In the Words of Mama Bear

November 1st, 2015

Take a look around the Pagan community these days, we have some amazing philosophers and some wicked intelligence. People like Raven Grimassi, who is so grounded and well versed (beyond well versed) in his craft and Jason Pitzl-Waters who founded the Wild Hunt. These people never cease to amaze me by the things they write, the ideas they inspire and sometimes even by the way they make me research something just to learn a little more. While writers and practitioners are amazing, we are in dire need of community leaders, in order to help our communities and causes move forward.

Paganism is amazing. The freedom, the whole antiauthoritarianism vibe really speaks to a lot of people who may have been mired in authority in their past. It’s a fact that people who have escaped those authoritarian clutches can get really hung up in their nervousness about people getting power crazy and trying to impose their beliefs on a group. Unfortunately organizations will fail without someone (or multiple someone’s) stepping up to take the reins of day to day operations. I also know that Coven leaders, Meetup leaders, Festival organizers, well they are all ambassadors to every community by facilitating events, rites, and community service. These amazing leaders have learned that democracy within a group is a handy tool to have and that working with the community, instead of above it is what really makes them leaders. Men and women who live in their spirit and walk their truth lead by example and encourage others to do the same.

Now, on higher levels, such as international, national and state levels, leadership needs to take on more of the tone of an advocate. Fortunately, discrimination against Pagans is fairly rare(in my experience) but there is a ton of misinformation about what Paganism truly is. People believe that the pentacle is a symbol of evil, that Pagans sacrifice black cats on Samhain, and that anytime a Pagan festival is held it’s nothing more than a naked –Pagan-kegger-orgy in the woods. There are organizations that work to dispel the misinformation, work with local law enforcement to prevent discrimination and be a resource to the community when it faces these problems. However, those organizations are few and far between. As an overall community, we need to begin developing more pagan advocacy organizations so that we as Pagans have a louder voice in this world.

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

Let’s look a little closer at problems faced in the local community first. (Names changed to protect those who need it)

Susan K. Broomstick is a local pagan celebrity. She is incredibly smart, yet incredibly young and has a great little locally owned pagan business and routinely donates her time, talents and heart to various functions across the community without discrimination because to her, that’s how the pagan community is supposed to work. She has noticed a huge problem with bullying, gossiping, flame wars, and ad hominem personal attack on many community leaders. She offers up her space and her finances to bring a “Big Name Pagan” in who specializes in mediation, leadership and repairing of community to help heal the rifts in the community. When she reaches out to the community leadership she is told in no uncertain terms that “It’s none of your business”, “No one wants that” and “Who do you think you are? You’re just a child”. She is called out publicly on social media and is, for lack of a better terminology, crucified for offering to help.

Those who criticize and flamed Susan are prime examples of community leaders who have no place in the pagan community. They are those people who flame others and react to them with anger, resentment and discord to someone who only offered love and healing from a place of concern. Often times these angry people are overly bitter about things they have no control of. It spills out into their circles, groves, covens and hearths, to public rituals and events. They continually seek discord and drama, and react to anyone younger or in a better place spiritually with this vitriol.

Secondly is Raven Elder. Raven runs a local pagan gaming group. Many nights you’ll find him hanging around the new, young and impressionable at his gaming sessions in the back room of a local restaurant that he conveniently owns. When asked about his path, he brushes people off and points them in the direction of the game room and encourages them to order something off of the menu. He’s been named Pagan Paragon of the Year, and is highly regarded as a person of high esteem. He never donates to local fundraisers, and does nothing for the community that he doesn’t get paid for.

Raven seems to be more of an opportunist using the pagan community as a source of income, while the leaders who flamed Susan on Social Media seem to not comprehend what it takes to lead a community, especially one that is hurting. These people and ones like them are the ones that the pagan community has to step back and carefully reconsider if they really do want them leading.

Yet every day, in cities around the country, we see people just like the ones we mentioned. People who want to help, give all they can to help and are beat down and flamed at every opportunity, and people who are celebrated for using the community to reach their financial goals.

What constitutes a good leader? What traits should you look for when choosing whom to put your trust behind?

First of all, do a little magic of your own when making the decisions of who you entrust with the leadership of the pagan community. Use the internet. Find out their real name and Google it. Secondly, watch and learn. How do these people act? Do they give to the community of both their time and talents? Before they act or speak, do they think? Is what they do or say true, helpful, inspiring, necessary or kind? Do they reach out to others? Do they support pagan events and programs in the community? Do they facilitate pagan events? What makes them worthy of a leadership designation?

Use your common sense and better judgment when choosing and empowering pagan leadership and watch your community blossom.

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