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 Thought The Beauty Of Paganism Was That We Are All Individually... ||Sep 24th. at 10:34:26 pm EDT|
|Doug Chapman (Durham, North Carolina US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
I thought the beauty of paganism was that we are all individually defined by our traditions. I don't know about the rest of you but I left my autocratic monotheistic patriarchy behind me when I left the Roman Catholic church. I I find peace and solice in paganism. Looks to me like some of us are forgetting the foundations of paganism and seeking a new protestant reformation.
May there be peace in the East.
May there be peace in the South.
May there be peace in the West.
May there be peace in the North.
May there be peace in the whole World.
| Well, After Years Of Biting My Tongue On This Issue, I Find... ||Sep 24th. at 10:47:37 pm EDT|
|Luna (Kent, Ohio US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
Well, after years of biting my tongue on this issue, I find that the letter that prompted this question has tripped my way-too-sensitive-of-late trigger, and I must respond. I apologize in advance for a lengthy essay, but I feel it's worth relating the specific experiences to get at the lessons learned.
I have had the first-hand experience of attempting to assume the mantle of leadership to serve a sector of our community in a very small way. In my experience, to take this on in our rich, divisive, and oftentimes passionately contentious group can be far worse than a thankless job - it can be a downright abusive experience.
In the beginning, it was of the nature of having "baby pagan" learning groups asking for me to come to every group meeting and give a talk on something-or-other, from tarot to astrology to the wheel - and then have them get harumphy when I asked for compensation for my time and experience. "This knowledge should be free to everyone!", is what one neophyte actually told me. "Why, so it is, " I said, "and you're free to go get it the way I did." You can spend your time at the library, or in meditation, or in counseling looking within, as it says in the Charge of the Goddess, for the truth of your soul. Spend your money on books, or taking classes. But nothing of value is acquired for free. "You get what you pay for" really is a law of the universe. I still find it a puzzling paradox that someone can put a high value on information, and hold valueless the teacher.
However, this beginning experience was nothing to what I was in store for. In 1994, I started a women's temple. My call from Goddess was to start a place where women could reclaim and experience the Feminine Divine for Her own sake. I recognize now my own need to have my feminine worth defined, revered and celebrated - not just as a balance for the God-the-Father - but because the experience of being a woman on our planet is vastly different from that of the male. It is rich with mystery and worthy of exploration and celebration on a spiritual level. My pagan belief system was that this earth journey is sacred, and if Spirit saw fit to make us humans in two different flavors, well, those differences must also be sacred and celebrated. I went into the opening of a temple in all innocence, hearing the need expressed by women I knew, believing that whatever was done with a good will and a positive motivation was bound to generate good things. I also remember saying when I was ready to throw it open to the public, "I know I'm planting a big fat target on my ass!" Little did I know who would be taking aim.
Of course, I expected that being a witch and a pagan out loud and in the open would bring the Christians pounding on my door, but what I got absolutely floored me. I never heard a word from the Christians - it was the pagans from whom the judgments came flying. Close to home, there were the women who were seeking a way out of their victim mentality - looking to the Goddess to find their empowerment. My guidance and message to them as a priestess was one of self-responsibility, and self-validation. But, as we know, on the magickal path when you look for Goddess, you're looking for yourself. They looked into that mirror, found themselves and their issues looking back, and began confronting the depths of their own consciousness. Still being steeped in the victim/savior mentality which is the legacy of the Christian era, they chose not to accept the responsibility for healing their own pain. Even though I talked extensively about counseling as part of healing our spiritual past, they chose the easy way out and thought - "I'm in pain. Since I am a hapless victim, it must be someone else's fault." Guess whose fault they decided it was? I endured several phone calls from women attempting to tell me that I had harmed them in some way, that I was doing "dangerous things". Yet when I asked - begged - for specific incidents so that I could grow and learn what I was doing wrong in order not to make the mistake again, lo and behold, no one could think of any. Not a single one. I can't tell you the painful hours I spent searching my conscience for my fault before I finally came to the conclusion that if they couldn't describe how I had harmed them, then maybe I hadn't. The leadership lesson there was the age-old "You can lead a horse to water" one.
