The opinions posted on the Pagan Perspective pages are those of individuals and are not neccessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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Question of the Week: 60 - 10/1/2001
What About Those Pagan Leaders Again?
As we mentioned in our homepage introduction, the question of who our 'Pagan Leaders' might be has again been raised. And perhaps that is a good thing as the world situation has changed and perhaps the views of Pagans on the topic have changed as well. We would request that those who continue to support the decades old view that Pagans do not need national leaders also then address the question of what should we do to comfort/represent our own at a national level in times of crisis seeing as most folks in the Pagan community are still solitaries.
We request that those who take the position that national leaders are (or may) be needed to represent the Pagan communities in times such as this also address the question of how these 'leaders' would be supported financially in order that they might afford to work full-time for the communities and/or take emergency/diplomatic trips to seats of political power to represent you.
And finally, just where would the national election for 'Pagan Leaders' be held? Without such an election, any national 'Pagan Leader' would by necessity have to be an 'appointed' one, wouldn't he/she? (Just who does the appointing has always been interesting.) This question is one of a 'national' Pagan leadership and the benefits and/or drawbacks of such. Local and community Pagan leaders/advocates/facilitators are already in place and generally do a wonderful job where they are.
| Reponses: There are 289 responses posted to this question.
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| Greetings To All My Fellow Travelers; The Tragedy Of September 11th Was... ||Sep 25th. at 11:54:34 am EDT|
|Merry Arianrhood (West Haven, Connecticut US) ||Age: 40 - Email |
Greetings to all my fellow travelers;
The tragedy of September 11th was horrific and terrifying. It has changed our world in more ways than any one of us can even foresee. But one thing that will not change for me is my belief that my spiritual path makes me my own authority. It's all very well to conceive of having "leaders" to speak for Paganism, but how does one speak for all of the myriad paths that make up such a diverse spiritual movement? (I hesitate to call it a 'religion' - I have trauma associated with that word.) What if the leaders who are chosen do not speak for me, a solitary of many years? It would be an impossible task and I agree with Graci that once you have leaders, you also have politics. We are, after all, human. And in answer to "DC Hannah", none of us is omniscient. Many of us had 'feelings' but we cannot always choose to see what we want. We 'see' by the grace of the Goddess (God/Source/Spirit/etc.) and if She chose to wreath this tragedy in mist, who are we to gainsay Her? She weaves Her tapestry of the lives of men and women to Her own design. And if someone did see clearly the exact time, location and happenstance of the tragedy, to whom would they bring such information? The media? The FBI? "Excuse me officer, but I saw in my tea cup that the WTC is in danger." They would've been ridiculed and dismissed and worse yet, perhaps targeted after the fact as part of the terrorist plot. All across America, people are crying out in pain and anger and frustration like bewildered children who have had their safety reft away and are now terrified of LIFE itself. And so they turn on each other to remove themselves from feeling their own vulnerability. Citizen ID cards? Hell yes! Let's keep tabs on everybody, everywhere, 24 hours a day. That'll keep us safe! Curtail Arabian-American's civil liberties? Absolutely! What do I care as long as I and my family have some peace of mind? Give me as much outside authority as I can handle and then it'll be like Mom and Dad are alive again, taking care of li'l old adult me. I certainly don't want to look within at my own vulnerability and perhaps *gasp* find my own INNER authority! Of course there will be the rebels and the troublemakers and those who question authority, but give the government more power and they'll be able to crush any resistance. What has this to do with having Pagan leaders you ask? Well, to me it's just another example of how this tragedy has effected plain folks, even in the more 'enlightened' Pagan community. I always felt that a loosely knit 'board of Pagan directors' would be a good thing. Sort of like a public relations unit for Pagans. They would deal with the media and public education. But they would be volunteers from many, many different Pagan paths, all working together (now THAT might take a little time - but the big festivals seem to fall into place fairly smoothly, so I have hope!) for the common good and a common goal. Now we have people in the community crying out for 'leaders' - perhaps to lead us to the 'promised land'? This is not the time, nor the place for hasty action. Just such action may well turn America into a police state and give us a third world war. It's unfair to expect the more well-known Pagans to have to shoulder this burden just because they are more well-known. And this is certainly NOT the time for us to be putting ourselves forward. It would seem that we were pushing our 'agenda' on everyday Americans who are not quite ready for that. Before this tragedy the time was ripening. Now we would be seen as trying to take advantage of such a terrible time in America's history. That would not be our intention. But do you really think that the average American is ready to hear about our rituals to guide the spirits to 'Summerland'? Wouldn't they be more inclined to think that we were damning such spirits instead? Or at the very least that our actions were in the very worst of bad taste? What inference would the American public draw except that we were using this time to push ourselves into the forefront of public awareness? Tread carefully my brothers and sisters in the Way. We straddle a precipice of barely concealed hysteria and if we are not to be sucked into that energy, we must think long and hard about the consequences before we leap to 're'-action in, and with, the world.
