Whichever Way the Wind Blows

There is no randomness to the way people act. There are trends in their choices and decisions, all relying on previous experiences in life. Sometimes it takes longer periods of time to determine those particular points, but it can be found. (–I have no recall of who it was that said this to me, but this quote has stuck with me for a very long time in my life)

The last five years of my work life, my job has been about finding those trends to help determine business-oriented decisions for others. There are mathematical formulas dedicated to trying to guess the coming future, so that businesses and corporations will be ready for changes in consumer spending. so they can make more profit for their shareholders. Essentially, trend analysis has been utilized for corporate greed, and to a wide variance of success and failure. Predicative analytics is not as precise or automatic as many may think. In essence, its a guess utilizing some rather sketchy stretches of logic as a “solid” basis. If you get good at coaxing close guesses out of the material at hand, you seem like a genius. But knowing the underlying framework that is used, and how shaky that foundation truly is, I’m rather skeptical of most prognostication techniques.

Around a year and a half ago, I was asked if I could provide my own analysis of what the future of Paganism would be. Not Paganism in the DFW area or Texas or even the United States. Rather, I was asked to look into where I thought Paganism, world-wide, would be. For a few months, I sat on this question and tried my best to determine what I could. However, that’s difficult, given that I have very small ideas of what Paganism is like in places, such as Australia (where I have never been), much less in places such as the United Kingdom, where I have numerous friends to draw perspective from. Perhaps, I could draw the measure down to Texas? hardly. I’m not plugged in to any of the local communities to be able to draw any proper conclusion. That would also remove me from making any guesses towards the wider DFW area. Truth be told, I am hardly in any position to make any such guess. And even if I were plugged into those communities and had a wider grasp of Pagan communities throughout the world – I still could not make any guess, at least not with any concrete perspective. I can; however, sit down and do a small bit of dreaming. A little bit of “what I would like to see”, if you will allow me.

A Touch More Respect

I have watched enough of the Pagan community, particularly online, to notice those that tend to shun the newer Pagans. You know the ones: just discovering the Pagan world. They found a copy of some text that brought about the idea of an underground Pagan community that stands in the shadows, defiant of the over-bearing Christian community. They might have read Warnke’s “The Satan Seller” or Laurel Willson’ “The Satanic Underground” (under the pseudonym “Lauren Stratford”) and believed that there was a larger community there that could offer them a life without restraints imposed upon them by church elders. Except that what they understand as real is not so. Both Warnke and Willson were debunked by Christian magazine “The Cornerstone” as creators of fabricated stories. And yet those folks are here. They stumbled upon the Pagan community. Or maybe they are the white-lighters that everyone seems to so detest. They just haven’t understood that there is a dark side to all of Life as well – that there is balance in everything, even intent. Or perhaps they are just brand new to Paganism, and know so very, very little. I have watched people like this get swatted aside as being unworthy of the time of those who have been on the Path for a while. In my “perfect” Pagan world, these people would be treated differently. They would have the reality explained against what they have bought into, with respect to the point that they are Seekers. Just a touch more respect for the folks, while remembering that we were all those wide-eyed new Pagans at one point in our lives.

A Little Less In-Fighting

I, like many of you, have survived the various struggles that have come about from a “Witch-war” or a struggle between two different types of Pagan groups in a local community. It winds up being a lot like watching a gang-war in the deep-urban areas of Los Angeles. A constant barrage of fighting over who is the better group for a new Pagan. The reality is that there is plenty of room for each (and more) within the wider Pagan community. Two groups can co-exist in the same urban area, so long as they respect one another. Again with that respect thing, eh? To be honest, there is more than enough room for everyone – groups, traditions, familial units, solo Pagans, solitaires…everyone.

View From Medicine Wheel

More Connectedness

Back in the mid-1980s when I first came to understand that I was a Pagan, there were not a lot of resources available. Most Pagan resources were available by mail-order, such as The Green Egg or Circle Sanctuary’s quasi- newspaper/magazine. If you knew a Pagan, it was likely because they lived near you. If they lived further away, you were most likely on a call-in Bulletin Board System (BBS). This was where I had contact with most of the Pagans I knew, both local and at a distance. Being connected with others was not the easiest thing. Over time, the internet arrived and with it, a wider aspect of connectivity. As a medium of connectedness, it has replaced many other forms – and in some cases, that includes the physical aspect. In a perfect Pagan world, this medium of interaction, communication and connectedness would allow us to discover ways that we are similar – rather than drive us apart. And that has happened to one degree or another, but the internet is also rife with those looking for manners of division too.

