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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,343,669  

Vox Q Stats

Times Viewed: 32,767

Reponses: 61

Lurker/Post Ratio: 537 to 1

Question of the Week: 23 - 1/8/2001

Who or What is a "Pagan Leader"?

We hear this term bounced back and forth around the Pagan communities and some either claim to hold such a position themselves or others have labeled them as such. What qualities/qualifications do YOU think a 'Pagan leader' should possess? Do we even need Pagan leaders in the national/international sense? Does the very term 'leader' set your Pagan teeth on edge? What do Pagan leaders really DO anyway?

 Reponses:   There are 61 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

I Think It Means Mature Experienced People Who Tend To Excell At... Jan 8th. at 7:23:45 am UTC

Michael (Dublin, Ireland) Age: 23 - Email

I think it means mature experienced people who tend to excell at organisational and social skills withing paganism, not some kind of mystical guru.
Pagan leaders are the people that make the effort to organise the websites, the moots and the celebrations and day trips etc for no other reason than that they like helping people and working with fellow pagans.
They are the ones that write the newsletters and go the extra mile to do the work that we all benefit from.
They are the people that share their experience... not confer or sell it.

To these people I would like to extend my thanks,

A Leader Is Someone Who Doesn't Have To Say So (their Lives... Jan 8th. at 8:49:45 am UTC

Trish Telesco (Western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email

A leader is someone who doesn't have to say so (their lives and actions speak for them)!

Leadership is like a mantle that drapes gently over the aura and speaks of wisdom, authority, kindness, dilligence, tenacity, hard work... and so much more. Leaders are both born and made, but in a spiritual setting they have a very real calling from the universe that requires a resonsible answer and accountability for all actions or lack thereof.

Our community has, for too long (IMHO), misused terms like Adept, Elder, Priest and Priestess. Forgive me, but reading one book, going to a few festivals, and even running a study group does not qualify one to be a COMMUNITY leader. And I have grown way past weary of Lady and Lord so-in-so setting themselves up at the head of a coven for ego's sake rather than for love of the Path and the People on it.

Leaders are pathfinders. They are the guardians of our history and truths. They are the walkers between the worlds. They are reclaimers of the past, and visionaries for the future. A leader is one who treats life as an act of worship, who encourages balance, who teaches/heals/inspires/consults/guides and laughs often (laughter is good soul food). Leaders know that one never truly arrives in this position, but is always learning more (mastery is truly a life long process).

Leaders must know when to speak and remain silent; they must know and honor their gifts and their limitations. These people have long ago realized that magick isn't in the tools or processes, it's in the living and BE-ing. They must move through this world and people's lives with both power and humility.

This is not an easy task, nor is it one suited to all people, but it is a calling that our community should begin to respect far more than we have. Many of our leaders are burning out because they do not receive service -- their inner wells dry up because so many are so needy. So as you find these gentle souls who have dedicated their hands and hearts on the altar of service to our community, remember to say thank you to the god/dess for them, and then thank them too!


As Those Who Know Me Can Attest To, This Is One Of... Jan 8th. at 10:04:25 am UTC

Lynn Salisbury (Brooklyn Park, Minnesota US) Age: 32 - Email

As those who know me can attest to, this is one of my hot buttons. I do believe there should be some sort of Pagan Leadership. I am not sure what role they should necessarily play. I don't want a "counsel of elders" that everyone should have to listen too, and I don't want someone not of my beliefs and tradition to set "rules" for me. I do believe that those who have shown themselves to be effective leaders should be able to be held as examples for the rest of the community (unfortunately "effective" becomes a relative term rather quickly since everyone has his/her own opinion what it takes to be a leader). In my own experience in AND out of the Pagan community I have found one general truth to be rather standard. Those that deserve the title and acknowledgement of being a leader rarely if ever want the title or claim the title. They do display the qualities of a leader and are more than wiling to help others and lead by example, they just usually don't play into the "I am the great leader here" hype. Then there are those who speak loudly that they are "Lord/Lady So-and-so" and the "look at me I am High Priest/ess of the Such-and-such coven". They are the ones who are more than willing to tell you WHY they are a leader and WHY everyone should listen to them and WHY they have ALL THOSE TITLES. Unfortunately in my experience there are more of the latter in the world (and that does include the Pagan community too) then the former. There are great leaders in the community. People like Wren and Fritz who have proven time and again how to lead by example. They and people like them are greatly needed in the community. Unfortunately there are few like them in my opinion. What can be done to change that? I honestly don't know. With so many different paths that we walk it would be very difficult to set standards for everyone. Someone somewhere would challenge them. Personally I think each person should work his/her hardest to be an example to those around him/her. That would be ideal. Each person has it within him/herself to be a great leader.

