Future of Pagan Leadership, Part 2
Pagan leadership is almost an oxymoron. As discussed in part 1, Pagans claim an individual and sole right to interpret their religion, their beliefs, and their practices for themselves. That his or her relationship with deity is theirs alone to decide, and that no individual could actually claim a greater right against any practitioners free will. Simply put, Pagans demand that they and they alone decide what their faith is for themselves. At this level, leadership as it is traditionally known is almost impossible, and does not have the same meaning as is in other religions.
In order to look at the future, we need to decide what we is the Pagan community is. There are several arguments that we are not a community at all. That we are really a movement and/or a network with shared traits. Others see us as a series of small communities based on Paganism, little larger than families and tribes. Further, most Pagan practitioners see themselves as solitaires, and therefore not part of what one would call a community. For my purposes I see Paganism as a movement, which is composed of several smaller communities, individuals, and groups networked together around some simple common goals of religious equality and sacredness of the natural world. This movement can best be called "The Pagan Community Movement" as we are moving towards creating a community or communities that fulfill community based needs and seeking to create actual structures, both physical as well as spiritual, for use of members. Anyone can self-declare themselves as part of this community, as there are few official gatekeepers, and no singular central command. Anyone can opt-out as they choose as well.
Having seen this, we do have leadership, and it is based on three things. The first and most important is Crisis leadership, which has been mostly political and judicial. This is leadership that deals with our laws and facing discrimination. Most leadership for the last fifty years has dealt with this constant crisis of enforcing a legal identity upon the United States, The United Kingdom, and now other countries as well. The most recent is the Veteran's Pentacle Headstone cases and we have dozens of others similar to this. Those people like Selena Fox, Dana Eilers, and Phyllis Currott are examples of leaders who earned their influence through managing crisis well.
The second thing leadership is based on is teaching, either through classes, covens, or through authorship of books. This includes dozens of authors as well as coven leaders. It is the leadership through teaching and granting access to knowledge. It may be that of a follower, or more likely an adherent or even a fan. Very few teachers and authors have complex traditions with large numbers of groups, with managing an active membership of any scale. Instead they have a influence with books or teachings, and people absorb them in a syncretic fashion and applies them to their own tradition. It is special note that this level of leadership is the largest source of income for leadership today. Publishing dwarfs all other industries in Paganism, and makes up the backbone of the movement's financial system.
The third kind of leadership emerges from events, media, merchants, and other limited resources. Basically, those with control of assets, tangible and intangible having the ability to distribute those limited resources have influence to exert as leaders. This includes storeowners, event operators, media players, and similar people who control the space that is available and a source of cash through sales and appearance fees. Those individuals that can draw a crowd have influence and even leadership. Examples include Pantheacon that has a long waiting lists for merchants, Starwood cannot even begin to have all the classes it is offered, and stores are always being asked host events or sell products. Wild Hunt Blog creates a daily conversation. How these influencers, along with similar influencers, decide to use their resources will tell us who we will see, what we buy, and how we connect with different parts of the Pagan movement. Without them, there would be no economic actions with a community context. Very little would actually happen, and this would limit the ability of community to grow. Leadership emerging from resources is a powerful position, and among the most powerful hidden hands within the community.
This is the face of leadership of a community that is fiercely independent, self-aware, and one filled with personal responsibility. That leadership currently is based on influence through actions, deeds, teachings, crisis management, and by control of vital resources. Those in leadership decide for themselves what projects they take on and what they do for the community. With this form of open community, no one is compelled to do anything and in no way are required to act as a leader. It is always a chosen action, accepted freely, and self-motivated. The level of leadership is dictated by the power they wield to influence others. This is how we exist today.
But is it enough?
To be continued...