Let’s face some reality here. The internet provides a strong degree of anonymity. With that anonymity comes the ability to be overly negative, to be a sore spot for others because being a negative force is much easier than being a positive one. And negative attention is better than being absolutely anonymous. Its an aspect of human nature that I am not sure can ever be completely disposed of. Dealing with it….well, that’s a post cut of a whole different cloth.

Do I believe that such a Pagan world could exist? Better communication, more respect, and feelings of strong connectivity of being Pagan together? Possibly. If I tried to extrapolate that from what data I could collect from the areas of Paganism that I do have knowledge and connectivity with – I am not sure I would be that positive about that possibility. However, as I noted before, I also understand the odd complexity of using mathematical formulas to predict the behaviors of people. The true measure of the trends is not so much human behavior, as much as it is human exploration. And which direction, which concept, which philosophy will draw the majority of people to it is as predictable as where each blade from a fistful of grass will land: whichever way the wind blows.

I’d Rather Try

The future. That one thing we all look towards, but never seem to figure out how to get there. Or at least that is how it seems at certain points. We make all these intricate plans on how to get there, only to find the bridge we planned on using to cross the river to be burned and destroyed. Ok, so what now?

Looking around, it seems very easy to see all the gloom and doom elements there. The rise of ultra-corporate interests within the government. The naked over-reach for power and control by those same ultra-corporate entities. The attitudes of being above the laws that govern their respective countries. No regard for their fellow individuals. No regard for the well-being of the planet. All the damage that they are doing to the planet. A blindness towards environmental issues that will impact future generations. Not only does it make your head spin, but you also want to sit on the ground and just cry. All of those actions have led to the destroyed bridge we currently see. No way over the river. What now?

I remember the nuclear panic of the 1970s and 1980s. I am sure some of you are older enough to remember the issues in the 1960s. I remember the forlorn feelings that arose from the dark clouds of nuclear annihilation that hung over the world’s collective heads. To borrow from the Greek Myths, the nuclear spectre was much like the Sword of Damocles, a giant sword held at the pommel by a single hair from a horse’s tail. (Come on admit it, you’re currently hearing Rocky singing “The Sword of Damocles is hanging over my head” from the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’) In a manner of speaking, the climate change issue has a very similar feeling of impending doom for the planet.

Can It Be Changed?

Well, to be honest, in our current political climate….no. And if we are going to find ways to stave off the issue of climate change, we are going to need the politicians. In fact, we are going to need people of all kinds. Solving an issue this complex is going to need a lot of thinking, and a whole lot more doing. However, a new question has started to arise. Are we too late? has the earth reached a tipping point in the balance that just cannot stop the changes in climate that we could see? Or perhaps, if we follow the naysayers, does the problem really even exist?

Well, let’s set the “too late” part of the discussion to the side, just for the moment. What about the naysayers, the ones who believe that all of this is a “hoax” or “garbage science”? For the most part, many of those folks fall into two categories: those who are using all of this as a political football to thumb their noses at their opponents, and those who tend to believe that earth is here specifically for the use of those exclusive members of the Christian faith. On the one hand, its a group of people that just want their way, and will stubbornly oppose anything that the opposite side of the political spectrum wants. Essentially, “the loyal opposition.” Some of these folks are squarely in the court of the corporate entities and on the side of accumulating more monetary wealth than they really need. As if those with the biggest bank account when they die, wins. The other side of that spectrum, the Christians that utilize Dominion-ist theory to support their claim to the Earth. These folks are a larger danger to the world, for a lot of reasons, but let’s realize that these naysayers will likely never be convinced of a single thing about climate change. So, instead of fighting them and constantly bickering and arguing with them – move around them and continue on. And yes, I realize that some of these folks are in political positions. Work actively to vote them out of their positions (see, your vote really does matter!).

Do We Have to Stop?

I will fight for the Earth.

