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Posted: Nov. 17, 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 Think That The Need For Leaders Is A True Thing, Although... ||Sep 27th. at 7:39:11 am EDT|
|Theodore Uecker (Huntsville, Alabama US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
I think that the need for leaders is a true thing, although i am not sure about the idea of having a "national leader". This could have several advantages, a large one being a person / group to lobby in washington for our rights and privliges just like every other large religious group in the country. Another good thing would be a semi-centeralized face to present to the public, to answer all those questions aimed our way on a regular basis, it might just help to clean up some of the misconceptions about our "community". But then there are several distinct disadvantages, a big one for me is the fact that a leader on a large scale tends to represent thier own views, and they are elected in the hope that they agree with a large enough cross section of the people they represent. This worries me 1)for the simple fact that there are so many differant traditions out there (me and my wife are to seperate beliefs), 2)power really does corupt, and i would hate to see some very well meaning people turn this into a back bitting popularity contest remenisent of a presidential race. Yes, I think i might like to see a national representation of my religion one day. But are we as a "community" willing to pay the price asked to get that. I am in the process of inlisting in the army right now, in the hopes of becoming a chaplin (hoping they will allow a pagan chaplin), maybe if more of us did something like this, put ourselves open and forward in our local arenas, the national council would develop in time. but first we need local leaders, at home and in our towns. Maybe one day.
| It's Not That Paganism Isn't Political. It Is. But To Appoint National... ||Sep 27th. at 6:33:06 am EDT|
|Mnemosyne (Detroit, Michigan US) ||Age: 44 |
It's not that paganism isn't political. It is. But to appoint national leaders to the movement would create more politics within the movement itself. And beauracracy and politics is one of the many reasons I've come to shun the more traditional religions of this country. I agree with the other voices of this forum that have commented on our spiritual diversity and the complications that a national leadership could create. I don't believe anyone that I believe could adequately represent me, would be able to adequately represent the majority of pagans.
Was the lack of visible leadership over the past two weeks a result of no one stepping forward? Or were any offers of involvement by high profile pagans shunned by the christian dominated leadership of this country? It's unfortunate, but a sad truth of this country that freedom tends to be granted more to those that go along with the status quo. As much as things change, they often stay somewhat the same.
| Perhaps There's A Very Good Reason Why, As Neo-pagans, We Have No... ||Sep 26th. at 11:31:58 pm EDT|
|R. D. Davis (Baltimore, Maryland US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
Perhaps there's a very good reason why, as neo-Pagans, we have no national "leaders:" we have no need for them. Unlike followers of certain other spiritual paths, such as followers of organized religions like Christianity, some of us feel that we've no need for anyone to "lead" us and make decisions for us that interfere with our free will and beliefs, or to interfere with how our beliefs are perceived by others. Our beliefs are diverse, yet we have many beliefs in common. We mould our own spiritual paths in a manner which suits our own indivual needs, in a way that we derive the most spiritual benefit from.
Based on survey results received while conducting a spirituality survey, many of us hold beliefs far too eclectic for a single person, or group of people, to represent. We are truly a community of individuals, with "individuals" being the key word. Hence, is it not impossible for a single person, or even a group of people, to accurately represent all of us, and is that not one of the wonderful aspects of our community, that it allows, and fosters, such individuality, while a strong sense of community is still maintained? Should we not feel a strong sense of satisfaction and comfort in knowing that so many of us are individuals with a great regard for free will and that we're not mindless leader-following clones?
While I've denounced the concept of leadership, all is not as it appears. Certainly some of us, in a way, follow, or have followed, some form of leadership on a smaller scale within the Craft: High Priestesses and High Priests; however, that's still far from centralized leadership, and from what I've observed and read, it serves more of a role of guidance than of leadership. Surely few of us could deny that this form of leadership, which does not seek to impose it's will upon others, is very helpful to many, particularly to those new to the Craft. Hence, can you see that leadership is not always leadership in the same sense, and that it's not leadership in this sense, which is harmless to free will, that's harmful?
Just think: If everyone throughout the world could suddenly believe that leaders representative of large numbers of people, or perhaps all leaders who seek to control the will of others, are unnecessary, and view leadership as an obsolete concept that humanity no longer requires, that we've evolved past the need for, then perhaps wars and attempts to control the free will of others might become relics of the past.
