I heard it again…be a leader. Lead the young. This time it was in relation to politics – an environment that I would never lead a single person within. Seriously. If someone was hanging on my every word in regards to politics – they should not. I’m crass, I’m overly opinionated, and I’m uber cynical. I have my own ideas on politics, which match nothing I’ve heard from anyone else – at least not completely. Bits and pieces here and there. But that’s politics….then there’s being a Pagan.
I get it. I’ve been down this particular road a ton. The experiences I have had in thirty-plus years in Paganism should surely be able to distill at least a drop or two of wisdom for newer Pagans on their own Paths. At thirty-plus years, I somehow magickally become “an Elder”. Even though I know many, many Pagans with far more years on their Paths than I have. But do thirty-plus years of searching for my own Path really make me “an Elder”? Or is it just a sign of longevity – like the Ford Mustang line of vehicles. And can I really compare my own experiences over those thirty-plus years to what the younger generation of Pagans are going through?
My first five to six years on my Pagan Path are somewhat a blur. I joined a Wiccan coven and started learning from those folks about the basics of Paganism and Wicca. While the folks that were part of that group are people I still cherish – even the ones that I have fallen out of touch with – it was never a good fit for me. Sort of like a pair of shoes that are three sizes too big for you. There were certainly rough times through all of it, but there were good times as well. I could sit and detail the bad and good times, as best as I can remember them, but I am not really sure that what I went through in the mid to late 1980s is really comparable to what the Pagans of today go through. The idea of alternative religious beliefs, while still not absolutely accepted in modern society, has a far better level of acceptance than it did back in my time as an early Pagan.
I remember the older Pagans that I first met on my Path. They didn’t have some mystical air about them, even though some of them may have thought that. Their experience on their Path was certainly the fodder for some good conversations. However, none of them were what I was – an active duty military member that was a Pagan. That major disconnect (no pun intended) made me feel more “lost” than anything else. When I transferred overseas to Germany and met other military Pagans – I found them to be nearly as lost as I was. Plus, they were involved in major in-fighting and differences because each one of them came from a different Path – and felt disrespected when their Path wasn’t considered to be far superior to any other Path. When I departed the military and made my way back into the civilian world here in the United States, I showed up in Dallas at the end of the “Witch Wars”. Everyone I knew had gone underground or had left the DFW area altogether. Those who had stayed and had remained out in the open continued to tout their Tradition over others. No common ground was being sought, and the basic policy was “our side or scorched earth” – a styling I was never going to accept.
For me, longevity doesn’t make you a leader. Its not like we get badges or awards for the time we have been on our individual Paths. Leaders have something that makes them who they are…charisma, a desire to be in front and shape things. I do not have these qualities (at least I don’t think I do). Plus, my idea of leadership is getting dirty and doing – not directing. Which brings me back to the whole concept of leadership or at least where it lands with me. I keep hearing these mandates of “lead the youth” – well, to be honest, they do not want or need me as a leader. They are doing quite well on their own.
So where does that leave me in the equation? Easy. On the outside. Managing my daily Life to the best of my ability. At best, I’m a consultant. Always here to answer questions, but definitely not set into a position of leading anyone else anywhere. See, the younger generation is looking to make their own revolution – or at least it seems that way. As if they are wanting to redefine what Paganism is in their own collective perspective. And I am all for it. After all, it is their own collective Paths to walk. So long as they do not dictate to me how I should walk my own Path, I am fine with them. In fact, I applaud their energy and effort to create a Path that not only makes sense to them but also falls more correctly into their own lives. I’m not here to yell at the younger Pagans to get the fuck off my lawn. I’m also not here to play Gatekeeper to what their understanding of Paganism is or should be – according to some mystical set of rules that apparated out of thin air five minutes ago, which explains the rules of what is or isn’t this or that. Sorry, had enough of that bullshit with the weird Pagan Enough movement. I’m always here for advice or to answer what my own experience or opinion is – I am not here to tell you right from wrong. Your own moral compass should help you understand that.
In my current professional life, I am essentially an Information Technology (IT) Mercenary. If there’s something in IT to be done – I’ve probably done it. And I can be had for the highest price and the right location. In many ways, I feel the same within Paganism. I have experienced a lot. I work alone because it is what works best for me. But if you want an understanding of an experience you are having – ask, I might have an answer. And if I don’t, I might know someone who does that I can refer you to. Leadership? In the manner in which most folks think of that concept – that’s not who I am. I am not going to jump out in front of the pack and holler “charge!” I will find things to do and go do them. If others want to come and help – awesome. That’s as close to leadership as I will get. After all, I’m more of a consultant from where I sit.