Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

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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Response to Blog about Pagan Leadership

Because my response to PantheaCon and Leadership is so long, it seems worthy of its own blog entry.

Annika, the reason you found only older Pagans at the PWR meeting was because only older people came, not because younger folks weren't welcome.  Don Frew spoke about the history of the PWR because he had expected people unfamiliar with it to be the ones who came.  That turned out not to be the case, but for you.  Had I known it was going to unfold as it did, I wouldn't have needed to come.  I already knew most of what he had to say, and in fact have given talks on it to Pagans around the country myself.  Also, there were a few people there who were older, Pagan but not Witchen, new to interfaith involvement and who had never attended PWR and who came for that reason, to familiarize themselves with what it is and how it works.

Speaking as one oldster who has followed the PWRs since 1993 but who has never been able to attend one and will be doing so this year, I'm eager to see younger folks join these efforts.  This will probably be the last opportunity I have in my life to go to something like this, given my age and financial resources. 

I've been working in interfaith locally, regionally and nationally (but not internationally) for many years.  In both places, I encounter many young people.  In fact, in the national gatherings I've participated in there have been way more younger people than older ones.  However, most of them are from Abrahamic faiths.  Plenty of young Muslims, Jews, and Christians.  Of course, partly that's because there are more of them.  But still...

Here's the rub, at least one of the rubs, and that is that mainstream religions have institutions that support interfaith efforts.  Paganisms are NRMs (new religious movements, fewer than 250 years old, like Bahá'í and LDS), so some of us are working on establishing healthy, vibrant, functional institutions.  We don't have many yet, and those we have are poorly supported by the Pagan community at large.  Mainstream religions have personnel whose job it is to participate.  We Pagans, however, have to go on our own dimes, which is my primary limitation.  That said, I and others do get some money by way of travel stipends from, in my case, the recently much-reviled Covenant of the Goddess.  Without CoG's help, I wouldn't be doing a lot of what I do.  And I do it well.  In the world of interfaith we Pagans who participate are always treated with respect and kindness, if not always with understanding.  I wish I could say the same about participating in Pagan organizations and activities.

This year, to my knowledge, there will be delegations from Circle, EarthSpirit, CoG, Temple of Ra, ADF, Assembly of the Sacred Wheel, and probably others I'm unaware of yet.  If you go, you'll also encounter a delegation of students (not necessarily young in age) from  Cherry Hill Seminary, an incipient and less-than-optimally-supported Pagan institution of higher learning to which I've dedicated more than 15 years.  Just a reality check.  

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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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