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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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| Personal Thoughts From Gypsy Rose I Don't Even Know Where To Start... ||Sep 24th. at 3:30:55 am UTC|
|Gypsy Rose (Chickasha, Oklahoma US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
Personal Thoughts From Gypsy Rose
I don't even know where to start. So I ask that all who read this please bear with me. First off I would Like to state that I am still fairly new as wiccan. Although my heart has always been Pagan even as a small child (late bloomer)I remember that my personal beliefs and feelings of spirituality just didn't fit with the main stream religions that were available. I always knew in my heart that there was alot more out there, and the main stream religions just didn't give the information that my soul cried out for. along the path to discover my own spirituality and where I felt comfortable and felt as if I fit in.....That is when I discoverd Wicca. Everything that I have learned has been thru books, the internet, and most importantly from talking to caring, and loving people such as you. (meaning all people of the pagan community). I live in a very small town right dab smack in the middle of the Bible Belt. There is a church located almost on every block in this town. Needless to say, when the tragedies to New York, and D.C occured I had absolutely no one that I could turn to here at home.... I don't think that I had ever felt so alone as I did then. When they held the national memorial on t.v I heard them mention christians, muslims, jews catholics, buddist ect.. ect... but no Pagan Faiths were mentioned at all. I felt even more alone, and I hate to admit this to anyone at all but at that moment I found myself questioning for the first time my own beliefs. I felt as if my own spirituality were being tested, and I had no one to turn to for counsel. So I had meditated on this, and I discovered that I still had the same spiritual feelings and beliefs that I had always had before these horrible things had happend. It might have shook me up a little bit, but my foundations were still strong. After I come to this conclusion I felt really guilty as if I had betrayed not only myself, but our Lord, and Lady Also. The point that I am trying to make is that. For one brief moment in time I felt very lost because I had no leader or anyone to represent my faith during a public ordeal. But as you see all it did was made me look deep within myself, and to realize that yes my faith is strong no matter what kind of crisis or calamity is thrown in my path. We must move forward and grow with each lesson that life may bring our way! May love, and light always be in your hearts. Blessed Be!
| Ahh, The Discussion Begins... Here's My Lowly Two Cents. I Think We... ||Sep 24th. at 7:25:36 am UTC|
|AnchoredStar (Middle of Nowhere, Arizona US) ||Age: 23 |
Ahh, the discussion begins... here's my lowly two cents.
I think we have to remember that the Starhawks, the Laurie Cabots, the Isaac Bonewitses, the Wrenses and Fritzes, all of the authors and personalities who were listed as "leaders, " are just that- personalities and authors. Sure, they may lead their own circles and groups, and we can look up to them as proud, out-of-the-broom-closet pagans who felt the need to set their thoughts to paper (or screen) and share their opinions with the general public. I surely appreciate it. But a public personality does not a leader make. The cast of "Friends" are public personalities, too- I sure don't expect anyone to consider them leaders. So should it be with our pagan celebs. They write, they wax rhapsodic, they pass along interesting snippets of news that I sure don't have time to ferret out every day (thanks, 'Vox staff...), and they make "us" a little more known. Let's cut them a little slack. I'm sure that they are busy in their own corners of the world making sure that their loved ones, their students, their internet hordes are safe and well informed and whatnot. Part of the beauty of Paganism today is that it's small. Let's look to our own priest/esses, our own elders, ourselves, for comfort and support. Give the pagan celebs a break- they're grieving and consoling and whatnot in their own way.
And let's not look to a national tragedy as a PR opportunity. Let's leave that to the Falwells of the world.
| I Truly Believe That Having A National Leader To Speak For Us... ||Sep 24th. at 7:27:41 am UTC|
|Asrai (Melbourne, Florida US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
I truly believe that having a national leader to speak for us would not work. Paganism is a 'free' religion, meaning that each person will have different views on any given subject and trying to come together in 'one voice' would almost be impossible. My suggestion is for each and every one of us as individuals to stand up and speak out instead of looking for someone to speak for us. One reason that many people come to paganism is to be free of organization and having leaders speak for them. To try and set up some kind of national spokesperson for all Pagans would make it sound as if all agreed on the same issue, when perhaps that would not be the case.
| Lol! With All The Different Types Of Pagan Beliefs, And All The... ||Sep 24th. at 7:31:15 am UTC|
|David Sansom (Portland, Oregon US) ||Age: 52 |
LOL! With all the different types of Pagan beliefs, and all the different traditions within some of them, how could a few people be called "leaders"? WHile it would be nice sometimes to have a recognized public spokesperson, the sheer fact that most Pagans are solitary, which we usually are very proud of, prevents us from having "leaders".