But are we too late? Maybe. I’m not a climate scientist nor do I pretend to be one on or off TV. Some of the scientists that I do read and follow say that this may be so. That we may have already reached a tipping point, where any effort towards curbing the issues surrounding climate change. And I do believe that there may be some truth to that. Does that mean we HAVE to stop? Certainly, some folks are seeing this as the moment to throw their hands in the air and shout “What’s the use?” at the clouds. Under that perspective, the easiest thing to do is to give up. In Disney’s movie ‘Tomorrowland”, a rather poignant statement made by Hugh Laurie’s character listed off a large number of issues that he related to the issues surrounding the inevitable destruction of mankind. In that statement is the following lines:

In every moment there’s the possibility of a better future, but you people won’t believe it. And because you won’t believe it you won’t do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.

So, the bridge is burned out and destroyed. What now? Well, we can build another bridge. With what? Whatever we can find. It won’t be the perfect bridge, but it will work to a better degree than nothing at all. or we can swim across the river. Or try to find boats or build other floating devices and cross that way. But we don’t give up. Its certainly easy to just give up. Its certainly easy to resign yourself to the idea that you don’t make a difference. Because as the statement says, that future is not asking anything of you today. Sure the plans we make for the future will not always be what we expected. But we can improvise, we can adapt. As human beings, its what we do.

if we are at that tipping point and our efforts will change nothing? Then, perhaps through our efforts, we will find ways to adapt to the coming changes. We will find ways to continue forward. Not for us, not for the generation directly behind us, but for the many generations to come. perhaps our plans will fall apart. That the future won’t be nearly as rosy as we would prefer it to be. But at the very least, we tried. At the very least we did SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Even despite the naysayers or the people that just want to use up the resources now and not look to the future, because they believe the only future is being a small group of chosen individuals that are accepted to a gilded country club simply because they believed, not because they tried. I’d rather try.

Thinking About: Pantheacon and Pagan Gatherings

This past week, there was an announcement made that this coming Pantheacon would be the last. Now, there are quite a few folks who have never heard of Pantheacon. And many, many more that never got the chance to go to one. I made it three years in a row. To be honest, it was an interesting experience, to say the least. All kinds of Pagans, every flavor you could think of. Everywhere. Mingling, talking, laughing, learning, discussing, debating, having fun – because that is really what a convention experience should be like. There was literally something for everyone. Serious panels, panels that took a light-hearted approach, themed panels, concerts, music, and hospitality suites run by various groups. You could find food, drink, conversation, more teaching, more discussion. And none of that gets into the moment that the Krampus Walk gets upon you – and you had no idea what it was or that it was even coming — my first-year experience.

But to be honest, conferences are expensive beasts to run and maintain. From the cost of the hotel itself to all the other smaller details that go into it – putting these on gets expensive, in terms of money. Then there’s the sweat equity of the folks behind the scenes. Making sure that projectors, project screens, speakers, microphones, etc etc are in the correct places at the correct times and working correctly. Managing such mundane details as fire-code issues for room occupancy, maintaining a lost-and-found, providing information for people lost or overwhelmed in the hotel, mitigating issues on behalf of those booked at the hotel with the hotel staff – and the list goes on and on. Its quite an undertaking. I know. I have been there before.

Back at the beginning of Project Akon, I was the Security Director for the very first two conventions. The first convention went fairly easy, but at the second one, I had to deal with people throwing rocks from the rooftop into the swimming pool below, handling a few sticky-fingers issues within the dealer’s room, and a pair of drunken females wanting to disrobe at the pool in the early morning hours of the night. Each of those moments carried a shit-load of stress for me, and I was only in charge of a single group of volunteers (fifteen to be exact). In the case of both conventions, I think I got less than ten total hours of sleep over each three-day convention. Those days were tough, and I was completely exhausted by the end of it all, but it was grand fun for me. I got to meet and talk with cartoonist Tex Avery (scratch that, I got my “Tex’s” mixed up. It was Bill “Tex” Henson) during the first one, simply because the room I was checking badges for had no one in it. He pulled up a chair, introduced himself and we talked for at least two hours about animation in the 1950s and 1960s. Eventually, we had a small group of folks gathered around, just listening to our conversation.