Kindly remember that one of our community's greatest strengths, which is perhaps vital to its own safety, is our individuality, and our lack of organization as well as a lack of centralized leadership. Let's keep it this way, as it makes it much more difficult for those who oppose various forms of neo-Paganism to harm us and makes it impossible for them to use a central leader as an example that they can ridicule, demonize and otherwise find fault with; they'd like someone to make an example of, to vilify, and to vilify us as a result; let's not give them that opportunity.
| Where Are The Pagan Leaders? Maybe They're Going On With Their Lives... ||Sep 26th. at 10:54:05 pm EDT|
|Donald Branum (Montgomery, Alabama US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
Where are the Pagan leaders?
Maybe they're going on with their lives. Maybe, instead of posing for the cameras, they're down in the trenches, helping people rebuild after this tragedy. Maybe they're organizing canned food drives, or blood donations. Maybe, just maybe, they have better things to worry about than whose God is blessing America.
Just a theory.
| We Should Emphatically Avoid Electing Or Appointing A "pagan Leadership" At All... ||Sep 26th. at 9:47:57 pm EDT|
|James Kennedy (Northern Cambria, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 55 - Email |
We should emphatically avoid electing or appointing a "Pagan Leadership" at all costs. We need only to look around us at other religions who have appointed leaders. With leaders come doctrines, and with doctrines come heretics - those who, for whatever reason find themselves in disagreement with those doctrines put in place by the leaders; consider the Martin Luther and the first protestant, or better still, and closer to home, our pagan ancestors of the Middle Ages who were not in compliance with the edicts of the Roman Catholic Church, and later the Church England and the protestants who led the witch hunts of 16th and 17th Century England and America. Take a look at Christianity and all of the faction and denominations therein, too numerous to name, all which grew out of Luther's single action. They can not agree with each other's forms of Christianity, and even within a single denomination there is often dessent and dischord. As you've noted, many Pagans are solitaries, often, as in my own case, by choice. I enjoy the comaradery of other Pagans on the net and through the Witches Voice, but, as yet, I have no desire to join or start a coven. Nor do I want national leaders telling me what the correct doctrine is and when and how to practice it. We Pagans are an eclectic bunch; Sometimes Christians accuse us of making it up as we ago along, and sometimes they could be close to the truth. We call ourselves Wiccans, Witches, Druids, Pagans, and myriad other names; we often disagree on just how things should be done, but we stick together when we are threatened or discriminated against. That, along with the freedom to worship who and what I pleased, in my own way, time and place is what drew me to Paganism in the first place. We are an independent lot and we need to remain that way, with no leaders setting doctrine in place for us to follow. We must be careful not to go down the slippery slope that so many religions before us have taken.
| Maybe The Big Names Weren't On Tv, But That Doesn't Mean That... ||Sep 26th. at 9:08:27 pm EDT|
|Peter Paddon (Los Angeles, California US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
Maybe the big names weren't on TV, but that doesn't mean that Pagans weren't doing anything. Sothern California Covenant of the Goddess, for example, held a raffle and auction and - despite extremely short notice - raised over $5000 for the relief charities. The event was preceded by a drum circle and memorial service. Many there had been working to guide the souls of those taken by the tragedy, and not just Pagans, to where they were meant to be. the organizers of Pagan Pride in LA cancelled their event and instead held a candle vigil.
I don't think we need elected leaders as much as we need official representatives with a mandate to let the world know about us, but without the authority to dictate what we do. COG and other organizations like it are beginning to do a good job of this. Personally, I don't think writing a book is a good qualification for being declared a leader - after all, I've had two published myself, and I'd hate to be considered an authority. My only concern is that if the job comes into existence, it doesn't go to those who are hungry for it. It shouldn't be something you can put yourself forward for, but rather something you are nominated for, by people outside your own coven or group. Ideally, the job should be done by someone who really doesn't want the job - they can get time off for good behaviour! you only have to look at the idiot Kevin Carlyon in the UK to see where self-appointed leaders will get us.
