I first sent this to an emailing list a
few years ago, with intent to spark discussion. Some recent comments
Ive read on several other lists and a few websites have
prompted me to post this here, for the same reason. I will update
this to discuss the events before, during and after the March
2001 Pagan Summit, Real Soon Now.
I am so tired of people in our community
calling themselves leaders when they have a following
of six or ten people at most, or who claim to be the Queens
or Kings of imaginary Ancient Secret Traditions,
the existence of which they cant, naturally, provide any
evidence to support (or it wouldnt be a secret anymore).
Apparently, if someone has a Polish or Swiss last name, and they
write a book about Polish or Swiss Witchcraft, we are expected
to swallow their claims of expertise and authority, and acclaim
them as Pagan leaders.
Granted, Im a curmudgeon, but Id
like to see the term Pagan leader limited to people
(a) over 35 with (b) at least ten years of leadership involving
(c) publically countable heads in the 100+ numbers, and (d) a
track record of sane, sensible and successful public relations
and educational work with the general public.
In other words, experience (not just
interest) in leading (not just bossing) Neopagans, over
a long enough period of time to allow others to judge
their competance and to develop credibility within
the community and with the secular media. Such leadership might
be manifested through founding long-lasting organizations or
institutions, writing books that are accepted as truly influential
in a positive manner by large portions of the community, running
major websites or print periodicals with wide distribution, creating
networking systems that link large numbers of other leaders,
etc. In other words, those we call leaders should
be the makers, shapers, and transmitters of opinions and arguments
that move our community forward towards healthy esoteric and
exoteric growth, while showing the personal courage and stamina
to face up to both internal and external opposition.
Pagan leadership can be seen as local,
regional, national, or global but as the arena grows,
so should the standards by which we judge the experience, competetance
and credibility necessary to be considered a leader.
Would I make an exception for a kid who has
organized and led a national or regional Teen Pagans
or College Pagans group, or a wildly popular website
visited regularly by hundreds of young Pagans? Probably, if the
only missing factors were age and years of activity.
But just having taken ritual roles and taught
a few classes? My students do that in their first years of study
but they dont become leaders by doing
so. Running a coven of eight people for twenty years doesnt
make one a leader either just the big frog in a tiny pond.
Hosting a regular online Pagan chat probably doesn't count as
leadership, unless there are scores of regular participants over
a period of several years. (Eventually, were going to have
to figure out ways to judge the territorial size
of online events and resources, so as to distinguish between
tiny local events with few participants, larger regional
ones with many more participants, etc.) Publishing a book or
two doesnt make the author a leader, says this writer,
for we all know thoroughly wretched, ignorant, plagiarized, and/or
utterly forgettable books that have been published by Pagans.
Okay, so maybe it could make one a bad leader!
Ive often said that most of the best
and worst things about American Neopagans have to do with us
being Americans first and Neopagans second. The hyper-egalitarianism
that plagues American Neopaganism is rooted in our national ambivalence
towards nobility Americans as a whole hated
King George III but loved Princess Diana, despise artists and
composers (unless they make lots of money) but envy corporate
pirates, sneer at famous intellectuals and praise famous football
This ambivalence towards nobility/superiority/leadership
combined in our overlapping Pagan, Feminist, LesBiGayTransexual,
and other culturally marginalized communities, in the 60s
and 70s with counterculture dogmas about the superiority
of the peasantry or workers over all other parts of society.
Our knowledge of the evil actions of secular and religious dictators,
filtered through the Christian Dualism
that saturates Western culture, has led (you should pardon the
expression) all too many (of even the smartest of us) to the
seductive conclusion, that if the tyranny of the minority is
absolutely wrong then the tryanny of the majority must be absolutely
I believe that true leadership
in a religious community is the result of particular individuals,
with genuine talents, training, and experience, following an
authentic vocation in answer to a real calling
from a Divinity, for enough years to develop both spiritual depth
and an instinct for making ever-improving decisions in
other words, wisdom. Leadership is not something
you can buy, steal, demand or develop overnight. It takes time
and sacrifice another concept people in our communities
are nervous about discussing and all too often the first
items sacrificed must be our pride, our families, and whatever
hopes we may have had for privacy, dignity, and a good name.
We have a few score people like that in the
Neopagan community and more who are trying to grow into that
level of leadership. But our community also has an enormous number
of poseurs, frauds, politically correct ideologues, and egotists
calling themselves leaders and expecting to be treated
as such immediately upon their physical or electronic arrival.
I would strongly prefer that we limit the
use of the term Pagan leader to people who are already
functioning as what Ive described to be true
leaders, with a verifiable track record. Is that democratic?
Of course not. But it might be wise.
As always, these words are In My Not-So-Humble
Opinion. Your Mana May Vary.