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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BNPs, PPPs, & Leadership

Ever since I’ve been on a Pagan path I’ve heard of BNPs.  The acronym was told to me to indicated Big Name Pagans.   Over time, as more people found their way to one Pagan path or another, or began to create their own paths more specific to their particular worldviews, the term BNP took on a negative connotation.  I started to hear it explained as Big-Nosed Pagans.

Most of those referred to as BNPs had published a book or several and were known for that.  Of course, when I was coming up, there were few books, and those there were tended to be elementary.  They lacked depth, refinement, and nuance.  Today, thankfully, creative Pagans have explored Paganisms in much greater depth.  They’ve done academic and historical research, as well as incorporating anecdotal evidence for their theories – good ol’ UPGs.  Practitioners of reconstructed traditions of many kinds have explored the traditions they’re reviving, and thereby have advanced this learning tremendously.  As well, walkers on more personal Pagan paths, including “hard polytheists,” have contributed to our growing body of resources.

I’ve encountered plenty of disdain in various Pagan social contexts of what the disdainers called BNPs.  Overall, I think this is unfair.  Yes, there are well-known Pagan authors on the broomstick circuit who expect a degree of deference, who require that their luggage be carried and other assistance rendered.  However, not all behave that way.  And in some cases, as with older or frailer authors or those who may be traveling with small children, such accommodations are justified.

I see many other Pagans who aren’t necessarily authors with a body of published books, although often they contribute to anthologies, to published (in the sense of printed matter) discussions and online fora, and who otherwise contribute to the understanding of our communities among the general public.  They may be known, but not necessarily as authors.  After all, leadership takes many forms.

We Pagans also have poets, sculptors, painters, dancers, musicians, song-writers, ritualists, and other artists who might, by the common understanding of the term BNP, be deserving of the appellation.  (Check back later for more on Pagan artists, writers, and musicians as agents of cultural change.)

There are also many other Pagans who’ve taken on leadership roles.  Some organize festivals, or they may take on the big task of creating the meal plans and arranging for  cooking, feeding, and cleanup; or do the accounting a festival requires; or do all the advertising and promotional work; or book the flights for presenters; or fetch guests from the local airport; or one of the many other roles necessary to make a festival happen.  Some may be leaders while others would more accurately be considered volunteers.  In whatever capacity they work, they are helping to create Pagan culture.

Another kind of Pagan leader may be someone who’s done substantial work in the context of interfaith activities, or is a Pagan scholar.

More recently, I offer as an example one individual, John Halstead, who solicited involvement from Pagans of all stripes who, with his facilitation, created a Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.  This is not a Pagan who has a bunch of books to promote and workshops to lead (that I know of).  Surely this action can be seen as one of assuming leadership.

For them, and others who’ve taken on leadership roles, I propose a new term:  PPPs, or Publicly Prominent Pagans.  How do you like it? 

(The accompanying photo was taken at a gathering called Pagan Summit in Bloomington, Indiana, in 2001.  Note that several of those pictured have crossed over since that date, and many are not published authors.)
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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


  • John Halstead
    John Halstead Wednesday, 29 April 2015

    Thank you Macha! I'm honored by your mention. (And I love new acronyms.)

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