I'm With Michael (below)--by Their Works We Know Them, Leaders That... Jan 8th. at 1:51:51 pm UTC

Cat (Asheville, North Carolina US) Age: 34

I'm with Michael (below)--by their works we know them, leaders that is, and a leader isn't necessarily a HP or HPS (for which categories I, like most of us, have a series of quite different, but exacting and arbitrary, standards.) Leaders do what I personally lack the gumption, the organizational skills, and lots of other qualities to do: they organize and plan and get people together and speak being a prime example of leading without bossing. Thanks are indeed due here and elsewhere. Considering the trouble I have getting one little image onto my website, I admire the work that goes into this one more than I can adequately describe.

This "pagan Leader" Term Has Become Much Abused, And Is Certainly Misused... Jan 8th. at 2:21:21 pm UTC

Solar Indigo (Atlanta, Georgia US) Age: 40 - Email

This "Pagan Leader" term has become much abused, and is certainly misused. How can you have a "leader" in a faith structure which is is in large-part controlled and practised by the individual believer? It smacks of ego and controllism.

As for each of us, I can only speak for myself. Can I lay claim to the title "Pagan Leader"? Yes, if you go by I. Bonewits' standards (see the main Witchvox article). I have been practicing 20 plus years, I am over 40 years old, I have attained Elder rank in my tradition, and the tradition has many more than the 100 person limit specified by Mr. Bonewits. But, does that mean that I, or anyone else, should claim "Pagan Leader" as a title? No, I don't think so. My standing, in relation to the God and Goddess, is just the same as the "lowliest" of our novices. When I sign letters, newsletters, and other documents ... I can use probably a half dozen titles ... but I don't. I am neither Lord this, nor Lady that, I am only who I am. The highest title I ever recieved (in my estimation) is the one I received at my initiation.

I am simply, Solar Indigo, Wiccan Priest.
Blessed Be, and may the Goddess light your path.

A Good Example Of A Leader Is My Friend Molly... Of Hearthstone... Jan 8th. at 6:44:25 pm UTC

blackthorne (Walnut Creek) Age: 35 - Email

A good example of a leader is my friend Molly... of Hearthstone Circle in San Jose. She is a good example of someone who plugs away even though it's exhausting. She puts alot of her time into the thankless tasks that are involved in getting other pagans together. I have heard it said that getting pagans together is like "herding cats" so I guess a good pagan leader is a good cat herder too. I would like to take this time to thank her in print and let her know she is doing a superb job. I don't get to attend her events because of the distance factor, but I have enjoyed the ones that I have been at.

Pagan Leaders Are No Different From Leaders Of Any Other Group. Take... Jan 8th. at 7:38:16 pm UTC

Lynne-Renee (rural St. Louis area, Missouri US) Age: 29 - Email

Pagan leaders are no different from leaders of any other group. Take this week's article on stripping away "coverings."

A leader is just that. That is the nature/foundation of the person. Whether it's the matriarch of a family or an Elder of a community, the owner of a pagan bookstore or the friend in a clique at high school. If the person is putting it out there day after day, s/he is leading by example at least. It's the qualities of quiet strength; genuine love and empathy; the inability to let wrong be done without some quidance and the ingenuous, unaffected actions of one who lives to the best of her/his abilities that makes a GOOD leader.

I send love and thanks to all those who've helped me through their actions or modelling.

Blessed Be

First Of All, I Think We Should Deep-six The Word "leader." That... Jan 8th. at 8:00:58 pm UTC

simona elda (duluth, Minnesota US) Age: 30

first of all, i think we should deep-six the word "leader." that word connotates that there are followers, and we all know that pagans of any stripe are *definitely not* followers. the word "elder" is more fitting, i think. this word connotates that the person in question has knowledge, and, more importantly, wisdom. the two words are equally important but have completely different meanings. "knowledge" means that you know a tradition. "wisdom" means you know how to counsel and help people when they really need it. i think one can have knowledge without wisdom, likewise can have wisdom without knowledge. i had an english teacher in high school who knew her subject matter *very* well, but she couldn't teach it to 12th grade students. why? she had knowledge, but no wisdom to understand or remember what it was like to have the mind of a seventeen-year-old. wisdom is different. it comes from all sources. i know many, many young people who are wise beyond their years because they listen to the calls of mother earth and father sky. likewise, i know many older people who are as foolish as infants. age has nothing to do with it! in my never to be humble opinion, an elder should have both. prior to coming into the craft, i had attended three methodist churches. not one had a pastor who could give compassion and sound advice in times of trouble. what good does it do for *any* "elder" to know their theology if they can't give true help to the people they are supposed to be feeding? i am not an elder, nor do i belong to any tradition, but people come to me for help when they are hurting because they know that i will listen, give them a hug, and some words guided from the gods if they should ask for it. i'm always very careful about what i tell them (harm none...)if i choose to say anything at all. sometimes physical presence and closeness is all that's needed. any elder of any tradition i would eventually find myself in must at least possess these qualities too, or i won't stick around. blessed be, simona elda