I don't think it is important or necessary to be seen joining other spiritual beliefs in a public display of support for any particular cause. We know that we deplore these acts of terrorism, and whatever deities there are know it too.
What disturbs me is the formation of an Office of Homeland Defence. While I might be slightly paranoid *smile*, I can see this leading to travel limitations, internal passports, secret police, and other fun things.
| Oh, Yes! Yes! Yes (do I Seem Enthusiastic?) I Would Have Loved... ||Sep 24th. at 7:32:36 am UTC|
|Trish Telesco (Buffalo, New York US) ||Age: 41 - Email |
Oh, yes! yes! YES (do I seem enthusiastic?)
I would have loved to do something more public last week but before we criticize our leaders for not going to CNN bear in mind how much heat some have taken in the past for daring to speak for ALL witches or ALL pagans or ALL druids etc.? Due to the highly personalized, vision-based nature of our faith, we tend to be sorely independent and highly protective of that independence, but at what cost?
We as a people have a strong and positive message for the days ahead. It's a message that says "as spiritual people we can make a difference -- in this moment we are not Christian, nor Jew, nor Mulsim, nor Pagan, nor Buddist -- we HUMANBEINGS who need to begin to live and think globally" ... but how can any of our leaders, ethically speaking, step up to the plate and share that message without the community behind him or her?
Then too there's the media to consider. How many of the "big" television reporters and personalities have a pagan leader on their contact lists? Very few I suspect. That situation needs to change as well. The minute we make ourselves valued resources -- we will start getting those calls for comment.
Third I think we do need to remember that many of those leaders were probably comforting their own, or working in whatever community they serve. Healing begins at home, and that is also our job.
Fourth, and I hate to bring the all-mighty dollar into this yet again, how many of our leaders have the financial wherewithall to drop everything -- a daily job, their kids, etc. so they could have gone out to NY or Washington or PA and make themself a viable presence? We do not support paid clergy, and I didn't see anyone collecting funds to do something like this -- so perhaps before we grouse about "where were our leaders" perhaps a better question is "where was and IS the community to support them?"
Even more difficult - IF our community as a whole had come up with such an amazing idea, who would we choose to go? How would we mobilize our efforts? Here too we see a weakness that comes from our independence. Most Churches of the same denomination have established ways of working in tandem. I think Pagans need something similar (yes, folks, I mean ORGANIZING - that horrible word that many avoid like the plague).
Perhaps, just perhaps, we need to be willing to put aside a little bit of our independence for the greater good.. for the good of all. By definition the good of all cannont just be YOUR good, or MY good. The good of all sets aside ego to promote coherancy, harmony, and unity, in this case putting a public face to the term neo-pagan.
Who becomes our spokes people? Perhaps those who are already working with law enforcement or local media representatives and doing a good job of it. Yes, BNP could fit this role, but perhaps it is better done by the proverbial "person next door" -- someone who is simply living their faith, and who knows the ins and outs of working with the public. Just a thought..
Or, perhaps rather than one person we could have a committee of four (one for each part of the country - N/S/W/E) so that the tremendous work involved would be spread out among several capable hands who would also work closely together. In this case, I would suggest regional nominations and votes (which could be announced here at witchvox). Once this committee is in place, they can work up a body of informational annoucements that would go out to the media letting them know to whom to turn for all manner of questions (from the typical holloween stuff to how neopagans respond to national emergencies). And at times like these they would also issue statements that reflect our horrors and hopes.