I am sure that some of the folks at Pantheacon have had similar moments. I know I did. My first and third years, I shared a room and a trip with John Beckett. John presented both of those years, both with the convention and in the hospitality suites. The second year; however, I went alone. I spent a lot of time in the OBOD suite talking with Frank M. and with Kristoffer Hughes. A presentation of Kristoffer’s that I attended, I saw again three weeks later at the OBOD Gulf Coast Gathering. It was just as interesting, entertaining and informative as when I had heard him at Pantheacon. That second year, being on my own, I explored more panels and visited the hospitality suites more often than the first year. And I could never forget the lovely singing of Byron Ballard to begin one of the panels on death that year.

Were there controversies? Were there issues? over the years, it has certainly been documented. During the three years that I went, I never really saw or experienced anything that would be considered controversial. But then, I tend to run in very small circles when I attend events like this. So, most of that may have been outside of my senses. But I also do not go to public events seeking to be controversial either. I am just me…just as I am anywhere else. I am not sure how controversial I may be considered. I tend to get the feeling that I am considered to be rather milquetoast, even for a Pagan, Druid, and/or Polytheist.

Imbolc Retreat 2015 – photo by Amanda Godwin

There are a few folks that see this as the possible beginning of the end of large social gatherings for the Pagan community, particularly in the arena of conventions. Maybe. There are a few other conventions that are Pagan-oriented around the country. People that are interested in this type of setting can certainly find those fairly easily. But I certainly would not call the end of Pantheacon the end of such a setting or even the end of a large convention setting. Its the end of Pantheacon. Certainly traveling to conventions is expensive. The flight/drive, the hotel, the food, all the other expenses – that shit adds up quickly. But if this is your kind of thing, there are other spots to attend. And let’s not over-play Pantheacon as some massive monolith that just cannot be replaced or created again elsewhere. Because that is just not true.

So, what to do next? Well, if you can afford to make it to Pantheacon in 2020, I would suggest you go. In my estimation its a wonderful experience to have. If you can’t make it, see what’s near you and make plans to be there – whether that is a convention or festival or a gathering…whatever. All of that is part of your wider community. Reach out, meet new people, engage with old friends…have experiences! It does not have to be “just like” Pantheacon…does it?? I don’t think so, but that’s just my perspective. Your experience will definitely vary because we are all unique. But seriously, reach out, find new places to explore…

As for the folks who have helped put Pantheacon on for these many years, I say thank you. Certainly, there were rough times, but the wonderful experiences throughout it all would hopefully outweigh all of that, especially over the number of years the convention has existed. I, as a three-year attendee, am grateful for all that you have done.

JOEO

It Really Is Worth It

Administrative Stuff

So, unfortunately, the Tuesday (yesterday) and Thursday (tomorrow) posts are going to be a day late. I do not have an army of posts written and ready to deploy on any given day. Most of what you read here is nearly a stream of conscious thought, as I sit and write these just a few moments before I post them. That explains some of the spelling and grammar mistakes I make, as well as the chunky way that some of this reads. My edit process is very small. Therefore, I run off into tangents such as this one. ::setting the post back on the tracks:: This afternoon, I will have a needle put into my right eye to inject medication to help with diabetic issues I have with my eyes. I had this done last week (to the day) for my left eye. Its not a pleasant thing, especially since last week was the first time I ever had it done. I do not expect today to be any more pleasant. My eye sight; however, will be blurry for about a half day or more. Thus, the reason for Thursday’s delayed post. Tuesday’s delayed post, which I am writing now, is due to my own laziness. So forgive me that with today’s post. 🙂

Topic-al Approach

My topic for this post is seeking joy in your life. Yeah, I understand that you are already considering the idea of skipping this post. When someone starts talking about seeking joy in life, the perspective tends to not be to the liking of a lot of folks. So, I understand if that is where you are heading. But thanks for reading this far, at least. I do appreciate that. I will be back to a bit more “Pagan-y” topic for the Thursday (actually Friday), and Sunday posts.

Those of you continuing on with me…thanks.

