Fame vs. Authority in the Pagan Community

Dear Pagans,

There is an interesting meta-discussion going on right now about the nature of Fame withing the Pagan Community.   Cat Chapin-Bishop over at Quaker Pagan Reflections started it with her own musings on fame, Pagan authors, and her own yearnings and ambivalence regarding fame within the Pagan community.

This has gotten a few others writing and thinking about this topic, including Jason over at The Wild Hunt, and Yewtree over at The Stroppy Rabbit.  Several fabulous, and even a few ‘famous’, folks have also been commenting at the various blogs.

So having this bully little pulpit, I have decided to put in my two cents…

First off let me just admit, up front, the full and delicious irony of a bunch of Pagan Bloggers discussing their observations and concerns of the status that we in the Pagan Community seem to place on Fame and Authors and Big Name Pagans!

(ok, I feel better now)

So for myself, I have always dreamed of being an author, even as a kid.  I was thrilled to be asked to write a column for Thorn magazine.  I cried tears of joy when I got my check from them… I was officially a proffessional writer… dreams really can come true.. for me too!  I am always pleased to get comments on my blog, and happy to see others citing my posts elsewhere.  I would like to think that these are all the normal human desire to be noticed and acknowledged; combined with a certain delight in finding others who also deeply care about the issues and ideas I think are important.

I have learned to question my own motives though… there is still a part of me that is the kid who desperately wanted to be liked and to be poplar and didn’t really have either.

In fact, though, when I’ve gotten notoriety within my local communities I’ve been a little weirded out.

I can remember years ago now when I had just started hosting monthly Pagan community socials in the Anchorage , AK, area.  I had been hosting them for a few months, and started an email-list for the local community.  I was greeting folks at the start of one of these events and I introduced myself to a couple of new faces.  These two young ladies eyes widened and the smiled brightly and in thrilled voices said

“Oh, wow!  Your Pax!!!  It’s so cool to finally meet you!”

Overall, that felt, SO weird.  I really wasn’t sure how to deal with it at the time.  Some folks acted like I was some type of important big deal because I was just doing things anyone could do to try and encourage some in person Pagan community in Anchorage.

Years later, after having a period of burnout and withdrawal in the wake of a drama storm, I started getting back involved.

Then I encountered a a couple of folks running some local events who were always playing these very cliquish and high-school games with folks.   The sort of….

“Well, your idea is good dear, and we should give it some considerationg but We have a bit more experience in these things so why don’t we do it our way and you don’t need to worry about it?”

and

“I don’t want to say something bad about ___ but,…”  (this tactic is now and forever known in some Pagan social circles back in Anchorage as “But-comma fever” and mercilessly mocked.)

Their leader actually referred to herself as a “published Pagan author” in an effort to lend herself authority in her efforts to wield Power Over!

(This too has led to some ferocious mockery, especially as the book in question was self-published by the author on a print-on-demand site.  If you must try playing THAT game, at least have your blessed book on the shelves of the stores!)

They even actively sought ways to derail other peoples efforts at building community!  Luckily there were some hardworking, passionate, and intelligent Pagan folk around town who were NOT impressed by them and their games and Anchorage has some active pockets of Pagan community to this day.

I decided a long time ago that there are just some things I don’t care about.

I really don’t care if you are famous, an author, a blogger, or podcaster, or some other species of Big Name Pagan.  I don’t care how long you’ve been a Pagan or involved in the movement.  I don’t give a whit who initiated you or how many  downlines you may have.  I don’t care if you are called an Elder.  I don’t care if you founded  a group, a grove, a kindred, a non-profit, or a church.

What DO I care about?

How do you treat seekers and newbies, and their questions or ideas?  How do you talk about other Pagan and non-Pagan paths?  How do you represent us in the presence of others?   How do you treat yourself?  How do you treat your family, your friends,  and the waitress or the busboy?  How do you choose to live and embody the ideals and values and virtues of your Paganism?

“Oh, wow!  Your Pax!!!”

At the time that happened I felt like I really wasn’t doing anything all THAT special.  I was just organizing some socials and trying to encourage some face to face community.

I now realize that inside the modern Pagan movement even small actions can make huge differences in the lives of our fellow Pagans.  Most of us, if we are lucky, have a coven or grove or kindred or group of some sort to celebrate some of the seasons.  In a few of the largest cities we have many active groups and outlets for the movement to blossom into community.  For a lot of us though Paganism is a solitary persuit.  We may have some community activity but, either due to external or internal barriers, we do not take part.  So Authors and Podcasters and Bloggers and other species of Big Name Pagan become important to us.

It is no longer enough to write a book, or publish a blog, or produce a podcast.   As the modern Pagan movement enters the 21st Century C.E. we Pagans need to ask the question…

What are you doing with your power, your authority, your fame?

Peace,

Pax

PS- some aspects of this post owe a debt of inspiration to the excellent post Witch Please by Dianne Sylvan

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2 thoughts on “Fame vs. Authority in the Pagan Community

  1. What DO I care about?

    How do you treat seekers and newbies, and their questions or ideas? How do you talk about other Pagan and non-Pagan paths? How do you represent us in the presence of others? How do you treat yourself? How do you treat your family, your friends, and the waitress or the busboy? How do you choose to live and embody the ideals and values and virtues of your Paganism?

    EXACTLY, and Amen to that!

    I have always thought that part of the joy and privilege of offering training is that you get to learn from your trainees; and that is one reason why we don’t charge for training and rituals.

  2. A few weeks ago someone was excited to meet ME, because I have a website, and a couple of articles on Witchvox and a few free online ‘zines.

    It was the strangest thing, it was hard not to laugh at the absurdity of it.

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