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?