The next lesson was from the pagan men. At the time I started the temple, I had been abandoned with an 18-month-old daughter by a man who chose to take absolutely no part in her upbringing except the financial one required by law. Fortunately, this was enough to support us so that my daughter had one full-time parent. It also enabled me to run a temple that brought in only enough money to partially pay for supplies, space and paperwork. I took none of this money as income. Never was I compensated for my time or efforts. One man, an Odinist, I believe, actually started putting it about that according to his tradition, I was not an honorable person, because I did not have a job. I had another one tell me I got what I had asked for from my ex, because all I had really wanted was to use him for a sperm-donor - after all, it had happened to him (he said), so weren't all women like that? I was amazed that just being in a visible position made people feel that my personal predicament was theirs to gossip and conjecture about.
But the capper was one evening, when at a smallish private gathering, I was confronted by someone who is held up as an object of respect in this online community. He is certainly someone in high visibility. This person found it necessary and appropriate to point out to me, in a group of about ten women and one other male, that women who circled with women and worshiped Goddess were only doing it because we were all pissed off at men, and that, in his ultimate judgment, "What you're doing is wrong." I explained that we did it to celebrate ourselves as women and as Goddess, and that it wasn't in reference to men in any way. As the discussion progressed, it came to light that this person had tried to gain access to several women's circles at festivals, only to be told that he was not welcome. This apparently offended him, and led him to surmise that we were all man-bashers. I also tried to explain to him that it was impossible for him to attend a women's circle, because as soon as he got there, it would no longer be a women's circle. He said he had a strong feminine side to his spirit that needed attention. I explained that what was important in our practice was the experience of having a feminine body. Needless to say, he wasn't convinced.
Some things that stand out in my memory from this event are the women's faces as they looked from me to him. They looked at me with a "go-get-'im" look, the hope strong in their eyes that I would not let them down in defense of their beliefs. I also remember not one of them said a word. I remember the strength of the ball of anger that was hurled at me personally because of what this person had decided "we" believed. I remember using all my grounding and breath skills to keep from taking it on and reacting to it, and to continue to regard this man with love and respond to him with understanding. It was a wad of rage that it took me quite some time to come down from. No doubt this person disseminated his opinions about me to others. I trust that karma will do it's work and bring the lessons of judgment home, as it always does, perhaps already has.
I have also had the experience of being voted to lead a ritual for a new church I was not even a member of, at a meeting I was not present at, only to show up at a rehearsal for the ritual and find that none of the "experienced" people of the group had the time or effort to take a part in the ritual. Instead, I had a teenager who had never written a quarter call, one teenager who had never attended a ritual, who was underage, and whose parents thought they were to take part in a "picnic", and people who signed up to take part, but didn't have the time to show up for rehearsal. Two days later, I went to the first meeting of this new "church", only to see a parade of at least seven people calling themselves "first clergy", none of whom signed up to support the one they had voted to priestess the ritual. I declined to lead the ritual, causing their "high pristess" to fly into a panic about what they were going to do.
The point of all this is that I have had a taste of what is required of a "leader" in this community at a very small scale, and it's no small request. You must be willing to hang your personal life out to open ridicule and judgment. You must be willing to bear the brunt when something goes wrong and there's blaming being done and no one to volunteer. You must be willing to come running when someone has a crisis and needs comfort, guidance or advice - and then be able to slough off the blame when that advice goes unheeded. You must be able to keep it together during times when everyone else is falling apart. And you must be willing to do it not only for no compensation - but additionally suffering the attitude that you should be ashamed for asking for some.
I feel that a large part of our community is going through a sort of adolescence. It thinks it's all grown up and doesn't need a parent's guidance because it knows everything. It wants to be independent and rebellious - it doesn't want any limits placed on it's behavior. Yet it is still too immature to accept responsibility for the tough stuff - to clean up the messes, kiss the bruises, hold the hands, wipe the bloody knees and say, "Don't worry, baby. It'll be alright." It still wants to stand behind Mommy while she confronts the neighborhood bully.
I want to stress that I do not feel anywhere near as bitter as I'm sure this probably sounds. I have had my time to heal, and the lessons have been worth their weight in gold - far more valuable than they were painful. I have learned that whenever you are in a position of high visibility, whether you've chosen it or had it thrust on you - you become a mirror. People don't see you for who you really are (they don't even know who you are most of the time). Instead you become what you represent to them. They will project the unaccessed parts of their psyches onto you and parade their issues before you. If you are wise enough to know this, you can deal with the blame and ridicule knowing it's not personal. You can learn to detach emotionally instead of growing armor plating. You can be in the front row watching a fascinating, troubling, hilarious, tragic human drama. And that's on a small scale.