May we all walk in the brightest blessings and wisdom of our Source at this difficult time.
| Friends, Companions And Colleagues: Today I Take Issue With The The Idea... ||Sep 25th. at 12:14:16 pm EDT|
|thomas jones (Las Vegas, Nevada US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
Friends, Companions and Colleagues:
Today I take issue with the the idea of advocates or representatives. to those of deeper knowledge and those who write of that knowledge, I can only say thank you. I am in your debt for showing me that I was not the only one who sought better understanding of Man and the Universe.
But you do not represent me. I do not believe that I am so selfish to demand that anyone represent me in any capacity. I am my own voice. I speak and act for myself. Any possible moral or ethical violations are my own to bear. I need no medium between public opinion and myself.
My religion is my relationship with all the Gods and Goddesses. It shapes my whole life. It is my own relationship, and therefore it is impossible to represent me. I do not expect them to express my indignation nor pledge my support for me.
The Pope represents Catholics. Osama bin Laden represents Moslems. Jerry falwell represents Protestants. Don't they? Why not? It is because each and every human is different from all others. It is a sign of a lazy and unexercised mind to group people conveniently behind a name or a symbol.
Mr. bin Laden is just as guilty of it as Jerry Falwell, or David Duke, or Adolf Hitler, or Louis Farrakhan. All of them, lazy, frightened children, frightened of what cannot be controlled and lusting for the ability to do so.
There is a long list of broken people who have attempted to seize what they thought was power. That power is non-existent; power over free-willed human beongs is impossible to attain completely. I would not wish that desire on anyone; much less the opportunity to get that desire. No one should be sacrificed like that to give me a false sense of security.
Only a fragile and lazy child would believe that the Attack would solve any problems. Only a desperate and frightened creature with a desire to control, to be known, to Represent and to be martyred would commit this act on an honest and unsuspecting nation. Only a coward would refuse to do it himself.
Only a coward would order others to Represent his cause; by dying for it or in other ways.
My belief is not a " faith " . It does not mix well with others. It needs no temples, no churches, no tithes, and no suits. It needs no priests, no monks, no nuns, no brylcreemed snake-handlers on early morning TV begging for money. I will disavow those who claim to speak for me. I will ignore those who claim that they are the one true way. And as for those who attack me for not granting them the validity that their desperate, attention-starved souls crave, I will defend myself.
| There Have Been So Many Responses To This Question -- I've Taken Some... ||Sep 25th. at 12:27:34 pm EDT|
|Sireana (Elgin, South Carolina US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
There have been so many responses to this question -- I've taken some time out to look at a few, and I'm sure my opinion will echo that of many others...
It seems to me that Pagan leaders already exist, but they did not respond to the tragedy in the same way that other types of religious leaders have. Just considering web response, in terms of the various web groups or sites I am a part of, I received emails from Pagan leaders or was able to view responses of leaders, for example here at Witchvox, The Blessed Bee, The Spiral Goddess Grove, Runecast, etc. There have also been a few posts forwarded to my through Pagan networks outlining the position of various Pagan groups. I think we have different channels of exchanging information, in part because of the fear many Pagans have of coming out the broomcloset.
I believe it would be difficult to elect or establish one Pagan leader because of the diversity of beliefs within Paganism. However, there are already conferences, gatherings, and other sorts of meeting of Pagan leadership. If anything needs to happen, I think there needs to be more meetings of our Pagan leaders, authors, etc on a regular basis and that such meetings need to be made more public. There are so many different Pagan networks that don't necessarily work together in any way. If we want to have a more united front, so to speak, we need to put aside some of our differences in the interest of the whole. I think a way this could happen would be for the folks that organize national and regional gatherings to publicize the gatherings through the types of media they can afford and allow "representatives" from various regions or groups to come to be involved in discussions.