More than likely operating expenses for an NPL (national pagan leadership) would come through donations, or perhaps through a membership body -- people who want to be kept informed of how pagans are being represented nationally, and who want to support that on-going public awareness. Now, this means a LOT of work -- this is no small task for those who step up to challenge, but the results of such efforts will be long lasting and important to our beliefs well into the future.
Blessed be and live Free
| How On Goddess' Green Earth Would Such A Diverse Community Even Begin... ||Sep 24th. at 8:45:12 am UTC|
|Garnet Redstone, High Priestess of the Sacred Oak Grove Coven (Charlotte, North Carolina US) ||Age: 44 - Email |
How on Goddess' green Earth would such a diverse community even begin to choose who would represent us and how this would be done? This requires some very serious thought and much guidance from the Divine.
It is very hard to watch all of the memorial services with Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions being represented, with not one Pagan, Witch or Wiccan clergy member there to represent us. It is as if we are the black sheep of the family of America, that must be hidden away and not even spoken of!
In the last two weeks, I have received a larger than normal amount of email from solitaries seeking community. I say larger than normal, but then I have to remember that Samhain is on the way and curiosity does tend to peak at this time. But the majority of these emails have mentioned the need to talk to others of "our kind"....to have a sense of community....expressing much sorrow and the need to talk to someone; to receive some form of counselling. My husband, Grian and I, have tried to meet with and talk to as many as we can, but it seems there is never enough time for all the other responsibilities we have!
Grian and I were talking about this last week, as he has been trying to think of a way to get groups and solitaries to pool together....to form a delegation of some sort to represent our interests. But how?
It would only be fair to have some sort of local, regional election, then one at state level. One representative from each state could represent us nationally, choosing a spokesperson from that group. The big turn off here is that this sounds like politics....like government, not religion.
How do we know that the ones who are chosen would be able to keep their personal views out of it? Could a Druid fairly represent Wiccans? Can a Wiccan fairly represent a Santerian? What standards would have to be set and how would be they be set?
We have a dilemna here. One that will be very hard to solve.
Yes...I would love to see us represented on a national level. I would love to see our views right up there with the views of the rest of the world's religions. But no.....I do not want to be represented by someone who has views very different from mine.
Wren Walker, Fritz Jung....the two of you are probably the most well known, most trusted Pagans in the world. You already represent us in the most fair fashion. If we all could help you out finacially, would you do us the honor? God/dess has blessed you with the ability to reach so many. I would be proud and honored to call you our National Representatives!
| Sali Tetreaults Thoughts- One Of The Things That Is Most Notable About... ||Sep 24th. at 9:34:59 am UTC|
|Sali Tetreault (Newark, Vermont US) ||Age: 30 - Email |
Sali Tetreaults thoughts-
One of the things that is most notable about witch's/wiccans/druids/pagans of all types is that we are opinionated. We are not followers, we are the trailblazers willing to take the risk to be true to ourselves. (the risk being discrimination)
I feel that electing one leader or a council of leaders would be a waste of time. How many of us would actually look to them as our leaders. I know that in my own coven we may have similar beliefs, but not the same beliefs. I do however think that we should be doing something to let the masses know we exist and that we are kind, loving human beings. Instead of looking to a leader to represent us we should be representing ourselves. It could be as easy as holding an open circle, or volunteering in your community.
I am fortunate, the area of the country I live in is open minded. As a open-out of the closet witch I have served on my local school board, led a brownie troop and taught about Yule at my childrens school for the last 2 years. I asked about a Yule presentation when I realized that our local school taught about Christmas, Hanakkah, and Kwansa (?sp.). These are but a few ways that the average everyday witch can reach out to their community.
I have found that the best way to represent witch's and pagen-kind is to be yourself. Before I make the announcement to folks that I am a WITCH I show that I am a kind, caring individual. I am not saying I keep it a secret until I feel the coast is clear, I am saying that I let my actions speak for me. This I believe is good advice no matter your religion. Another observation I have made is that if you want others to be tolerant of your beliefs you must first be tolerant of theirs. My sister in law whom I love very much is a deeply committed Christian. She knows that I am a Witch and respects me and my beliefs. The big thing we have found in our beliefs that are the same is Love!
