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: 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 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 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!
| 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?
| 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.
| 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.
| Hail And Greetings, Until And Unless The Greater "pagan Community" Can Narrow... ||Sep 24th. at 10:30:31 pm EDT|
|Rev. David L. Oringderff, Ph.D. (Converse, Texas US) ||Age: 52 - Email |
Hail and Greetings,
Until and unless the greater "pagan community" can narrow its focus to a clearly defined set of tenets and practices, the notion of a "National Pagan Leadership" is untenable. Even in the subset of the "Wiccan" community, there is as much diversity and division as there is in the various Christian denominations. While a Mormon may respect and honor the Catholic Pope, he would never acknowledge the Pope as his spiritual or temporal leader. Hence when we organized the Sacred Well Congregation, we placed in our Covenant of Faith and Practice the following:
"The Sacred Well Congregation is unfettered and independent, and while it may conjoin with other groups, traditions, or religious bodies for certain Celebrations and Rites, it recognizes no religious authority, and owes no allegiance to any group, body, or organization beyond its autonomous membership."
The Sacred Well Congregation is a large, well organized international Wiccan Church and fellowship. While I am authorized to speak for the Congregation, I would not presume to speak for any individual or group outside of our own membership. Nor would we allow any individual or group outside of our own membership to speak for us. This is not to say that we would not align with other individuals, groups or organizations for common purposes of celebration, condolence or advocacy (not political activism). We have done so in the past, and will continue to do so in the future when the action is in the best interests of all concerned. We are a Wiccan fellowship organized solely for the pursuit of religious practices and endeavors. That being said, our members can and do engage in political and even "activist" activities as individuals, but not as representatives of the Congregation. Our approach works for us. We have spanned some chasms that have not been spanned before, and in doing so have benefited the "greater" pagan community. So we will continue to do as we do without the benefit of a "National Pagan Leadership."
Rev. David L. Oringderff, Ph.D.
Sacred Well Congregation
| No, I Don't Beleive We Need Elected Leaders, Although We Could Use... ||Sep 24th. at 10:14:01 pm EDT|
|LeaLea (Lawton, Oklahoma US) ||Age: 31 |
No, I don't beleive we need elected leaders, although we could use a communial voice. Together our voices could be heard. From my proverbial Broom Closet I have been seeking my voice, and am being sent back to tradition to find it. We have spoken in many voices, in many languages. I keep being led back to the traditional poets and bards, readers and writers. I can speak for no one else's heart any more than they can speak for mine. Although with pen in hand I can write of my own truth.
My heart is my elected leader, and it is the only leader I will follow.
Peace, Love & Harmony to all
| I Do Think We Should Have Pagan Leaders. It Would Be A... ||Sep 24th. at 9:48:01 pm EDT|
|Robert Lee Abbott (sealevel, North Carolina US) ||Age: 16 - Email |
I do think we should have Pagan leaders. It would be a great spiritual boon to all of the Pagan community. Just think of all the change that could be brought about if we too had leaders in some measure of power. We may fund them with generous donations which I agree will be hard to come by but will be supported by those honorable Pagans I know and you do too. I can't wait for the day that we actually set up a Wiccan coven/church, it could be a collection gathered together by groups (sort of like a 4 or 5 member coven) if they so chose, and may be sent to a central fund, and as proof of using the money for the right cause they could see it first hand, if the leaders dow well, we might actually get rid of prejudice against all pagans.
| National Pagan Leaders? In My Humble Opinion ... Absolutely Not! What Makes A... ||Sep 24th. at 9:38:19 pm EDT|
|Flavius X (Woodbridge, Virginia US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
National Pagan leaders? In my humble opinion ... ABSOLUTELY NOT!
What makes a Pagan a Pagan? The practice of a religion that is individual. Pagan religions are not based on creed but are based on experience, the experience of Connection, the union of Self and World.
I'd say that the idea of National Pagan *religious* leaders ranks right up there with the notion of establishing Pagan scriptures. Once someone writes the One True Book, then what follows is the endless struggle of words and definitions and arguements and the insidious need to prove that someone else is wrong so you can be right. And so one mistakes the map for the mountain.
Pagan religions are not doctrinaire, nor are they hierachical. Yes we form groups and yes we form and follow traditions, but we form groups to experience community, not to sit and listen to someone preach. And we follow traditions as a means of sharing and passing on our experiences, and feeling the joy of walking the same path that was worn by the feet of those who came before us. We don't (or at least most of us don't) participate in a tradition so we can have someone tell us what to do and what to think.
