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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: 20,300,658  

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 A Pagan Leader Needs To Be A Good Listener. They... Jan 10th. at 11:47:59 pm EST

Rev Andrew Siliar (Tucson, Arizona US) Age: 33 - Email

I think a Pagan leader needs to be a good listener. They need to have wisdom, be willing to learn, and willing to listen to fellow pagans. There are far
too many "Third Degree" Wiccan Priests and Priestesses who get lost on the title
and begin, sadly, to exhibit all the egotism and the power-tripping that some
leaders of the mainstream religions do. A priest is a vessel of the gods, and a priestess is the same. The Goddess is the Mother of Life, and as a servant of the Goddess, a true High Priestess and Pagan leader is a good servant and
vessel of Spirit. We have various big name pagans in the community who need a good old fashioned dose of humbleness. Yes, some pagans are going to be famous, and attract followers. Some devote their life to spreading the Craft, such as the late, celebrated Doreen Valiente, who did much to promote and help create the modern Wiccan movement.

We need to look past titles, rank, and lineage and find the spiritual maturity of our leaders. If a person is going to be a true pagan leader, in my opinion, then they need to be humble, and treat other pagans as their equals. Those who look down on others and vaunt their titles and their rank over fellow Witches are immature at best. Why must we be plagued with such types? It's part of human nature, sad to say, that the insecure must use power as a means to have power over others. Power is about power within onself, not how many followers we have. It's about devotion to Spirit. Plain and simple. To me, it's not Lord or Lady this or that, it's about honest devotion to the Goddess and serving the pagan community, not for personal glory, but to honor the Goddess.

That's my answer to that question.

- Rev Andrew Siliar

ElvenStar coven

Iseum of Sokar, Fellowship of Isis

Tucson, Arizona

The Problem With Pagan Leaders Is That There Are Not Enough Of... Jan 11th. at 12:26:42 am EST

William Lawson aka Bradwell (Denniston, Kentucky US) Age: 40 - Email

The problem with Pagan leaders is that there are not enough of them. If you go to gatherings, you know them when you see them. They are usually the ones who remain sober the entire weekend to make sure someone has their wits about them if an emergency occurs. They are usually the first ones up in the morning and the last ones to go to bed at night. They keep wood for the fire so people can stay warm if it happens to be cold outside. They have a ethical and moral code that they follow, and usually end up being talked about badly by other people who call themselves Pagans just because they will take a stand on some issue that the others don't or won't have the backbone to face. They base the worth of their life on what they can give to others, not what is given to them.
They are usually looked over by the others, except when someone wants something from them. When more Pagan leaders stand up and say, enough is enough, then the entire Pagan community will become stronger. The ones who cause so much trouble will get mad and leave...and really...who cares. They can go have their field party somewhere else. The rest who decide to grow up and be Pagan men and women will take note of their actions, change them, and begin to walk the walk that they only used to pay lip service to.

I Personally Would Define A 'pagan Leader' As One Who Pagans Can... Jan 11th. at 2:00:02 am EST

Palafyndra (Far Hills, New Jersey US) Age: 14 - Email

I personally would define a 'Pagan Leader' as one who Pagans can look up to, not as the leader of a coven or anything. A Pagan role model of sorts. The great Eyovah (who is now either in Summerland or his next life) would get my vote for being a 'Pagan Leader'. He was a healer (and a damn good one), a teacher, and a friend. So great in all those fields that even those who never knew him in life can learn from and love him. He was not a High Priest, but was a great leader to many within the Pagan/Otherkin community simply by being a friend. Wind beneath thy wings, Eyovah.

As A Small-time Wiccan "leader" (hp Of A Suburban Coven), I've Come... Jan 11th. at 3:37:29 am EST

joppa (Seaford, New York US) Age: 49 - Email

As a small-time Wiccan "leader" (HP of a suburban coven), I've come to believe that our leadership comes from people who see a slot that needs to be filled, and fill it. I think that everyone who views this site will agree that, in some sense, Fritz & Wren are "Pagan Leaders." If we were to see them interviewed on David Letterman, the majority of us would believe that we are being well represented to the country. I think this acceptance by a large percentage of the community is the major, if not the only qualification for the job. There's no real selection process, we just know who they are. Mention Laurie Cabot's name at Pagan gatherings, and you're sure to get a response, positive or negative... we know that she's a leader. Margot Adler, Janet Farrar, Silver Ravenwolf... we just KNOW!

Do we need them on a national/international level? I've just experienced a big "Hooray" reaction from Starhawk's response to Charlotte Allen's article in the Atlantic magazine. Somebody needed to speak for the Goddess worshipping community. Thankfully, we had a "leader" to step up and handle the situation.