Please remember that those people who feel the need to preach any religion with hatred are not speaking for the masses they are speaking from their own ignorance.
Well now that my long winded view is out. here is the plain and simple of it.
Don't wait for someone to represent you-represent yourself.
| Yes!!! We Do Need Pagan Leaders!!!!! If For No Other Reason Than... ||Sep 24th. at 9:43:33 am UTC|
|BELAKANE (FAYETTEVILLE, North Carolina US) ||Age: 21 - Email |
YES!!! We DO need pagan leaders!!!!! If for no other reason than to represent pagans and show that we ARE good people, and that we DO NOT follow the ways of the stereotypical "Hollywood witch". I, for one, am tired of not being able to find fellow pagans to gather with, as they all seem to be in hiding, or rather, "in the broom closet". I am tired of being a solitary, and my significant other and I are forming our own group. I would be proud to donate my time, effort, and what little money I can spare to help support pagan leaders. Pagans WILL NOT EVER be comfortable coming out if they do not have someone to represent them, and if the "Hollywood witch" myths are not dealt with. We CANNOT expect the views that others have of us to change if we do not change ourselves!!!!!
Love and light, Belakane
| I Nominate Fritz And Wren! Just Kidding. I Think The Amount Of... ||Sep 24th. at 10:23:48 am UTC|
|Peg Aloi (Cambridge, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
I nominate Fritz and Wren!
I think the amount of animosity and jealousy that has already been generated in our community by the seeming "canonization" of various activists, authors, coven leaders, and starters of magical traditions, shows us that any process to somehow "elect" leaders that everyone would be happy with is an impossibility and a fool's errand.
Then again I did not vote for George Bush either!
I think Anchored Star's comments made a lot of sense: we can look to those pagans IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES for leadership!
We can also draw inspiration, comfort and courage from the works of great authors who have come and are still working: Janet and Stewart Farrar (and gavin Bone), Leo Louis Martello, Ronald Hutton, Robert Graves, Starhawk, Dion Fortune, William Butler Yeats, Shakespeare, etc etc.
We can become "leaders" ourselves, in our thoughts and prayers and magical workings, as well as what we choose to show others in this time of crisis. Sharing yourself with other humans beings is very important now. We all have wisdom to impart, questions to ask, love and light and righteous anger to express and put forth. There are candles to light, blood to give, checks to write, children to hug, cats to squeeze, bills to pay, food to prepare, circles to dance in (even by ourselves).
But as we are already seeing in these posts, everyone has different ideas about what "leadership" is and how we might select such leaders to lead us.
I am of the mind that our diversity would make it difficult, to say the least. I see it now: different traditions campaigning for their candidates! the Druid Platform! The Wicca Platform! etc etc...
I have a great many other thoughts on this but I have only had one cup of coffee and must go to work now. Perhaps more later; for I AM a pagan leader, you know! ;)
I note a great many wise and wonderful posts here from people aged 23! Hmmm...
love and patience,
| I Have Never Felt As Alone As I Have The Past Two... ||Sep 24th. at 10:27:54 am UTC|
|Melissa (SilverCat) (Boston, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
I have never felt as alone as I have the past two weeks as our nation grieves. At every interfaith prayer service I've seen, both televised and in person, my presence as a Pagan seems to be as an outsider. We need some sort of figure to be a national representative for us during these times. While I realize that Paganism is a fluid collection of faiths that span a tremendous number of beliefs, at least having someone who is polytheistic would help make me feel like my beliefs were welcome. Because frankly, feeling like a complete outsider during all of these religious vigils that are completely mono-God centered is making me hurt more.
| Blessed Be All! When We Have A Religion(s) With No Recognized... ||Sep 24th. at 10:32:15 am UTC|
|Kevyn Allen (algonac, Michigan US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
Blessed be all!
When we have a religion(s) with no recognized leaders (then throw mud as soon as one steps forward), we cant really complain when noone is there to represent us. Most every other faith has its elders to arrive upon diplomatic scenes and speak as thier community voice ....sadly the Pagan voice is missing.
Because our arguments range from "we are the religion of the hearths" to "THAT pagan is a ego tripping moron looking for followers"- absolutely NOTHING is ever going to get done.