Seeking Joy

Seeking joy. Most likely you have heard this concept in some context or another. A few Pagan folks I have talked with about this have associated this with the “Sugar Pagans” or the “Love and Light” folks, if you prefer that label. Cool. I completely grok the extension. A few other folks have mentioned the self-help world as well. Well, I grok that too, but I tend to avoid that too. No, seeking joy is about finding the little things that make the world better for you each and every moment. That can be very different from person to person.

As an example, I will use a fictional example – The Hound from Game of Thrones.

Sansa Stark: Does it give you joy to scare people?
Sandor Clegane: No, it gives me joy to kill people.

Not everyone is going to have the same definition of joy. This is certainly an extreme example, but the Hound is not going to find joy in a sunlit field with butterflies floating about. So, as I start writing a bit more about joy, remember that I am writing from my own perspective. Yours may be decidedly different. And to be honest, that is really awesome.

Where to Look and How Hard

First, let’s make sure I say this out loud whenever and where everyone hears/reads it. Everyone has their down moments. For some folks, these moments are hard to shake. That depressive state can be a medical condition that will need assistance from health specialists. Please do not confuse what I am saying with saying that depression can be easily shaken off by changing one’s mental state. Far from it. So please do not get the impression that I am blowing off mental illness as something easily changed, I’m not.

Morning sun-rises are where I always find my joy to start the day

So where can one find joy? ::shrug:: Everywhere. In anything. A small gesture, like holding someone’s hand, can be the spark of joy that lasts a few moments or even a full day. Being out in the wide open – where no other human being can be readily seen – is enough to find joy. To know that the wide open world is there, and you are only a single, small part of it. And despite that small size, you can impact the world around you. There is a joy in that thought for me. The slight touch of your lover’s lips against your skin. The feel of a cool breeze on a super-warm Summer’s day. The extremely sharp silence after a snow-fall, punctuated by the crunch of the snow under your feet as you walk through the forest. Joy is where you find it.

Now, the harder part. How focused should you be in the search of your joy? In my experience, you do not need to go on a massive hunt for what you are looking for. The beauty of a moment will find you, usually in the most unexpected way. Nearly every morning, I post on Facebook and write “Seek joy y’all. That shit is so worth it.” Because it is. However, I am not talking about pulling on your camo, pulling a bow and a quiver of arrows out of the closet, and literally tracking every movement of joy that you can find. Rather, open your mind, your sense, your heart and your soul to the idea of finding that element of beauty and joy.

What to Do With It

So what do you do when you find that joy? Well, first off experience it for yourself. Pull it towards you, let it fill you up. Let that shit get deep inside you. Open up and let those feelings overwhelm you. Unless you’re driving or operating heavy machinery – then pull over or stop before doing so. Safety first. At a Pantheacon, Kristoffer Hughes did a form of grounding that had everyone reaching deep into the California soil (three floors below us, so you have some concrete to get through), then reaching out into the Pacific ocean waters, then finding our way through the air to reach those elements. Once we had reached all of that, he had us spread that feeling throughout, releasing it into the world around us. I believe he referred to this as a DTI or a “Druid Transmitted Infection.” So when you start to feel that joy welling up inside you, what do you do with it? Share it with someone else. And yes, there can be joy in performing a grounding ritual.

Joy is where we find it. Sharing it, helping others to find their own joy, I consider that to be a daily duty for me. Not everyone wants to feel all of that. They will shove you away. They will be angry with you. Understand that not everyone can reach for joy in every moment in their life. Not even yourself. There are always dark moments. There are always dark times. Nine Hells, we are living in some of the darkest times I can remember since the threat of nuclear annihilation. But even during those very dark times of the mid- to late-1980s, there was joy to find. And joy to share. Just don’t share the Hound’s joy. #JustSayin’

Seek joy. That shit really is worth it.

Living a Dynamically Alive Perception

Quite a while back, I wrote a post about how Mythology is sometimes viewed in terms of static being. The point of the post was that the stories that make up the Mythologies we turn to for insight are so much more than that. Sure, the stories are essentially written in stone and never-changing, but that the themes extracted from those stories are alive and played out daily in our lives. That same thing can be deduced about our Spiritual beliefs.

