Those who carry the rite and bring it out of the wild and into the psyche, and out of the psyche and into the wild, can only do so if the tribe is substantially with them. Consider this: One person, we'll say, devotes months of preparation and dedication to creating the form, the hardware and the psychic fabric of a rite to invoke the seasonal deity. Another person refuses even to make up their minds whether or not they want to take part until the last minute - as though they had no work to do, but were just entering a supermarket to take off the shelf whatever took their fancy in the instant. Even in a supermarket there would be nothing on the shelf to take off if no one had put it there, and it might not be taken off without recompense. Further, if the stuff were taken off without recompense, that supermarket would collapse. That's obvious. But have we all fallen into the error of regarding the Goddess as infinite and in no need of us? Love is not something which emanates from one person to another; it's a bond which joins them together in satisfying each other's needs. And so it is with the Goddess and her people, and with her people and each other. Indeed the Goddess' love is so immense and her sorrow and her needs so deep, that her love will encompass a tribe, and nothing less than a tribe will sustain her in the trough of her sorrow. But yet, most of those who profess to love and worship her treat her as an overstuffed gourmet would treat a proffered plate of rare delicacies. If a person go to the Goddess when they need her, but turn their back when her sorrow is deepest, or if they meet with her once in a while and forget her for a season or two or a year or two, can such a person honestly and sincerely claim a relationship? And more, can they claim such a relationship as only a Goddess can, and does, give? Assuredly, they can't; and nor have they ever had such a relationship or they would know this to be true. One does not form a casual relationship with the Goddess, except in one's own delusions.
At this point, we can go a little deeper. We don't go to a party with a full stomach; we don't go anywhere to gather what we already have in abundance, which is most things in this momentarily affluent society. There are things we don't have, or have in such small measure that we feel their lack, and it's these which we come together for in the arms of the Goddess, and then, in thanks for them, we come again in her black rite when her own need, her sorrow and her hate and anguish lay all of nature bare and stripped of life and green things. But consider a few people who, at the last moment, decide they'll come along to a meeting. What preparation have they made? Have they held the Goddess in their hearts in the past months, and through the last passage of the Sun, or have they shut her out with other interests - other activities - indulgence in drugs, television, music - or whatever their placebo, while giving nothing of themselves, in her name and her love, to building her tribe and coming again into her court with full hands and the prize of gathered things? No, most people, I feel, who live a life of consumption, come into her court as crippled ghosts, jaded and empty, in the hope that her table will be laden with the gifts of others' works. But what if everyone came with empty hands and a worm gnawing in their guts?
And this brings us to the subject of our pagan priesthood and how far we can go without it. If people come together unprepared in a rite to draw their inspiration from the mood of the moment (that is, even if they come!) it follows that, individual abilities aside, all that anyone can offer to others is only what any other one could offer off the top of their head with no preparation. And from this it follows immediately that all that anyone can expect to receive is no more than they might offer in that condition. The only reason this is not so is because some have higher natural abilities, and because some have made preparation. To hold sacred converse with the Goddess it is necessary to prepare oneself, and the intimacy of the relationship is so very closely determined by what we have done with our effort, and in her name, to prepare ourselves for a Goddess' love and a Goddess' passion, and to weather the dread of a Goddess' pain. But there is more. Even then, there is the invocation which demands a high degree of dedication, work, ability such a will not readily come without a long period of training and self-dedication. If we are not prepared to train a priesthood, w e have drawn the limit of our vision. This is not a matter of teacher-pupil because, except for obvious superficialities, there is little of a concrete nature to transfer, little knowledge that can't be got out of books and little experience that can't be gleaned from one's own life. If this is all there were to it we could ask for candidates, sieve them with tests of intelligence and other personality factors, load them with books and stir in a goodly helping of time and work, and the result would be system-produced witches and wizards. But it isn't like this, and never can be. And whoever can't discard the cloak of individuality (let alone personality) for a time will not be of the wiccan tribe. But when the cloak of selfhood is discarded, what is there? This is no place to say what is there, except that if there is no tribe, there will be no witch. No queen sustains layabouts for her knights; and no mob of layabouts will find themselves a queen. The Moon will tell you what that means if you can read her tongue for the Sun doesn't understand it.