In my humble opinion, the best thing would be for a council of community leaders to vote in national representatives. Unfortunately, this would be a huge undertaking, and ultimately futile if the media or government refused to acknowledge the position. THAT would be the really hard part.
| I Feel That When Addressing This Question, You Must First Address The... ||Sep 26th. at 8:38:19 pm EDT|
|Aaron (San Diego, California US) ||Age: 26 - Email |
I feel that when addressing this question, you must first address the issue of what a leader is. Inherently, a leader leads, and doesn't need to be "appointed." I don't believe that just because you are elected to a POSITION that you are neccessarily a good leader. As a leader, I feel our president is thoroughly horrible. In fact, regardless of the horrific terror that has been brought upon our country, most of our "leaders" are horrible. They are in majority rich, old, white men driven by greed. Not very representative of our country, I think.
I believe that if the Pagan community doesn't have a leader yet, it wasn't meant to. However, I believe someday (soon) we will. Someone will eventually feel strongly enough about Pagan causes and address it en masse with mass appeal. That person would have to be very well read, very articulate, and extremely media saavy. That's what it will take for a legitimate Pagan leader to be taken seriously by the public at large. Where is this person? Who knows. Maybe it'll be a high profile celebrity, or maybe it'll be a Pagan politician. The truth is, who ever steps out in a big way and really LEADS--as a Pagan--will have to be resiliant and strong and be prepared for public scrutiny from such people as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell, among others.
In these trying times, I believe that each of us are leaders. By doing what you can, and educating those that you are able to, the truth will spread, and peace will reign. These are unstable times, yet, among the chaos, blues skies are visible. We must be patient. We must be strong. We must be empathic.
| Hmmm, Let's See. Yes. Yes, I Beleave We Need A National Leader... ||Sep 26th. at 8:18:47 pm EDT|
|John Stack (Cupertino, California US) ||Age: 28 - Email |
Hmmm, let's see. Yes. Yes, I beleave we need a National Leader in the 'neo'-Pagan community. Or two. I'm fairly new to this as it is. But one thing I've learned is the old rule of keeping our silence. I agree with this, mostly. These days though, and by that I mean the last twenty years or so, I truely feel that it is time we break our silence. Back in the days of Salem, in this land of the so called free, we didn't dare. Spider Robinson, one of my favorite S/F authors, has been quoted as saying that this is The Age of the Minority Groups. I have to agree. It is because of this however that we finally do have a voice in the greater scheme of things. For perhaps the first time in a millinium and a half. That whole "Keep One's Silence" thing. I can understand needing it, especially during the Burning Times. Do we really know any more weather we still kept in back in the days when Paganism was the way of life in Europe. But this isn't Medival Europe any more. This is the Global Community in the toddlerhood of the Information Age. Perhaps it is time we break our silence. We do indeed need a National Leader. Or two. If we're gonna do this, lets do it up right in true Pagan style. What we need is a High Priest & Priestess. My gut reaction is to nomimate the Frosts. Who knows though. The Lord & Lady in all likelyhood.
P.S. Perhaps someone could explain to me how within a week of my decision to follow a wiccan path, a wart started to grow near the tip of my right index finger?
| Blessings! Once Again, I'm Going To Present An Unpopular Opinion On This... ||Sep 26th. at 8:09:14 pm EDT|
|(Rev) Norm Vogel (S. Bound Brook, New Jersey US) ||Age: 49 - Email |
Blessings! Once again, I'm going to present an unpopular opinion on this issue. (So what ELSE is new? LOL!). First off, I sincerely doubt if any of the nationally-televised services, etc. would even ALLOW a Pagan to speak! The sad truth is that we are NOT considered a valid religion by many/most Christians.
Next, what does empty "speech-making" accomplish? Nothing. For example, I truly admired Pres. Bush's resolve during his viewing of the carnage, but his speech last thurs. was total BS! It was merely a "high-class pep rally", wherein our President merely reiterated everything he said the week before. (And, he displayed all the emotion of a telephone operator). The one "new" thing was to create a "Secretary of HOME Defense".....but isn't THAT what the current "Secretary of Defense" is for? I don't get it.
For years, Pagans have criticised the impressive monuments/buildings that various religions have erected, but that contain little (if any) Spirituality. (And, I agree with this).
