Not a Leader…a Consultant

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.

–T /|\

Distinctive Howls in the Crowd – Thoughts on Leadership

Leadership. Priesthood. Yeah, I am back on to these two points again. I keep getting pushed into the concept of being a Priest. I have essentially come to some manner of understanding what that will require of me. I have started stumbling along that Path, trying to figure out where I need to be taken with it. Eventually I’ll figure it out…or it will figure me out. One or the other. But everything circles back to the perspective of leadership – a cloak I care not to wear.

I have never considered myself to be any type of leader. Sure, I can talk with folks and help them see their own Paths through Life. I’m more of a counselor in that regard…not really a leader. Yeah, people can see how I manage my own way through Life — navigating the waters of one seriously munged up mundane life, dealing with my own Trickster Gods, and continuily working my way through the Gwers work I have within the Druid order (OBOD) that I am a part of. Does that make me a leader? I doubt it.

Certainly, I have written no books. I have some aspirations in that direction, but Life needs to calm down a bit more first. I certainly do not lead my own Grove, nor do I have any inclination to do anything of the sort. Most of my Spiritual Life has been done on my own, and I am fairly content with that. I do not give talks anywhere…though I am not adverse to this. I have just never been asked, nor would I have any idea how to go about doing so. Besides, would I have enough to say that others would find useful or informative? if you could see me right now, I would be shrugging my shoulders over-exaggeratedly with a questioning look on my face. Plus, I’d dig even further and ask if any of this REALLY makes someone a leader?

Nimue Brown posted an excellent blog post today (14 February 2020) on just the perspective of leadership within Druidry. Its a short blurb of thought, which I believe is an excellent starting point for someone wanting to look into the aspects of what makes up the idea of leadership within Druidry. In particular….

Druidry as it exists today has grown out of that revival period stuff, and become something a lot more anarchic. There’s a much more democratic sharing of ideas, much more room for more people to be heard…

I believe that this is an excellent example of the way Druidry works for me. There is no need for me to be a leader of anything. Nor do I need to find leadership from anyone else to be a Druid. Leadership is a cloak worn by those provided that relative position by others. For instance, within OBOD, Philip Carr-Gomm, the current Chosen Chief will be passing that cloak of leadership to Eimear Burke in an installation ceremony in June of this year (2020). As a member of the Order, I see both of these folks as leaders of the Order. If I did not, I would have left the Order a long while back. They do not dictate how Druidry is for me, rather they communicate how Druidry works for them. From that communication, (verbal, visual, what-have-you), I can distill parts of that which works for me, and set aside that which does not. In my opinion, leadership is not about dictating how things are to be done. Rather it is about opening others’ perspectives about how to proceed – even when those approaches are distinctly different from your own.

Quite a few people see me as a leader of some type. That I have the charisma (ha!) and approach to bring a group of people together. The reality is that anyone can do this sort of stuff. You just have to have the internal drive to get there. You have to have that burning vision to approach what you are trying to accomplish, coupled with that unflinching nature to get to that point – no matter what. The dream of what you want harnessed to the drive and energy to get there.

I am not necessarily that guy. Really. I’m not. I have quoted Edgar Friendly from the movie “The Demolition Man” before. I’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along. To a large degree that is true. I am not looking or wanting to have people following everything I saw or hanging on every word I say or write. I am not built that way. Leadership to me is about doing – not saying. The people that I look to for leadership? Those are the ones you will find me looking to. And rolling up my sleeves to work right down there beside them – provided I can see and relate to their dream or vision.

Is that me? Well, I can hardly give you an answer to that. I honestly have no idea. Nor do I need anyone to convey to me that it is or is not true. But I do know this – we had better be careful about those who we entrust the perspective of leadership in. Because we are saying that we are buying into the dream and/or vision that they are expressing. We are sharing those dreams and visions with them. Is our input being allowed? Are our voices being heard? Or are we crying out with the crowd because we like the howls of the wolves and coyotes around us? Its your energy. Its your perspective. Be sure that your voice is being distinctively heard, not buried in the chorus. Just my two quid on that.

Growing Pagans Means Growing Leaders Too

For the last few days (since Wednesday), I have been trying to come up with something to write about – and just have not found anything rattling around in the empty can of my brain. I’ve also been watching the televised aspects of the funeral of Representative Elijah Cummings. Both celebrations have been wonderful to witness, and have also shown the depth of this man’s passion for not only his constituents, but also for human beings the world over. There was a quote of his that kept being bandied about over and over, which got me into a thought process which I am about to detail here.

Our children are the living messengers we send to a future we will never see… –Rep. Elijah Cummings

This particular quote was backed up by a lot of things that Rep. Cummings did for the youth of his Congressional district, as well as people all over the country and the world. His actions backed his words to the nth degree. He provided opportunities for younger children that might never have been afforded to them, allowing for experiences that will surely change their lives. His goal was to provide the chance for our divided society to find common ground, heal from that point, and grow from that healing. That was his vision, and its a beautiful one to behold. I do await the fruits that his efforts will create through others that will carry on that legacy. And this brought a thought to my mind…

What are we doing to grow as a wider Pagan community? Now, you have heard me talk about how the children are important to whatever future we grow as Pagans, but as Pagans, we also tend to allow our children to explore and find their own way through their Spiritual needs. And for the most part, I’d wager that most of those children will wind up picking a Spiritual path with a touch more structure, most likely a Christian one. No slight to a non-Christian faith, but it makes sense for children to lean towards something a bit more organized…a faith where the large majority of their friends are. And to be completely honest, this is not a bad thing. Most of those children raised in Pagan families will likely carry the moral values that they were taught by their parents and other Pagan adults into their new faith. We can only hope that they remain strong in those aspects when encounter the less Christian aspects within the Christian faith in their later lives. But its not the young children that I am leaning towards in my question. What are we doing for the younger Pagans in our community?

