Home > Uncategorized > What Should Our Clergy Wear?

What Should Our Clergy Wear?

I think as a religion we are making progress. We’re growing faster than we can manage. While every one of us is our own Priest or Priestess, there are times when we need more than just our own influence. Sometimes we need a little help, advice, guidance, yet not all of us have someone we can turn to. What if we are in a new place? In mixed religious company, like in the military? Or just want to acknowledge and recognize those that have more experience than we do.

I’m sure I’ve talked before about how we need clergy that our well trained in counseling and theology, but how do we recognize such a person when we see them?

A few folks I know who do inter-religious work and are ordained by our church use the common white tab collar to identify themselves as clergy. Turns out you can buy them on the internet–and it’s not like they check your religious ID! The idea of wearing the clergy collar with a black shirt fascinates me because it is such an obvious symbol for clergy, yet doesn’t imply a denomination. Seriously. Think about it. Which denomination wears it, hmm? Perhaps with a few modifications, we can make it our own. Perhaps we should wear green or purple instead of black.

The symbolism of the collar might not fit with our theology. If you think about its place on the body, the black of the shirt constricts the body, while the white part allows speech to pass through. In traditional Christian thought, the body is only a vehicle for the spirit, and its level of potential temptation from a righteous life varies by denomination. Current preachers are taught that they must move the listener away from the body by uplifting the mind with ideas and praise of God. This, of course, comes from the throat (“Preaching Principles and Practice” Holland, 1988).

But why should we only recognize this Christian symbol (albiet non-denominational) as the token of clergyhood? If we look towards other religions in other parts of the world, we see a variety of dress that spiritual people wear. We see that most ceremonial religious wear depicted is long, but varies in the amount of ornamentation. One of my favorites is the Tibetan monk robes. I love the colors and the dedication it shows to so clearly identify yourself as a holy person. Hindu and Indian attire can inspire us with the beautiful colored silks called sari.

Perhaps it would be better to stay out of contemporary culture, since the clergy collar is already taken. What if we look back in history to our roots? We are the Old Religion, are we not?  A look at Greco-Roman temple wear again shows the flowing fabric. Although, speaking from experience, the flowy robes of the Mediteranian are no good 93% of the year here in the Pacific Northwest! Would you recognize clergy in these robes?

If we look to our religious values that separate Wicca from other religions, one of the things that sticks out it the love and pleasure we get from our bodies. I was taught that a 3rd degree is a walking representative of the Gods, and is a Priest or Priestess all the time. I know a handful of women who have taken a page out of The Mists of Avalon and received the crescent moon tattoo on their foreheads. A friend of mine who wears one says that people recognize her as a Priestess, even if they do not know her and are not familiar with the book. This image intrigues me because it looks like the crown that the Goddess Diana wears in art. It seems to me to be an appropriate symbol for our female priesthood. What about men? Should they get some other kind of tattoo like this one? What would it be?

It’s not much to go on. The idea of inventing a new image of what clergy could or should be is hard because we like the idea of age, culture and tradition being represented in our priesthood. Yet how do we balance that with the fact that this is a new religious movement?

What do you think our clergy should wear?

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  1. Nacken
    January 7, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    Maybe we should have our HP and HPSs wear a tall pointy hat. It is traditional after all, and quite distinctive.

  2. AmethJera
    June 28, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I do wear traditional black clergy wear-shirt and collar with pants or skirt. There are a few alternatives, such as the ones found at:http://www.mariasjodin.com/en/priest.asp, which are pretty expensive. I have worn a black traditional ‘Wiccan’ robe with a stole,and silver moon crown other times.

  3. Pathik
    October 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    In my tradition, the clergy adopted grey and brown cassocks and the crescent tattoos. Both the women and men wear the same thing. The High Priest/ess usually wears a silver or gold stole and a cap.

  4. July 25, 2012 at 2:34 am

    I use an emerald green hooded robe my wife made for me. I have worn it over a suit, a tux, and over a nice white shirt and Dockers, depending on my clients’ preferences. When out of uniform, so to speak, I carry a purple stole with gold trim and a gold pentacle stitched in. I use this for last rites or impromptu blessings. The idea of a green alb and a purple clerical collar intrigues me.

  5. Annaliese
    April 9, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    I actually think the sari is a good idea. Wearing that with rich colors, and maybe a hooded robe of a darker color. But I find the tattoo to be the best choice.

  6. August 16, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    This is so interesting to me, as what Orthodox Christian clergy should wear comes up in discussion sometimes. The clergy collar you have discussed is not traditionally Orthodox – it is something that was encouraged among some Orthodox priests of immigrant communities in order to blend in more with Western culture. The traditional cassock, beard, and large pectoral cross really stood out. And yet, there are many who say we shouldn’t mold ourselves to fit into society – though the intention is to not put outsiders off…I think in reality it shouldn’t make a difference. And if it looks culturally dissonant, well, that’s at the heart of Orthodox Christianity, so that is fine. Those who are true spiritual seekers will not be put off, or afraid, and will approach knowing that in approaching the Church they are simultaneously walking away from the world. It was interesting to find this particular discussion on a Wiccan blog, because I think there is one similarity here – Orthodox have highly particular adornments for clergy, the church, and services. We don’t believe that any of these things have magic in them, but they are highly symbolic of our theology and represent the Kingdom of God. Altering them can make them no longer properly reflect our theology, which we want presented to the 5 senses and the spirit. I would figure that if Wiccans adopted clergy attire, it would include things that are symbolically or ritually significant to their own religious beliefs.

    Anyway, that is actually not what I originally wanted to comment on. You state in the article that Christians teach that the body is just a vehicle for the spirit, and that we are to focus our attention away from it. That’s actually not the case. Christianity – at least, ancient, Eastern Orthodox Christianity, teaches that the human being is composed of both body and soul – the human is not just the soul residing within a body that it casts off at death to be free. The human being is intended to be both body and soul together, and death unnaturally tears them apart. That is why Christ did not just rise up as a soul, but with body and soul together – signalling the beginning of the general resurrection for everyone.

    We do not actually fight against the body – the body itself is not evil, nor are its normal needs. What we fight against are the passions – the passions are spiritual distortions of the body’s natural needs, i.e. gluttony is a distorted abuse of the body through food food, rather than feeding the body to support the health of body and soul. Think of emotional eating as an example of this. It should not be confused with feasting, which is something we do in alternation with fasting, raising the purpose of our eating (or abstaining) for spiritual purposes as well as for the health of the body by consecrating it all to God. So we do not abuse or neglect the body – we strive to heal the soul and respectfully care for the body, rather than abusing it in any way for a temporary emotional or spiritual “fix”. However, we accomplish this not only through prayer, but also through practices that very much involve every aspect of our bodies – consecrating it all to God. So that consecration does not imply lack of use, like putting something on the top shelf of a closet collecting dust, but rather a proper use and keeping it well-maintained.

    Sorry for such a long, tangential comment! I know that there is a lot of misinformation and confusion about Wicca out there, which perhaps Wiccans try to correct. In the same way, there is also a lot of misinformation about Christianity out there. Or maybe I should say Western branches of Christianity have very different ideas sometimes, which Eastern traditions can find to be warped and even harmful.

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