It's on a par with the toughest job in the world - parenthood. You must show up untiringly, give unstintingly, love unconditionally, teach patiently, forgive repeatedly, face fear undauntedly, listen unselfishly, advise unexpectingly, and weep unashamedly. Being a leader on a large scale means that you have to put your personal emotions on hold so that you will be able to stand up in public and voice the unexpressed emotions of the masses.
As a parent, you at least get the satisfaction of watching your children grow, and deep intimacy and commitment of knowing you will always be family, do or die. Is this the type of commitment you are prepared to offer those you would ask to lead? All the people you named in your letter are authors, philosophers, facilitators - not politicians. None has asked for, or assumed, the persona of king-or-queen-of-the-pagans, that I know of. It's a pretty tall order to ask any one person to presume to represent this multicolored, uppity, loud-mouthed, eccentric, self-empowered mass of humanity. Ask anyone that has carried the load of public scapegoat - I mean representative - what they had to sacrifice. Ask them if it was worth it. And then ask what it's worth to you.
| Short Of Someone Holding Aloft Excalibur Again, D'ya Think This Proud Buncha... ||Sep 24th. at 11:06:42 pm EDT|
|Dream (Right Here) ||Age: 31 |
Short of someone holding aloft Excalibur again, d'ya think this proud buncha buggers is gonna follow anyone?
| I've Been A Solitary For 3 Years Now. I'm Like A "born-again... ||Sep 24th. at 11:08:07 pm EDT|
|Jazar (Staten Island, New York US) ||Age: 31 - Email |
I've been a solitary for 3 years now. I'm like a "born-again", full of excitement. All I want to do is tell everyone and share my reality. I'm tired of being in my classroom, teaching children about all the holidays...leaving them to think that winter holidays around the world only consist of Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or Ramadan. It bothers me that we go unrecognized and disrespected. And mostly I dispise that I have to walk in fear of opening my mouth and not having anyone from the pagan community to back me up.
I appreciate and respect our ability to do as we do, practice as we choose and be our own priest/priestess, but there are certain times and situations where we will all benefit from leadership or a public figure/voice.
I agree strongly with comments made by Chris G., and unfortunately I do not know, at this time, how we would go about appointing a leader, or how that person would get paid, but I think that this is something that needs serious thought. Regardless of decisions, we should all have a voice in the decision process. This topic should not be discarded or considered lightly.
I do believe it is time for all of us to take a stand.
This is something I have been thinking about for a few months now because I'm tired of being "In the broom closet" with co-workers. The tragedy at the WTC just made it more obvious.
If not a leader...we need a a very loud voice, or many!
| I Have Been A Pagan For Some Time, And Only For The... ||Sep 24th. at 11:13:12 pm EDT|
|Blackthorne (Benecia) ||Age: 37 - Email |
I have been a pagan for some time, and only for the last 3 years have been able to be in contact with other pagans. I have been lucky to meet some nice people who I have learned from along the way. One of the most striking things I have noticed is the panic that pagans seem to feel when someone attempts to be a leader in any fractual of the pagan community. It's odd on one hand, because the pagan community is filled with people who would like to have leaders to organise events, arrange circles and build stong long lasting traditions..but as soon as someone starts..all hell breaks loose and before you know it, you have a group of people with hurt ego's and wounded pride. I have seen what infighting can do to a group. I myself have made mistakes that I am not proud of, but at least I have made an attempt to be supportive of people I may not have agreed with, so the greater good can be achieved. I have heard more gossip in the last few years that has been intended to discredit pagan leaders. I don't think that much of it is intended to hurt or cause trouble, but when many of us hear this gossip before we meet the people it's about..we form opinions of the people that may color our perceptions of them. I have found that a little patience with people can be rewarding. I again mention that I am not perfect, and I have made my mistakes. But I mention all of this only to illustrate a point. We can never as a relegion move forward if we are spending all of our energy tearing down the people who are attempting to make a difference. If we spent more time communicating with each other and trying to understand one another..we would work alot better and maybe form more links that would build a stronger network. Let's support our leaders..and if we disagree with them..let's tell them. Don't let our movers and shakers hear about your opinions of them from someone else..it only does more harm than you may have intended. Thanks for listening to my opinions.
| I've Read Through A Few Of These Postings Regarding The Question Of... ||Sep 24th. at 11:31:09 pm EDT|
|Danae Stormrider (Marina, California US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
I've read through a few of these postings regarding the Question of Pagan Leadership. Most of us have had good and bad experiences with leadership of any kind. Having served in the United States Military for 6 years I am Very familiar with Leadership at it's best and it's worst.