Growing Up and the Seeds of Leadership

Everyone can remember their painful, awkward first steps into Paganism – whatever that may be. I remember mine. It was the beginning of Fall in 1986. I was stationed at Carswell Air Force Base. I had been calling various Bulletin Boards in the local area, and participating in the discussions. Eventually, I came across one called “The Church Mouse”. I talked with several of the folks there, including a pair of Pagans. One was a Witch, the other a Ceremonial Magician. We eventually agreed to meetup at a bar called “The Pig and Whistle Pub” in west Fort Worth, not far from the base. We drank a few pints, through some darts and did a lot of talking. I explained my concept of believing that all things had souls, and were part of energy that moved at a slower speed than we could comprehend. I was told that this was Animism, a term I had never heard before. I also explained that I believed that the Roman and Greek Gods were real, and were distinct Beings that we could experience with some thought and patience. It was then that I encountered the concept of Polytheism. And through those two conversations, I had the concept of Paganism explained to me…and I started to realize that what I believed had names, and definitions. I began to realize I was a Pagan.

Me – USAF – July 1992

Now, in 1988, I became part of a group of Wiccans. I was the one that lived the furthest away (they were in North Dallas), and my weekend shift work at the Data Processing Center did not allow me to always join in with the group. I did run into issues with my base Chaplaincy, particularly when my shift (all Charismatic preachers in their off time) found out what I believed. I was warned that my behavior was considered to be “insubordinate” and told to give up my beliefs. I stood my ground, but I did not have anywhere that I could turn to for help. My group were folks who lived fairly closeted lives, so I could not seek assistance without exposing them. So with nowhere else to go, on a day off, I went to a Pagan shop (the only one I knew at the time) in Grand Prairie called “Flight of the Phoenix”. This was where my coven’s Grandmother Priestess was.

She was openly Pagan, and an author – Pattalee Glass-Koentop. I thought she might be able to point me in the right direction. She went into the back of the store and returned with a military manual I had never seen before, something called “Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains“. She explained it was a US Army manual that was used to help Chaplains understand the beliefs of military members that they encountered. Furthermore, military chaplains had to respect the rights and religious practices of everyone, along with insuring command did not trample those rights. Armed with this material, I went back to the Chaplaincy office that afternoon, and explained to our unit-assigned Chaplain how my rights were being trampled over the previous exchange.

In fact, still armed with this material, I joined in two motions to the Department of Defense to change certain aspects of military practice towards minority beliefs. I helped with the argument to change the religious affiliation line on military dog tags for minority beliefs from “Other” to whatever the military member preferred. This allowed for better identification of individuals that were killed on the battlefield to have their respective rites administered correctly. The second initiative was to be accommodated with space by the Chaplaincy for minority groups with assigned lay-leaders. This would keep military personnel from breaking military housing rules by holding religious ceremonies in their apartment housing.

Of course, in both of those matters, I was only one individual of many – along with the folks from Circle Sanctuary and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church of Wicca, who did much of the advocacy state-side. In fact, at my very last Pantheacon attendance, I came across Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary and was able to offer my thanks for all of her and Circle Sanctuary’s assistance. That was quite a moment for me.

Nice story, huh? But there’s a point to all of this. See, thanks to Pattalee’s assistance, I found my ability to stand up to being treated in a bad way. I grew as a Pagan in that moment. I found my ability to stand up and protest were inequality was being done to military members in other issues. I learned to fight back, but to be respectful when doing so. It was Pattalee’s advice that helped me to see where I could do my best to make a difference. Yeah, I continually refuse the aspect of being a leader, but I have done some things that do place that squarely on my shoulders as well.

Younger Pagans

Remember the quote from Rep. Cummings? Our younger Pagans are those messengers to the future. And it is a future that I will likely never see. I’m fifty-four now (October 1st). I’m in failing health. I have diabetes. I am approaching (as slowly as I can) kidney failure. Let’s face the facts…I always twist away from the idea of being an Elder…but I am. This year starts my thirty-fourth as a Pagan, a label I have never shied away from. I am not going to live forever (though I would love to – I always wanted to go through life with a sword). The future of Paganism is not with me, it is with the younger generation of Pagans. Not only do we need to help them grow beyond the basic concepts that white-lighters tend to espouse, we also need to help grow them for the concepts of leadership. Sure, I have heard many Pagans moan and groan about a coming war with monotheism…I don’t grok that. As I have said before, I do not go looking for a fight. But I will defend my right to live in peace and exist with my own connection/understanding of the world. Not only my right, but the right of EVERYONE. Oh, and mess with those that I love…I will end you.

Moments like this, standing in front of the fire and thanking the Gods for the safe travels of all, used to frighten me. (Picture by John Beckett)

As our younger Pagans grow, we need to help teach them for those roles of leaders that will seek to defend our rights to live and exist, but also to respect the rights of others to live and exist – and to borrow from the Wiccans – so long as no one is harmed. These younger Pagans will be the Elders of the future. They will be the ones that pass on what we know. They are the ones that will tell our tales, our stories, the stories of our Gods, and mentor their future generations to pass that knowledge, those legends, our stories, and theirs to newer generations.

In a manner of speaking, it is odd for me to be writing something like thus. My own Paganism is one of daily existence and experience – not trying to manipulate the coming experiences of days that have not yet arrived. I strive to live in the now, and yet here I am writing about the future. This is because I have realized two things. First, this knowledge and experiences I have acquired, I am sure that someone in a future generation will find some of this useful in working through their own Spirituality. Gods only know how long my blog will ever exist into the future, but maybe it exists long enough to help someone else. Second, I don’t want to see these traditions die out. I want a Paganism that goes into the future, flourishes and becomes something bigger than any of us imagined. I believe in this experiential approach to our lives. Enough that I hope it is built upon, and exposed to wider group of people. But for that to happen, while we live our existence in day-to-day segments, we also need to build up our knowledge in the younger Pagans, and allow them to expand and grow that knowledge into the future. Sending the messengers with rigid dogma won’t allow things to grow…it will stunt the growth of what we have. We build our future in the knowledge of these younger Pagans, but they will nurture it and explore to make it into something of their own making as well.

