This is the 3rd article in the grassroots leadership series. Sometimes there are leaders who are just real jerks. Maybe they have problems with egotism. Maybe they are unstable and mentally ill. Maybe they are alcoholic. Maybe they have some other problem.
As I discussed in the last blog post, when I teach leadership, Pagans and other grassroots leaders ask me, “How do I deal with a community leader that’s a total asshole,” or, “How do I warn people away from the really bad group leaders?”
The challenge is, if they are verbally abusing you or undermining you, there isn’t really a lot you can do. If you’re a member of that group, you can leave. But, you can’t (in most instances) take another group leader “down.” It’s a frustrating prospect. Let’s go a little deeper into what kinds of leaders out there cause problems so bad that you , as a leader or group member, might consider extreme measures to keep your community protected from the bad behavior of a leader.
It’s not a Witch War. Let’s get that out of the way. In fact, let’s get rid of that term completely, because it aggrandizes conflict and makes it sound magical, powerful, cool. What is a witch war? It’s a fancy-schmancy word for an interpersonal conflict.
Why do we need the cool word for it? Well…put bluntly, and making a lot of assumptions, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that many Pagans out there have poor self esteem. Heck, a lot of people have poor self confidence.
Drama is a coping mechanism to feel better about yourself. Think about this; if you have another Witch who is gunning for you, hexing you, psychically attacking you…that must make you pretty important, huh?
I think about leadership rather a lot, and I have people ask me for leadership advice with some frequency. I’ve been working up a series of posts exploring the deep challenges with leadership in the Pagan community, because I unfortunately get to see a lot of its seedy underbelly.
Though, these aren’t just issues of Pagan communities…those are just the communities I’m most deeply involved in. Other subcultural groups have these same problems through what I’d call “It’s a Small World” syndrome. Any time there are humans, these problems crop up; corporations, politicians, church leaders…any group could have these challenges. They are just exacerbated in grassroots groups without a big overarching structure.
What I see over and over is the problem of people in leadership positions who are absolutely unsuitable to be leaders. What we have are people who are unstable and mentally ill, or egotistical, or jerks…or even people who genuinely mean well but have no training in group leadership.
A great post from Jason Pitzl-Waters on why he writes for the Wild Hunt. Some of his words could be the words of any of us Pagan leaders that step out to do this work.
“I would be lying if I said that the strain of expectation wasn’t sometimes more than I feel I can bear, and for the last several years I have wrestled with intermittent bouts of burn-out. No matter how excellent you strive to be, there will always be someone who is unhappy with the way things are done. The main accusation made against my person is that I’m some sort of sell-out, that I’m secretly batting for some faction, religion, or viewpoint. The truth is far more mundane, and far less exciting.”
I’ve seen a lot of chatter the past days about Teo Bishop’s announcement that he’s moving from Paganism back to Christianity. There’s a few folks that I’ve seen get rather irate about this. It’s an inappropriate response–but it’s also a very natural reaction–particularly in our culture. In the dominant Western culture, we (people) generally have really crappy boundaries.
I don’t know Teo, and I’m sorry to see him go as he has written some insightful things. I saw him as one of the Pagans who was working to raise the bar on Pagan writing and bring us that one step further out of our squabbling adolescence. I’m glad he’s hanging around a bit and continuing to do some writing. So this post really isn’t about him so much as what I’ve observed in this situation about ego, boundaries, and the idea of betrayal. And it’s important things for every single Pagan to reflect on if we want to actually build healthy, sustainable community.
Most of the time, when people say “You betrayed me!” what they actually mean is, “You betrayed the vision I had for you. You said no when I wanted you to say yes. You aren’t who I wanted you to be.”
Over on Pagan Activist blog, I just posted about Sex, Ethics, and Paganism, talking about what it is to be sex positive, and what isn’t sex positive. I ended up with way more than I could fit into one blog post, so I wanted to call out some of the specific techniques that Pagans (specifically, group leaders and teachers) sometimes use that get people wrapped up in sexually nonconsensual situations.
This isn’t just about Pagan community, either–this happens in all sorts of subcultures and small groups where people are afraid to speak up once they realize they’ve been abused. It gets tricky, because these situations sometimes can feel consensual at the time. Continue reading →
I have a guilty admission to make. I’ve never really enjoyed concerts, and I’ve never been very interested in seeing Pagan musicians in concert. Sure, there’s a lot of Pagan musicians whose work I enjoy, but I’m not the kind of person who really goes to concerts. I typically listen to music alone in my own studio when I’m working on a project. I want the perfect sound, just the right song for my mood while I’m working. Music for me isn’t really a social thing.
So I found myself a bit surprised to absolutely enjoy the concert I recently hosted with my friend Amy for Pagan musicians SJ Tucker and Sharon Knight with her partner Winter.
“I live in ____, and there are no Pagans around here.” I hear this a lot; either people asking me directly for networking assistance, or just people posting on Facebook or on email lists. In fact, I talk to Pagans all over the country who are sure there are no Pagans nearby to them. They’re often surprised when I rattle off 3 or 4 local groups near them when I live hundreds of miles away.
Hi, I’m Shauna, and I’m a nerd for Pagan networking. See, long ago, I started traveling and teaching.
A lot of the activism that I do is what I would call “everyday activism.” It’s things that you can do in your own life to begin to live in the world you want to be in, change the world around you, by first changing yourself and becoming the person you want to be. Some of this kind of personal transformation work can be very difficult. It’s often just as challenging, if not more challenging, than front-line activism at a protest.
One area that has taken a lot of personal work on my part is around personal boundaries. I’m not necessarily talking about energetic shielding, though that’s tangentially related; I see a lot of Pagans talk about magical shielding practices, but few Pagans who are actually doing the personal growth work to develop healthy boundaries.
How do we pay for the functions of a community organization and services to members? How do we pay for regular classes, clergy, a community center?
I wrote this after reading a conversation among some of the organizers for NIPA, the Northern Illinois Pagan Alliance. They’ve been working for years to bring their local community together and offer services, and doing a great job. And they’re having the conversation many Pagan communities are having.
How do we pay for all this, and how do we make it sustainable?
I’m so excited to see the work that NIPA is doing. There are Pagans all over the country who have no place to go for various reasons, and helping Pagans in one area to have a place to connect and find “home” is such important work. Continue reading →