Pagan Studies

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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On the Matter of Big Name Pagans

My friend Peter Dybing has posted this blog, "Killing the Big Name Pagans," at Pagan in Paradise.  I tend to get more inspired when writing something responsive to the ideas of others, which often means I just post a long response.  When I do that, my thoughts don't make it beyond that feedback form.  So today I've decided to post my full response here:

I agree with the opinions expressed in earlier feedback at Pagan in Paradise by Thorn, Peg and Elizabeth. Here are few factoids that inform my opinion:


*  How one conducts oneself is more important to me than how high one's public profile is.

*  Leaders happen. Some people have leadership qualities, like initiative, and others have less or none at all. And just because someone takes on a leadership role doesn't mean that others have to follow. With no followers, one is not leading anything or anyone. But the emergence of more informed and/or influential and/or accomplished individuals is natural. Nature, is Nature not our teacher?

*  There is a big differencebetween those who see an opportunity to be of service, to do something worthwhile and that probably benefits many, and those who are building a career out of being some 'Pagan personage.'  Whether it's selling books, acquiring teaching gigs for money, whatever, that's somewhat different from leadership, per se. Which is not to say that one cannot be and do both -- be of service and sell books. My point is that motivations may be different. If you have to make some money to pay the rent and what you do to earn money is sell books and give workshops, you have a different motivation from someone who's just doing some kind of labor-intensive and responsibility-laden Pagan-oriented work (like organizing a festival or keeping the account books) that I would also view as a leadership role.

*  Lastly, we live in a culture of celebrity. No matter how 'different' and unaffected by mainstream mores we may claim to be, every one of us lives within, and is affected and informed by, the overculture.

Having said all that, I will conclude by mentioning that when you see Pagans doing work you consider beneficial or worthwhile, it's nice to give them some word of appreciation. As a sometime-recipient of words of encouragement, I can tell you it really feels good. Conversely, it doesn't feel so good to be overlooked.

By the same token, if someone is doing something publicly on behalf of Paganism and you think what they're doing is not good, it's appropriate to address the things you think are problematic or those with which you don't agree. To hold that person accountable, at least to the community/organization on whose behalf that person acts. That does not mean trashing the person. It only means speaking to specific issues.

And if you really hate what someone is doing in the public forum, you really disagree, well, jump into that sandbox and build your own castle; put your own ideas in motion.

 

 

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Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com

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