I don't think that there ever will be, nor should there be, a formal process to establish national leadership. We're all learning to trust our intuition, and this is obviously one place where that process is working just fine.

A Leader, In General, Is Someone Who Feels The Need To Come... Jan 11th. at 7:55:50 am EST

MalenRuadhRhen (Bristol, , Connecticut US) Age: 29 - Email

A leader, in general, is someone who feels the need to come forward and assume a role of responsiblity. Within the pagan religions that could be a coven leader, a teacher, a shop keeper, a herb grower, an author, etc, etc.

I seen no need for a formalized system of *leadership* We pagans, for the most part, are fiercely proud of our independence and lack of *structure* with the *clergy.* I see no need for that to change. Most of us have chosen this path, in part, because there is not some far-removed *elder* telling us what we should and shloud not think, how we should act, and in what way we should worship/practice.

Leaders naturally rise to the top, it's part of the nature of being a leader. But for anyone who is setting out to become one, they should keep in mind a few things:
-Degrees don't mean diddly, using you knowledge does!
-The best leaders lead by example, don't tell, show!
-You earn respect, it is not handed to you like a prize, and you must always work to keep it.
-Listen to those who don't agree with you, they may have some good points, simply because you are a *leader* does not mean you are always right.
-If you do become a leader, remember you will represent all of us to those you meet, let your public actions be governed accordingly.

All in all, I think our current *leaders* are, for the most part, recognized correctly. They are ones who have made long-term commitments and contributions to our faiths. These people should be leaders, they have earned our respect. Our leaders should not ever been chosen simple becuase they have completed a course, or look good on camera!

Yes The Term "leader" Can Set Me On Edge. But When We... Jan 11th. at 10:01:38 am EST

Feral (Boulder Creek, California US) Age: 39 - Email

Yes the term "leader" can set me on edge.

But when we consider how the political scene both national and international can affect our right to practice our beliefs in safety and freedom, leaders become necessary.

To me a Pagan Leader should be a servant of the Pagan Community, be it local or on national scale.

Pagan Leader also means facilitator, coordinator. Someone who helps get groups of Pagans together for various reasons that relate to our beliefs, be they ritual, environmental, social or civic action.

Pagan as well as other leaders should be driven by their beliefs and not by the temptation of power such a position can offer.

I liken the power offered by a leadership role to salt water. Yes it is water and we all need water to live but one cannot drink salt water or they become sick and eventually die. We all need power, our personal power to live but when we start sampling the power that leadership can offer we will sicken in our actions and eventually suffer a death of the spirit. True leaders do not sample the power that can be offered by the position they serve.

Not all of us have the ability, time or understanding it takes to arrange activities or the big one to follow political/civic issues, this is where I believe we need Pagan Leaders.

How do you become a Pagan Leader? We become leaders when we follow our hearts and serve many or the few.

What rewards are there for being a Pagan Leader?

The rewards I see are the love from your community, the satisfaction of putting your energy into something you believe in, seeing the Pagan community grow and thrive and the increase of "personal" power and a strengthened connection to the Lord and Lady.

May the perfume of the woods and the gold of the sun be always yours! -Feral

I Believe That The Concept Of 'leader' As We Usually Accept It... Jan 11th. at 1:43:04 pm EST

Matthew Testa (Westminster, Maryland US) Age: 47 - Email

I believe that the concept of 'leader' as we usually accept it in our society, is a position contrary to our pagan beliefs and the philosophies that make us feel at home in our beliefs. However, it is natural that thoughtful individuals look to others with more and different experiences in order to learn from that person. In that way someone may be called a leader (pagan, and otherwise) in that community. Someone may also have been dubbed a leader simply becasue they are more vocal regarding their personal beliefs, although they may not speak for others.
This reminds me a little of when agents of the U.S. were trying to negotiate treaties with Native Americans and could not bridge the cultural divide. European derived culture coudl not understand that there was not one man who could speak for all and make a treaty. Simply becasue a chief said he believed a course of action was good, did not bind others to follow.

