What is a Priestess?



Sometimes a Priestess finds herself in welcome company, and at other times she is the outcast, the ridiculed, the exiled, the heretic. Some people find the idea of a ‘Priestess’, ‘Goddess’ and the ‘Divine Feminine’ off-putting. Some minds open, and others close when they encounter these terms and the energies they represent.

Priestessing is an unusual vocation by today’s standards, and not everyone is going to get it or respect it, or need to. It’s not an easy road. It’s not particularly glamorous. It just is what it is.

God/dess knows it’s good to realize you’re not alone in the Journey. That there are others who feel just as you do. Who share the same faith, the same fears and who just ‘get it’.

Other priestesses have begun to reach out to me in response to my article called ‘Priestess is a Verb, Not a Title’ ( http://wp.me/p4OUNS-4c ). It moves me to see the time and effort that they have taken to write to me and narrate (in part) stories of their journeys. It is a good energy of ‘coming together’, of reunion in many ways – and it is what prompted this exercise of reflection you now read.

There are more of us than we realize, walking on kindred paths and paving a way forward for spiritual women to be seen as what they are, once more.

But what does all of this entail?

In other words – What makes a Priestess?

Walking on this path requires you on the one hand to completely commit yourself to something you consider sacred. On the other hand, you are constantly called to check-in with yourself, with that deep connection to Source/Spirit that moves you, with your development and how attached you are to a certain idea of Truth, a path, a practice, and so on.

On the one hand we act with utter faith, and on the other, we constantly feel into it deeper – allowing it to change, evolve and transform if need be.

At the very least, that is what I am called to do – and it keeps me from falling into stagnation and complacency – which is very different from a state of receptive stillness.

It makes the experience of Being a Priestess a very conscious one. Part of you is constantly attuned to this state of devotion and reflection on that path of devotion. It’s not a switch you can turn on or off, not a vocation that obeys the 9-5 schedule and has the weekends off. It’s 24/7.

The ‘reward’ (if you can call it that) you get by being a Priestess can’t really be measured in material terms. If the goal was to earn money, gain prestige and status, make friends, get your ego stroked / validated, etc. there are a lot of other, easier options that would give you that kind of ‘job satisfaction’.

Moreover, there are energetic and karmic consequences for Priestesses (and Spiritual Facilitators in general) who use their role primarily to fulfill their ego’s desires. That applies to us all, but more so for those who speak the language of Spirit.

Perhaps the real reward you get is the simple recognition that you are in fact, Honoring Yourself. A recognition, an acknowledgement that comes from within.

You express and embody that Sacred Truth that resonates with your Soul. And in so doing, you Honor the Divinity within you – which You are.

Perhaps you do that in a public role, perhaps it’s private – for your eyes only … either way – you’re just being you – that is a gift in itself.

Bear in mind that this is my take on The Path. Your understanding may be different, and that is perfectly fine. Stick to what resonates. Whilst I speak of Priestesses, know that I speak of an energetic archetype, not limited to a single gender.

Blessings as always,

Priestess Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD

Image Information: Statue of the princess – priestess Takushit (4334574410).jpg – By Tilemahos Efthimiadis from Athens, Greece [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


thanjavur bairavee

As Priestesses – what is it that we do? Do we hold someone’s hand and listen to them pour their hearts out? Do we just ‘talk straight’, and tell someone what they really need to hear? Do we heal? Do we inspire? Do we defend? Do we terrify? Do we help out behind the scenes or jump straight into the heart of things?

Yes…  Yes… and Yes ….

And a lot more besides …

Being a Priestess does not require a religion, or even any understanding of faith (as paradoxical as that sounds). Some Priestesses use a Title, and some others do not even recognize the construct – doesn’t stop them from being one though 😉 And both approaches are just as valid.

And just to be clear – whilst I tend to address my posts to all genders, this one has a strong emphasis on the Feminine. The Priest’s Path of Service tends to be slightly different – but those who have a balanced sense of Masculine/Feminine will be able to relate to this piece as well.

