Suddenly a wild leader appears

So, continue of from the previous post, and to revisit a previous post. Leadership with in any small sub culture is often a problematic one, and Paganism is no different.

 

Wild

 

In Paganism, it used to be, that the leaders, were people who had been around for a long time (relatively speaking) and had perhaps earned their way to the role, those most likely had set up their own personal fiefdom. None the less, it was someone easily identifiable, and if need be, easily targeted to be removed (if that is what people wanted). Today, its much less clear cut. Often the “leader” in a community is someone who has made a power grab in a perceived vacuum….

 

When I left the Dunedin, New Zealand, Pagan Scene in 2004, I left what appeared to be a well-balanced (relatively speaking) community. We had elected a new person to run meetings, along with others who would support him. It turns out, the person elected turned out to be problematic (he treated it all as a place to find sexual partners…. There was no way to know this at the time). From afar, that seemed to self-correct, and stabilize. However, when dealing with a pagan community that is again a relative thing. The “Self-correction” turned out to be the beginning of the end for the existing format. The University Pagan Network, which was basically the Dunedin Pagan scene fell to pieces. Toi be fair, it was 6 years later than perhaps it should have been (2010 just before I came back to Dunedin).

 

When I arrived back in Dunedin, I came back with a vastly different set of experiences. I had been part of a dysfunctional, but existing Pagan Community in Milwaukee, but also was part of what appeared to be a quite stable Pagan Church in the form of ADF. I had ideas. But I looked around my home town, and there was literally NO pagan scene. There was the Spiritualist church, there were flaky New Agers, but Pagans? No. The two Dianic Covens were AWOL (apparently, they Witch Warred each other to the point everyone went home and went solitary). I looked at WitchVox (which was sort of still active in 2010, though falling out of favour). I joined Pagan Facebook groups for New Zealand (to find I was the only local in them). It appeared barren. It was in essence like the Pagan scene of the late 80s I started in, you almost needed to look for flagging (pentacles and other symbols) to hope to make contact. I was also, a late 30s male. I was in the age range where there had been problems in my absence.

 

I bunkered down, studied at University, sought new work, and was a care giver to my Grandmother as her dementia took hold. I satisfied myself with ADF (and well we know where that ended up). I tried a couple of times, to reignite the community. Tori and I even managed to find some pagans we knew, and University kids who might be interested…. We found out, that apparently, we were the wrong sort of Pagans too. The Praxis of ADF, and reliance on ethics, made us too “ceremonial” (I am not going to touch that with a barge pole). What it really told me was, people did not want to be part of a well-organized group. Cool, no harm no foul. More time for personal growth, right?

 

Well, what I did not know, was that “a wild leader was about to appear” on the horizon. Dunedin had a tradition of a Winter Solstice Festival of light in the town centre (“the Octagon”). It was organized by a woman who most certainly was not a pagan when it first started. Then handed off to people who could well run an event. The woman who started it since, joined the Theosophical Society (I best not comment how I feel about them either) and eventually found one of the local Dianic’s. Suddenly in early 2011, she was that wild Pagan Leader. She made a power play. I was sitting on some email lists, and Facebook groups with the Dunedin (and Otago (the province) name on them)). She had no idea who I was, probably does not, or my history in the area, as an ELECTED leader. But she tried to strong arm the email lists, and Facebook groups out of me.

 

That was a mistake. You don’t demand something, with out earning trust, or at least an introduction. Needless to say, suddenly I was in a position of power I did not want. I kept the groups in my hands and made her make her own (as she should have done), and only recently shut them down. It was petty of me, but it was also presumptuous that I’d let someone I did not know, near private information (the email list dated back to 2000, and people posted differently then). I was not and am not popular. But this was a power play, but some one new, to become the leader. Funny thing is, she took that role, through her own actions. No one wanted to have the role. I certainly did not, so she sits in a role, that if someone challenges in time (someone will), she will claim she always sat in.

 

But how did she get the role? Apathy. Surely, even my own. But also, a blitzkrieg on a vacuum of power. Thus, when the community did begin to stir several years later, there she was. She put someone she wanted in charge of a University group (that has found the same problem I found on my return in 2010 … no one wants to do things). That is how Paganism has apparently moved. You set yourself up and take power. Rather than you earn power, or respect through knowledge and actions… those days are well gone.

 

Who the hell made you leader? Is the question you should ask (perhaps more politely?). Perhaps when someone is being an ass, who claims celebrity or leadership, challenge them to prove they hold the role. Our ancestors would have.

Witch Wars

 

 

I have been a pagan for a good number of years now (since the mid to late 1980s depending on when I identify as having moved that way, as opposed to being an agnostic atheist). In that time I’ve seen a number of pagan communities grow, and I’ve seen a bunch of the fall to pieces, hell I’ve had a hand in that a couple of times. I’m not proud of all those instances, though in one or two cases, it was applying a hot coal to a wound, for the good of the community. Its not nice, it hurts, it causes harm, but less harm than the community “bleeding out”.

