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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| I Hear A Lot Of Screaming In The Pagan Community Demanding That... ||Sep 25th. at 12:53:01 pm UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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 UTC|
|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."
| I Think The Question Of The Need Of National Pagan Leaders Is... ||Sep 25th. at 2:41:46 pm UTC|
|Arcana, HPS of Starlight Coven (Redding) ||Age: 30 - Email |
I think the question of the need of National Pagan Leaders is something that does need to be re-examined as the Wiccan and Pagan community has grown to be present in nearly every city and state. Yet, I also believe it is a question that requires a lot of serious thought. We all may have ideals, but ideals that aren't manifested have no long lasting impression.
Personally, I think Pagans and Wiccans would benefit from good leaders, especially of clergy, in the U.S. I still hear so many say that the U.S. is a "Christian Nation, " including our president and governement officials. Pagans are just as charitable and patriotic, why does the U.S. have to stand for Christianity when we are so diversified?
I think a National Covention would be good to develop answers to such questions that affect all of us in the Pagan Community, everywhere. Following, perhaps, in the example of the Council of American Witches that gave us our Principles of Belief. Perhaps now would be a good time to try such an endeavor again. And this time, perhaps it would continue to exist and grow for the decades and generations to come.
| I Have Had A Few More Thoughts On This Subject. I Have... ||Sep 25th. at 2:55:13 pm UTC|
|Reverend Seneca Silverlight (Austin, Texas US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
I have had a few more thoughts on this subject.
I have read all of the responses on this issue here on WitchVox. I note that folks keep talking about not wanting a "leader" to make religious decisions for them.
I would just like to state that there is a huge difference between a "Leader" who makes religious decisions for everyone, and Religious Leaders who make secular decisions for the group based on consensus and elected mandate from the group.
No elected "leader" of an any national level pagan organization should ever be making any religious decisions for anyone. These folks would be working with secular issues that affect Pagans as a whole, with a mandate from their members to do so. Their members have already made their own decisions religiously and rightly so.
In my mental model, it is a fact that Pagans do not want, nor need anyone to make *religious* decisions for them. What many of us would like to see is a conduit for national issues that affect the Pagan (or magickal) lifestyle as a whole. The organizational model that I can envision is not about how you should conduct your personal brand of religion, it would encompass issues about our ability to keep intact our precious right to do so, and being afforded the simple respect that other religions are given by Lawmakers.
I see such an organization telling the world in an unified way that we are here. That we DO exist and that we will stand united against any attempt to erode or degrade our rights to be who we are. That we will have respect because our way of life is worthy of it.
Such a national organization with elected "representatives" could provide a means for us to support each other on a national scale in hundreds of ways. We could provide our own relief funds, scholarship funds, community service initiatives, or whatever the most creative minds in the world can come up with. This could be done through charitable contributions, reibursements for services rendered, and fundraising activities spread all over the country by individual chapters.
Such an organization to me would be about taking charge as individual Pagans of our own destiny and doing it "our" way together as a united people. Our elected spokespersons or representatives would be our voice, and our champions. This should never be an onerous responsibility for them. It should be a position of honor and dignity, with loving support from us. For our elected, we need to realize that they are *our* chosen and give them all the love and support we can. Sure there will be disagreements, but most families do disagree. As long as we are able to agree and reach consensus on the important issues then we will be able to make an impact, and truly become a positive force for pagans everywhere in our country.
We might as well face it, as long as we are factionalized, we will never be taken seriously. We are diverse, and proud of it, but truly, what threatens one of us in the political larger world, threatens all of us.
If we keep allowing ourselves to be victimized because we are so factionalized through petty dispute and arguments, the folks that would love to see us go away as any type of organized political entity will get their wish in the end. As long as we in-fight we will remain weak, and at the mercy of whatever Fundamentalist Congressman comes along and needs a strong platform for their constituents.
