I have been seeing a few comments and posts popping up around the inter-webs lately – discussing the needs for Pagan Leadership, and some of the problems with getting leaders to step forward. In reading through the comments – and the counter-comments – and the various posts by individuals – I started to let the idea brew around in the ol’ pot of stew I call my brain. The result was that I could not come up with any solution to the so-called “problem” — and found myself left with even more questions. I am sure over time, I will find some answers to my questions…or at least answers that will let me move on in my own understanding of the issue. But I am sure that in satisfying those questions – even more questions will result….which, for me, may be a natural process – but in trying to find proper “leadership” will not bring about a result whatsoever.
The “Big Tent” of Paganism
When I started reading some of the posts and commentaries on all of this, I noticed a simple division had taken place. There were essentially two camps. One, saw the problem with getting individuals to step up into the positions of leadership that were the “correctly” qualified (more on that here in a bit). The other, wondered how any individual could be set aside as a leader over a wide-range of belief systems that preferred to have autonomous control and authority? It just so happens, I fall into the second group here. I am a Solitary Pagan on a Path of Druidry. And while I am a student in the Bardic Grade of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids – I have no group that I engage with. I know that this is a similar case to many others around the world as well. And this does not even bring to bear how Wiccans, or Asatru, or any other faith system will react to having a member of a different faith be their “leader” – appointed or anointed. John Beckett has talked about the concept of the “Big Tent Paganism” on his blog – Under the Ancient Oaks – quite a few times. And while I am not overly enthused with the over-arching concept – there is a point in all of what he has said. And it brings me to the biggest question I have concerning this idea of Pagan Leadership…
How in the Nine Hells can there be a “leader” of a group of autonomous and independent belief systems, when the leader is likely not to represent a large majority of the groups and individuals that they have become a “leader” for?
Which brings me back to the other side of the discussion table. Setting aside the “Big-Tent” issue – let us assume that a leader can be found – and that various systems of belief will allow such an individual to have authority over and speak on behalf of them. One of the lamentations I have seen on this, is that many of the folks who step forward to assume that mantle of leadership are not always “qualified” to be leaders. That the “qualified” individuals will not step forward and assume the position of leadership for a wide variety of reasons (pick your poison here, but the reasons are not necessarily germane to the issue here). So, what qualifies one to be a leader? In several instances, I have seen people set forth authors, lecturers, and other well-known types as good starting positions. That, in doing whatever it is that makes them well known, sets them forward as leaders of the community. Really? If I followed that logic, my status as one of the longest running podcasters in the Pagan community – with my two podcasts (the defunct “From the Edge of the Circle” and the current “Upon a Pagan Path“) – would entitle me to step forward and claim such a mantle of leadership. I am not sure I would even desire to make such a claim. Which comes back around to the position that the ones that would be good leaders, typically do not step forward to be leaders for [x] reason. But again, I am led back to my own manner of thinking – where I do not believe that I can be a leader of any group of people, where my beliefs and theirs will not necessarily match up.
But what about your position in helping out with the DFW Pagan Pride Day? Are you not assuming a position of leadership with a wide-range of Pagan belief systems? I certainly hope that no one sees me as being a leader because I volunteer to help out with Pagan Pride Day here in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. I help out, because I believe this this event is a wonderful way for Pagans to discover one another, and to be able to come together and talk – as well as a way to have non-Pagans find out first-hand how wide-ranging Paganism is, and that we are no different than they are. I am not assuming a position of leadership by doing this. I am finding a way to be helpful to my community – to give back to my community – some of the same reasons that I have been podcasting for so long. None of that bestows any position of leadership upon me. To quote Dennis:
Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you.
So, What About Pagan Leadership?
To be completely honest, I do not know. I just cannot see leadership festooned upon someone simply because they do a podcast or write a book or publish a blog. I am quite sure there will be those who disagree with me. As the old saying goes, ask a three Druids a question and you will get seven answers. From my own perspective, I am just a little unsure of how followers of belief systems that espouse a heavy system of autonomy and independence would be able to set forth a leader – even in a spokes-person role – that all would readily agree upon and completely support. Its definitely a discussion to watch and listen, and even participate in. I am sure it can – and most likely will – create huge rifts between both sides of the argument. I am also quite sure it is a discussion that will need to be had. After all, our Pagan community is beginning to grow up, and is starting to ask the hard questions, such as this. How it gets answered? I have no bloody idea. But I am willing to listening and discuss.