We live our lives everyday. Our Spiritual beliefs and practices inhabit every step that we take in the past, currently and into the future. Where we step, so steps our belief and connection with the world. I am a Polytheist. I hold strong beliefs within the realm of Animism. For me, the world around me – wherever that may be at the moment – is alive. When I reach out with my mind and my being, I can feel All that is present. Some of All of that is not as strong as the connectivity of others, but All is there. When I juxtapose the ideas of the stories that I have read into that space, I can feel how the themes present in those stories mesh or clash with All of that. And from that mesh/clash moment, I can see how all of that works (or doesn’t) with myself.

Currently, I am unemployed. Life has been feeling a little messy and unorganized for me. I’m unsure of where my footing will be found or how solid it will be when I get there. In a manner of speaking, I feel like Theseus about to enter the maze. To provide a solid feeling, I count on my friends to be there to steady me from time to time. In this manner, I have my own version of Ariadne providing me with a ball of twine to navigate my way through the maze. But in a contrast to the theme, my goal is not to navigate my way out of the maze, but to a new job. Somewhere. However, utilizing the wider thematic of the maze, Ariadne, and Theseus, I can provide a more solid footing for myself as I move forward. What is happening with me is not the Myth, However, utilizing the Myth allows the theme to grow with what happens to me going forward. The actual Myth remains what it is, but the thematic idea grows with me – in success or failure.

My Spirituality grows, changes and evolves on a daily basis. As I reach outwards to discovery new connectivity with the world around me, my understanding of that same connectivity evolves. Some of the connections die off or alter in ways that continue to expand my understanding of things. My Spirituality is alive in that sense.

For instance, most people know my desire to not utilize magick or spells in my daily Path. I have always been of the mind that sweat, hard work, and physical investigation are the first tools any magick worker should turn to. However, there are times where those efforts produce no results, and an investigation into the efforts of magick and spell-work should be looked into. I am not at this point in my job search. I continue with the first tools, but have also added my prayers to the Gods as well. I am also not one to beg the Gods for assistance as my first steps towards a solution. But I have exhausted my first steps – the first tools – at this point, and am now seeking assistance from another angle.

Many folks might find my reluctance to call on the Gods for assistance to be a little odd. After all, if one looks to the Christian faith, there is a constant measure of beseeching that is made for the smallest things. Such as asking for God’s assistance in getting a new iPhone. Should I not hit my knees or trundle on out to the backyard circle and make my offerings? “Oh Crow, help me get the required monetary needs for an iPhone.” I would think that the Crow would smack me upside the head if I turned to such measures. No, I think I will leave the wailing and rending of clothing to the Christians for such things. Not that those folks are Christians…but that’s a conversation for another time.

As a Polytheist, I believe that the Gods are all individual Beings. That They grow, just as we do. That They are capable of change, just as we are, but not at the speed or pace that we do. As an Animist, I believe that everything is alive. From the trees and rocks around us to the plastics that we use to wrap our disposable foods within. I also believe that the stories that we ingest, the tales that we seek comfort within; that these themes are also alive and constantly in motion within our lives. For me, the world is a living place. That there is motion in everything. Some of it, like the changing of the stones, takes place at speeds that are imperceptible to us.

I try and take a walk every day that I can. Not just because I enjoy taking a walk. Not just because I like being outdoors. Because the world is alive around me, and my walk is just a celebration of that particular state of being – alive.

Thinking Aloud on Leadership

Leadership. Yeah, I have been talking about this for a bit now. That is mostly due to the concept being on my mind. Particularly within the Pagan community. What can be considered an ideal “Leader” within a Pagan community? is there such a thing as an “ideal” leader? What traits should such a leader have? Does the Pagan community even need a leader?? Well, none of these are easy questions to contemplate, but let’s give it a little bit of a tug, shall we?

The “Ideal” Leader

What makes a leader, ideal? Well, this is tackling the hardest of all the concepts first. However, this is a bit necessary to start with since all the perspectives will potentially be shaped from this one. Now, disclaimer time, this will come from my own point of view, so please don’t confuse this as being a mandate that every Pagan should have. Others may have different and extremely varying opinions. An ideal leader is someone who has a passion to do what is best for the community, not just what is best for their own personal Path or Tradition. Patience, understanding, the ability to listen, capable of working with others to get decisions and results – fairly typical stuff. Essentially, a person that can bend rules but not break those rules. Someone that sees fairness and equality above all else. Someone that can make those same rules rigid and unbending where necessary.