By the same token, I feel that the "Pagan Leaders" in our Community ARE doing a lot! Lighting candles, donating blood, $, clothing, etc, ministering to the bereaved, and even doing positive magick at this time (remember when British Witches gathered together against Hitler in WWI?), and all the countless ways of helping ARE important! They ARE just as valid as a "public splash".
Even Jesus said that people should "go into a closet to pray"; in other words, don't make a "show" out of it. And, that's what I'm saying.
Also, continuing to stand up for our Religious Rights during this period is important. Pagans responded en masse to express their displease at "Revs" Falwell and Robertson. (I wrote an editorial to the Washington Post).
All Pagan Communities have their "leaders"; they and ALL Pagans are helping, each in their own way.
There ain't ever gonna be "One Pagan Leader"; that's impossible! But, we can (& HAVE DONE) do our bit to help those who have suffered during this terrible disaster. So what if our help is "anonymous"? It helps the people and, I think, pleases the Lord & Lady.
That's all that matters! Brightest Blessings, Rev. Norm Vogel
| A Leadership Structure, That Is A Touchy Subject. For My Part, I... ||Sep 26th. at 7:35:23 pm EDT|
|Night Wolf / Jeff (bluefield, West Virginia US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
A leadership structure, that is a touchy subject. For my part, I do not like the idea. I have discussed the idea amoung the few pagans that I know of in my area, and none of us wish to have any kind "leader" over us. I would like to see a more closely knit pagan community, but not with a leader as such, it tends to lead to any one idividual gaining a form of control over others and even to self-righteousness. It's why many of us are solitary practitioners, to avoid these possabilities.
I do like the idea that has been mentioined in other responces, that of a spokesperson or persons that could speek for our community, our spiritual practices. I don't know if it should be someone with high visibility, though I think it would help by virtue of credability. That person would also need to be well educated and respected amoung the pagan community. Because of the secrecy with which many of us practice, it would be hard to find the right people to take on the resposibility.
| Goodness, So Many Opinions! I Have Enjoyed Reading Them All In The... ||Sep 26th. at 6:30:26 pm EDT|
|Reverend Seneca Silverlight. (Austin, Texas US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
Goodness, so many opinions! I have enjoyed reading them all in the past few days!
I have learned so much from the people that have posted to this list.
In all this I have come to admire the United Nations even more. How do they do it? They are an organization made up of different countries with thousands of different cultures, yet they seem to be able to come together and make decisions in a reasonable and ordered way. Each country has an appointed representative and those representatives are able to have dialogue with their individual countries to carry out the will of those countries in voting. I have even heard rumors that they actually reach consensus on issues from time to time. My what a system!
From what I have read here it seems that the main consensus is that we don't need religious leaders. I agree. Some say we don't need any type of leader, spokesperson, or representatives. We should be content to work out of view, out of the national limelight in our own in a quiet way. I disagree. Others hold to the view that some sort of representation is needed in order to ensure that our needs and views are known on a secular (non-religious) level. I agree as well.
A friend of mine recently made the point that Pagans want their cake and eat it too. He said that we like being the "counter cultural" hippie folks, but we want respect and to be accepted as well. Unfortunately, it seems we can't have it both ways.
The unfortunate thing is that unless we pull together to create an enduring, and meaningful coalition of sorts, we will forever be considered "counter-culture". We will be those hippy folks spouting about love, peace and war and we will never be taken seriously by the folks that really matter. Congressman, Judges, and sometimes our own families.
My personal opinion is that it is time for us to grow up. We need to learn to deal with the real world in a professional way as Pagans. If this were a Pagan country we would be able to go our happy little independent ways without ever thinking about it. Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that the mundane world is a mean, intolerant place that loves to crunch up anything that it considers different. It takes significant acts of fortitude and steadfastness to survive and deal with it, it takes teamwork and commitment to an ideal. The ideal being that we are here and we are here to stay and will ensure that our needs and rights are kept in tact.
When are we going to start taking care of our brother and sister Pagans? We worry so much about the world, we let our own go hungry, without housing, without help. Magick works, but when a mother is out of her mind with worry on how she will feed her children, how can she focus that will to perform the spell? Who will help her? Most of the groups in pagandom I know will help their own to some extent, but will they help a Pagan mother they don't know? For how long?
