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I wrote this article mainly in order to convey my experience of wonder at performing the role of the priestess in the Gnostic Mass and to attempt to express my great love for this ritual and for our church. When I first came to the church, I was quite unsure of the idea of having a priestess separating me from the direct connection to a sense of divinity I felt when doing things alone.
I was invited to attend a Gnostic Mass and despite my initial fears I took the opportunity offered.
When it comes to performing the Gnostic Mass I have a great certainty in the ritual itself and its ability to create that connection with the divine forces. The Gnostic Mass contains a piece of text taken from The Book of The Law that is spoken by the Priestess as an invocation to Nuit.
All of the actions I perform at the beginning of the ritual are working towards the invocation that is to come so that the space has been set and the invocation works in such few words. Even during my very first Mass as Priestess, I began to feel that things were slipping into place without me really trying. Through my experience of being a priestess in the Gnostic Mass, through invoking Nuit, my view of divinity has completely changed.
As my view of divinity, and of those around me has changed through my experiences, the way others respond to me has changed also. Having a structured church creates a framework to grow within, one where no-one is left without knowing who to turn to. Military or army tattoos are usually sported by men who have been a part of the military themselves, or have an ancestor who was once a part of the armed forces and fought for their country.
The military tattoos presented here are poignant in their meaning and quite elaborate in their depiction of war sceneries. Christian films with a tenuous grasp on our Constitution and Christian legislators with a tenuous grasp on our Constitution are both having a moment right now, so naturally, Saturday Night Live brought them together in one spectacular trailer. The story is a classic illustration of the kind of slippery slope our keenest legal minds have been warning us about for years: First the couple just want a wedding cake, but before Bayer knows it, their Jewish lawyer and the American Civil Liberties Union are involved, and her faith is on trial. Fortunately, she has a powerful ally: the fictional governor of a fictional state, who just happens to have an office in the Mississippi State Capitol.
Matthew Dessem is Brow Beata€™s nights and weekends editor and the author of a biography of screenwriter and director Clyde Bruckman. I was humbled to hear from clergy, both ordained and novices, across the world to tell me that they had found it inspiring and informative to their approach of our central rite. I decided not to read the ritual text beforehand as I didn’t think that it would be useful for me to try to understand the ritual intellectually before I had experienced it first hand. Taking my communion I realised that there was another way to achieve that direct link with the divine I had always sought and that right there I was standing in a huge wave of it, and it took nothing away from myself by having someone work as a conduit. We had been practicing thoroughly for weeks beforehand, reading and re-reading the invocation of Nuit that is so central to the role.
As it took me with it on my first attendance as a member of the congregation, so it does when I am in the role of Priestess. The forces worked through me without me controlling them, and it was through my letting go of control that made the way for the ritual to do its thing.
In my solo work the gods seemed to be forces outside of myself that I could anthropomorphise in order to commune with. I the very process of opening myself out to the forces outside of myself and offering that out to others appears to encourage people to be more open with me in return.

