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Posted: Nov. 17, 2002
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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.
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| Mm; No, I Do Not Think That We Need A Pagan "leader... ||Jan 12th. at 4:59:13 pm UTC|
|Trudi (Boston area, Massachusetts US) ||Age: 43 - Email |
MM; No, I do not think that we need a Pagan "leader". Not having a leader helps everyone to keep their individuality, as they are and should be. Having a 'leader' will, in the end, cause the same sort of 'absolute' leadership (others ?)our brothers and sisters find themselves having to answer to and about. They are not seen nor are they accepted as individual human beings. For that I am truely sorry. In a sense, I grieve for them, as they do not know any better. Having a 'leader' will only recreate the same leadership as we, have been trying to evoid. Long be, and long live the 'GIFT' of individuality!
| I Believe Every Pagan Has Qualities Inside Them That Entitle Them To... ||Jan 12th. at 3:43:18 pm UTC|
|StE (Walsall, England UK) ||Age: 17 |
I believe every Pagan has qualities inside them that entitle them to be leaders, be it of themselves, the world around them, their coven or group etc. However as our beliefs vary from one person to another, I do not believe that there could ever be a leader for the whole or a large portion of the Pagan community.
There are many famous Pagans who have a lot of experience. Other people may want to follow them, and so they are called a "Pagan leader", but this is just for the few who may wish to be inspired by them - just like pop stars. This doesn't mean they are Pagan leaders though, it just means they have a few good ideas and people believe in them and look up to them.
I belive that the only true Pagan leader is nature herself. She leads us, inspires us and provides for us - the perfect leader :-)
| I Think That The Term "leader" Has Much Different Connotation Within The... ||Jan 12th. at 3:21:05 pm UTC|
|Brunhilda (McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I think that the term "leader" has much different connotation within the pagan community. The leader doesn't perform the usual funtions that a leader would outside of the pagan community, such as decision making, discipline, and so forth. A "pagan leader" is more of an advisor, someone that everyone can look to for answers, be they answers to everyday dilemmas or answers to what color candle to put at the corners of the alter, or pretty much any question that you can think of. A leader's opinion is highly valued, though it is still up for discussion and challenging. That's one of the things that make a "pagan leader" so different from leaders in the general sense. They are always open to challenges, to new viewpoints on every imaginable subject. They don't have the authority that comes with being a leader, because most decisions are group decisions, and not for one person alone to decide. The more I sit here and ramble, the more I think that leader is too strong a word. Maybe elder or some other more traditional word would be more appropriate. As for the national/international question, we have trouble visiting with our pagan neighbors 2 hours away, so I'll refrain from rambling about that subject.
| The Pagan Community Currently Suffers From A Serious Lack Of Good Leaders... ||Jan 12th. at 3:03:39 pm UTC|
|Larissa Crimson Wind (Porland/Beaverton, Oregon US) ||Age: 30 - Email |
The Pagan community currently suffers from a serious lack of good leaders. I say "good" because we seem to be up to our armpits in egotistical self-styled gurus whose only attraction to their position is the perceived power and glory that they expect from it. This is a side effect of a religion that is both open and free and rather new on the scene (for most of us.)
I think its a cynical idealism to believe that leaders are not needed or the polluted leftovers of a patriarchal (heirarchal) society. The stark reality is that groups of people naturally gravitate towards creating someone to lead or mediate in some fashion. To ignore this is to ask for trouble.
There are simple, practical, reasons for this: To begin with, it doesn't work to ask "newbies" to have equal participation in the decision-making process when they're facing the challenge of getting their feet wet in an often complicated community. Secondly, consensus, while a lovely ideal, takes a LOT of time to accomplish, and the process itself requires someone to instigate and mediate. Once that someone leaves, it has been my experience that the consensual group falls apart quickly. Too, we should not forget that most people honestly don't want to take the responsibility and do the hard work required of leaders--and someone has to or the group activities just don't take place. Leadership is the process by which someone makes sure things get accomplished. Leaders get acclaim when things go well, and, like it or not, take the blame when problems occur.
A good leader knows that leadership is primarily about work and accepting responsibility. Its a trade-off: You may have some power, but you pay for it in sweat, time, training, research, and playing the social mediator for the group. The glory is miniscule, the hours are long, and the satisfaction comes from within for a job well done. A good leader is not motivated by fantasies of teeming throngs of admirers, dewy-eyed with hero-worship and willing to do your every bidding. A good leader wants respect, and knows that if they do their job correctly, they'll get it. They treat the members of their group with respect, teach them, train them to be leaders as well one day, and ASK for criticism. They take their member's opinions seriously, and do what they can to address needs and incorporate new ideas for the group. They help their group determine its purpose and then set goals to meet that purpose. A good leader can admit to errors, apologize sincerely, and correct a mistake so that it is not repeated.
They know their people, and utilize their talents for the good of the Coven or Circle, and give credit where credit is due. And, finally, a good leader knows their limitations and when to ask for help or step down.
As you can imagine, a tall order to fill. Yet this is exactly what we need to see more of in the Pagan community. Too many groups suffer from psuedo-gurus or, more commonly, weak leaders who don't mind stepping in front of a group, but fall short of making difficult decisions or taking responsibility (blame) for problems. With this second kind of problem leader, or with groups who attempt to create an equal-across-the-board consensus-style Coven or Circle, we see a common pattern. Over and over, we experience people trying to correct an uncertain power structure with behind-the-scenes political maneuvering that leads to slanderous gossip, cliques, and endless bickering over how everything should be done. With no one to step up and willingly wade through the contention and lay down some ground rules, things degenerate into social chaos and the group falls apart. It may go through several reincarnations, but because the fundamental problem of good leadership is never addressed, it reenacts its own death time and again.