Limitations, Faults, Perspective…I Can Lead When Everyone is My Peer

One of the more persistent questions I get is why I am not a leader of a group, or in essence, why I am not a Priest of a group. Its not the first question that I ever get when people talk with me about being a Pagan, but its certainly near the top – typically after the questioning steps into the area of where are the other Pagans…

Part of it, is me knowing my limitations. Another part of it comes from the freedom that I have as a solo Pagan. And yet another part comes from the experience of being a part of a group, quite a few times, in the past.

Groups are wonderful things, particularly when you have leader types that are experience in handling all the small things that come up with a group of folks, all at varied degrees of understanding and experience within a group. Many of those folks have wonderful traits of being nurturing spirits, the kind of person that encourages others. I have some of that quality, but not enough to constantly be there every step of the way, particularly for those that are young on their Path. I have expectations of folks being able to handle the smaller steps of their beliefs, being able to pick themselves up after they fall down, and coming for help when things are a bit more than a skinned knee. The problem there is helping new Pagans understand what the difference is between a broken bone and a skinned knee. I have a degree of patience when it comes to stuff like this, after all I was there at one time in my own walk, but my patience is not infinite. In that respect, I’d be a mediocre leader of folks; definitely not enough to be a sustaining part of leadership or helping the overall growth of the group. Seriously, I know my limitations, and am well aware of where I would fail overall. Now, with others available to help share the load of leadership, those with the ability to handle the roles that I manage so poorly, the narrative changes quite drastically. Its not that I don’t want to share the aspect of leadership, I am not a good leader without some measure of a peer in one or more forms. Me as a singular leader can be a bad thing.

A leader of a group has other responsibilities that can tie down aspects of their freedom, in my opinion. Leadership has to make decisions for others, and sometimes has to sacrifice their own needs, wants and desires for the overall good and growth of the group. In some aspects, I can be quite selfish in that respect. I like to be able to do what I want, when I want, how I want…leadership requires a greater degree of sacrifice than I am totally aimed towards. A lot of this comes from my having been solo for as long as I have. I am not used to compromising and bargaining every step of the way. But a group is not about an individual. A group is about a group of individuals utilizing those bargaining and compromising measures to create something that works to a greater degree for all. When you have been on your own as long as I have, those habits of always getting your own way are difficult to set aside. It would certainly take a far greater degree of self control than I already have for a group to be a 24×7 item for me. Its not impossible, just difficult.

I know all of this looks rather negative on me as a group member. I see it a different way, though. Its a matter of self-honesty about where I currently am in life. Can I work appropriately within a group? Certainly. I know how to handle then concepts of group dynamics and group responsibility. I have watched groups come apart at the seams for the smallest things though. The interpersonal relationships between group members is very strong, particularly when folks really start working deeply with one another. Its not uncommon for romantic feelings to develop in such intimate circumstances. Its also not uncommon for those romantic feelings to unravel, or for jealousy to spring into action, and become the seeds of bad blood between members. Not uncommon because we are just human beings, twisted up with our own feelings of being set to the side for whatever reason. I’ve seen that happen way too often. The same can be said when a single member gets more public recognition from the others. Ego driven issues are another common cause for group strife. I’ve seen that far too many times to just dismiss it as an out-of-the-way occurence.

Personally, I find myself to be a bad example of a leader. Much of that comes from being far too close to the trees to be able to recognize the forest, I suppose. I am my own worst critic, so I suppose that can play a factor as well. But all of that set to the side, one of the biggest reasons (if not the biggest) that I would make a crappy, ineffective leader is my reluctance to be one in the first place. A leader should be strong and decisive in their desire to be at the front of the pack. I might be able to serve as an inspiration for others to want to be the leaders they think I could be…but I’d be really worried if anyone viewed me as a singular leader of any group. I prefer to be one of many, because the decisions would be made together – as equals. But that’s my preference.

Me? A leader? Well, if you say so. But realize, I know my own limitations and faults far better than anyone else does. And that knowledge helps me to pump the brakes on talks like that.

Let’s End Rabbit Season on the Newbies

I truly dislike writing about topics like this. However, as often as it keeps cropping up in my Facebook and Twitter feeds over the last year, I realize that is a very timely discussion to have. So what is this all about? Well, it has to do with what I consider to be “bad leadership” within the Pagan community. The newest post concerning all of this came through my Twitter feed and pointed me back to Asa West’s blog post over on Witches & Pagans. In terms of length and discussion, Asa is concise and straight to her point concerning the power dynamics that play out publicly and privately, as well as providing some links to recent examples of this taking place within the Pagan community.

Gizmo
Gizmo hiding…sort of

Abusive individuals within the Pagan community is certainly nothing new. Back in 1986, when I started on my Pagan journey, I heard the stories about individuals in authoritative positions withholding promised magickal training for sexual favors. I have watched people that I had understood to be ethical and appropriate visages of leadership crumble into unethical and criminal activity when money entered the equation. There are others who have utilized their positions of community derived authority to enforce their way of approaching and communing with certain Gods and Goddesses as the “only way” to do so. And the stories and examples can literally go on and on and on and on…

I think that one of the issues here is the ease at which people hand the mantle of leadership and authority to others without blinking even once. I remember starting on this Path, how difficult it was to find any Pagans in the open after the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. I also remember how cautious the coven I eventually decided to work with handled me. They were in Plano, Texas. I was on the other side of the metroplex at Carswell Air Force Base in west Fort Worth. A trip to visit with them was a one hour trip in one direction for me, and that was when the traffic was favorable. Until I was trusted, everything was on a first name basis only. I was even told to not completely trust what I was being taught. “Trust your instincts when dealing with magic” I was told. That was a piece of advice I have maintained since that day, and even applied it to dealing with others.