What I have seen across the board is this: Priestesses live day-to-day with eyes in this world and in plenty others simultaneously. They see the movement of Spirit, Divinity, Grace, Life through all that occurs and honor, amplify or simply recognize that movement through some form of Service. As a Priestess upholds, embodies and anchors that vibration of Living-in-Communion, she naturally becomes a beacon that others are drawn to – a Gateway, if you will – to Healing and Re-connection.

Sometimes it’s a pleasant process, and at other times, it can be extremely uncomfortable. Some Priestesses are gentler, others are harsher. Some see joy and life in the world, and others see the rot and are focused upon its healing. Sometimes both, and a lot more besides. There’s just no generalizing it.

You can find a Priestess in a hospital, in a church, in a pagan community, in a social care center, in parliament, in a corporation, in a mirror – anywhere where there is a Woman able to see this Movement/Vibration and Align herself with it.

But more than any of that – there’s the Devotion, or Dedication to a particular Cause, Vibration or Idea. In ancient times, many of us chose death over the forsaking of our beliefs; We chose our cause of devotion over much-desired love and comfort; We chose to walk the route that no one else dared or wanted to even approach (as so many awakening priestesses are beginning to remember).

Some of us continue to make those same choices. And in some parts of the world, it really is a matter of life-and-death. For most of us, the repercussions are nowhere near as dire. But that does not make our choices any less significant.

We see it when we are called to speak our Truth to friends, family, colleagues, lovers, and so on. We see it in our thoughts, emotions, ideas and very substance, or essence of Being.

A constantly running red thread … that keeps pulsing, as real as your heartbeat. The sound of an invisible drum, a rhythm your Soul keeps dancing to. Each footstep, each time you follow that thread – a Choice is Made.

At times these choices seems like Trials – Trials of Fire and Spirit that just keep you going forward, come what may. Some with more intensity, others less so (and both is fine).

The choices that come in our lives, which call us to always, always look at things from a Transcendent Perspective. We’re always called to take the ‘higher/deeper’ road – and nothing exists in half-measures.

There is this constant intensity – be if of joy, trials, sorrow, anger – or any other emotional state (sometimes all) as Priestesses begin to remember and embody their Sacred Archetypes.

It’s not all grim, but it’s not all cupcakes and roses either. There is a beauty to this path, but also a great striving that accompanies it – especially in the earlier phases of awakening.

In my case, I was recognized as a Priestess (without the title ever being used) by a spiritually attuned mother and a father who recognized me as his teacher (and I him) from infancy. Even so, Living the Path, has not been a walk in the park (and that too, is a part of my Service).

In my earlier years, given my name (Bhairavi – Destroyer of Obstacles, The Most Terrifying Aspect of Maha-Kali) and cultural background (where Goddesses are shown sticking tridents into and impaling ‘demons’) – the biggest lesson I had to learn was in the Mode, or Type of Service I was called to give. The ‘battle metaphor’ had to dissolve (which took some work, and the help of friends), till I was better able to see the full spectrum of things.

So here’s some of what I’ve learnt:

(1) Leaping into battle doesn’t always work. But neither does dropping all your defenses and walking in as the pacifist.

(2) Mediation, Healing and Transmutation isn’t always the best course of action (at least, not at first). Sometimes Defending, Protecting and Making a Boundary is.

(3) Holding your ground is right sometimes, but so is complete Surrender.

(4) Not backing down is just as valid as turning your back and walking away

(5) Not all crises are yours to solve, not all problems you encounter are a part of the work that you came to do.

(Sometimes we feel indispensable, and that too is a part of the ego learning that this Priestessing business is not something you can put in a box 😀 )

(6) There is no ‘one formula’ or ‘mode’ that can be used for every situation – nothing is generalizable

(7) The moment you think you ‘know’ something, the Universe shows up with a whole new thing for you to learn. It’s endless, and that’s a beautiful thing in itself.

I’d like to think that I integrate a wider repertoire of these responses in the current way I walk my path, and that I will continue to learn more as time progresses. My trident (claws/ferocity) is there in the background should I ever truly require it, but a more peaceful approach tends to solve most issues.

