I was saddened to hear yesterday that Peter Dybing is retiring from being a public figure in the Pagan community. Peter, as you may know, is the past First Officer of Covenant of the Goddess, and President of the Officers of Avalon. Peter is the man who organized the Pagan effort to send support to Japan after the Tsunami, and raised 30,000 in the effort. This is a remarkable man -and also a good man. A man who really cares about the community.
Peter Dybing has spent a lot of time trying to heal old wounds in the community and get everyone to work together. He has worked very hard to try and move beyond some of the negative behaviors that are sadly all too common in the Pagan community -Witch Wars, never ending feuds, inter-Tradition prejudices.
Peter stated that he was taking this move in order to devote more time to his partner and to his spirituality, as his public role was making this difficult. But more importantly he stated that he found himself being forced into some the very behaviors he has fought against, and did not want to become what he hates.
I would like to say that I am shocked by this, but truthfully I am not surprised. I have seen it again and again. It is a very sad thing to see a talented person step away from a position of leadership in the community. It is a loss to the present, but also a loss to the future. And as a community we have had many such losses.
I often hear people urging us to Pagan "Unity" and wanting us to "all get along" and "all work together". This is a noble sentiment -one I have espoused in the past. It is also one that has been tried and tried and absolutely proven to be an unsuccessful approach. The people in our community who engage in endless Witch Wars, character assassinations, etc, do so because these tactics have been very successful for them. They do not want a strong community and they do not seek to move into the future -they want the power of being a big fish in a small pond. Why would they suddenly "get along" for the sake of the community when a successful community would dilute their sense of local power? They will always keep doing the same thing because it is working for them.
So how can we build a stronger community? Those who can get along need to work together, and by working together they do great things. They also need to not try to pull in those who do not want to work together. You cannot make someone "get along" who does not want to. If you try to force someone to take part in something they don't want to do, it should be no surprise that they will sabotage it the first chance they get. We need to admit that not everyone shares the vision of a strong Pagan community, and that those who do not cannot be expected to help build it.
We also need to stop rewarding bad behavior. Witch Wars are basically public gossip campaigns that run on emotion. They succeed in part by getting people to make snap reactions without ever looking into the actual situations. They gain strength from the sad fact that people love "juicy gossip" and that a large section of our community loves to indulge in Schadenfreude -taking pleasure in other people's pain or embarrassment. If we wish to see a stronger Pagan community for the future, we need -as individuals- to avoid these behaviors in ourselves and not reward them in others.
In this forum we have a history of closing down acrimonious discussions, and removing people who are abusive. As a result we have a fairly peaceful oasis here. This has been a successful approach as demonstrated by its results. This is the approach I would recommend to any community that wants to strengthen itself.
Of course ending old problems is not all that is needed -the community also needs to build positive new things to support its members, but getting rid of old problems is necessary before building new things can occur. You cannot successfully put up the walls if the foundation is cracked and needs repair. The foundation must be repaired first.
Sad news indeed. It would be on thing if he felt his time to serve was over, mission accomplished but to have to step back so that you don't become the problem you are attempting to solve is sad.
As with all things, if you focus on what is good about others and not what you disagree with, you can usually find a bit of common ground where all can feel comfortable for the moment. If not, you respectfully agree to disagree and move on with your journey on the path that is right for you.
Walk in peace on your chosen path,
Rev. Laurie Denman, CNT
So many things going on recently.
Lady SkyDancer is right,
My Friends keep in mind that this is the way of Pagan Faith, a time of loss for the purpose of learning lessons, We are not a people that believe in eternal Damnation.
We are those who understand that seasons change.
That a Caterpillar Becomes a Butterfly and a tadpole turns into a fully grown frog.
All will be well and our spark will recognize its energetic return soon. It is Natural.
I am an Electrician I am very aware that an Electrical Current has a send and a return other wise the Lights in your house do not turn on, A return is awaiting us I promise you that.
Love the electrical current analogy Sparrow! Thanks! Blessed Be!
