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.
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.