Every pagan is their own priest/ess.
So while I have no problem with and even support the notion of seeing national-level figures presenting a public face for Pagans, I can't see how *anyone* can do more than be an Example, rather than a Leader in the conventional religious sense. This will no doubt be in incredibly difficult notion for the General Public, but just because World Famous Pagan Author Lady Moonbeam is, in fact, a World Famous Pagan Author, that still only means that she speaks for Lady Moonbeam, not necessarily for me. I speak for me. There is no Pope of Wicca, for example, nor should there be unless we want to give up what has made Neo-Paganism work for so many of us.
And to come back to where I began, Paganism is a religion mode that's based on Connection. What others look for when they go to church or read their scriptures or listen to words from their priest or rabbi or imam, we experience when we touch our loved ones (whether they're Pagans like us or not), when we lean back against a tree, when we join hands in a circle, and yes, even when we chat back and forth on message boards. We are all about Connection, and so we are all about Community. We serve our Communities, from the smallest circles of friends and covens and family, to neighborhoods and cities and planets. Our communities may be harder to see for the General Public, who may be used to the traditional hierarchical structures where power descends from the peak of the pyramid down to the base. We're a bit different. We are networks and webs. And so what comforts and serves us best is what touches us most immediately. So no, we don't really need National Pagan Leaders in times of crisis, or any other time. We have each other.
| I Feel That A National Pagan Leadership Is A Good Idea. I... ||Sep 24th. at 9:24:05 pm EDT|
|Anthony Sisbarro (Trenton, New Jersey US) ||Age: 38 - Email |
I feel that a national pagan leadership is a good idea. I am solitary and often find it hard to know what to do. Maybe a national leader could set up a league for forming covens for solitaires that would like that sort of thing.
| I Feel That We Aught To Have Official Elected Leaders. I Have... ||Sep 24th. at 9:17:11 pm EDT|
|Chris G. (Binghamton, New York US) ||Age: 34 - Email |
I feel that we aught to have official elected leaders.
I have been active in a Pagan Community in my area for allmost 7 years. Our group is leaderless, and we love to call ourselves a disorganized organization. However, we have learned that in order to get anything done, we need to formally organize at least just a little.
In the mundane world, most of the world's religions are respected because they have a set of leaders and advocates. When Pat Robertson popped his cork, he had to grudgingly apologize because these organized leaders gathered together in response to the threat his hate message conveyed.
Notice that he did not apologize dieectly to us Pagans. He doesen't have to. We have no power, no leaders to defend us against such a major attack.
But we do have some spokespeople. I cringe whenever it gets to be October, and the Witch stories come out. Our major spokesperson is usually Laurie Cabot, who has a lot of good things to say, but she wears more makeup than Tanny Faye would even dream of, and ends up looking to the mundane corprate world that we must reach like a freak.
We could use an organized Council or something. It would have to be elected by us, but how we'd hold the elections, and who can vote, I just don't have any ideas at this time.
Three things are clear to me, though. One is that if we wish to be taken seriously, we need respected representation. It would be nice to have Pagan leaders out there responding to crisises like the recent one. Then we could have a strong response if attacked, and two, they'd have to look quite normal ststus quo, at least for the first few decades. The rest of the world just won't take us seriously if our leaders dress in what they may take as a Halloween costume. And, third, we need to walk our talk on respect for all religions. None of that Christian bashing.
We would also have to draw up a kind of constitution or charter to gaurentee that the system won't be abused. Too many control freaks and power trippers will try to apply. Free voting, and possibly a campaign system could help us understand our perspective leaders. And how much power can they have?
Not so much that they get to be dictators, that's for certian.
To sum up, I just don't think we have a chance of being taken very seriously unless we can put together some form of representation, and if we don't, we can be sitting ducks for hate groups.
| I Do Not Think That Pagans Need National Leaders. What I Think... ||Sep 24th. at 9:09:05 pm EDT|
|Lindsy Untied (Zanesville, Ohio US) ||Age: 19 - Email |
I do not think that Pagans need national leaders. What I think Pagans need to do is simply stand up and be seen. There are good people out there who also happen to be pagan. Some of the best people I know are pagan. We really need to take smaller steps than simply appointing a "Pagan Leader". I know all of us are very touchy on the "broomcloset" subject but if we keep hiding people will keep rejecting us.
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