 

In the decades I’ve been in the community I have seen it go in a cycle that is something like this:

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In there is the curious phrase “Witch War”. While I can’t give the exact date that the phrase began to be used (in the context here), I can tell you that in the mid to late 90s, and early 00s, it was thrown around with abandon. Both in comunities online, and in the non aetherial realm. Essentailly what a “Witch War” is, is when two or more groups (or individusals, and any combination there of) decide they will work “magic” (whatever that is to them) at each other, to get what they want.

 

I am going to state that I’ve no issue eithicall or morally with the working of “magic” on others , even if its not how I would usually do so. In the case of most pagans in the 90s and early 00s, it was however a massive step away from their proported ethics. At that time, a great majority of these Pagans, were either a flavour of Wiccan, or had adopted their “an harm ye none” ethical code (the Rede). I saw in the miod to late 00s that many then added an “out” to the Rede. With “if it do harm, do as you must”. That’s sort of invalidates the advice of the Rede, but hey whatever.

 

So Witch Wars were (and still are to an extent) a group, or individuals, throwing their ethics to one side, because they had  decided they needed to act. Not much different than real wars in someways. Including the fact most witch wars were in reality, not about what they were professed to be about, but about ego, and resources.

 

When I lived in Milwaukee Wisconsin (2004 – 2010) I eventually entered the local Pagan community. I had been resistant to this, as I felt something off about them. When I did join in, I attributed my misgivings to me being a far outsider to them. I was alien to them (a foreigner, highly educated, and not even vaguely a Wiccan). But I entered the community, and for a time, it went quite well. But as with this community, I had entered somewhere in the upper right of my diagram, and things changed.

 

After about 8 months my wife and I got into a spat with a local store owner.We will call her F.We had taken a late teen girl in (on her request), who was about to become homeless. We had set her up, where she would be able to go to culinary school(at our cost) and achieve her dreams. Apparently F decided that was not allowed to happen. She engineered an argument, and we went right to  Witch War. Except I did not know it was that. I left the community, to not cause problems, as I felt it would be bad for the teenager we had tried to help.

 

What I did not know, was that in particular I was being defamed. We are not talking a little defamation here, but big fat, accusations. F claimed I had broken into her home, but stolen nothing, then she claimed I took a shot at her store (yet no bullet hole was ever found, or casing from the round I was supposed to have fired). I know she said more, but no one has  told me what was said.  All I knew was, people treated me as if I was a leper. I assumed I had been too aggressive with my side of the argument. I shrugged it off and worked my arse off in my job. But it came to pass, F pushed her luck too far. She told her coven, then were going to curse me, and well they rebelled. One of them contacted me, and I was to say the least fucking livid. Not over the attempted cursing, but over the accusations of breaking the law.

 

While my own ethics would not have prohibited me from dealing with F, I did not. I was angry enough to do that. But at the same time, I did not see the point. Rather I let her lies be known, very publicly. The upshot was F lost her coven (as mentioned), and I am not talking a few leaving, the whole thing, that was about a decade old, fell to bits. She lost her store, as people stopped going there, and she lost her standing in the community (she had been made an “Elder” by some misguided fool, after F had been in the community for less than 3 years). In the end, she still is an outsider to that community, based on her own actions, and initiating a witch war, that quite a few decided to be part of.

 

What I learned from all this was that so called ethical people, when they let go of their ethics, commit acts that they would be horrified at, if someone else did them. They always seem to be able to justify them.

 

But I witnessed that community implode every 8 to 16 months, and groups of pagans assemble to “fight with magic, and defamation’ the others. People tried to drag me in, and for the most part, I demurred. I had seen the very worse be applied to my wife and myself, I really was not going to join in with people who were willing to hang me out to dry.

 

Witch Wars are like that, they are groups of people playing at politics, and not controlling themselves.

 

Now where does this leave the warrior? That’s is a hard one. You will undoubtedly find yourself a participant in this sort of behavior at some point. The choice is yours. You can join in, you can leave your ethics, and fight an unfettered war. OR you can keep your ethics, but then upset the group you belong too. I was certainly called names (How can you be a warrior if you can’t fight) for not participating. You can even play peacekeeper if we enter the “A leader steps forward” enforcing any agreements, though good luck with that, there certainly shall be insurgents.

 

My own thoughts are a Warrior should always keep their ethics where possible. That you are not a rabid dog the community sets on others, and that if they think you are, then perhaps your leaders… need to go. Yes you read that correctly. I’ve recently come to the opinion, that a community with unethical, and or ineffectual leaders, needs to be helped to fix that problem.

 

These witch wars can go further than individuals within a local community. I will hold up the example of Christian Day. Christian is a pox on the international pagan community, who has wished Rape (yep rape) on women who disagree with him. He’s the Kardiassian Family of Paganism. Yet, people flock to his infamy, and support him, in his witch wars (and they are that) against others. He attacks Pagan Festivals which are in competition to his own. He slanders, he libels, and he threatens. He says he casts against people. So one wonders, why the community lets this parasite exist?

Take that as you will.