Last night I was talking to one of my Pagan friends about the need for more Pagan representation in my local LGBTQ community. She practices Santeria and commented that there weren’t that many LGBTQ “priests” like me in the local community that she knew of. I thought her comment was quite odd since I’ve never identified as a “priest,” though I have led Pagan events, workshops, and even the occasional ritual in my local community. Recently, another Pagan friend of mine, a Druid, differentiated that he’s not a “priest,” but is instead a “minister.” He said a priest mediates and officiates for the gods, whereas a minister takes care of the needs of the people. Basically, a priest would make sacrifices, lead rituals in honor of the gods, and develop a relationship with a deity or deities; and a minister would lead rites of passage (marriages, funerals, etc.) for other humans and also provide counseling and spiritual guidance.
I don’t feel like I fit either role. I don’t feel I’ve been called by any particular god or goddess, though I have a few favorites and do sometimes seem to get an occasional message from one or another. If anything, I feel like I get more messages from animal totems than from deities. I’m an introvert who often feels overwhelmed by people, especially those who are working through their own life issues, so I don’t particularly feel called to “minister” either. After being labeled a priest (and not feeling particularly comfortable with the label), I decided to meditate on the issue (FYI — I’m normally content to just call myself a Druid). The message came loud and clear, “You are an emissary.” Since that’s not a label that’s often used in Pagan (or other spiritual) communities, I decided to look it up. “Emissary – a representative sent on a mission or errand.” Related words include: a messenger, an intermediary, an ambassador, an agent, a delegate, a go-between, and some others.
I tried to do more research on what emissary would mean in a Pagan or spiritual context, but not much came up in a basic internet search. The best I was able to get (and these were mostly one off sources) were that an emissary has a powerful bond with the divine and serves as a messenger of divine inspiration; an emissary is entrusted by the divine to do their will; many spiritual emissaries have spiritual amnesia about their divine purpose, but often work toward their mission on a kind of autopilot nonetheless; and spiritual emissaries are often misunderstood, though they often see the world more clearly than those around them.
I mostly like the title “emissary” and I like it much better than “priest” or “minister”, and I think it fits me better too. I’m still not entirely sure about the title. I think “messenger” or “champion” might be a better fit, but the gods seem to have spoken. When I was younger, I idealistically liked the idea of being a “hero.” I much more realistic these days – for better or worse.
Most of my adult life, I’ve been on one mission or another – always striving for what I believe to be the common good. In college, I was an out and proud LGBTQ rights activist and people I didn’t even know told me how they’d been inspired by me. I’d been equally inspired by some who came before me. Later on, I championed the cause of Paganism. More recently, I’ve made it my mission to stand up and bring visibility and provide a voice to less mainstream folks within and without the LGBTQ and Pagan communities. This includes women, people of color, polyamorous folks, the fetish communities, and others. I’ve also integrated some of my causes like bringing visibility to LGBTQ issues in the Pagan community and promoting Paganism as a valid spiritual option in the LGBTQ community. I’ve done podcasts, blogs posts, published an online paper, and held classes, retreats, and gatherings. While I prefer a quieter life these days, I’ve been on the front lines of activism (especially LGBTQ activism). I’ve been on the front page of the newspaper and had my say on the television news. People often initially scoff at my visionary and sometimes out-of-the-box ideas, but I often find them pronouncing those same ideas as their own unique inventions later down the road. Years ago, on a Shaman led prayer walk I was told my task in life was to be an oasis of light and hope and inspiration for others. This seems to be my “mission” from the divine – not to be specifically a priest or a minister. I still have much to think about with this “emissary” thing, but it seems to build on who I’ve been and what I’ve done before. I suspect I’ll just continue to call myself a Druid, though I’m likely to think more on my role in terms of an emissary for the Divine, or at least for the greater good.
I really hope we can find more roles and titles in the Pagan community. I think those we have can be limiting to those who don’t fit them. Not everyone is a priest. Not everyone is a minister. Not everyone is an emissary. We all have our roles in life and in spirit. I hope you find yours too.