Priestess Journey with Jess Carlson

This series explores what it is like to be a spiritual seeker and Priestess in the 21st century.

Is there more direct access to the Divine in the world now? 

I’m interviewing women involved in my Priestess Training Program to find out!


I am a witch, first and foremost. No matter what else I’m doing or where else my path takes me, this is the one constant about me. Beyond that labels are really hard for me. I am many things and I am extremely eclectic in the things that I’m passionate about and that I give my time to.

I am a witch, a priestess, a tarot slinger, a healer, a shaman, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a writer, an artist, a gamer, a pop culture geek, a uke player…and I’m sure I will be many more things in the future just as I have been many other things in the past that are no longer part of who I am. One thing you can always count on is that I am evolving.

 

I started my spiritual path quite young. I was “raised” Catholic in the sense that my Mom’s side of the family is Italian and we were expected to be raised Catholic. I went to CCD classes each week, made my sacraments, but I never went to church unless it was a requirement because my parents weren’t actually religious. While I wasn’t really into what I was being taught in those years, I was completely taken by things like prayer, ceremony, ritual, and the sense of community that was found within the church setting.

I grew up in New England where the shadow of the history concerning witches and witchcraft lingers. I lived in Connecticut which is where the first witch trial took place in 1647 and Salem, MA was only a few hours away. Having this stuff all around me growing up, hearing about it in school and taking field trips to the sites where these things happened all caused me to wonder just how real witches and witchcraft was. I started digging around in the local library, and it got me started on a path I never would have imagined I’d end up on.

But to be fair I always had imaginary friends that weren’t so imaginary, and I often knew things I had no way of truly knowing, so I was always a bit “touched” as it were.

At age 8 I discovered the tarot and at 10 got my first Rider Waite deck and began using the cards regularly. At 11 I started learning about Wicca and Paganism. At 13 on the full moon right around the summer solstice, I did my initial self-dedication.  At 28 I became a High Priestess and at 31 I quick my “normal job” to work as a professional priestess, witch, and spiritual coach full time.

This all took me through a transformation that truly awakened who I was always meant to be. None of this stuff felt like I was learning something new but more like I was remembering something, and it still feels that way today. I always thank the gods that I was fortunate enough to find myself on this path early and that my transformation happened in a way that was simply part of my becoming who I was and not something I ever had to struggle to reclaim. It’s all part of why I truly believe I was put here in this lifetime to do the work I do.

As I grew with my magickal practice and started to see that my spells brought results, I got a bit too bold with myself and started doing spells that might be considered to be a bit dark.  A few of them bit me in the ass. I ended up with a stalker boyfriend that I had to get a restraining order on after doing a spell to get an ex back. Another time I did a spell to break up an ex and his new girlfriend who he cheated on me with. As soon as she dumped him, he called me begging for my help because he was so devastated. I certainly “got him back!” He wouldn’t stop calling me or coming to my house crying about how he didn’t know what to do without her! So I learned quickly that I needed to be more careful with my magick and knowing that I will get what I ask for.

I was raised to believe that if someone didn’t like me or agree with me, it was their issue, not mine. I grew up a bit weird, and it was never discouraged but actually encouraged by family and friends, I always accepted that being how I was was simply fine. My imaginary friends weren’t imaginary and when I had a feeling in my gut or just knew something even though there was no real way for me to know it, I was encouraged to just go with it.

I would definitely say that a combination of support from those around me as well as seeing how my spiritual and magickal practices brought me peace and positive results in my life made me confident that I was doing the right things for me. There was no reason to be anything other than my authentic self and I never really knew any other way to be.

 

I feel like the biggest spiritual strength I bring into the world is a sense of practicality. While I love ritual and ceremony and making things totally extra, I also know from personal experience that you can’t do things that way every day. The average person doesn’t have time do three hours of meditation, prayer, ritual, and magick on a daily basis as their regular spiritual practice. I hate seeing people try to start a spiritual practice or magickal lifestyle and get discouraged because they feel it takes too much time or that it’s too complicated for them. In my personal practice, I rely on simplicity and find it no less powerful and supportive than the big stuff. I love being able to show people how to make their lives magickal without having to give up time with their friends and family doing “normal stuff.”

I feel like my other big spiritual strength comes through my skills with tarot and communicating with the spirit world. I have a way of translating the messages from the cards and the spirits that gives people easy to understand and implement guidance and advice so they can make empowered choices for themselves.

I struggled terribly with finding a path or tradition to stick with for the longest time. I was part of several different Wiccan traditions before realizing that I didn’t align with Wicca at my core. Then I was solitary for some years before getting involved in a revolving door or groups and traditions from Asatru to Strega to core shamanism to Hinduism to Buddhism. I never felt that I could be part of just one. There was always something that I felt was lacking.

I had a chance to study with a teacher that I had wanted to work with almost from the very beginning of my journey, and when even after that I still felt something was missing I realized that I needed to stop looking for a tradition and instead follow my own path. Then I decided to stop focusing on labels and to stop forcing myself to be around groups of people in the spiritual community that made me unhappy for the sake of feeling like I belonged. When I did that my path opened up, and that feeling that I had been searching for in other places finally came together organically.

I find that my sense of empowerment comes from maintaining my magickal practice no matter what the circumstances and making my tarot a part of my daily life. When I have these two things solid in my life, I know that my spiritual toolkit is always ready for me when I need it.  Because of this, I know that I have certain magickal skills that I’ve perfected over the years that, no matter what, I can bring out and use and get results from. This helps me to know that I always have control over what’s happening in my life.

Another thing that I found has added deeply to my sense of personal empowerment is living by The Four Agreements as taught by don Miguel Ruiz; be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. They may seem simplistic on their surface but these four principles are full of depth and transformational ideas that changed my life.

 

For me the practice of ritual and ceremony, whether simple or complex, is part of what gives me the structure for my path. I also feel as though everything I do is part of the ritual that is my magickal life, so everything is done with intention, albeit some deeper than others.

On a daily basis, I work with tarot and/or oracle cards. I’m constantly pulling cards for clarity, guidance or inspiration. Each day I also take time to set intentions, do some prayer around those intentions, light a candle, and smudge my space.

I work a great deal with shamanic practices like smudging rituals, journey work, fire ceremony,  and despacho. When I started studying core shamanism with a teacher in 2009, I felt like I found a ceremonial practice that really spoke to me. As I’ve worked through various shamanic practices and initiations like the Munay-Ki rites, I’ve incorporated more of these shamanic practices into my daily life.

When it comes to spells and magick, I focus mostly on tarot magick anything involving fire, like candle magick, burning petitions, and working with incense.

I feel that being a Priestess in the world today is all about being a support system for others. It’s about being there to give guidance when needed as well as to live by example. But that also means being honest and authentic. Life isn’t all sunshine and lollipops, and I feel that a true Priestess doesn’t hide her struggles. Part of that living by example is also showing how to be strong and brave in the face of challenges while showing how to use her spiritual practices to support herself in through the process.