Like Others Before Me, This Is One Of My Hot-buttons I Too... Jan 9th. at 10:38:48 am UTC

Marea (Niagara Falls, Ontario CA) Age: 30 - Email

Like others before me, this is one of my hot-buttons

I too grow weary of the strange uses and misues to which we put the word "leader". Probably the thing that drives me the most nuts is those who claim a position as leaders acting as some kind of gatekeepers to "the real knowledge", or "being a real witch". I'm not interested in leaders who stand above the rest of the community in judgement or because of some veiled access to some secret knowledge. I think the real leaders are those that have already been described here so elegantly - those who put their heart and soul into education, ministration, counselling, activism, and just plain fulfillment of their responsibilities to ALL people as brethren. The best of these, are those who lead by example.

Oh my goodness, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that I just stole shamelessly from my parents' opinions on what makes a great minister!


Yes, I Do Think We Need Leaders. My Experience Comes From Both... Jan 9th. at 12:23:09 pm UTC

J. P. DeMeritt (League City, Texas US) Age: 43 - Email

Yes, I do think we need leaders.

My experience comes from both formal and informal organizations, some of which had effective leadership, many of which did not. Those groups which had effective leaders thrived, while those that didn't died. So what makes an effective leader?

Many other people have listed laudable qualities: caring and compassion; wisdom and knowledge; strength and courage; dedication. All of these are important to leaders. But the one quality I seek first is vision: a concrete, compelling, shared image of a highly desirable future. The person who has such an image of the future, whether it be to create a community center serving those who can't get the services they need elsewhere, or creating a world of loving acceptance for all, can motivate many people to work together for a common, worthy goal. The ability to create and communicate such images of the future is essential if we're to create the kind of world we want to live in.

What do leaders do? Leaders help us get to the future by molding the image of the future we want to live in and helping us see how to achieve it. They help us understand how to accomodate each other in meeting our individual needs while pushing the community's desired future forward. They listen. They offer advice. When they direct, they do so knowing that ours is a voluntary community fueled by voluntary commitment. And, most of all, they help us keep the dream alive, even when we're toiling in the midst of despair.

I believe that any community can use such people. We should honor and support them. And we should help others to grow and prepare for leadership -- after all, good leaders, like worthy images of the future, are in far too short a supply!

Leader Is A Very Bad Term, I Think. I Think We Do... Jan 9th. at 2:09:08 pm UTC

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

Leader is a very bad term, I think. I think we do need Representatives, in the national/international sense, we're the largest growing religion on earth and as such deserve better treatment and recognition. But, no one in the pagan community should 'lead' you, they may serve as guides along your journey, they may be recognized for their ability to build and/or channel a lot of energy and to connect a group with the divine forces, they may be loved and admired for their compassion and wisdom. But if they start pushing their own way as the one and only way, get away from them. That's what separates us from Christianity, our religion is and hopefully ever shall be built upon the freedom of seeker to decide what they believe instead of the Priesthood. When the Priests/Priestesses and other parishioners start making decisions on what the congregation MUST believe and MUST be taught as if they were a flock of mindless sheep (one famous Christian hymn I know of is named What a Worm Am I), then you know you're heading for serious, serious trouble. Steer clear. Cut your own path, but have wisdom and patience so that you don't get lost on that path, for in a religion where the individual seeker is encouraged, nay required, to find the path that best suits them as individuals, a great deal of responsibility rests on our shoulders, we must be sure to listen to our hearts and spirits and distinguish between what we really believe and what we just think we should believe. The only true 'leaders' in paganism are your heart and soul.

Take Me To Your Leader!". That's The First Thing I Thought Of... Jan 9th. at 3:01:54 pm UTC

Lori Dake (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 26 - Email

"Take me to your leader!". That's the first thing I thought of when I saw the topic. And just by looking into a crowded room, how can you point out the "leader" (Pagan or otherwise)? The "Leader" will *not* be the puffed-up pompous one right in the center of the crowd talking about him/herself, even though your first impression may say otherwise. Nope. The *real* person in charge is off in the shadows; organizing, educating, caring, and yet still managing to stop a minute to chat with everyone.

I prefer the term Organizer to Leader in regards to Pagans, unless Elder has been truly earned. And that doesn't mean that the one running the show needs to be a very organized person, either - as long as he or she isn't afraid to ask for help from people who've been there. It's not a fault to admit one can't wear every hat; it's human. But the folks out there who bust their butts every day need to have others to fall back on, which seems to also be in as much short supply as the organizers themselves. Fortunately for me, I seem to have been pretty lucky to have people to help me help others :) But I know other organizers who've needed help and haven't gotten it :(

And with that, I say "Thank You" to the people who have helped me, and I will keep performing my Random Acts of Kindness in return :D

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