I’m writing this blog a day early, as I will be on the road on Thursday and the weekend. It just makes sense to me to write the three blog posts for the week at the same time. Don’t ask, its my insanity. 😉
The following showed up on Facebook as a November 15th memory from three years ago (2018). I thought this might be a good starting place for this blog post.
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.Me, 11/15/2018, Facebook
We’ve all watched the entire issue happen before, particularly if we know someone who became popular in the wider Pagan community. A person writes a book, gives a series of public talks, offers classes, publishes/creates music, or any other number of things – any of which catch the fancy of the wider Pagan community. That popularity elevates them to an unspoken status of being a “BNP” – a “Big Name Pagan.” Their elevated status places them in a position of being consider some kind of “hero” or “mentor” to others. When those BNPs attend public gatherings, people tend to treat what has been conveyed in a talk as some kind of “holy writ.”
I’ve known a handful of these “popular” Pagans over the years. Many never wanted to be elevated to any status that placed them over others. My first was the late Pattalee Glass-Koentop, the author of two books in the late 1980s/early 1990s with Llewellyn. She was my grandmother Priestess in the first Wiccan group I joined. She was co-owner (I believe) of a locally run Pagan bookshop in Grand Prairie, Texas called “Flight of the Phoenix.” I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base in west Forth Worth, a fairly decent drive away (a little over an hour, as I recall). When I first met her, I had no idea that she had written a single book, much less two. I just knew she was the grandmother Priestess of the group I had joined, and that I could find Pagan books and music at her store. I always took the time to strike up a conversation with her, and she was very down-to-earth with me. When she finally noted that she had written two books, I purchased one and took it back to my dormitory room to read. When I returned, we struck up a conversation about the book. When we finished, she casually commented that she was pleased that I didn’t give her the “author treatment.” My reply basically noted that she was a human being just like anyone else. Besides, I noted that if I placed her on that pedestal, I couldn’t get a hug from her. Her saucy retort was that this was true, but I could look up her skirt. We both had a belly-laugh over that.
Over the years since then, I have encountered and befriended quite a few more Pagan authors, as well as those that some would refer to as BNPs. I’ve always found that these folks tend to be very aware of their infamous status and are always relieved when you treat them like anyone else. My experience has been that most folks don’t like the lofty heights that a pedestal or hero worship can place someone in. When I was podcasting, I ran into much the same issue…though not nearly the lofty heights that others may have encountered. Both of my podcasts never really took off, even though I put nearly a combined eleven years into that effort. I would surmise that my pedestal that I was offered would only be a few inches in height, but its not the height of the pedestal that seems to be the issue. It’s the matter of being held in a position of being “more important” than anyone else.
When I taught at the community college, I got some similar experience from various students over those three years. After my very first semester, I was determined to extinguish the attitude that I was unapproachable as a professor. That somehow, just accepting the role of professor in the classroom, made me better than my students. That was never true though. After that first semester, I started every first day of class by reminding the students that I was no expert in Information Technology. That the difference between myself and them was merely years of experience. The amount of experience doesn’t make one better than others. It merely means that I’ve done things in that discipline a lot more often than the student has done.
I’ve been the neophyte. I’ve been the student. I’ve been the inexperienced one. I’ve been the one doubting every new step because the environment is new and unfamiliar. And to be completely honest, every BNP that is out there – they’ve been in the same spot too. If they claim that they haven’t, they are being completely dishonest. No one crawls out of the womb with the knowledge of someone that has mastered a discipline. Mastery of a discipline takes a lot of study, a lot of hard work, a lot of experience, and a lot of mistakes. Everyone had the same starting location. Some learn faster and deeper than others. Its part of what makes us all different and individual.
I have my heroes – people that I look at and wish I had their talent. The late-Cliff Burton, the late-Randy Rhoads, the late-“Dimebag” Darrel Abbott, Joe Satriani, and many of the Pagan authors that I have met, as well as conversed with. But I don’t want to place them above me…any of them. I prefer them at eye level, which isn’t always possible. For example, Kristoffer Hughes TOWERS over me. I think I am just below being able to look him in the armpit. With that said, Kristoffer gives the most amazing hugs, where I get dangled a foot off the ground. These folks (and so many more) have touched my life in such profound ways. They are all heroes to me. They are all mentors to my living life the best that I can. But I don’t want to place any of them on a pedestal. I’m only 5’5”. 😊
Remember, all these Pagan folks that you read. All the Pagan folk whose music you purchase and listen to. All of us Pagan bloggers. We’re all people, just like you. I would almost bet the farm that all of them would prefer that you treat them like they were your neighbor, and you were just talking out by your respective driveways. I know I appreciate it when people do that to me – particularly when they tell me that they read my blog and are inspired by what I write. I don’t want to be placed on a pedestal. Besides, I’m scared of heights. No, really I am.