Reverend Seneca Silverlight
| It Seems That Many Of Us Are Set Against Any Sort Of... ||Sep 25th. at 3:05:35 pm UTC|
|Faile Drakaina (Florence, Alabama US) ||Age: 25 |
It seems that many of us are set against any sort of "leadership, " and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. We chose our paths because they let us be ourselves, and freed us from the image of the pastor up at the pulpit telling us how to live our lives.
Someone way back at the top of the postings mentioned a PR group. I think that's a terrific idea. We don't want anyone leading us, but I think we certainly need someone to represent us, especially in this most important time of crisis. The questions of religion freedom are going to be debated now more fiercely than ever, and the Pagan path needs to be represented to the public eye.
I can't be an activist at this point in my life. I'm still struggling to get through college. If I had the ways and means, however, I would certainly do my best to make contacts, be publicized, and have the world know that the Pagans do have a voice, and we are valid members of the US society. I know that a lot of us are not in situations where we can do that... but somebody out there has to be.
DCHanna named names in her letter, and they were names that we all recognize as people on the forefront of the Pagan movement. I'm not casting any blame, judgement, or anything else... but seriously, those folks do have a little advantage that the rest of us don't: publicity.
If there is something that I can do from home (writing letters, donating food, sending energy...), I do it. I urge each of the rest of you to do what you can, no more.
We don't need leaders. We only need willing representatives.
| While I Don't Think That The Wiccan Community Should Have Officially Appointed... ||Sep 25th. at 3:28:31 pm UTC|
|Robin (Hiram, Ohio US) ||Age: 18 - Email |
While I don't think that the Wiccan community should have officially appointed representatives, I do think that we need to be more outspoken. A few individuals, such as Starhawk, have set a fine example, but if we wish for Wicca to be respected and recognized to the degree that it deserves, we need to do more to make ourselves known.
I absolutely agree that there are many who enjoy being "misfits" and revel in sneaking around in the shadows, but this cannot continue. Such individuals must question there true motivation to be Witches: do they truly wish to connect with Mother Earth and bring joy and wonder to the world around them, or simply skulk around in dark clothes chuckling about how mysterious they are?
There is a time to embrace darkness and secrecy, and there is a time to walk in the light and be seen. We have hidden in the shadows long enough.
| I Believe The Question Of Leadership Is Something That Is A Bit... ||Sep 25th. at 3:54:14 pm UTC|
|Li Nightsong Ferelwing (Houston) ||Age: 24 - Email |
I believe the question of leadership is something that is a bit of a contriversy within Pagan groups. All of us want a voice but we do not want one person speaking for us. The concept of a Council that has people who represent the different traditions ALL traditions seems to me to be a good idea. There are logistics however that would need to be worked out.
First off, I do not know about the rest of you but I would like to get an idea of the person who is speaking for "my" tradition. I think that a National organization should have state organizations and allow ALL of us to meet those on the state AND national level. I do not like the concept of a "leaders only" club because to me that leaves those of us who love to volunteer our time but do not want to get into the depth of constantly being in charge. I have volunteered in many capacities within the community and sometimes it was a good experience and other times I have run into egos. This is not just a small task, if a national Pagan organization began speaking for US as a whole I would like to know that MY words counted. I would want to be certain that if I gave my time to help an organization like this that it would not be an ego trip for the people elected by the various traditions. I would also want to see that it was run by people who have compassion and a love for the Pagan Community, the entire community not just one tradition or the other. There are MANY traditions out there that need to be treated as equal in the pagan community. It can be done I have seen it with my own eyes!
Secondly, there would need to be some important factors involved we would have to be able to trust these people with our voice, how could we ensure that they would not turn into the politicians we have come to distrust... There would be a lot of basic things that would have to be set up to protect OUR interests.
Finally, I want to say that a National Voice is a great idea but we really need to work out how it would work and how to keep it from becoming someone's ego project or corrupted like our own federal government. If we want to have confidence in our leaders we have to KNOW them.
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