I Think Of Leaders As Those Who Live Their Truths Without The... Jan 11th. at 5:06:03 pm EST

Dragon Hawk (Mesa, Arizona US) Age: 23 - Email

I think of leaders as those who live their truths without the expectation that other people need to live those same truths. If you want to learn from me, I will provide you with what I know of my own life. Take this information, try it on, and if it's a comfortable fit, wear it out. Know that this clothing will strecth here and sag there and eventually become something that you can call yur own. I hope that a leader would be one who wants others to find their own path and walk with their hearts ablaze and their minds crackling. Who are the people considered to be great leaders? Gandhi, H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama, and of course, Martin Luther King Jr. These are people who truly le(a)d others to find the love and courage in themselves to stand up for truth and light in the face of ignorance and darkness. Our own Pagan/Wiccan/Whatever leaders? They are there in the suburban covens, the big city discussion groups, the solitary practitioner, the kitchen witch, the author, and the web-site creator. If we are Pagans of some sort, then we are bound to seek for the mystery within ourselves, thereby informing our outer experience, and this journey alone sets us on the path toward earning the title of "leader".

Wow, where did all that come from? :-)

Love, Light, and Laughter to all!

I Think That This Is A Difficult Question To Answer Because Of... Jan 11th. at 7:54:28 pm EST

David J. Eagan (Janesville , Wisconsin US) Age: 19 - Email

I think that this is a difficult question to answer because of the diverse nature of our religion. Also the majority of us are resistant and opposed to anything remotely christian or heirarchial.

Yes The Term Leader Sets My 'pagan Teeth On Edge'. We Are... Jan 11th. at 9:17:57 pm EST

Emma (Huddersfield, England UK) Age: 22

Yes the term leader sets my 'pagan teeth on edge'. We are not like other world religions, we are a unique spiritual path, and the whole pagan leader thing appears like another symptom of peoples yearning to be accepted and taken seriously. But at what cost? We should not d it by trying to make ourselves more like religious instituions, paganism does not belong in instituions. It would however be nice if there were a few more people the odinary pagan could go to for service and guidence. Not every pagan needs to be a witch or a druid or what ever. It would be nice if non 'magickal' pagans could go to these people. But guiding and helping is very different then leading, and what ever we do we must not become institutionalised.

Anyone Interested In Becoming Or Locating A Leader Of Any Sort, Pagan... Jan 11th. at 11:45:31 pm EST

Nelli (Carmel Valley, California US) Age: 24 - Email

Anyone interested in becoming or locating a leader of any sort, pagan or otherwise, should get a copy of the Tao te Ching. I'd copy out the whole thing right here, but that would take up a wee bit too much space, so I'll just share a sample...

Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.
She has but doesn't posess,
acts but doesn't expect.
When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.

The Master leads
by emptying peoples minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

The Master doesn't talk, she acts.
When her work is done,
the people say, "amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn't reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn't waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

These are all from the Stephen Mitchell translation, by the way...
The leaders of our community are those who quietly make themselves available without becoming either self-sacrificing or vainglorious; those who share the knowledge that they have, and are always wide open to new information and ideas; those who give wisdom and support, without propagating dogma, or saying "this is how it should be done, the one true way". Wren and Fritz, and the other folks of Witchvox, are, in my opinion, fabulous pagan leaders - thank you!

I'm Of Two Minds On The Question Of "leadership." As A Group... Jan 12th. at 3:47:07 am EST

Daphne Inari (Des Moines, Iowa US) Age: 34 - Email

I'm of two minds on the question of "leadership." As a group or community grows in number, organization becomes critical in order that the needs of the members be met. To facilitate the organization, leaders come forward, either by desire or (more often) default. If, for example, a group is holding a celebration of a sabbat, someone (or some-many!) has to find a place, make sure there are decorations, make sure the site is accessible to those attending, be ready in an emergency, organize the ritual, make the food, etc. Even in a small group, that can be quite an undertaking! And that's just for a ritual!

In our community of women, we try to run by consensus and let those who feel a desire to organize an event give it a try. I can't say it's always worked efficiently--in, say, matters of money, you really need one person as a gatekeeper who can say yes or no. On the other hand, we've been blessed with some unique rituals and classes because some women who don't consider themselves "leaders" and in most circumstances would shy away from organizing anything, rose to the challange and organized some wonderful events.

But the consensus leadership model is best suited to small groups. The larger a group is, the more organization is needed. With that organization comes the need for more leaders. And then we fall into the bureaucracy that plagues many of the "mainstream" religions (and that many of us are trying to escape!)

Although large groups can accomplish great things (I personally would love to be able to have a public pagan "temple" or "shrine" in every city, that any pagan could feel free to worship in), the spiritual power of paganism seems to rest in small groups and with the solitaires. There are many "leadership" qualities that differ according to the size of a group--a small group leader may have to wear many hats, while a large group leader could specialize.

What I don't like about leadership is the cultural belief that a leader is better than everyone else. A good "follower" is as important as a good "leader"--sometimes it seems we have too many chefs and not enough cooks. If we could somehow grow beyond that belief, we'd be the stronger for it.

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