I understand why there is a basic resistance to organize, but the truth is that we are part of a larger movement, and there are folks out there that are looking for us. As a group, Pagans get an awful lot of bad PR and I think one way to combat that is for there to be a meeting of the minds on the larger issues.
| I Am Tired Of "god Bless America" And Not Seeing Anything Close... ||Sep 25th. at 12:29:07 pm EDT|
|Frances Martin (Kechikan, Alaska US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
I am tired of "God Bless America" and not seeing anything close to my faith represented. I am afraid of the erosion of my rights to worship as I see fit. Not just that, I see my daughter watching the news coverage and she wants to know where her religion is. Is it helping too? Are we still so secret and so looked down on that we are not welcome in this crisis? It is hard to explain why we have never felt the need for an organization to speak for us before now. Well, maybe it is time for some sort of centralized mouth piece. I don't have a clue as to how to make it work. I haven't given it that much thought yet. Just the rumblings of disquiet and unease and the feeling that more is needed. The Lord and Lady help us straighten it all out. The time requiered of the person involved would be quite a commitment in itseslf to do the job right. Not to speak of the money involved and how do we fund this person after we have figured out how to elect him/her/them. Well, thats the future mess. Today I vote yes.
| I Think That The Idea Of A National Leadership Would Be Great... ||Sep 25th. at 12:46:31 pm EDT|
|Joe (Boston, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 35 |
I think that the idea of a national leadership would be great provided it wasn't just some empty, political gesture. Having worked in corporate America, it's all too apparent that most big named people are there because they know somebody or because they can play the political game. If I had a dollar for every know-nothing fancy talker that was put in charge of my duties, I'd be able to retire at 36.
It would be a tough bill to fill. The worst thing in the world for all pagans would be the appointment of a person or persons to such a position who were better politicians than spiritual leaders. I think the biggest question would be from what traditional/spiritual path would such people or person come from? As a veteran of the psyckic wars, I know how hard it can be for two covens to get along in the same town, nevermind getting them to agree upon a leader. And what about all the non-Wiccan pagans? Would they aceept a Wiccan leader? And even within the Wiccan community, you have multiple traditions. And how would this person or persons be located, voted on and elected? Who would be qualified to vote, and how would the leadership stay in touch with what the community requires of them? It seems such a large task.
But there has to be SOMEONE out there who could fit the bill, who could make everyone in the neo-pagan community feel they were being represented. I've met so many characters, so many good-hearted, strong willed, amazing human beings in the pagan community. There has to be someone who could step forward and lead from the heart, who could express the thoughts of the WHOLE community, regardless of the methods or dogma they utilize to move the race forward. But the question is: will that person want to take the reigns? It wouldn't be any joyride, and it wouldn't be a paying gig. We'd need some special people, indeed.
| I Hear A Lot Of Screaming In The Pagan Community Demanding That... ||Sep 25th. at 12:53:01 pm EDT|
|Mel. (Boston, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
I hear a lot of screaming in the Pagan community demanding that mainstream society take us seriously as a valid religion. But we have no cohesion, no unity, squabble nastily among ourselves (just read some of the hurtful comments in these messages below me toward other posters), and quite frankly, come off as very flaky and freakish. Face it... Paganism draws a very unique blend of people, and not all of it is great for our PR image.
If you're happy as a Pagan individualist and don't need representation, then don't worry about it. However, if you want respect and equal rights in society, unification is necessary. A representative, either an individual or some sort of representative group doesn't have to believe exactly as you do. Thousands (if not millions) of Catholics don't agree completely with the Pope. I don't doubt that the majority of the country didn't recognize the specific faith individuals on that Yankee Stadium podium this weekend. But the fact that the faiths were represented somehow was important to those who believed in them.
Unless we find some way to have people in the forefront, we're going to just be seen as those New Ager freaks who got stuck in the hippie era with weird names like "Moonshadow" and the like. (something I've heard time and time again, in various forms, from people through the several years of my Path) How can we expect society to take us seriously when we can't be serious about earning that respect?
| After Reading The "open Letter To Pagans", I Would Like To Ask... ||Sep 25th. at 12:55:01 pm EDT|
|Frog (Natchez, Mississippi US) ||Age: 32 |
After reading the "Open letter to Pagans", I would like to ask the author, "Where were you?" Because Paganism/Wicca is so diverse and lacks the hierarchical structure found in most other religions, we, as individuals, need to stand up as "leaders" of our faith. That can be as small as talking to co-workers or the local paper, or as grandiose as going for national exposure. This, however, requires performing something that many Pagans/Wiccans fear the most: coming out of the broomcloset. For once outside the safety of anonymity, you are exposed to questions, bigotry, ridicule, etc. from those who choose not to be tolerant of beliefs other than their own.
But no one ever said being a leader was easy. To quote an old axiom: "What is right is not always popular; what is popular is not always right." Many a leader has been cut down for doing the right if not popular thing while many leaders have gained popular for doing the popular, if not right, thing. For Pagans and Wiccans to stand up and do the right thing will mean that we may not be popular with certain groups. That is the price that must be paid.