Look, I have my bad days. There are times I let my emotions get the best of me in any conversation. I expect anyone else has the same issues in their own life. In one of the examples that are linked from Asa’s post is a moment where a person in a position of authority allegedly slapped someone who had deferred that aspect of authority to the individual. Publicly. Now, I do not know the details of the entire exchange nor do I really want to. However, I will supply this: unless an agreement has been made between myself and the other individual that such an exchange – publicly or privately – was agreed upon – that single moment would be the only time that person would have. The same would hold true with someone that would degrade me in a verbal or emotional exchange. For me, the moment that this happened would be the end of any agreement, magickal or otherwise, that we had. This is my methodology for handling situations like this.

But let’s be a little realistic for a few moments. Let’s affix our little fluffy bunny tails to the seat of our pants, and place our fluffy bunny ears on our heads – and take a short trip back to the beginning when we were full of saccharine, covered in glitter, and crapped magickal rainbows. A person that is currently on a Pagan path for the first time may have gone to some really drastic lengths to find that teacher. Unfortunately, they found an abuser. Would they not be willing to let a lot of things go by the wayside? After all, sex magick is just another part of magick, right? And if we don’t reach into our darker parts of who we are, we won’t be ready for some the less pleasant things, right? Yeah. Welcome to the manipulative mannerisms of the abuser. Yes, sex magick is a part of magickal workings. But it is not a moment of getting laid, and in my mind, it is not a road to go down with a novice. AT ALL. As for the darker side of magick, it certainly is there. But making you feel like you are ten inches tall through a barrage of verbal abuse… ::sigh:: And these are just two of the many, many manipulative things that abusers do within our Pagan community. And no, beyond this single sentence, I am not traveling down the pedophile trail – it is there, it does happen, and I will beat the ever-loving shit out of any abuser I find doing this.

All right. ::deep breath, Tommy::

My advice for anyone who finds themselves being abused like this…get out. However, you have to – short of taking someone’s life. Find help. Read up on the signs of abuse. Read up on what leadership SHOULD look like. Shauna Aura Knight has two excellent books on this topic:  Pagan Leadership Anthology, which contains several excellent essays from various folks on leadership. And her book The Leader Within: Articles on Community Building, Leadership & Personal Growth. Furthermore, if you have aspirations to be a leader within your community, know this stuff inside-out, be prepared to step between an abuser and the individual they are abusing. Remember, before you do something, know what you are getting into.

Me? Well, I am a solo Pagan, for a lot of reasons. One of these is so that I am not tempted to abuse whatever authority is handed to me by someone else. Seriously. I am always willing to show folks where my starting points in Paganism were, but I am also cautious to remind them that (a) that was back in 1986, a really long time ago, and (b) just because that worked for me, does not mean it will for them. That old starting point; however, might give them a hint where things might work for them as a starting point. I am no master theologian, top-notch Priest or craft Magician. And anyone suggesting just that about me will make me very, very nervous. Now, a Leader?? Maybe. I have been told that I have leadership qualities and traits in nearly every facet of my life. Usually, I lean to Edgar Friendly’s perspective from the movie Demolition Man: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to do. Sometimes, people come with me.”

Remember, trust your instincts. If it does not feel right, in all likelihood, it would be better to remove yourself from it. if a teacher or a leader asks you to do something you are uncomfortable with – you have every right to say no. You have every right to leave. If they threaten to withhold knowledge or teachings from you – leave. You can get that training or knowledge from somewhere else or someone else with a better set of ethics. There is not a single person on this planet that has sole custody of any truth, except where that applies to themselves alone. One of these days, I hope someone comes up with something similar to a Seeker’s Bill of Rights. Because our wider Pagan community could certainly put something like to good use, particularly for those fluffy bunnies just coming on to the scene. It certainly never should be Rabbit Season…

 

 

Going Beyond

Being a teacher can be a tough and somewhat thankless job. For nearly three years, I was an adjunct professor at the community college, where I now work in the administration for. I both dreaded and enjoyed teaching students about information systems and the uses these seemingly perplexing machines have in our society today. I enjoyed explaining how data-driven queries and algorithms actually have a major effect on people’s lives, even when they did not really comprehend that such processes were being placed in how their lives were being lived. However, I also dreaded being in the classroom because I always had a fear that a student might actually be able to showcase their knowledge having gone further than my own. Looking back, I had such a silly notion in that area.

A few weeks ago, the silliness of that notion was on display in the newest Star Wars film. During the dialogue between Yoda and Luke at the Jedi Temple, Luke laments that he cannot be what Rey needs, and Yoda responds:

…we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters. –Yoda

My fears were truly unfounded. Should a student find a mastery of the topic that went beyond where I was, it should be a joyful moment. I have poured all of my knowledge and wisdom (a truly debatable term for another time) into my student, in the hopes that they will grow beyond the point that I have managed to reach. The goal is not my vanity and ego as being the font of be-all, end-all knowledge. Because, in all honesty, I continue to grow my own mastery and understanding of the knowledge as I, myself, progress in this existence.

In a manner of speaking, a teacher is considered to also be a leader. The expertise and mastery of an area of knowledge, as well as their wisdom (there’s that word again), places a teacher in a position of potentially leading others. There’s a similar area of responsibility in the hands of the follower, who provides a connection to that leader by allowing that architecture to be placed in the individual (or individuals in the case of larger groups with more than one individual placed in a role of leadership). That dual-feed of the teacher providing information, knowledge, and wisdom, and a student placing their trust and faith in an individual or individuals to lead them correctly can be a very wonderful relationship with the right degree of trust and responsibility coming from both ends of it. To quote from many places, it truly is a manner of perfect love and perfect trust. Too much or too little from either side, and it can be a corrosive and/or abusive relationship (another deer trod to travel down at some other point).

What about flawed individuals? People who have done bad or unsavory things when they were in these positions of teaching or leadership? We need to toss everything they have taught us and start fresh with a better perspective, right? Or we need to abandon that particular Path of knowledge because we placed a leader into a position of being far more than what we should have. Our reasoning for following them is flawed; therefore, everything we learned is flawed, right?