Is a Leader Necessary?

As a solo Pagan, this is a tough one to really answer. My response to this is “no”. Its not necessary to have anyone else as a leader, other than yourself – at least in my own estimation. But let’s remember – I’m by myself as a choice. I do things better on my own, at least in my opinion. But for others, group dynamics is a must-have in their Spiritual Path. And within group dynamics, there is always that single individual that is looked at as a leader. So, for group dynamics, my response would be “yes”.

Now, does the Pagan community, as a whole, need a leader? Or maybe even several leaders, depending on Tradition or Path? For this, my response is a definite no. However, the Pagan community does have various Pagan folk that are looked upon as “an example”. Not necessarily a leader, but as a kind of template, if you will allow me the reference. How should we as Pagans respond to the dramatic examples that are made of Samhain by evangelical Christian leaders? Well, as an individual I am outraged by the blatant falsehoods that get presented, but for a more appropriate response, I might look to the people that I have admiration and respect to see how that response might look like. I can take my tips and cues from that. if I think their responses are a bit more milquetoast than I believe it should be, I might disregard their perspective and continue to be openly outraged on my own. But those folks that are out there openly, the so-called “Big Name Pagans” that everyone reads (I’m not one of them, honestly), or that everyone listens to, can be gauges by which we can check our own responses against. Particularly, if our perspectives and opinions tend to line up with theirs. There is, honestly, nothing wrong with checking your emotional response against others. That always provides a different perspective.

Does there need to be some kind of Pagan Pope out there? Someone who speaks for the entire Pagan community? Nine Hells, no! I can trust some folks to make generic, bland statements about the overall temperature of the Pagan community as they observe it, but there is no one that can speak for all other Pagans. I have found Pagans to be individualistic enough to speak for themselves…well, for the most part. There is no need for a singular Pagan mouthpiece in the world. At least not in my own estimation.

So, What is Leadership About Within Paganism?

Well. ::taking a big deep breath:: Leadership, from I stand, is about good mentoring of a group of people. Helping others to learn and grow on their own individual Path, even within the confines of a group. Leadership is not about empirical statements of how others should or should not act. Leadership is about being there to point people in the right direction, to provide focus to a group of people moving towards a particular perspective or foundation. Leadership is about growing others to be capable of doing the same thing for the generations to come. Leadership is being the rock solid example of what should be done or how people should roll up their sleeves and help – even when the cause being championed is not their own. For me, that is what makes a leader.

Does the Pagan community need leaders? Certainly. But leaders also need to understand the power that others place into their hands. Those people are looking to you as the example. It is not because they are weak, but because they are needing an example to follow. They are looking for that template pattern to build from. They will add their own twist and kink to it, in time. But that beginning mold is the first building block. It is not that they think you are infallible, every human being makes mistakes. But is is that they trust you. And that power should never be given away lightly nor should it be abused by you. It is a measure of trust being given to you, and that trust has tremendous responsibility with it. Do not abuse that trust.

I’m no leader. I do what I have to do. Sometimes, people come with me. –Edgar Friendly in the movie ‘Demolition Man’

With Respect and Trust – Sometimes People Come Along

About a week ago, I posted a quote I had gathered from a Twitter account that pushes out Jean Luc Picard statements from the Star Trek: Next Generation episodes (incidentally, which I love).

Respect must be earned. Trust must be earned. A demand for either means the loss of both.

For me, this quote sums up a lot of problems in the world of leadership. Most folks in positions of leadership demand that others respect them for the titles that they hold, having done little to nothing to earn that respect – aside from being promoted or hired into the position. Along with that demand to be immediately respected, seems to come a secondary demand of wanting their word to be trusted above all others. Again, without having earned that trust through their actions, words, and deeds. But there is a secondary catch to all of this as well, where a healthy skepticism turns into an unhealthy ability to trust. When that sets in, such a mindset can be a difficult thing to break.

Respect and Trust Are Not the Same

These two perspectives have some conceptual aspects that are closely intertwined, but they are not really the same thing. Let’s take a look at their respective definitions from dictionary.com.

  • Respect – to hold in esteem or honor. To show regard or consideration for.
  • Trust – to rely upon or place confidence in someone or something. To have confidence; hope.

