Your browser does not support script
TWV Presents...

Articles/Essays From Pagans

[Show all]

Views: 21,606,674

February 1st. 2019 ...

Paganism and Witchcraft in the Media

September 25th. 2018 ...

Understanding the Unseen

August 25th. 2018 ...

A Little Magickal History

Men and the Goddess

Back to Basics Witchcraft: Magical Creativity for Small Living Spaces

Kitchen Magic and Memories

Why the Faeries?

Magic in Daily Life

An Open Fire: Healing from Within

Cernunnos: The Darkest Wood in the Moon's Light

On Preconceived Pagan/Wiccan Political Affiliations

Gudrun of the Victory Gods

Ares and Athena

La Santa Muerte... The Stigma and the Strength

The Wheel of the Year in Our Daily Lives

The Lady on the Stairs

July 26th. 2018 ...

The Importance of Unification: Bringing Together Community Members to Invoke Cohesivity

May 29th. 2018 ...

Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess

April 20th. 2018 ...

Nazis Made Us Change Our Name

January 25th. 2018 ...

Finding Balance: Discipline Wedded to Devotion

November 15th. 2017 ...


September 30th. 2017 ...


August 31st. 2017 ...

The White Goddess: A Seminal Work in the Neo-Wiccan Movement.

July 31st. 2017 ...

Sin Eaters and Dream Walkers

July 2nd. 2017 ...

On Cursing: Politics and Ethos

A Distant Thunder: Should You Care?

June 1st. 2017 ...

Herbal Astrology

The Sacred Ego in Mediterranean Magical Traditions

April 30th. 2017 ...

Tarot Talk: the Knight of Pentacles

March 30th. 2017 ...

Tarot Talk: the Ace of Swords

January 10th. 2017 ...

The Gray of 'Tween

Becoming a Sacred Dancer

Little Dog, Big Love

December 9th. 2016 ...

A Child's First Yule

November 10th. 2016 ...

What Exactly Is Witchcraft?

A Witch in the Bible Belt: Questions are Opportunities

What I Get from Cooking (And How it’s Part of My Path)

On Death and Passing: Compassion Burnout in Healers and Shamans

September 11th. 2016 ...

The Shadow of Disgust

August 12th. 2016 ...

When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch

Hungarian Belief in Fairies

Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament

Past Midnight

July 13th. 2016 ...

What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses

Magic With A Flick of my Finger

An Open Mind and Heart

Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum

June 13th. 2016 ...

Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia

My Father, My First God

Life is Awesome... and the Flu

May 15th. 2016 ...

Faery Guided Journey

Working with the Elements

April 2nd. 2016 ...

The Fear of Witchcraft

Magic in Sentences

March 28th. 2016 ...

Revisiting The Spiral

Still Practicing

January 22nd. 2016 ...

Coming Out of the Broom Closet

December 20th. 2015 ...

Magia y Wicca

October 24th. 2015 ...

Feeling the Pulse of Autumn

October 16th. 2015 ...

Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts

September 30th. 2015 ...

The Other-Side

September 16th. 2015 ...

Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate

August 6th. 2015 ...

Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale

July 9th. 2015 ...

Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

The Magic of Weather

June 7th. 2015 ...

A Pagan Altar

A Minority of a Minority of a Minority

The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?

May 6th. 2015 ...

13 Keys: The Crown of Kether

March 29th. 2015 ...

A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft

March 28th. 2015 ...

On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations

March 1st. 2015 ...

Choosing to Write a Shadow Book

February 1st. 2015 ...

Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader

January 1st. 2015 ...

Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft

Pagans All Around Us

Broomstick to the Emerald City

October 20th. 2014 ...

Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits

October 5th. 2014 ...

The History of the Sacred Circle

September 28th. 2014 ...

Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials

Creating a Healing Temple

NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.

Article Specs

Article ID: 14627

VoxAcct: 292605

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 2,936

Times Read: 4,415

RSS Views: 42,725
Authority and Status in the Metaphysical Community

Author: Chirotus Infinitum
Posted: July 3rd. 2011
Times Viewed: 4,415

Several years ago, I encountered the website for the Universal Life Church.[1] The site advocated a simple message – you have the right to believe in anything you want, so long as you do not infringe that similar right for others. That simple message appealed to me, and I examined the ULC in more detail. I quickly discovered the feature that makes the ULC most notable – they will ordain any person as legal clergy, for no cost. This ordination is open to all people of all faiths, and is considered valid upon the completion of a distinctly non-rigorous test in which the applicant is required to submit a legal name, current address, and valid e-mail address. In less than a minute I was an ordained minister, and was legally able to officiate marriages in the State of Missouri.[2]

Most churches or religious organizations have extensive training programs for their clergy. With the click of a mouse, I was able to forego all of that hassle and earn instant credibility. I even have the option of paying extra for a more impressive sounding title, a Doctorate of Divinity, or even sainthood.[3] With this new title I had a new legal status and was able to perform legally binding marriages. I also found that I had a new level of responsibility, for as a minister people took what I had to say on religious matters a little more seriously, and even came to me for advice more often. But I had to wonder, on what basis was my new authority actually founded upon? What really qualified me to perform in such a role?