I would say that is not necessarily the case. We do need to stop, look back, and re-evaluate everything. But that is by taking everything one piece at a time, determining what value that bit of knowledge has to us, and then making a decision to keep it, alter it to our needs, or pitch it all together. Plus, I have one another thing to consider: every single one of us is flawed in one manner or another. A significant majority of us has done something wide of the mark in our past to one degree or another. However, before we all start feeling guilty about all the stuff we did when we were teenagers or in our early twenties, let’s consider one other side of Yoda’s statement to Luke in that same scene:

Heeded my words not, did you? Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. –Yoda

We have all met failure to one degree or another. We all have weaknesses (one of mine just happens to be Bushmills whiskey). And I would daresay that we have all done wrong by someone or many someones at one time or another. The true measure of these incidents in our lives is not what we did, but rather if we have grown beyond those transgressions.

I am a firm believer in second chances. I am also a firm believer that knowledge can grow and become stronger from places where most others would see rot and decay. Time, patience, and so many other elements are important factors to add. Or as I am fond of saying, x and y are important variables, but their strength in the overall argument can dissipate or grow due to the variance of the z-variable (typically referred to as “time”).

As we, Pagans, continue to grow our knowledge and our various traditions, we stand on the shoulders of giants, as Damh the Bard notes in his song “On the Shoulders of Giants”:

So by peace and love we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand,
On the shoulders of giants we stand.

We stand on the shoulders of our Elders, our teachers, our leaders – growing our traditions for the coming generations so that our shoulders they will also stand upon – a mighty foundation. Over time, our foundations can wear down, from the equalizer of time, as well as other factors. But even that weathered stone has merit. It may not look as pretty and polished as it did in a time long past, but it is still there. Over time, we may found out that our Elders, teachers, and leaders have done things in their lives that we find to be unsavory or even difficult to comprehend. None of that nullifies the knowledge that was brought to us. Because it is not the individual that provides the legacy, but the knowledge itself. A founding member of a tradition can be found to have done unspeakable, unimaginable things in their lives. None of those actions can nullify the beauty, wisdom, knowledge, compassion, loving attitude, and joyful care that the Priests (men and women – I believe Priest to be a gender-neutral term) in that same tradition have today and what the future Priests will bring as they receive their ordination. I just cannot condemn or color what a tradition is because of the actions of one individual…even a founding member.

As for me, I have my own transgressions in my past that haunt me. No matter how much I want to wipe those away with notations of second chances or excuses, I will live with those for the rest of my life – however long that may be. For those that know what those are, I can only hope that they see the change in who I am today versus that person I was previously. For those that I wronged, and have been able to apologize to, I can only hope that they have forgiven me and accepted those apologies. For those that I cannot make apologies to, for whatever reason, I can only continue to offer my apologies when I pray. And yes, even Pagans pray. And while those transgressions do paint a tone to who I am today; for any future students I have, any followers who may provide me with the reins of some form of leadership — those failures helped me to learn and try to be a better teacher and leader. And through those experiences, as I continue to move further along this nearly thirty-five years on a Pagan Path, I hope that I become the Elder that the Gods have aimed me towards being. After all, I am fallible — like anyone else.

Leadership is About Sharing Experiences – At Least in My Opinion

I have written a few times about the concepts of leadership, but to be honest – I have always thought it silly for a solo Pagan, like myself, to speak on things like this. My connections within the Pagan community are slight. Much like the title of the old podcast, my area falls more to the edges than anywhere else. Not only am I more comfortable out on the periphery, its almost as if I have been called to be here.

Back in the 1990s, while I was in the United States Air Force, I stepped up to the idea of being a leader in the community. I tried to help with the leadership of the local Kaiserslautern military Pagan community. What I found in doing this was that more people were willing to complain and criticise than those willing to roll up their sleeves and help do the work. And that winds up being a real turn-off to me. So, once I left the United States Air Force and came back to the United States to live my life as a civilian – I choose to be solo. But not after another attempt at being a part of a local community – and what would be the last chance I would give Wicca to be what I needed in my life. But that is a post for another time and topic.

So, I dove deep into being a solo Pagan. I continued to follow the Wheel of the Year in my daily life. And while I never hid the fact that I was a Pagan, I surely did not advertise the fact either. And I discovered a lot about myself during this time. I was not a leader. Working on my own was more effective for me. Wicca was definitely not the Path for me. The Nordic Path had no pull for me to follow. And I was not interested in reconstructing any older belief or practice. And all of that was true, with the exception of the first two statements.

When you are on your own, and there are no effective means of communicating with others, your concept of leadership comes down to a single person – yourself. I can deny my ability to be a leader in crafting my response through my desire to not be a leader. But that desire is not because I lack the ability to provide leadership in anything I do. It comes from my fear of being out front, where others look to what I have to say or do, as an example of what they can try on their own. And at the age of 52, I can literally say that I have been running from leadership since my late teens. And that is certainly a long time. It has colored a lot of the way I handle myself in other situations. I have developed patterns of an introvert as defense mechanisms to insulate myself with ready-made excuses.

I was never ready to be considered a leader in anything. I have always looked at leadership as being some modicum of control over others. My libertarian streak inside of me informs my perspective that only an individual can be the leader of themselves. We make our individual choices on our own. We decide what is right and wrong for our own individual selves. A leader does not have to be manipulative and controlling. In fact, I would posit that such actions are not perspectives of leadership whatsoever. Leadership is not about grooming others to be what you expect them to be but helping them to become what they are. The individual chooses the direction that they wish to go; the leader helps find ways to assist in the growth of that person. Sure, there are many other definitions of what a leader is or is not. Ask a group of ten people for a definition of a leader, and you’re likely to get fifteen different answers.