Since Sept 11, 2001 many of us in the local Pagan Community have spoken with many people that have narrowly missed being on those 4 ill fated flights. Two such people are my Step-Grandparents. They still have their Tickets for Flight 93. They decided to come home a day early from vacation. Another friend had just moved to Manhatten. I received a frantic phone call from him as I was the only person he could reach. I spent 3 days calling his family, friends, & boyfriend to tell them he was all right and safe. He was standing on Canal St when the first build was hit.
While we celebrate the safe return of those that made it safely through, we held a rememberance for the dead that night, and the next night, and for many nights after that. We prayed for the safe return of those helpless victims stuck under the rubble. We have mourned, rejoiced and worried with many people in our circle, Pagan and Non Pagan alike.
You have asked where our Leaders are? They are out in the Community, mourning for and with those who have lost, rejoicing with those who survived, and praying for those yet to be found.
The Pagan Community at large has not felt a need to elect an Official High Priest and/or High Priestess before. Perhaps it is time to have one. Who knows. But even if it does happen, there will be groups that state loudly and proudly they don't fall in with THAT group lead by High Priest Moonchaser and High Priestess Sundancer. This is how Coven's split and new traditions are born!
If you are a leader in your Local community please keep doing the work you are doing to help and aid those in your area. That is what is needed.
| The Question Should Not Be- "where Are Our Pagan Leaders", But "where... ||Sep 24th. at 11:35:06 pm EDT|
|Valerie F (New York, New York US) ||Age: 31 |
The question should not be- "Where are our Pagan leaders", but "Where are our pagan institutions?"
The pagan community will never be treated seriously in this country, and our leadership will never be able to make a serious impact unless it builds institutions of both national and local focus which can
a) hold financial resources- both property and dollars, and use them to influence votes and politicans. I'm not talking about "political action committees" but through educating pagans on how local candidates stand on issues of interest to pagans (environmental issues, for example)
b) contribute to the community at large- not by offering spell-casting classes but by attempting to design and implement programs that fill voids in the community-tutoring, et cetera.
IF we can forego our precious anti-establisment, anti-institution biases and our turf wars long enough to create organizations which can claim to address the aformentioned deficiets in our community, we will have pagan leaders who
a) speak to us because they are backed by more than just their ability to lead a workshop or publish a book
b) are respected by other religious leaders because they have the proof of our numbers are our willingness to engage the world based on our world view.
Until this begins to happen the issue of pagan leaders is moot.
| I'm Wondering If This Person Is Even Really A Pagan. Why? Well... ||Sep 25th. at 12:45:52 am EDT|
|Ally (New York, New York US) ||Age: 25 |
I'm wondering if this person is even really a Pagan. Why? Well first of all, she asks why no one was able to predict this tragedy, which sounds like the kind of idiotic thing that a person hostile to Paganism would say...not something you expect to hear from a Pagan. By her logic, why did *she* not glance at her crystal ball and scamper off to call the FBI? That section of the letter makes me very suspicious of this person's true motives in writing it.
I think I'm most offended, though, by the remark about all the leaders of the Pagan community being at a breakfast meeting at the top of the Towers. For those of you who don't know, the famous restaraunt Windows on the World was at the top of the World Trade Center. It normally was not open in the morning, but a company was holding a breakfast meeting on the morning of September 11, and it's estimated that about two hundred diners and staff were there at the time of the attack. On a personal note, my best friend heard a couple of years ago that an old friend with whom she'd lost touch was working as a chef at Windows on the World. She hasn't yet learned whether he was still working there, and if he was at work on the day of the attack. This was her first love, back in high school, and if she were a Pagan and came across this letter, what would it do to her?
This person professes to be concerned for the victims who may have been Pagans, and for their families. Does she care that some of these survivors may have seen her letter and been further upset by it? As others have pointed out, we don't see gays and lesbians, or Orthodox Jews, or Latinos, or Civil Libertarians breaking off into seperate groups to grieve. Our pain is not segregated. And yes, I'm positive that there were Pagans at many of the prayer services and vigils held these past two weeks. I was one of them. When I handed out candles and held people's hands, I didn't ask their religion first. I caught some of the televised interfaith prayer service that was held in Yankee Stadium this past Sunday, and I admit that I waited in vain to see a Wiccan High Priestess step up to the podium, somewhere between the cardinal, the archbishop, several rabbis, mullahs, and a sikh clergyman (don't know the term). But I didn't get too upset. I found the chanted Sikh and Muslim prayers incredibly beautiful, and when the Harlem Boys and Girls Choir sang "We Shall Overcome" and the camera panned across hands of every possible shade clasped in love and support, I didn't check to see if any of them were wearing Pentacle rings.