The consequences for having a lack of leadership in the Pagan community are quite profound. Our bumbling attempts are witnessed by those outside the Pagan arena, and we are condemned as "Flakes, " not to be taken seriously as a religion. Our internal power struggles and lack of direction have turned many a sincere new Pagan to give up on their fellows and turn solitary. Its such a needless waste. Without leaders to coordinate, act as spokespersons, and tackle the hard work of teaching and building, the Pagan community gets little accomplished. With good leadership, however, our ideals become reality.
I speak from experience. I've been involved in the Pagan/Wiccan community for over 11 years, and have been Priestess of Circle of the Sapphire Flame, in Portland, Oregon. I didn't originally want to lead anything, but found that the only way to join a group that would actually work was to create it myself. (I've participated in groups in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Oregon, and everywhere I saw the same problems which could be traced to a lack of leadership or bad leadership.) Recently, I ended my stint as Preistess, and peacefully passed the baton on to a new Priest and Priestess, White Lyon and Galena, who are eager to tackle the new position. I'm now a sort of "Elder" who teaches classes and steps in only for emergencies when (and if) the Priesthood experiences any problems amongst themselves. (Which hasn't as yet happened, and I hope it never shall.) More people are being trained, and we have a group that is productive, peaceful, stimulating, and effective. I put a lot of effort into setting it up, and now gratefully retire to allow others the opportunity to experience being a leader. Nothing pushes or tests you more...if you do it right.
As a final note to those who don't like heirarchy in any form... I would like to point out that as Pagans, we acknowledge ourselves as a part of nature, and strive to respect the wisdom of the natural world. In do doing, please note that EVERY social creature works within a hierarchal power structure of some kind. Ants, bees, dolphins, wolves, lions, and many more, exist in a world where every being serves a social purpose, where some lead and most follow. As humans, we are not immune to status contests. But if we must acknowledge our animal natures, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we are able to improve on the basic model. We can take turns being leader. We can demand good work from our leader. We can create a community that is fair and works for most people most of the time. But let us not pretend that status is something we are "above" and attempt to ignore the reality. The trick is to put the reality to its best use.
| A Pagan Leader Is Someone Who Represents The Best Aspects Of All... ||Jan 12th. at 2:13:20 pm UTC|
|Whitefeather (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario CA) ||Age: 16 - Email |
A pagan leader is someone who represents the best aspects of all Paganism. They follow the Rede, practice perfect Love and Trust, etc. They should be someone who can communicate with the rest of the world in a clear way about what Paganism is and be able to answer the questions people have. They would be someone the President, Prime Minister, Pope, or Dali Lama could talk to about religious issues, laws or whatever concerning Paganism. BUT!!! No one person can speak for all. There are a thousand/million ways to interpret the Rede, and how you yourself practise Paganism, Wicca, Druidism, Shamanism, or whatever is as unique as each snowflake that falls from the sky. It would be nice to have an internationly know someone to represent us, but they'd only be representing themselves. They'd be constantly saying, "Well, I can't speak for Them, but I can say this.."
Therefore, a Pagan leader in a county, city, region, province, country or the world would be impossible. There is no one on this wonderful Earth who could successfuly represent ALL of us. It's a nice idea though. Blessings and Light!
| I Feel That The Word Leader Is A Bit Misleading. Perhaps The... ||Jan 12th. at 1:07:34 pm UTC|
|Shari (Calgary, Alberta CA) ||Age: 35 - Email |
I feel that the word leader is a bit misleading. Perhaps the word we should be using is guide or teacher. As a solitary wiccan I have had a terrible struggle to get where i am today. There are a shortage of guides or teachers to help people like myself follow the path of the ancient ones. When asked, other so-called leaders will look down their noses and sniff at you for not wanting to be part of their coven - perhaps the word lacky or slave could be inserted there.
Now that I have found my path, when other solitary wiccans approach me I use a softer approach to fill them in on information I have learned so they can use their own discretion about where they would like to go on the path. Usually with gentle guidance these new wiccans can see the beauty of the goddess around them and they find themselves more enlightened than those so-called leaders that use a more direct (blunt) approach.
I feel that the wiccan community 'leaders' have lost sight of the first rule the goddess taught us, 'An it harm none do as thou wilt'.
| I'm Of Two Minds On The Question Of "leadership." As A Group... ||Jan 12th. at 3:47:07 am UTC|
|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.
| Anyone Interested In Becoming Or Locating A Leader Of Any Sort, Pagan... ||Jan 11th. at 11:45:31 pm UTC|
|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!
| Yes The Term Leader Sets My 'pagan Teeth On Edge'. We Are... ||Jan 11th. at 9:17:57 pm UTC|
|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.
| I Think That This Is A Difficult Question To Answer Because Of... ||Jan 11th. at 7:54:28 pm UTC|
|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.
| I Think Of Leaders As Those Who Live Their Truths Without The... ||Jan 11th. at 5:06:03 pm UTC|
|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 Believe That The Concept Of 'leader' As We Usually Accept It... ||Jan 11th. at 1:43:04 pm UTC|
|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.
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