Over the past ten years, I have slowly brought myself back into the Pagan community. Through the podcasts, the blog, going to local events, going to not-so-local events…and rarely have I interjected myself into the concept or perspective of being a leader. Most of the events I have attended have had very well defined perspectives of leadership. Some folks were well suited to be leaders, others not-so-much (in my opinion). With the podcasts and the blog, my “voice” tends to be given a position of authority and credence that I don’t normally attribute to myself. But in both instances, whether I agree with it or not, I stepped into a role of leadership. And I do have to provide ownership of what I write and say in both areas – after all, I did say it.

Whether I completely agree with it or not, I have been a leader to many folks. No one should be following me into the woods just because that is where I am going. But some folks have asked about what type of gear I am carrying into the woods with me and then creating their own group of items to carry with themselves when they go into the woods. Sometimes, their items have stuff that I took, sometimes it doesn’t…and most likely, it has stuff that I never thought about. In the end, we learn from sharing our experiences. And in a manner of speaking, this is the kind of leadership I see myself providing.

All of this has gotten me to think even more about what happens going forward. Certainly, I will keep blogging about my experiences. Here shortly, the podcast will get moved forward and back into gear. Both of those platforms allow me to share my experiences, as well as the experiences of others. And through that sharing, my libertarian heart says that we will all be able to make better choices for ourselves. We can find the level of comfort that we have in our communities and develop the roles that we should each be filling. And in that manner, we become leaders – in our own definitions of what that means.

And while it is a pretty dream that might never be achieved – simply because we apply this theory to the fallibility of human beings — I am willing to dream that dream. And reach for it as well.

I Know Them When I See Them

So, in the last post, I was making some notations about Pagan leadership, but as was pointed out to me by one of my three loyal readers – I never really discussed much of what I felt made a leader. That’s fair. So let’s start with defining what a Pagan leader looks like.  Wait…I have a picture.

IMG_9670

Ok, ok.  I’m kidding. I am definitely not what I would consider a Pagan leader. I wouldn’t even say I was a person of any notable status. But. There are aspects of what I do that fall into what I consider to be the arena of a Pagan leader.

See, I am not talking about people that just “do” things, or write books and articles, or even those that sing songs. Those people have some of the aspects of being a leader, in that they get things done, or write their thoughts out and place those where people can read or experience that. Leaders, in my mind, are a lot more than that, and are generally not as out in the public eye. Though, I would suggest that they should be.

For me, leaders are inspiring. They don’t have all the answers, nor do they pretend to. They do know where to start to find the answers, and typically, they are not seeking the answers for themselves. Most leaders shun the spotlight. They place their community and group before themselves. They are willing to roll up their sleeves and do the work – even when they are not asked or when they are a guest.

For me, leaders don’t prod people along a path. There’s no need to herd cats. That’s not what being a leader is about. In my opinion, leaders are mentors. They are not trying to create a hierarchy. They are not gathering people to themselves so that there will be someone to hear their words. They are there to help others on the Path. Willing to listen, and offer advice when asked, a leader is a communicator that speaks when necessary.

With that said, I will offer a bit more observation and opinion. I have been in the Pagan community; both as a semi-active member and as an “edge of the circle” observer. I have been a Solo Adherent, and a member of a coven or two. I have seen “group leaders” in social environments, as well as private. Sadly, the Pagan community, by and large, has very few leaders. There are a lot of loud Generals, and not nearly as many of the leaders that I think would be ideal. But perhaps, that’s because these people are so low-key, that its hard to discern who they are with just casual observation?? Perhaps.

On the flip side of all of that, I have met quite a few people that I would consider to be leaders. They are low-key. They are nurturers. They are teachers. They tend to shun the spotlight. Rather, they want their fellow travelers to step up and become the right individuals in charge. These folks lead their church congregations. They serve in positions on national organizations. They nurture individuals that are in their immediate circles when there is confusion on a topic. They write blog posts. They write articles. They write books. They make music. They take time out of their lives to travel, meet others, and teach the values of being a kind, nurturing leader to others. They hope. They dream. They are no different than any of the rest of us. And that is what is most important.

There is no need to name these people. They are easily found. They are easily approached. They will talk with you like any other person. They will laugh with you. They give the most wonderful hugs. They look just like anyone else. And its not the spotlight that they seek. Its not the notoriety. They have no desire to become the Big Name Pagan. They merely want the Pagan community to grow, mature, and nurture itself. If being a leader is about getting your name recognized by others…your priority is way off-base.

What is a leader? Its not the cowboy wrangling a herd of cats across a river. That is a cute commercial, but nowhere near the ideal image of a leader (and it should be noted that the commercial is meant to be absurd, not taken seriously). Your Pagan leadership is around you. Those folks are generally not trying to locate the nearest tv camera crew, nor are they trying to find the nearest beat writer to drop a story. They work tirelessly behind the scenes at your conventions, and gatherings…and if they are good at it, they are unseen by most people attending these gatherings. And like so many people that I have met in these conventions and gathering over the past year, they are no different than any of us. Those that are polytheists are trying to honor their Gods with what they do. Those that are doing other things within their belief systems, are focused on those as well.

Earlier this year, I attended Pantheacon for the first time. I met many new faces. Some of whom I had only conversed with online. Some I had never met before. And being the people watcher that I am – I sat on the sidelines and observed. I saw many Pagans, happy to be who they were. And I saw leaders. Quietly being who they were. None of them walked the hallways near the meeting rooms with an entourage walking before them to announce their entrance to the area. Many of them were approachable by anyone…and easily entered into conversations with strangers. Even the strange hippy with the Grateful Dead t-shirts and the thinning long-hair. They were nurturing to others. They were there with helpful suggestions. They listened intently to total strangers that approached them with a story or a suggestion or a question.

When I talk about leaders, I don’t mean people who bark orders at others – and direct people to get things done. Anyone can do that. Leaders are those who look to be the anchor for those that need a momentary harbor from the raging river of Life. Leaders are those who help others to grow. Leaders are those that are there. Sure, decisions can be made by those that show up, but Leaders are derived from those that show interest in others. Leaders are derived from those that try and help a Community grow, not try to gather followers like a friending contest on Facebook.