But one thing I have learnt through all of this is the following:

That there is no ‘default’ response for what a Priestess does, when she is Called to Serve. We are all different, and our Paths and Purposes are different – as are the wide range of situations we encounter in our individual lives.

So there is no need to generalize, to compare one’s path with another, or to try and create a ‘standard formula for Priestessing’.

Here’s what I wrote to a friend earlier today, on the same subject – and with these words I leave you to your thoughts:

At times we will be called into battle to seek the peace through mediation. And at other times, we will be called to fortify the defenses against assault. Sometimes it’s making sure the crops grow and people are safe. It’s very very relative.

 At times we burn, at times we heal, at times we stand our ground, or build bridges – and at times, we make sure we turn and never look back. All are necessary, all are equal, and all are …. specific to the circumstance.
* * *
Blessings to All,
Image Information: Me at Thanjavur Periya Kovil, 2010. (c) Bairavee Balasubramaniam

PRIESTESS IS A VERB, NOT A TITLE: COMING INTO YOUR OWN POWER AND BEING COMFORTABLE WITH IT – by Priestess Bairavee Balasubramaniam, PhD + Quotations from a friend

priestesses draft

I wrote this in response to a post I saw earlier today. It struck a nerve, but it was a nerve I know tapped into some collective wound, which I – and all beings are enmeshed in. A wound that triggers deeply rooted attitudes of judgment and shame when one seeks to balance ‘being spiritual’ and ‘being powerful’.

The two are not mutually exclusive – a lesson that women, in particular, are beginning to remember at this time.. You are not egotistic if you let your power shine through you and if you are seen as powerful. By the same token – ego can come in even when you falsely pretend to be less than you are, or hide away from your birthright.

The original piece as a whole (which I commented on, which sparked this post) was beautiful and contained much wisdom. I focus on this aspect as it is the one that looked like it needed to be expanded upon. Together, we’ll get there! :

“” You’re right in saying that our connection to Goddess is not dependent upon external validation and titles – but that does not mean that we have to hide from what we are, or that we need to fear coming out and embodying that which we are. She calls us to Awaken in Silence, just as she calls us to Roar forth and Embody.

I have been a priestess for many lifetimes. I don’t see it as a fancy title, it is who I am. It is certainly not one that I – or others who use that title- take for the sake of prestige or to be trendy.

Not being who we are, and hiding in the ego, refusing to ‘own our Paths’ … is just as problematic as associating those titles with true spiritual connection – it’s very context specific and hard to generalize because each Path is Unique.

As a woman in an Asian context, taking my own title is nothing short of an act of absolute rebellion, and I did so listening to the quiet guidance within. My ego was terrified, and I calmed it. I knew it was the right thing to do. But that is my life, and perhaps – that too resonates with others. All else you have said I agreed with. “”

Between you and me – for far too long as the title of priestess, and the right of woman to serve in religious and spiritual institutions been denied. For too long have our beliefs and spiritual alignments been condemned. Be-coming those states, those beings, once more is not to surrender to your ego. It all depends on what your Path is.

If She asks you to embody that external sense of authority, power, then that’s what you gotta do. If your task is to work in the background and embody in silence, then to do that. But neither path is lesser than the other, and it would be a mistake to associate embodying that power and owning it with the sheer trappings of egotism.

Ultimately, you can’t generalize what your path of Awakening will be – nor it is fair to judge another’s. This is the point I wish to make and hope that the message can be seen for what it is.

To conclude, I leave you with the words of someone on one of my pages said – in response to the original article and my commentary – and it really struck the right chord:

” When you turn Priestess (or Priest) into a VERB, it is no longer a title. It’s what we DO. We DO things like perform ceremonies, fundraise, listen, heal, love. It’s so much more than a title or a status…

Priestess is a VERB, not a title. ” ~ By Tiffany Dembek

Blessings, Priestess Bairavee Balasubramaniam PhD

[Postscript: In retrospect, I see no reason why it can’t be both 🙂 Best of both worlds! ❤ 🙂 ]

Images: John Collier [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; By Mwhs at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons; http://www.flickr.com/photos/mantas_lt/ Flickr user ”Mantas LT” on Wikimedia Commons