Pooling our resources and money, gathering up our own trained professionals to assist and set up meaningful programs might be a good start. How can we do that if the professional is Asatru and the Organization is Wiccan? Will they help? Most likely, but not with the gusto perhaps that he would help his own. Perhaps in an organization that has a committed focus and dedication to helping ALL Pagans, he might.
My point is in all of this, that putting aside our common differences, our egos, and concentrating our will toward the true good of all may be where we should think about heading. Not everyone follows the Rede, but most follow Honor. Not everyone follows the Celtic path, but everyone has their own Gods. In a round about way, this is how the UN does it. Of course, they do consider their own needs, but they also weigh it against the common good. Perhaps we should think about following their example. It is possible for us to create a national system of representation and participation, that pools resources and a tackles the hard issues for all pagans, whatever path we walk.
Maybe, we can help that Mother feed her children, find a job and gather enough strength to stand on her own and perform the prosperity spells that she needs to stand on her own (if her path does this). If not, then she is at least strengthened to help her find her own way.
We need to remember that ot everyone has access to a Coven or Grove or group to help them, so what do we do? Do we throw her to the benevolent state that will send her to a christian charity to help? People that are in some ways completely alien to her and her children now? This is happening now in many, many cases. How about Pagans in Recovery? Should they have to endure Christian based recovery programs because we have nothing Pagan based to help them?
I don't think truly that anyone wishes to build a Pagan empire as has been implied in so many emails here. Authors, Artists and Clergy have traditionally down through time been the the shapers of civilization. I don't think ours are any different. We have wonderful people that have stepped forward and risked their necks for the good of all of us, when are we going to do the same for ourselves? Growing up is hard to do, but we have graduated and it's time to put that suit on and go to work.
Reverend Seneca Silverlight
| Where Were The Pagan Leaders? Well, Phyllis Currot And Starhawk Did A... ||Sep 26th. at 6:28:21 pm EDT|
|Barbara A. Fisher (Columbia, Maryland US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
Where were the Pagan Leaders?
Well, Phyllis Currot and Starhawk did a public healing ritual in New York City last week or so, and from what my sources tell me, Starhawk is planning a public healing ritual in Washington DC this weekend.
Isaac Bonewits has posted an essay calling for an end of tolerance for fundamentalist belief systems which espouse the murder of others, no matter which religion the fundamentalists claim to uphold.
Wren and Fritz have been busting thier collective hind ends keeping Witchvox up and running and churning out news and healing views for the rest of the Pagan community.
Z. Budapest has been calling for calm and rational action rather than vengeance in the Dianic community.
Those are the "self appointed Pagan leaders" whom I personaly know of, and thier activities of the past few weeks.
What, pray tell, has the author of the email in question, been doing to help the Pagan community and the American community at large? Other than writing an inflammatory email?
For years, there has been debate in the Neo-Pagan community over whether or not we need national Pagan leaders. And how many people have we heard saying that we needed no national hierarchical structure, and we don't need Pagan leaders, and we certainly don't need to pay them.
I hate to tell folks like the author of the email, but other religions -pay- thier religious leaders for thier time and services. If we want national Pagan leaders on a par with the likes of Billy Graham, we have to have a structure and money to support them. As Isaac Bonewits said at this year's Starwood, "If every Pagan in America would give up one piece of silver jewelry, we could have our first permanent Pagan temple and paid clergy for that temple. But, that isn't what Pagans want to spend money on."
Other Pagans, whether they are national "leaders" or not, have been doing thier part in this crisis. They are working with the Red Cross, volunteering, donating blood, donating food and money, holding healing rituals, and organizing a program to match up Pagans in the military with civilians stateside so they can have support from back home. Another Pagan has taken it upon herself to create a network of people to help shelter Islamic neighbors should the need arise.
What I see happening in the Pagan community and in America in general is that people are coming together, and working together to get past this horrendous crisis. With the exception of a few people, such as the author of the email, who feel the need to point fingers, and spew blame, instead of doing something constructive.
I have one other thing to say to this person.
It is a quote from a drag queen friend of mine. "Queens who live in glass houses, just don't throw thier shoes."
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