Respecting someone, showing them regard or consideration, does not necessarily need to have a degree of trust associated with it. As an example, I do not trust President Trump whatsoever, but I would not lower the degree of respect I have for the title of his elected position. The President does demand that people respect him, solely based on him being who he is. I just cannot bring myself to respect Donald Trump, the individual.

When people in positions of leadership make demands that people respect them, simply because of the title that they hold, as the quote notes – they not only lose respect, but they also lose any trust that may have been engendered to them prior to that moment. When you start demanding respect, simply for existing, there tends to be a severe erosion of trust for that same individual. Perhaps, this is where we tend to have the issues that tend to arise in Pagan leadership.

Respect and Trust Come Through Compassion

When I was in the United States Air Force, the idea of making better enlisted leaders was a very real thing. I was sent to two leadership schools: Airman Leadership School and Non-Commissioned Officers Training School. Both taught me a lot about being a leader, but the better (and more powerful) training that I got was with the Non-Commissioned Officers that were appointed to be my supervisors. I had bad leaders and I had really awesome leaders. The bad ones would lord their “power” over their subordinates and take all the credit for things that were done correctly and in an outstanding manner. The good ones were a lot more helpful, and shared the credit for the triumphs with those of us that worked with them. The correlation did not miss my notice – the good leaders did not want the position of being a leader. They wanted a team that worked together. This was also emphasized heavily in my training via the Leadership Schools. Leaders, the good ones, eschewed the power, and opted for strong communication and the sharing of the accolades. When failure came about, those leaders did not find a single individual to blame. Rather, they asked for the blame to be given to them, as “the team had failed, and the team was my responsibility.” Afterwards, these leaders would not berate the individuals responsible. They would work with those individuals to identify the problem, as well as work together to create a solution to insure it did not happen again.

In our Pagan communities, it seems that the leadership is more concerned with keeping power than practice the art of compassion and seeking to grow others to be leaders for the future. Let’s be realistic for a moment. Someone who becomes leader will eventually have to step down for someone else to take their place. It only makes sense to grow others in skill sets and perspective to eventually take the place in leadership. And people will do as they have been taught. Want compassionate leadership that you can respect and trust? Let them learn how to be just that through others. That means letting go of personal ego, and wanting to do for the overall group. Sadly, this does not always seem to be the case, as many Pagan Community leaders are more concerned that someone from their Tradition, someone from their Path, someone that they hold as a close friend – that these people will assume the mantle of leadership of the Community.

Respect and Trust Are Earned Through Hard Work and Effort

You are not always going to be successful at the things you do for the Community, as a leader or even as a member of the Community. Its how you handle the failures that is going to matter more. if you fail and just stop doing after that, you will be seen as unreliable or just in it for yourself (which you should not be). Sure, you will need to dust yourself off, and get back on your feet. But step back into the Community with another project that someone else is trying to get moving forward. Help out there, and you will be creating that “sweat equity” in being a member of the community. Then, when you try your own Project again, perhaps you have made a strong enough ally to get some necessary assistance. Maybe not. Realize that not everyone is going to be on-board with the idea of helping others. Just realize that building trust and respect is a two-way street. You can respect those people for putting forth something that benefits the community, but that when help is needed elsewhere – those same folks are not likely to be trustworthy enough to seek help from. You have to find your victories wherever you can find them.

Wrapping It Up

Well, I have rambled on enough about the concepts of trust and respect where leadership is concerned. Most of the “code” of leadership that I have was developed by the individuals who were my supervisors in the military. Its not a perfect understanding of the concepts of respect and trust, nor is it a perfect system of being a leader. However, its a conceptual understanding that makes sense to me. Edgar Friendly said it best in the movie Demolition Man: “i’m no leader. I do what I have to. Sometimes people come along.” Its a perspective that works well for me. It is true that I am not a leader, otherwise I would not be a solo practitioner of my Path. But sometimes, people do come along. And when I do find those folks that are coming along, I do my very best to be there for them…to the best of my own individual ability. If some folks see me as some type of a leader, I can only hope that their trust in me was weighed out carefully before they gave that to me. And I can only hope that I am worthy of their respect. However, I still have to walk my Path for myself. Sometimes people come along.