize this aspect precisely because I see so many people in relation to the Othercrowd who tend to put themselves in aggrandized positions. The Good Neighbours are not impressed with us, in my experience, and they don't play to our egos unless they are playing a game - one I discourage anyone from engaging in. The Fairy Queen that I serve and the wider group of Daoine Uaisle that I am connected to are clear they need me for certain purposes and that I do have value to Them but the Queen's nickname for me, as I have mentioned previously, translates to 'maid servant' and the actual title she gave me is older Irish for messenger or courier. While its true that there's lots of historic precedent for the Fairy Queens and Kings taking human lovers (yes that happens in folklore and anecdotes) this doesn't indicate that those humans were actually special - just the opposite actually it was common enough to indicate that the human probably wasn't particularly special but may have filled some interchangeable ritual or cosmological role.
I feel very blessed to be doing what I am doing and there are good aspects of it, but it is also very difficult. I've had experiences that people wouldn't believe if I told them, although at least I have witnesses sometimes - like that time we were travelling and I made some offerings at a fance only to have a fairy ring appear at the spot the next morning. Or the time I pushed a prohibition and went into a cemetery only to find my car wouldn't start; only when I finally acknowledged that I was edging close to breaking that prohibition and promised not to do so again did the car finally start (after I'd called the tow truck of course). Much of the time when I open up about my actual service to Them and the experiences I can share I feel like other people will think I am crazy, and perhaps that's why I have such fondness for the song Bedlam Boys. This is not the romantic, idealized service to the Fair Folk that some people describe but a gritty, painful, wonderful obligation. And I wouldn't trade it for anything, despite the cost.
^modern Irish eachlach. There are two definitions, and while its the messenger/attendant one that applies I'm not going to argue with the second meaning either.
*I'm not alone in this position however. We are a growing department.
** I mean literal rubbish here not legitimate rags. The rag tree tradition is an important cultural practice that has sadly been misunderstood and misused, particularly by tourists. The result is that the material tied to the trees is often not the biodegradable fabric it's supposed to be but plastic and man made materials that will kill the tree. Rags are also tied to trees that aren't even properly rag trees, but rather any tree that people randomly decide must be special in some way.