These tattoos can be very emotional and thought provoking to the individual who wears them, as it may speak of the days spent in the battlefield, or the memory of a lost friend or a loved one. Vanessa Bayer plays a simple baker persecuted for her faith by the most powerful force in America: a gay couple.
I have edited my writing purely for clarity and to allow it to fit better in this current collection but in the main part it remains as it was.
At first glance at the role as it is set out in the Gnostic Mass, it may seem that the Priestess performs a very passively servile role; however the internal process that she goes through during the ritual is actually a powerful invocation and strong possession which has fundamentally changed my view of myself, those around me and my concept of the divine. I had tried a small amount of formal ceremonial magick, but working alone I often felt something was missing. In fact, the feeling was enhanced with everyone in attendance being focused on achieving the same results, reaching out together to something outside of ourselves in order to bring it into ourselves. That night I dreamed of the night sky and I could see the outline of a woman above me in the heavens, the dark shape of her body moving against the backdrop of stars as if she was dancing. I consider careful preparation in advance to be essential for me to make full advantage of what is inherent in the rite. I could not fit the infinite night sky within me but as “Every man and every woman is a star” there is a place for me in Her. I felt a sense of doing but not-doing, removing my own self from the situation, so that it is not my ego that does the work but something deeper. When dealing with such huge ideas that cut right to the core of being it is not surprising that it will affect people deeply and change their view of you. It has opened my eyes to a spiritual world that I had previously been skirting the edges of. It may also symbolically represent the need to take military action or the obstacles and challenges that one may face in life. I was interested in experiencing the community feeling that I had observed from the outside in other religions and I was curious about the Gnostic Mass.
Before the ritual started the Deacon explained what would happen in the ceremony and the parts that the congregation were to participate in.
Knowing how it had made me feel to stand there, I realised that I wanted to be able to provide that service for others but I felt sure that it would take me many years to be in a position to do so; and I also knew that I would do it no matter how long it took. As the day progressed, I began to realise that I was being encouraged to step up and perform the Mass and it was the role of Priestess that I was drawn to.
Her beautiful, darkly ephemeral face came close to mine, so small in comparison, and a huge pair of dark blue, almost black, lips kissed me gently. To ensure I know the ritual completely in my mind and my body, and have a certainty in my ability to be open to the forces called in.
Preparing myself for the ritual, clothing myself beautifully in white, blue and gold, and arriving at the doors of the temple, I am always thinking about what I am about to do, the role I am about to step into, and preparing a space in my thoughts for that. I have discovered a sense of finding a place in the world, of being one star in the Universe, by looking directly into the darkness, which is never as dark as it seems. In times of crisis people will look to others within their community for assistance and offering yourself as a community’s Priestess automatically implies being looked to for guidance. A church is not simply a building in which people congregate but a body of people working together for a spiritual purpose. It has allowed me to perform a vital function within my community and find my own orbit as a star in the body of Nuit.

Military tattoos quite often depict sceneries from the battlefield, wherein armed soldiers stand in line, with images of barbed wire or the national flag, and military helicopters flying by. Although stylistically it is not what I might write now; I would not re-write the article as it stands as a genuine testament to my first experiences of the ritual. I liked the idea of the ceremony, that it was a tried and tested ritual with repeatable results; but at the same time I felt intimidated and overwhelmed by the thought of it being too structured. I was extremely nervous, and panicking that I would not remember what to do when we went into the temple. When I hear the ritual begin, a deep calm enters me and any thoughts I had of who I am and what I may be doing in my everyday life leave me, making that space for that Goddess of infinite space. You can decide to a limited extent the way you want to move, but the water ultimately takes you where it wants you to go. I feel infinitesimally small and able to marvel at how wondrous it is to be a part of the infinitely huge whole.
Sometimes a military tattoo may also depict contrasting images of violence along with angels who symbolize love and peace.
More importantly, I honestly do not think anything I wrote now would be that different in its sentiment. Partly I am sure now that this was out of a fear of getting things wrong in the eyes of others that I felt at the time might know more than me. Entering the temple and seeing the assembled congregation sets up a dialogue with them in my actions, it is their presence that elevates me from being a magician seeking a connection with the divine, to a Priestess seeking that connection in the service of others.
Its as if I can peek in over my own shoulder and see what is happening around me while She does the Work.
The biggest mistake would be to try to stop yourself, to try to hold back once you are moving, the more you go with it, the faster you will go and the better it can be. And I can see that divinity, refracted in all people, see each person I encounter as a star in the body of Nuit, equally small and hugely part of everything. Military tattoos are often very simple, although they evoke powerful emotions in the minds of the observers. Somehow, that just didn’t matter, I was swept along by the momentum of the ritual itself.
I strongly believe that as a Priestess it is them that I am there for, it is them that I am there to serve, and in that service to them I am able to be lifted up to meet the divinity.
Though there have certainly been plenty of occasions when I have entered the temple and have no memory from then onwards until its all over and my Priest is coming to collect me from the altar at the end. This is something I feel it is important to be noted, especially by our young church as it grows.
Those are the times when I have felt that everything has been working perfectly and the power of the ritual has taken hold completely.

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