So, to answer the question – how do I know what a leader is? I know a leader when I see them. Pinning down an exact definition is like trying to nail jello to the wall. But I do know them when I see them. Even if they don’t believe that they are really leaders.

Two Pence – Pagan Leadership

IMG_9670Leadership scares the shit out of me. Seriously. I have noted this a few times: some folks look at me as a “natural” leader. I maintain that I am not. But my reasoning, while gathered from a fictional character in a movie, is weak at best.

In a scene from the Sylvester Stallone movie “The Demolition Man”, the character of Edgar Friendly makes the statement: “I’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come with me.” It is a snarky line, but it is also an issue of pushing the leadership off into space.

See, there are leadership qualities that people have – the ability to think quickly on your feet. The ability to break problems into workable tasks. The ability to delegate those workable tasks to people who have the ability to get those done. And the ability to motivate people to get things done. For some strange reason, I have some of the ability to motivate people. I know that I have the ability to break problems down into workable tasks. I do that every day in my job. I also have the ability to stay calm when things come apart at the seams. But I have to be honest and give the United States Air Force the credit for some of this as well. All of that is delineated into a particular skillset. Its called troubleshooting.

In my opinion, troubleshooting is not a skillset of leadership. It is a skillset of the Troubleshooter, which is something I do consider myself to be. I enjoy taking situations that are in chaos, sorting things out, prioritizing what needs to be done, and rolling up my sleeves and getting arm deep in the issues. I can be problematic when I am in this mode. I can push those that are in a position of leadership out of the way. Essentially picking them up, setting them to one side, and saying: “Stay right there until I solve this. Then you can have the steering wheel again.” In my military career, I have told Commissioned Officers to “get the fuck out of the way” while trying to resolve mainframe systems issues. It never made me popular with the Officers, but the enlisted folks (of which I was) loved me for it.

But let’s be clear on something. I never shoved people out of the way, unless I was sure that I could resolve the problem. In the Air Force, I knew my systems inside and out. In two locations, only the Field Engineers were more knowledgeable than the 23-year old me on how the system operated. Older non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers learned to get out of the way when I was called in to repair things. But I had to earn that kind of respect, by showing that I could resolve problems that were set in front of me. That’s not a skill of leadership. Rather that’s a skillset of technical ability. And that technical ability masked on arrogance that I had.

Leadership is not about shoving people out of the way and proclaiming yourself the expert. A better version of me – now nearly thirty years down the line and full of life experiences – would counsel the twenty-three year old me to not shove people out of the way, but counsel them on how to resolve the problem, looking over their shoulders, and explaining why this particular issue was resolved in this particular way. Leadership is not about pointing and directing. That’s a task for ego-maniacs. And I have seen plenty of my share of these in the Pagan community. A Leader teaches others how to resolve the problems, allowing their hands to be the ones that turn the wrenches and use the tools, while explaining the reasoning behind each process.

Leadership is a status that is earned. Rightly or wrongly. The individual(s) empowering you into a position of leadership have confidence in your ability to resolve issues, and put things into motion. Sometimes, you have this bit of respect thrust upon you. For example, a newcomer to Paganism or Polytheism will look to you as their example of what it means to be [x] within Paganism or Polytheism. Whether you wanted that role or not, it is given to you. Even after you explain that you’re no leader, in your best Edgar Friendly impersonation. And if you think about it…it is a weak explanation, as well.

See, I am nearly fifty-one years old this year. I have been in Paganism in one capacity or another since 1987. That’s twenty-nine years of being a Pagan. I was a doe-eyed newbie at one time too. Anyone who had been in Paganism for any length of time, regardless of Path, was an incredible person to me. Until I met Pattalee. She ran one of the few local Pagan bookstores in the area with her (then) husband. I would go down there, and tentatively sit one a bar stool next to the jewelry counter. And I would ask questions, and listen to the answers – hanging on her every word. I guess she humored me at first. But after a while, instead of answering my questions, she would prompt me to answer my own questions. Then, she would have a long, prolonged discussion of where my logic was incorrect, and where I made assumptions that had no factual basis. Instead of puzzling things out for me, she quietly prompted me to learn from myself. Sadly, she passed away quite some time back, and her ex-husband eventually closed the store. But I always remembered those talks, and how she dealt with the doe-eyed newbie sitting in front of her.

After her passing beyond the veil, it took nearly another decade before I realized that she talked with me through a position of leadership. The authority of leadership had been given to her by me. She most likely didn’t want it, but she accepted it – and led me gently towards the habit of puzzling things out for myself. She gently showed me how to look inside myself and find the answers that I was needing. And pointed out how the “truths” as I found them applied to me, and not necessarily to others. Leadership is not about molding people forcibly, but showing them the potential that is inside of themselves.

Newbies may hand you a mantle of leadership, simply because you have been around longer than they have. Throwing that mantle back in their faces and saying that you’re no leader is not the way to handle things. Folding that mantle up, and setting it to the side, with care and reverence respects the responsibility that you have been handed. And eventually, you will be able to gently, and with respect, hand that mantle back to those newbies – pointing out that they have always been able to fend for themselves. In my opinion, this is how we grow our Pagan community. We don’t grow leaders in this process. Some of those newbies will become leaders in their own right. We grow self-sufficient Pagans and Polytheists, able to handle themselves as Solitary practitioners of their own connectivity with the Gods, and able to work within the wider ranging Pagan and Polytheist communities as individual parts of the whole. Able to be Priests/Priestesses and Leaders without becoming tyrants. Able to teach others how to grow, without delineating debilitating and crippling dogma that creates a belief structure that is too rigid to be flexible with the changing world around us. We grow Pagans and Polytheists that learn to cultivate their relationships with others, the Gods, the Spirits of Place, and Spirits of Ancestors, while expanding their understanding of those connections and their own position within those sacred relationships.

