I read a blog post today in which the author was suggesting that pagan (and from that which the author included I am guessing also refers to polytheists) communities as such do not exist because we have an irregular makeup rather than a balanced relationship between typical worshipers and a priestly class. This author used as an example that everyone wanted to be the shaman/brahman, high priest/ess etc rather than just being the pagan. I found this interesting to think about largely because while I agreed with some of the things this author stated (particularly as against cult of personality as I am, and in extension the concept of influential religious “leaders”) and I didn’t personally see the issue so much as the author was stating it.
For one, among the number of Hellenics I know very few people consider themselves priests of any particular deity. And those that do are doing so based off a concept to which they are participating in a great deal of personal investment of their life to a particular deity that they follow. This usually means that they may be a bit more rigorous in their approach to a specific deity, but even these individuals are not considered, nor should be considered, elevated above the average worshiper. At best, if there were temples these individuals would just be spending their lives tending to the maintance of the temples and the many religious observances held therein in honor of the god. Honor is due to the god rather than to them. And whereas they can give advice from their studies, they cannot be assumed to be a master to be studied under. Nor is there a Hellenic high priest. This is not religio romana with its pontiff maximus to whom all other pontifs, priests and vestals deferred. There is no head position, no high priest really outside of individual cult centers. Nor are there any all-inclusive priests that expand the entirity of the Hellenic religion, which really renders everyone who serves a particular god a common worshiper in the general religion. Therefore in all ways that really matter everyone is a common worshiper.
That said I can see how such would apply to societies that were divided into classes of speciality, and those cultures which typically only had a small selection of spiritual honchos to serve the welfare of the community (such as shamans, witch doctors, etc) in which exists a particular spiritual medium between the community at large of worshipers and the gods or spirits. But this point really doesn’t get across very well to me since I don’t participate in this kind of worship activity and there doesn’t really exist any need in Hellenismos to create a religious medium between the gods and the rest of the populace. There are those who do divination/oracular work as requested for purposes of clarification on the part of an individual but this really seems to be the extant of it.