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The case against “Pagan Clergy” 4.0

By Gus diZerega

[Snip] If we look at early hunting and gathering Pagan societies we see no clergy. What we observe are shamans and medicine people, sometimes generalists and sometimes specialists, who provide for their people and are in turn supported by them. They consistently provided healing and divinatory services. I bring this up to make the point that “clergy” is not a term that is intrinsically related to being a spiritual or religious leader.

As these societies adopted agriculture, became more settled, and social differentiation began to increase this early pattern changed. Shamans often became hereditary rather than chosen by the spirit world with little regard for family. Alongside of shamans (I am using the term broadly) priests and priestesses began to differentiate into their own religious niches. They became specialists at ministering between the community and the Gods within a context of collective devotion, and sometimes did services similar to those of shamans, but within a far more formal and structured environment. Great temples arose dedicated to particular deities or groups of deities. The gulf between people and priests and priestesses grew. Much of this is discussed in Robert Torrance’s excellent The Spiritual Quest.

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