NOTE: This was originally posted on my WordPress site (which I will be closing down to move over here to BlogSpot for the simplicity of posting) on 4Sep10.
Over the four-and-a-half years that I have been doing my podcast “From the Edge of the Circle” — I’ve taken time out during several shows to talk about the Pagan community, what I see from my perspective on the edges of it, and a small sprinkling of commentary on leadership. My last podcast episode was focused directly on the concepts of leadership. A lot of Emails that I got from listeners about the show had commentary about why my perspective wasn’t really clear — and why those listeners felt that I wouldn’t make a good Priest. They’re right. I wouldn’t make a good Priest – because I’m not a Priest. I’m just one guy working my way through my own perspective in the world around me. I choose Paganism as a broad-faced template to paint my own picture, and I specifically utilize the teachings within the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids to further refine that same perspective. But I am certainly not a Priest of anything or to anybody — except maybe to myself.
Probably the best way to marry up this perspective is to look a bit more at my religious and spiritual background. Perhaps more my religious background than my spiritual one. I started life in a Protestant family that didn’t attend church with any regularity. My education was through the setting of private Catholic schools, where my parents figured I would get a stronger, classic education than I would in public schools. Learning in the Catholic school environment means that one of your primary classes is religious education within the Catholic faith. Once I left my parents and stretched out on my own — I tried out some other aspects of the Christian faith. I looked into the Pentacostal movement, as well as the Southern Baptist aspect. While I enjoyed my dealings with the individuals in each — it lacked enough interlocking aspects to my love of the outdoors to really mesh with who I was. So I continued looking. Eventually I found myself in the Wiccan aspect of the Pagan path. I was trained in three different tradtions — and again, while I enjoyed the individuals within each particular Tradition, there seemed to be something more attuned with the outdoors that didn’t seem to “click” for me in any of those. Eventually, I found myself stepping out into the area of eclectic Paganism, where I am today. I found ways of taking aspects of various faiths and marrying these to what I believe and feel about Life as a daily ritual — and found myself staring directly into the pathways of OBOD. The lessons that I have gleaned from the Bardic training for OBOD have opened my eyes to new ways of looking at familiar concepts, which brings me to where I am today. When I get asked to define myself — I generally utilize the term “neo-Pagan” — as it is the closest determination I can utilize to correctly identify me.
So what does all that have to do with my concepts of leadership within Paganism? Everything. The particular pathway defines me for who I am — what I have learned — and some of the experiences I have had. I’m not a Priest or leader of a coven or a group or anything like that. I’m me. All I try and do is make my way through the daily aspects of Life. What I seek in a leader of the Pagan community (and there’s room for many, many leaders in my eyes) is an individual that can relate to the differences between him- or her-self and the wide expanse of individuals and groups that make up our Pagan community. And not only relate, but to be inclusive — even when the differences are diametrically opposed to his or her own views. I’ve seen far too much divisiveness amongst various corners of the far-reaching community. Its that exact divisiveness that caused me to literally walk out of the community six years back.
That’s right. Six years ago — I stepped completely out of the Pagan community. Not because the community didn’t fit me, but because the community was turning into a series of turf wars between various factions. Because people perceived a difference between themselves and others — and would then deem those others as “not Pagan enough” and therefore unworthy of being included in the community. Closed attitudes like that are the fastest manners to drive me away — and it did. Leadership isn’t just about putting on a pretty public face to the other religious communities. Its not just about promoting Paganism as a wide-reaching expanse of individuals and groups. Its about showing that Pagans are inclusive — even to those who are diametric opposites to the concepts of polytheism and animism that are the prevailing under-current of the larger ratios of belief in the Pagan community. That Pagans are capable of peaceful communicative concepts to those that are “different” to themselves. But that we are also capable of defending our own against aggressive actions and words as well…and capable of coming to the defense of those under similar forms of attack — even when those individuals do not share much common ground with us.
Just my own perspective…and one that I will gladly expound upon over the coming days.
B*B — Tommy