Now don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against the ULC. Being an ordained minister through the ULC has allowed countless neopagans to perform legally binding marriages, including myself. Affiliation through the Universal Life Church has given many solitary neopagans a legitimacy that they may have been unable to assert otherwise. But such an open process for ordination can also allow some to present a legitimate claim to authority when they otherwise may not have such a claim.

Authority is a commodity, and it can be bought, sold, and marketed. As a commodity, authority acts as a tool that allows the possessor to present him or herself as having a certain skill or expertise that others should acknowledge and defer to. Often, this authority is associated with a specific area of expertise – advice on a medical problem from a person holding a doctorate of medicine would carry more weight than advice on the same problem from a person with a doctorate in political science. Authority can also come according to a hierarchy – an economist with a doctorate is taken more seriously than an economist with a master’s degree.

Subjects such as medicine, economics, and political science, however, have a systematic method for attaining credible authority, which metaphysical, magical, and religious subjects may not have. While there are some neopagan, metaphysical, and occult groups that require a certain amount of training in particular skills or theory, other groups may not recognize those credits, and some groups may have no such requirements. Individuals in the metaphysical community may “collect” credits from different groups and organizations, and use the accompanying trail of letters and titles after their names to establish themselves as Important People, allowing them to influence others. Even people who have undergone extensive training and accreditation may use their authority to intimidate others and assert the certainty of their beliefs and opinions over others. Those with authority in one area may also attempt to expand the influence of that authority into other areas, something that is especially easy to do when metaphysics and spirituality can inform politics or lifestyle.

So should we distrust anyone claiming authority over any subject mystical or metaphysical? Obviously not. It would be a waste to discount the experience and wisdom of others, and it would be hubris to assume that we know it all and don’t need expert opinions. But consideration should be given to the limitations of authority, how authority is granted or recognized, how authority can be verified, the matter of questioning authority, and how to deal with someone who is overstepping his or her authority.

Authority can be vested upon someone in e few different ways. An individual may have authority conferred upon him via an external organization, which generally has some manner of authority of its own that it shares with the individual. Often this transfer of authority takes place upon the completion of some manner of study program, workshop, or other training period. In such cases, the credibility of that authority depends greatly on the credibility given the parent organization: a person who achieves a certain grade in a local chapter of the OTO will probably have that achievement taken more seriously than a person who is initiated into a high level of a local group which worships aliens from Zeta Reticula.[4] Groups with more intense and long-term training programs are probably going to be regarded as more authoritative. Some groups may instead offer “certifications” after a short workshop, or may even be a metaphysical diploma mill, granting credentials to anyone willing to pay. Bottom line: if the credential is from a group you know and respect, respect it; if it is from a group you know and don’t respect, treat it cautiously; of it is from a group you’ve never heard of, check it out.

Authority in the magical arts is not always conferred by an external source, however. In some cases, an individual may claim mystical or magical authority from a powerful personal experience. Individuals following Shamanic paths often attain authority through such experiences, although charismatic individuals from other religious traditions claim them as well. Personally, I am cautious of such claims, as they tend to be a tool of people seeking guruship, but I certainly acknowledge that such experiences can and often are legitimate. One general rule is to confirm any insights from such experiences with what you already know to be true, especially regarding the tradition the individual making the claim comes from – and even that rule often doesn’t apply. Personal judgment is the strongest tool in one’s arsenal when evaluating such authority claims. With some claims of power or expertise, however, demonstrations are possible. A person who brags of his in-depth knowledge of all things tarot whom consistently performs poor readings may be claiming an un-earned authority, whereas a person who consistently demonstrates high competence in such an activity will most likely be due respect in the community

When dealing with someone in a position of authority, be it claimed explicitly or implicitly, questioning that claim or seeking to verify it is not unreasonable. Questioning the authority of one who claims accreditation should not prove overly cumbersome, as that person should be able to demonstrate credentials and the issuing organization can be investigated easily in our online age. Some claims depend largely upon reputation and vouching among the neopagan community at large – especially in the case of lineage traditions and apprenticeship arrangements – and may be difficult without suitable connections in the community. Other claims may be verified by competent demonstration of skills and abilities, ranging from magical and divination techniques to organizational and management abilities. In any case, questioning the validity of claimed authority need not be a hostile gesture, with polite questions such as “Who did you say you were accredited with?” “Who trained you, again?” or “What experience did you say you had in this field?” being perfectly acceptable and reasonable. Indeed, someone who reacts overly harshly to such queries invites more skepticism as to their claims.

Even if claims to authority check out and are trusted, individuals who are in positions of authority are still human and are therefore subject to humanity’s baser impulses at times. All of the religious training and asceticism in the world cannot excuse a Catholic priest who engages in inappropriate conduct with one of his parishioners, and the same should be said for a pagan priest, coven leader, teacher, author, or workshop instructor. This is not to say that everyone in a position of authority is a vicious predator, but it can happen, and one should be aware if certain boundaries are crossed.

