Leadership in the Pagan Community

As a religious community, we Pagans have produced some amazing thinkers and philosophers.  Think about Scott Cunningham and Margot Adler, poets who have dedicated their lives to writing about the Goddess and her people.  But we need more than just writers and practitioners.  We need leaders to help move our community forward.

When it comes to theology, leadership needs to happen on the community level.  Within the coven, within a tradition.  I know some people get nervous about people in groups getting power crazy and imposing their beliefs on the group.  Our general antiauthoritarianism is part of the Pagan community’s charm.  But unfortunately organizations tend to fail if someone doesn’t step up and take charge of basic operations.  Coven leaders also act as ambassadors to every community by facilitating events, rites, and community service.  That is where democracy within a group comes in handy, leaders working with the community instead of above it.  Also there are many types of leadership.  Other members of the coven lead not by action, but by example.  Men and women who live in their spirit and encourage others to do the same.

Now on the state, national, and international level, leadership needs to happen on a more advocacy tone.  While discrimination against Pagans is very rare, there is a lot of misinformation as to what we’re all about that can lead to misunderstandings.  Take the pentacle for example.  Most people think it’s a symbol of evil or part of rebellious popular culture, yet in reality it represents the convergence of the five elements. Organizations like the Lady Liberty League aim to dispel myths, to work with local government and business leaders to prevent discrimination, and to be a resource to the Pagan community for support when we do face problems.  However organizations like that are few and far between.  Whether as a particular tradition or as an overall community, we need to begin developing more Pagan advocacy organizations so that if discrimination arises or misinformation is disseminated, we have a loader voice.

As a community, we need to rethink the way we think about leadership.  It isn’t about the power of one person, but the power of the entire community coming together.

© Ariadne Woods

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3 thoughts on “Leadership in the Pagan Community

  1. You are right–we need a more cohesive leadership. The problem I think comes from just how varied we are as a community. Asatru and Wiccans are both Pagans, but the interests of Asatru are not necessarily the same as Wicca–neither community can truly speak for the other, but also neither community is necessarily large enough to form separate voices that would be heard. With two such wildly different types of Pagans (and there are more yet), we’d have to find some way of marrying the identities and needs of as many of the constituents as possible, and understandably difficult task. Events like Pagan Pride are a great way to express who and what we are and make ourselves known in a community, especially different types of Paganism, and I would like to see Pride events become more common. However, I wonder if our rights and interests would be best served by joining forces with other social justice workers, such as the ACLU–if we want to protect our rights and liberties, we need to be willing to protect the rights and liberties of ALL minority faith groups. I’m not opposed to a Pagan specific special interest group if we can, as a community, overcome the challenges of our wildly diverse backgrounds, but if we support the rights of ALL people, we are in turn fighting for our own rights.

    1. I agree, our community is so diverse in its perspectives. But we really do need to rethink how we operate on the advocacy in order to protect our rights. I’m not sure what this should look like, but it needs to be as inclusive as possible.

      Also I did some investigating of the ACLU’s cases to write this blog, and most of their work for the Pagan community happened in the ’90s which I thought was interesting. Either we’re not reporting discrimination or more likely the general public is more aware and accepting of Pagans.

  2. I definitely think there’s more acceptance. My mother was a nurse in Cleveland for 30 years and she cautioned me to never, ever tell anyone I was Wiccan–I am a nurse now, and have found that I can share my religion with most of my co-workers without ill will. Even in the five years since I’ve joined the field, I have found it has become easier as time passes. Plus, in this country, there aren’t a lot of cases of open religious discrimination. The most recent was the issue of soldier’s headstones–Sgt. Patrick Stewart’s wife fought for a long time, but she won the right to have a pentagram on her husband’s headstone about 8 years ago now. It’s difficult to substantiate such claims, too–most ill treatment we receive is just plain rudeness, but not illegal. Keep in mind, too, that the work on our behalf in the 90’s came on the heels of the 80’s Satanic Panics so there was a rebound effect, and Witches were popular in the entertainment industry. Witchcraft and related topics haven’t been quite so prevalent, and social media has made it easier for us to advocate for ourselves and quickly before poisonous assumptions have a chance to take root. It’s in other places of the world that need more advocates–parts of Africa and India that still condemn “witches,” which are usually outcast women causing a stir of some sort. For the Western world at least I feel like Harry Potter has given people lots of warm fuzzy feelings toward the word “witch”–and while it certainly doesn’t reflect who we are, it’s helped our image. Yes, I think our greatest need is in the international community.

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