Perhaps there are just so many faiths being represented when you say the word "pagan", how could anyone even hope to represent such a varied belief structure.
Until we all can stand united and actually AGREE on the most simplest tenets of our faiths we will get absolutely nowhere. It should be interesting to see who the pagan community considers thier "leaders" are...Im not holding my breath lol
Peace in the World!!
| Problem 1 With National Pagan Leadership: It's About Trying To Go Public... ||Sep 24th. at 10:43:51 am UTC|
|Cat (Asheville, North Carolina US) ||Age: 34 |
Problem 1 with national pagan leadership: It's about trying to go public with a religion whose most profound unspoken tenets, perhaps, are that religion should be a PRIVATE matter and that religion and the state should be separate. When we say, "Where were our leaders? Why hasn't the state recognized our position?", we're letting the (accurate) premise that you have to advertise if you want the world to beat a path to your door take precedence over the equally accurate assessment that our faith is private and personal. Do we want to do that? Christians are prone to saying "where are your hospitals, your charities, your ORGANIZATIONS?" And our general answer is "we prefer to worship, not to organize." That may or may not be the best way to worship; but it seems to be one that en masse we like a lot. Do we want to change that? CAN we change it?
Problem 2: Our "leaders"--that is, as someone said, our authors and personalities--have arisen naturally, a process of which I approve heartily. But are they, with the possible exception of Starhawk, interested in or equipped for political power? How many authors (typically rather retiring souls) run for public office? It seems likely that the political power that come with recognition is not high on most pagans' wish lists, even for those of us who are also activists.
Problem 2.5: someone else already mentioned this, but there is the question of pay. The laborer, as Christ said, is worthy of his hire. A widespread though not universal trend is to suck our priests dry and then wonder why they quit. Myself, I approve of sliding-scale "love offerings" at (good) rituals, and I'd prefer to call them what they are: pay for services, money for good value. (Heck, maybe some fees would help focus the rituals and discourage those who aren't serious.) But a salaried press liaison? How much would that cost? I'd pay my share, I think, but who'd collect the money? Interview the candidates? Arrange the budget when s/he needed to travel? Rather than berating our celebrities for their recent lack of visibility, maybe we should be down on our knees in gratitude that some of them speak publicly at all without our organizational assistance.
Problem 3: Just what would our leaders have said last week? What we really want recognition for is safety: so that we can't be driven more underground than we are now, so that we can't have our rights taken away by other people's ignorance. And maybe a visible pagan leader speaking on the recent terrorism would help us achieve that; but maybe, too, it wouldn't. Think about it a minute: what would our leaders say? Probably the same things Muslim clerics and Christian ministers have been saying over and over. "This sucks. Pagans don't approve. We're sad and angry too." Well, excuse me, but D'UH! Talk about stating the obvious, however much more eloquently it would be said by our very articulate celebrities. As someone said in the thousand-plus messages last week, surely there are bigger problems during this crisis than pagans not being heard while they state the obvious.
Commentary (3A, if anyone's still following the outline): It might even be appropriate that pagans haven't been heard from over the terrorisms. If there's a religious aspect to these attacks, it seems to lie in the long-standing tension between Christians and Muslims (there were those little things called the Crusades, I believe...) We haven't heard from Buddhists (aka pagans) either; we haven't heard from Hindus, or Greek polytheists, or Egyptian polytheists, or a whole lot of religions which are, probably, sad and angry but whose faiths are not immediately at issue. We've heard from Christians because they're dominant here and we always hear from Christians, and from Muslims because Islam may have played a part in the attacks and to further understanding of the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who were innocent of the attacks. I think the latter, at least, is quite appropriate; and I'm not sure, other than the ongoing visibility campaign, what paganism has to do with the attacks at all. (Jerry Falwell, of course, thinks there's a connection, but we all know up which orifice Jerry Falwell's head generally resides.)
So (THESIS STATEMENT): while there might be some political advantages to Official Pagan Leaders, and it's kind of fun to talk about, no. I think we're fooling ourselves to believe either that it's likely to happen or that, in the long run, we really want it to happen.
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