Teachers or instructors who become too informal and even establish relationships with students are probably fairly common, and as long as that relationship doesn’t depend upon the authority of one person over the other or involve some manner of manipulation, it can generally be chalked up to poor teaching style than outright maliciousness. Some individuals, however, have been known to use their authority to impress members of the other sex, or possibly even influence potential sexual partners into submitting to them based upon their authority. In extreme cases, charismatic individuals running close-knit groups may even demand sexual favors for themselves (and others!) in exchange for favored status of the student. Great care should be taken when working with any group in which the leader requests or demands sexual contact for initiation.[5]

Other means of exploitation are possible when dealing with group leaders. Constant (and increasing) monetary donations may be solicited or demanded, for less and less return. Other lifestyle changes may be demanded of the student, be them dietary, behavioral, sexual, or otherwise – in many traditions these changes may be legitimate, but it is up to the student to decide if he or she wishes to submit to such changes. And there is always the risk of falling into the guru trap, in which a small group of students surrounds and adores a guru figure that sucks up their adulation and limits their free thinking capabilities. The line between a close-knit magical group and a group of adorers hanging on every word of their all-wise guru can be a very thin one in practice, so care should be taken in watching how dissent, differing opinions, and especially criticism of the leader and his or her favorites are handled.

In any community as diverse and wide-spread as neopaganism – and especially one with such a wide variety of specialty knowledge and special skills – there is bound to be some expression of authority of some people over others, even if that authority is fluid and overlaps different fields. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as with all aspects of establishing a magical mindset and lifestyle, are should be taken with regard to whose authority one wishes to submit to, and whom one wishes to hold in high regard. Authority figures are not necessarily to be feared or inherently distrusted, but neopagans should be careful who they grant authority to, so as to avoid the bloated egos of guru wannabes with lists of empty credentials, as well as the rare but genuine threat of predacious personalities out there. Without a more formal structure for granting and verifying authority claims, it is up to the individual to decide who is worth trusting, and as with all things magical, caution is advised.

[2] Missouri law may have changed over the years. I do not know if there are registration requirements now in place.
[3] The ULC now offers a Jedi Knight Certificate. No, I’m not kidding. <>
[4] Well, I suppose that depends on your own take on things, doesn’t it?
[5] I understand that some legitimate traditions employ these techniques, and that many of those that do have certain safeguards in place to monitor for this kind of behavior. I am not a member of those traditions myself, and as a rule do not trust anyone who wants me to sleep with them for my own magical or religious benefit. But that is my take on the matter, and I do not mean to demean or impugn upon traditions that do employ such techniques. Just think they’re creepy.

Copyright: and copy 2011 Chirotus Infinitum
No reproduction without permission from the author.


Chirotus Infinitum

Location: Shawnee Mission, Kansas


Author's Profile: To learn more about Chirotus Infinitum - Click HERE

Other Articles: Chirotus Infinitum has posted 15 additional articles- View them?

Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE

Email Chirotus Infinitum... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)

To send a private message to Chirotus Infinitum ...

Pagan Essays

Pagan Web
8,000 Links

Pagan Groups
Local Covens etc.

80,000 Profiles

Home - TWV Logos - Email US - Privacy
News and Information

Chapters: Pagan/Heathen Basics - Pagan BOOKS - Traditions, Paths & Religions - Popular Pagan Holidays - TV & Movies - Cats of the Craft - Festival Reviews - Festival Tips - White Pages (Resources) - Issues/Concerns - West Memphis 3 - Witch Hunts - Pagan Protection Tips - Healing Planet Earth

Your Voices: Adult Essays - Young Pagan Essays - Pagan Perspectives (On Hold) - WitchWars: Fire in the Craft - Gay Pagan - Pagan Parenting - Military - Pagan Passages

Pagan Music: Pagan Musicians - Bardic Circle at WitchVox - Free Music from TWV

Vox Central: About TWV - Wren: Words, Wrants and Wramblings - Guest Rants - Past Surveys - A Quest for Unity

Weekly Updates: Click HERE for an index of our weekly updates for the past 6 years

W.O.T.W. - World-Wide Networking

Your Town: A Link to YOUR Area Page (The largest listing of Witches, Pagans, Heathens and Wiccans on the Planet)

VoxLinks: The Pagan Web: 8,000 Listings

Your Witchvox Account: Log in Now - Create New Account - Request New Password - Log in Problems

Personal Listings: Pagan Clergy in Your Town - Adult Pagans - Young Pagans - Military Pagans

Events: Circles, Gatherings, Workshops & Festivals

Covens/Groups/Orgs: Local Groups Main Page

Other LOCAL Resources: Local Shops - Regional Sites - Local Notices - Global/National Notices - Local Skills & Services - Local Egroups - Political Freedom Fighters

Pagan Shopping: Online Shops Index - Original Crafters Sites - Auction Sites - Pagan Wholesalers - Pagan Local Shops

Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2019 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh.

Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections
(including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wren’s Nest, etc.)
are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witches’ Voice, Inc.
TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.

The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.

Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
Witches, Pagans
of The World

Search Articles

 Current Topic
 Editorial Guide

NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.

The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.

All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).