Now as medicine is limited by the training of its most-trained surgeons, as astronomy is limited by the intellect and knowledge of its most dedicated people, as physics is limited by the work of its most able and trained theoreticians, so the depth of our paganism is that depth attained by those who have dug deepest and pointed the way. Are we, then, prepared to channel our collective resources into tribal channels and train a few people in depth? And not only that, but are we prepared to give those few people our psychic support and our loyalty? By loyalty' I mean a situation where, say, the witch states: "For this undertaking, I need such-and-such and I need this and that action carried out," and she knows that nothing whatever will stand between her people and their doing her bidding. That might be misunderstood and I don't want to go so deep here as will make it clear because that would be far too deep, but I'll put it another way. Suppose a witch were to need her coven's support or a queen need her knights' suppoert in her work (which was their work) and suppose the usual reaction was that most of her people didn't respond, a few left it too late, others had other commitments, and so on, and this were usual. Would such a witch be a witch, or such a queen be a queen? She would not, and nor would those people have a witch or a queen.
Let's look back into our own mythical past; the date is set usually in time, however vaguely, but it's not in time that it lives but deep in our tribal psyche. Nevertheless, left in the psyche, it's altogether too deep for most people to see at all, and only a few see dimly, and most of those are chased away by the age-old guardians who stand on the threshold. So we project these things and see them in mythical people in a mythical time, and our own myths take the forms we see in the Mabinogion and the tales of Faerie. So in the green mists of a distant age there is a queen and her knights, and the knights do deeds of valour for love of the queen - though few now remember who the queen was beyond her name, and fewer still can see beyond the false mask of an accompanying king. Why should those knights risk so much, their freedom, their life even, for love of a queen if it were not that they had from the queen what was beyond price and was not to be had from any mortal hand? This is not the place to lay bare the light of that gem which many sought and so few found. I mention this in this place because there are two important questions to ask ourselves even though we know the answers, but have never thought of them before. In a hostile world, without her knights, where is the queen? She is powerless, a frail woman, without resources beyond her own womanly nature. But without the queen, where are her knights? They are listless, rootless, purposeless and a prey to the first hand that strikes them down (Is the game of chess, whose origins are lost in antiquity, a corrupted patriarchal expression of this ancient social embodiment of our deepest psychic being?). Even in our recorded history, though still sketchily recorded at that time, the queen of the land and her court were deeply immersed in what can only be regarded as the very stuff of the wicca whose power finally dissipated altogether when the Dutch king stopped the magic of curing the sick. So to use modern phraseology, the knights invest' in their queen because she is a resource' and like a resource, she is nothing if not invested. A queen has the power of twelve knights; a knight alone has not even his own power.
Now, how many of us have invested anything of significance? And without it where among us is there someone who knows she can give, and go on giving, because she has at her bidding the love, dedication and energies of her clan? At present, a member's only commitment is to underwrite costs and address their own envelopes. The cost is negligible, being a mere tenth of one percent of an average low income, and for each individual member, the effort of addressing five envelopes and posting them is only symbolic. With such feeble efforts as these our horizon is at our feet and the pool of inspiration lies dry, her bed baked hard and unyielding by the harsh rays of the Sun who stands for ever alone and goes his own way so that even the Moon hides her face at his approach. If we have visions to uncover, dreams to draw on, then obviously we can't go on just consuming every seed that is scattered. Some at least we must water or there'll be no future harvest, and we've already come close to this final reckoning as regards our meetings. Can we then create a pagan priesthood? Are we indeed a pagan laity? Or are we merely onlookers and consumers? To add one more fact to three and a half years of stagnation, our advertising campaign has brought us only three more people, and yet apart from two other members, nobody seems to regard this as their business. Is everything defined as being a secretary's work? Unless we increase our commitment - unless, in fact, we look into our own souls and discover there a fount of sincerity - we're doomed to a dismal twilight, and even that will not last for many moons.