Yeah, I can claim to not be a leader. That I just do things, and sometimes people come along. But in the end, that statement – while playful – is disrespectful. It is disrespectful to the people that come along. It is a wise-ass dismissal of the authority that they hand to me. It is slapping the respect that they have for me as an elder in the wider Pagan community, while laughing in their face with my flippant comment. And to be honest, it is long past time for me to ditch the attitude. I’m a podcaster and a blogger in the Pagan community. I make commentary on how I feel about Paganism and Polytheism from both platforms. And whether I want to agree with it or not, I set myself out there for my opinions to be read. And people respect me for that. Yes, some of them hand me their respect as an authority., as an elder. And I need to return that respect as well. I need to follow Pattalee’s example, and fold up that mantle and set it to the side. And listen.

Pagan leadership is about helping the community. Troubleshooting issues. Listening. Growing Pagans that are new to this Path. Leadership is about being the appropriate example to our community. And we are all leaders, in one capacity or another.

Two pence….  –T /|\

No Shadows to Hide Within Anymore…

Gizmo

Over the past few months – and its been quite a few of them – I kept hearing the horn of the Hunt in my dreams. Even in dreams where the Hunt would be completely out of place. At first, I took no notice of it, brushing it off as something that just happened. Then it started to be accompanied by a female voice that kept telling me about leadership – and the volume of the horn got louder. It took a while, but I discovered the voice was Fliodhas – Goddess of the Woods. And I began to realize that the point that was being made was that I could no longer hide in the shadows or on the periphery. The perimeter of the crowd was no longer where I needed to be. I had to start stepping out into the sunlight.

Let’s be honest here, I hear a lot about my ability to inspire people. I never thought I was that person, until I started teaching college classes. I listened to my students talk about their own dreams of what they wanted to be doing. I would find myself discussing with them what directions I would take if I were in their shoes with their dreams. And I found myself openly cheering them on to what they wanted to do. But that’s now a year and a half into my past. But I really needed to understand that this IS a form of leadership.

A few weeks back, I reached out to Shauna Aura Knight when I discovered that she was planning on going to Pantheacon. I am attending as well, and thought it would be a chance to grab an interview, if possible. However, her schedule is going to be crowded and busy, but we will definitely touch base with one another during the con. Since that time, we have talked numerous times via Pmail…and one conversation that came up was finding one’s self being thrust into the light, and the roles of leadership. She pointed me to two posts on the Patheos Pagan Channel that she had written entitled “Seeker, Shaman, and Sovereign” which are written in two parts ( Part1) (Part2).

The post – I will treat both parts as a single post – provided me quite a bit of insight into the idea of leadership as a vessel. Where the individual in the position of leadership is there to provide the sustenance for others to move forward in their own quests. That the leader as a vessel is to provide support, lend a hand, add some guidance…not to direct. When I was teaching in the classroom, I did not like the title of “Professor” or “Teacher”. Both had the sounds in my ear of someone who would lay down foundational work that was set in stone. Never to change or transmute into what was necessary.

My subject that I taught in was an Introduction to Business Computer Systems. And if there was one thing I have learned in nearly thirty years in Information Technology, was that you had to be flexible. Technology changes as new methods and machinery are discovered and utilized. Alternately, sometimes you didn’t have the budget to obtain the newest and greatest pieces of technology, so you had to improvise with what you had. Staying still and not innovating was a recipe for the end of your company. This was a major aspect of technology that I tried to impress upon my students. The tools of technology would change, and sometimes in ways you never dreamed possible. You had to work with the tools, the changing environment, the quick pace of technology – and try to maintain your ethical balance throughout it all. I am finding out that this same philosophy holds true, even in our ever-changing, constantly growing Pagan communities.

Most Pagans seem to recoil at the concept of “leaders” and “leadership”. I know this from personal perspective. I was – and to some degree still am – leery of anyone  (including me) stepping forward into a mantle of leadership. But I look back, and I have been there. As a college facilitator (I like this title much better), as a Pagan blogger, and as a Pagan podcaster (or podcatser as my misspelled business card states) – each one of these positions relates some degree of leadership. Not be the mere fact that I teach. Not by the mere fact I write blogs. Not by the mere fact that I record podcasts. But by the fact that people listen to my podcasts, read my blogs, and listen to my lectures – and get inspired to DO. I can sit and deny who and what I am all that I want to, but the reality is that there are people who are inspired to action in their own lives by what I have written or what I say.

I can push away the idea of being a recognized in public and continue to hide in the shadows all that I want. The reality is that I am out in the open about who I am – and my words, spoken and written, do happen to inspire people to take action in their own lives. And to that level, I am a leader. Whether I like that or not. Whether I am scared of it or not. Whether I inspire tens of people or many more than that. I’m not there to step up and lead people down the streets. That’s not the kind of leader that I am. But I will be one of the many in that crowd. Helping others continue to have the courage to stand up, and be unafraid of being who and what they are openly.

When I started my first podcast, nearly ten years ago to this very day that I type this, I stated that the podcast was my gift back to the Pagan community. And it was. From the Edge of the Circle was a lot of fun to do. And I met many, many people along the way – many of whom I am still in contact with to this day. Together, we formed a community together. The internet made it possibly to break down the walls of distance, and we managed to find ways to work together. Even the small Pagan Podcast Community discovered a way to do our podcasts together and not compete against one another. We considered each podcast to be a single voice in our community, and those unique, single voices added together to create a beautiful harmony that continues to this day with some of those older voices, along with newer ones that crop up.

There are so many different leaders in the Pagan community. Together we sing the lyrics, and the community joins us on the choruses. Our songs lift up into the air, and reach the ears of the Gods and Goddesses. And the harmonies we bring about solidify who we are, what we will become, and what we have been. Woven together to become our song…our collective song. And there are more voices joining us around our physical and virtual campfires.

Pagan leadership still has a lot of growth to achieve, but I will no longer hide in my shadows. I do the community very little good there. As a podcaster and a blogger, I do my Pagan community little good there. My duty is not to hide, but to be seen. And I may feel its a scary place (indeed it is), and I may have run out of shadows to hide within — but this is certainly to be a year of doing