Over on Facebook, I let folks write me questions on Facebook Messenger, which I turn into short anonymous questions that I answer as short statuses. Sometimes, the questions get a bit squishy and have some non-sensical attitudes to them. Sometimes, the questions can touch a nerve with me, such as the one below. I’ll explain more in a little bit…
PM Q: In light of John Beckett’s recent post on Pagan Leadership, how would you use his post to help define yourself in terms of being a Pagan Leader? Before you poo-poo the idea, you are a Pagan Leader to many of the people who read what you write.
Holy smeg. Well, first off, I read John‘s recent blog post on the Thirteen Questions for Pagan Leaders. I thought it was an excellent blog post with lots of information for someone looking to be a leader of a group. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to be the leader of a group of Pagans. That said, that’s not me. I’m not in any level of desire of being in charge of a group or directing the ritual practices of a group. I’m not built that way and I would turn that potential “job” down every single time that anyone would offer it to me. I’m an individual Pagan…a Solitary or Solitaire or Solo practitioner…whatever you want to call it. It is just me here.
Sure, I grok the idea that I have some element of leadership in the fact that I am willing to stick my neck out there and offer my opinions and perspectives via my blog. None of that means that I am the be-all, end-all of anything related to Paganism, aside from what I do as an individual. But that’s it. And to be bluntly honest, that’s about as far as I am willing to dip my toe into those waters. Ya know, perhaps I should turn all of this into a blog post…provided I can find more to really say beyond this…I am flattered that people would think of me as some kind of a “leader” but I am definitely not here to direct anyone else’s spiritual path other than my own. In the words of Edgar Friendly: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes, people come along.”
Now, my problem here isn’t John or even his excellent blog post – though I have had that posited to me privately since I wrote this. I know John outside of Facebook and the internet. We are very different Druids, which is understandable given that we are unique individuals who walk our Paths in the manner we each need to. I like John, and consider him to be a good friend. Yes, I disagree with him on some perspectives that he provides, but again – I am me. I know how to handle things in relation to what works for me. I have mentioned it before – we are not clones of one another. And if we were, I’d be disappointed in both of us in that regard. But as I noted, this isn’t the hot-button item for me. It certainly seems to be for a few folks who have approached me over that status.
No, my issue is being lifted up into a position of being a “leader” – being placed on a pedestal, of sorts. All (seemingly) because I am willing to provide my perspective here on this blog. Most of what I write here is either my experience or my perspective. It is not meant to be canonical law, but a potential starting point for others to explore from. I have no desire to be placed upon a pedestal and touted as the “answer” to how Paganism should be done. Shit folks, I’m scared of heights. Putting me up in high air will require me to find a way down back to level ground.
I was also asked about what mentors I have. I replied as follows…
PM Q: Who do you count as a mentor?
Oh wow. Uhm, I’m not sure I can count anyone as a mentor nor would I want to curse them with that title or position within my life. A lot of that is placing them on pedestals, no matter how small or large, and that is just a lofty location I would not want to put anyone.
I do have folks that I consider to as influences in my life. Cat Treadwell, Nimue Brown, and Joanna van der Hoeven have all played roles in my growth as a Pagan and a Druid to this point in my life. Their books and blogs have served as starting points for discussions in my own life on topics that I needed to sort out. Kristoffer Hughes continues to be an inspiration on how to approach life with a zest and passion for the good stuff, in whatever form it can be found. And there are so many others that I could continue to name for one reason or another…essentially, if you are in my life, I draw a piece of my daily passion or a slice of growing from you…and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But none of these folks are mentors or folks that I look up to. Each of them are people I look in the eye…because to treat them any differently would be an injustice to what they have helped me to discover for myself – people are people. Besides I cannot get awesome hugs from them when they are so far above me…its far easier if we are standing toe-to-toe with one another. And hugs…are everything.
When I was on a Wiccan Path, my High Priest and High Priestess took a lot of time with me to drum out some of the military perspectives on training that I had accumulated in my first two years in the Air Force. They both were instrumental in getting me to not place people in positions of power over me. Our conversations were typically held in their living room or around their dining room table. I could interrupt, argue, debate, disagree or agree with any topic that was brought up. So long as I was able to come to a level of reasoning on my own – even when it was diametrically opposed to what either of them was saying – everything was ok. Things were kept on a conversational level. If emotion crept into what I was trying to say, I was asked to stop and consider the why of that emotion before continuing. Everyone in the conversation was an equal, even if our understanding of a topic may not have been.
J & M helped me to realize that no one needed to be above anyone else in a conversation. Everyone could be afforded equal respect. There was no rank. There was no deference to an individual’s experience. No one made canonical law. Everyone was expected to turn over the topic for themselves and determine where the truth was actually located. Any power dynamic that was provided to our High Priest and High Priestess was done under an understanding that what we handed over was more precious than anything in the world – and that this trust would be handed back as soon as ritual or whatever need was being covered by that dynamic was completed.
I am not an expert on anything, except on what will or won’t work for me. I can make suggestions on what works for me and how that might translate for you. However, my expectation is that if you do decide to try what I did or what I offer as a possibility – that you will imitate it the first time, and then alter it to meet your specific needs each successive time after. That, in essence, you will make the ritual your own, you will make the magick your own, you will make the prayer your own. Spiritual Practice is not a cookie cutter world. At least not from where I sit.
I have no need to be considered an expert for anyone except myself. I am happy to mentor people in the basics of what I do, but the expectation that changes will be made to tailor things to you and your needs will always be there. I really am no leader. I run a group of one. Me. I’m no teacher, at least that is what I keep telling myself. But to some degree, we are all teachers. The younger generations watch to see what we “elder” Pagans are doing. And then they alter those practices, bend these practices to their will and needs….as it should be. But please….please…do not set me on a pedestal. I really am scared of heights…let’s keep this on level ground, where we can look in one another’s eyes while we talk and discuss…