We've put off forming a pagan priesthood for too long and we can do no more without one, and I'm going to begin the long process of laying the foundations of a functional priesthood. Would people who feel they might like to take part let me know - and do so before the Moon has waned away. There's so much to do that no one could be expected to do it all, though between us we'll have to cover everything. For specialised functions there will of course have to be specialised requirements and we can't pretend otherwise, but that's for a later stage. At this very early stage, the sole qualifications are sincerity, honesty, dedication and courage. The rest will come with training. It will involve a preparedness to devote a definite amount of time to it, and it will involve interaction with other members of the priesthood in the pagan rites. Obviously it'll involve some expense in travelling, and perhaps a little in purchase of books and equipment or the materials to make equipment, but these expenses can to some extent be offset by making part of them a charge on the whole Movement, especially travelling expenses. If the Movement needs a priesthood - and we're doomed without one - the Movement must render it possible and ease the load of those who are prepared to carry the burden. I dobn't mind if people who offer themselves have little or no knowledge because knowledge is easy to come by, nor if they have little intelligence because as long as a few have it in good measure, we can use it between us. What I do demand are the qualities I listed above, which are sincerity, honesty, dedication and courage and, by implication, it will be a preparedness to take a full part in the seasonal rites (all of them) and in the other pagan rites of birth, death, naming, handfasting and initiation and, inevitably, it will of course involve a resolution to set foot on that path which so few dare to tread. So, in Mabh's love, let me know before the wane of the Moon, and tell me how many hours a week you would bind yourself to give. From this, I'll know if you're dedicated. Make any conditions you think you need to make. From this I'll know if you're sincere. Honesty we'll discover before many moons have waned, but courage only in the final reckoning, naked in the dark night of the soul.
And to the rest of the Movement, what are we prepared to give to our priesthood? If our offer is derisory, they will have no power. If we ask for a lot, many people will drop out of the Movement. Consumers apparently seem to claim an inalienable right to consume! But consider. If all her knights were prepared to give everything for their queen, their very preparedness would keep safe what they kept in trust for her. But let's not pretend it would be negligible. It will be expensive in terms of cash and in terms of loyalty. For the expense, though, we will have a priesthood who have trodden the dark road and a queen and witch who can command, and who can give what is beyond money to buy.
I want to go back to meetings now at a somewhat deeper level. At a Movement meeting we have a choice of doing things superficially or deeply (or anywhere in between). If we are superficial, people will remain unsatisfied and think it not worth their effort to travel. If on the other hand we go deep, people will be frightened away (and have been frightened away). Superficial meetings soon wear thin; but deep rites are dangerous for those who have not been prepared. And yet, most of us make not the slightest attempt at preparation. Isn't this extraordinary! In a tiny pagan minority scattered throughout a vast nation of agnostics, we make virtually no preparation to meet our gods at their sacred rites!
We come then to the cross roads and she who stands ever in the shadow of the signpost. Are we content only to read about paganism and the rites? And what when there are no more rites to read about and, hence, no inspiration to light the souls of the writers for anything at all? Are we going to go on treating the gods as second-class relations to meet only when our most-loved are otherwise occupied or not available? Are we going to go on doing our own thing instead of coming together to offer our tribal love to the gods we pretend to worship? For myself, I am not. Love's signature is in behaviour and not in a word; sincerity is the shape of action; and achievement comes in the wake of dedication and courage. With apathy, lassitude or relegation of our commitment with the gods to second or third place, we can see our future laid out already in the story we have writ of the past - and that story is stagnation. We must change this - in the love of Mabh we must change it - or by the left hand of Maghu we go our separate ways to the empty caverns of the night.