So to this letter-writer, this so-called Pagan, I say: put down your bullhorn and step down off your soapbox. Go check on your neighbors and see if they need your help, your support, your shoulder to cry on. If you are so hungry for leadership, then lead. Just please try to do it with more compassion and grace than you had when you wrote this letter.
| Many Associations Have Newsletters Or Journals Keeping Members Apprised Of Action And... ||Sep 25th. at 1:48:46 am EDT|
|Dia Griene (Hemet, California US) ||Age: 43 |
Many associations have newsletters or journals keeping members apprised of action and elections. An association could include solitaries easily. News about the association could be dessiminated through the many paper and net Pagan publications. Many associations do not have full-time staff, but dues for association members who would receive the newletter would help offset costs. Leaders would not have to be full-time, and a group or sitting counsel could spread responsibilities among themselves. Elections could take place by write in or e-mail in ballot through the newletter or web-site and could be advertised by the same afore mentioned Pagan publications. One of the things Pagan value the most is our independence, and membership in an association could be open to all without having to subscribe to a particular creed. The association could be a place for an open forum on the many threads of Paganism and help unite our tapestry without homogenizing us.
| Pagan Leaders? Who Here Presumes To Speak With One Voice On The... ||Sep 25th. at 2:24:21 am EDT|
|Alaska_Raven (Anchorage, Alaska US) ||Age: 45 - Email |
Pagan leaders? Who here presumes to speak with one voice on the ecletic mix we call "Pagans"? The fact is that our community is as fractured as the christian and muslim ones. We can't agree on beliefs, rituals, gods, goddesses, etc. I am sick of hearing that I must join a coven to "truly understand", or I must follow the Crowley or Gardnerian path. If I wanted organized religion with a goddess feel, I'd go back to roman catholicism and it's adoration of Mary.
And who here wants the ridicule and pressure of the american press? Do you really want the inane questions, the constant badgering, and the harassment that comes with being a high profile pagan? Hell my own family does not know my path, much less the narrow mided citizens with whom I work. Why should we add the pressure of a hostile press? Heed the example of the Freemasons. Lots of bad press, but they refuse to answer it. The profane will never understand.
Bottomline, I go my own way. I make my own path. I answer to no "higher authority" than the Creator when it comces to my religion. I have no Pagan leader.
| In My Humble Opinion ,i Believe The Pagan Community As A Whole... ||Sep 25th. at 3:46:44 am EDT|
|Brandy Z. (Fort Myers, Florida US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
In my humble opinion , I believe the Pagan community as a whole needs some sort of representation . I think that some feel choosing leaders would be chosing someone to answer to. Its not that we need someone to answer to, we do need someone that can speak for us. Leaders who can be taken seriously that can express the feelings of our community. If we want to be taken seriously it has to be done.Setting up a coalition of Pagan leaders from all traditions , then voting for two leaders that represent a majority.A male and a female representative.
I do think an election process would work , through either the net or through local gatherings, book stores, and pagan merchants.Or all of the above.
If you don't want someone to represent you in the media and society as a whole , then don't complain about your voice falling on deaf ears.
Its about time we are taken seriously , and not as a group of hippies that have nothing better to do than sit around wearing sequined capes beating on drums.
| I Think The Idea Of Pagan Representatives Is A Great One, However... ||Sep 25th. at 3:56:03 am EDT|
|Gwen Gardner (Kalispell, Montana US) ||Age: 33 - Email |
I think the idea of Pagan Representatives is a great one, however I think we need to start smaller than that. We need to work on coming together locally, as small communities and then larger communities. Our "leaders" will show up naturally, as the people who coordinate the festivals, lead open circles, start up charity food drives, ect. Many people are already doing these things and more. They have cultivated media contacts and are working at putting a human and humanitarian face on Paganism. As more and more people attend these rituals, festivals and open circles it helps all of us by educating the general public to the fact that there are many people out there with a wide variety of religious beliefs. Eventually, I think our different religions will become more recognized and perhaps that invitation from Oprah will be extended the next time something tragic occurs. Until then, be a local leader, help out at a homeless shelter, give blood, organize a public circle, clean up a section of the hiway near your town. There are literally hundreds of ways that you can be a Representative of Paganism right in your own small town. Making a difference in your community will lead to change in the larger community, which will lead to change throughout the world.
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