What Makes a Pagan Leader?
Article ID: 13280
Age Group: Adult
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Author: Gaia Ivorywitch [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 12th. 2009
Times Viewed: 3,283
Being one of several ordained Pagan Ministers at a Pagan Church, we get lots of questions from folks just starting out on their paths. The most frequent question is "How do I get to do what YOU do? I want to help!" Well, that's a very loaded question and it doesn't have an easy answer.
Most people have sense enough to know that you can't just walk up and assume a leadership position without several years of hard work and earning the communities' respect. For our church, we have a training system for those who wish to pursue the Ministerial path, but even if one passes through it, the last word on whether someone becomes a Minister is up to the current Ministers and Elders of the Church. By association, these people also serve the greater community at large and must be good representatives of the Church as well.
So how do the ministers judge whether someone is ready or not to be a leader in the community? I can only answer this for myself. I guess that's what makes the 'group mind' of the Clergy Council so important when it comes to decisions like this - because we all look for different things. And it also depends if you mean leadership within the church or in the general neo-pagan community.
That said, this is what I came up with off the top of my head.
1. Minister's training is NOT therapy. If you need therapy, get it before you start the training - it's not fair to the teachers or the other students to wait while you figure out if this is where you're supposed to be or not. If you exhibit behavior, habits, addictions, etc. that might one day hinder you in being of service to others, take a cue. Knowing and working within our limitations is just as important as being a 'leader'.
2. Dependability. Showing up ON TIME, and that does NOT mean Pagan Standard Time. Being ready to do whatever needs to be done without quibble or complaint. You don't get to choose what you like to do, you do what needs to be done and grow to like that...not the other way around.
3. Responsibility. If you cannot create a mundane life that provides for all your needs without burdening other people, you're not ready to be a leader. If you cannot get and hold a job, provide or arrange for regular transport to where you need to go (like figuring out a bus schedule) or are chronically unemployed, or just generally don't do what you say you will do, you cannot expect to be taken seriously as a role model for leadership.
In this one thing, the pagan community and the outside world are the same. If you are unemployable in the outside world - what could you possibly have to offer in a leadership role? That said, there is NO SHAME in occupying a support role - in fact, there are far more of those needed than there are people to go around! People emulate leaders. Look in the mirror and decide if you would be embarrassed if the whole world decided to be just like you.
4. Know what you believe and be able to converse intelligently with others about it. Live what you believe. Be above reproach - no drama, no run ins with law enforcement, conduct yourself with dignity and abide as much as possible to the laws of man (c'mon, we ALL speed once in a while!) .
Respect the rights of others and their choice of belief system, even if you disagree with them. Never speak disparagingly of another's path. If you follow a path that promotes standards of excellence, that's one thing. If you follow a path that denigrates or represses others, that's another. Repression of ANYONE based on religion, sex, race, sexual orientation, or choice of non-harmful lifestyle is not a characteristic of leadership.
5. Tell the truth. Always. When you lie to people, you lose your trustworthiness.
6. Never assume you are entitled to a leadership role based on YOUR idea of what you've done to prove yourself. When people start coming to you for advice, trusting you with their problems, and looking to you for opinions, you are only at the threshold of leadership. It takes BEING AND DOING - for years and even then, there has to be a vacancy for your type of leadership. Always give credit where it's due.
7. Be dedicated. Once you give your word, keep it to the best of your ability. If you don't know for certain you can do something or be somewhere for something specific, don't offer your word. Show up and offer a hand when you can. Keep asking. An opportunity will arrive shortly - count on it! Always do for the betterment of the church, whether it results in you being a leader or not. It's not a reward system, not an ego trip - it's effing hard WORK!
8. Have the ability to say "No." This is probably the most important of the characteristics of a leader. Without this ability, no leader will lead for long. You will wind up burnt out, discouraged, frustrated and bitter and unable to find the joy in your spiritual path.
9. Accept that sometimes the answer is, and may always be, 'No'. This can mean different things to different people and sometimes, if you wait long enough, are patient enough, or even just give up, what you wish for becomes possible. Kinda like love....
10. NEVER offer spells for money. You are entitled to whatever exchange of energy, including money that can be agreed upon for materials, ingredients, your time, and your expenses. But never offer or consent to work for another in exchange for money. Help out of love or need, not out of pity or greed as both of these bind you to the situation.
11. NEVER threaten another with magic. NEVER accuse another of negative magic. NEVER gossip about another's working. Things may not always be as they appear and you can never afford to guess at another's intent. Always conduct your activities with a care about how it might appear to others. Regardless of your intent, others may interpret your actions differently.
12. NEVER break another's trust in confidentiality. You will lose respect, trust, and friends.
13. Once you have made a vow, even if your life changes, the vow comes first. Make decisions that enable you to keep your vows while navigating through life's changes and living life fully.
There's probably more, in fact I am sure of it, because each Pagan Leader or Minister will have their own version of this list. I guess the main thing to remember is that leadership is usually a life path, with a lifetime commitment. Sure, you can retire, you can retreat, but the community will come after you, and they will always find you. Running away is not an option.
What I would love to see is a solidifying of the pagan community. People who others are proud to know and emulate. So much of the pagan reputation is built on the rumors of orgies and drug use and frequent partying. I'd like to see the tide turn some day, and pagans become known as ethical, law-abiding people of integrity. I don't want to get too negative, but there is a LOT of room for improvement.
I guess that goes back to what Gandhi said, 'Be the change you want to see'. Do that...and your life will never be the same. That much, I can guarantee you.
Copyright: Gaia IvoryWitch 2009
Location: Knoxville, Tennessee
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