I am not without hope, however. After watching the prayer service held at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001, I was filled with great hope that with this new movement towards religious tolerence, that we, as Pagans and Wiccans, may have an opportunity, our moment in the sun, to teach the world about us and our beliefs. Be forewarned that change will not happen overnight, nor will it be easy, but it will never happen unless we start to take a stand and let our voice be heard. It may be a few lone voices in the wilderness, but with more joining the chorus, the song becomes stronger and clearer until it reaches every ear and mixes with the songs of the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Taoists, Buddists, and others.
Or, we can choose to sing our song in hush, muted voices, never to be shared, never to be heard, and never to mix with the glorious choir of faith and hope.
| In Paganism As I Understand It, We Are All Clergy/teachers/leaders... ||Sep 25th. at 1:17:42 pm EDT|
|Betz Garrett (Morgantown, West Virginia US) ||Age: 56 - Email |
In Paganism as I understand it, we are all clergy/teachers/leaders and aslo students. I am not in favor of a 'national' Pagan leadership. As you have already stated, local and community Pagan leaders are already in place and generally doing a wonderful job.
For me, 'national' Pagan leadership would defeat the premise of 'no egotism'.
| Neo-paganism Does Not Need Leaders In The Classic Sense. What We Do... ||Sep 25th. at 1:41:43 pm EDT|
|FireRose (Richmond, Virginia US) ||Age: 21 |
Neo-Paganism does not need leaders in the classic sense. What we do need is a functional network and a sense of organization so we can come together in times like these in a public display of coheasion. For both support of eachother and our community, including ALL religions.
| Personally, I Am Glad That There Are No Pagan Leaders Per Se... ||Sep 25th. at 1:46:13 pm EDT|
|Dawn (Sacramento, California US) ||Age: 29 |
Personally, I am glad that there are no Pagan leaders per se. I am tired of people saying that they speak for me when they have no clue of my values or beliefs. Who would that leader be? What if I am Eclectic? Could there ever be someone who could represent our wide views? There are pacifist Pagans and Pagans who feel some war is justified. Which should our leader be?
I am very vocal and I let my feelings be known to my representatives. I am very thankful that all of the reps that I voted for have been excellent and very responsive. I am shocked that I am now involved in personal correspondence with two of them. My voice is heard, it may not be on TV but it is heard.
Paganism does not need a "leader" it needs every single one of us to be leaders.
| The Thing That Draws Many Of Us To The Pagan Path Is... ||Sep 25th. at 2:05:03 pm EDT|
|Shadowcatcher (Cincinnati, Ohio US) ||Age: 54 - Email |
The thing that draws many of us to the Pagan path is the very thing that creates the challenge of identifying and accepting a "Leader". When dealing with a faith which is largely personalized by each follower the concept of some national spokesperson becomes an oxymoron.
There are some existing frames for finding representatives to the general public. The Pagan Community Council of Ohio and Earth Religions Alliance are examples of regional or broader umbrella groups which can step forward and make public statements beyond the annual Halloween news bites. These groups are by definition generalists, but the message would be spoken. These groups also have at least some financial resources to help ease the burdens of travel and lodging.
It might also be a good idea to take a page from the other faiths, and think seriously about some financial support to Pagan organizations. While fundalmentalist Christians make 10% tithes many Pagans take their religion on the cheap. Financial committment is limited to ritual tools, robes and the newest published installment of Wicca 101. Certainly the contributions many of us make to Greenpeace, Nature Conservancy, The Cousteau Society, The Sierra Club and other groups is in the nature of a Christian's envelope in the Sunday collection plate, but membership in organizations like PCCO or Witchvox is an important (and tax deductible) statement of faith as well.
With a President who is openly anti-Pagan any public exposure or recognition from the Rose Garden or National Cathedral is unlikely. We can, however step a bit further out of the broom closets ourselves, and urge others we know with higher profiles to speak out more loudly. We can also ask our local television, radio and print newspeople to find and publish a Pagan perspective.
| In My Most Humble Opinion, There Should Never Be Any Elected/selected... ||Sep 25th. at 2:39:22 pm EDT|
|Edward C. Worden II (Mount Prospect, Illinois US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
In my most humble opinion, there should never be any elected/selected individual or group of individuals to represent all our interests. Yes, it would be nice and convenient for other entities to be able to have a single point of interface, but keeping in mind the old axiom, "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, " it is in the best interests of all the diverse communities not to be misrepresented from afar.
When national/international crises dictate some form of action, it is not leaders who need to be doing the direction; it is communication between communities that needs most to be available, a sort of "action clearinghouse, " if you will, that needs to exist, not a national "power structure." Since the Internet was devised primarily as a tool for communication between remote locations, including in times of national emergency, it as well as the World Wide Web are the perfect tools for containing this "clearinghouse."
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