Thanks, It does seem to be a few months of lots of things coming to an end but really it is just a circle.
again the question is what is one person to do to change this? Yes, lead by example and all that but is that enough? Apparently not as I sit here shaking my head at the many times I have been touched by the issue now (not involved, I stay out of these fights and remove myself instead of engage). So what do we do, how do we bring up new people who can become leaders? I guess I am looking for leadership with actual action steps.
Actually, I would put them in the same leadership course. Having done leadership training (both as recipient and giver of said training) for more than two decades, the skill set and techniques that are used for leading a group of three are exactly the skill set and techniques used for a group of three thousand.
The two core problems that paganism has with leadership are:
1. Few people can provide training in leadership and fewer are willing to take on leadership training--the focus for most pagans is always learning that next magical skill. Leadership is not recognized as a form of magic, and thus is not seen as worth the time for training. Aside from maybe a Stephen Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) or Spencer Johnson (Who Moved My Cheese?) book, look at the bookshelves of a "pagan leader". I guarantee they'll have hundreds of metaphysical, magical, and religious books--but they won't have a fraction of those books being dedicated to the art and magic of leadership!
2. The skills and practices that pagans say they want in their leaders are the exact opposite of what leaders should have. Leaders must be able to lead, and that's something that makes you the target of attack in the pagan community due to the idea that leadership = power over (which, as we all know if we read Starhawk is a no-no). Leaders must be adaptable, but paganism is a by the book religion when it comes to practices (as you can see any time you suggest that someone come up with something original and they opt to take a spell from a book or crib a ritual from the Internet and then are wholly lost if any adaptations need to be made). Leaders must be skilled at consensus-building, but only if they are in a consensus-based system. Leaders must have a vision that goes beyond one turn of the wheel of the year--pagans are notorious for only thinking in the length of time from sabbat to sabbat. Leaders must practice the active facilitation of communication--and that is a lost art among pagans. Leaders must be able to engage in effective persuasion without manipulation. Pagans see that all persuasion is manipulation and therefore a "violation of free will".
If anyone reading this wants to get started in a self-directed leadership training program, I highly recommend these starters:
Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell -- this is my gift to everyone who gets a 3* because it is simply exceptional in its teachings
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization by Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright
And by all means, if people can spend money going to festivals and buying dust catching clutter for their houses, they can afford to go to a leadership seminar, if they feel that having leaders is important. I'm just not convinced that paganism actually wants or values leaders...
I haven't posted in a while and I often tend to keep my opinion to myself on smaller matters, but this is something I've been thinking about a lot recently.
I wonder how differently Wicca would become if it were a "mainstream" religion. I am all for religious unity and religious representation and so on and so forth, but I worry about what will happen to the integrity. Historically we have evidence of many religious that have changed as they developed. This may just be a natural progression of things but I don't necessarily know if this is that way Wicca should go. An example many of us will be familiar with I think is the differences between Christianity during the Apostolic church and modern Catholicism. It's the same basic religion but so many differences occurred when it became a mainstream, institutionalized entity.
There are many issues with both things. I have been looking into ways in which I can take my religious involvement to the next level and become a licensed, legally recognized Wiccan minister. There is only one Pagan seminary and it's accreditation is not completely stabilized so I know I will run into problems in the future in that regard. I can't just go and become a military Chaplin or a Chaplin in a hospital or prison because Wicca is not exactly an institutionalized religion with a central governing body that certifies and qualifies individuals for this sort of work. I am looking for schooling in higher education and there is none. I attribute this to the fact that Wicca is not exactly an institutionalized religion.
At the same time, I do not know if it is such a good idea for Wicca to "grow up" and became such a mainstream thing. Granted, I find it unfortunate that there is such little knowledge and acceptance still of Wicca, however moving to the next step might not be the best thing for our religion. I do not mean to sound like an elitist, however Wicca is not like other religions like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, etc. Wicca is not for everyone. Wicca is not a religion that every person can follow nor is it a religion that everyone can comprehend. Understandable Wicca does not bar anyone from becoming involved, or trying to become a practitioner, but in my opinion Wicca is not something everyone can practice.
I do not like the disadvantages I have as someone who would really like to provide legitimate services to those in need in our religious community, but I'm afraid of where things will end up. In my opinion, the more structured a religion becomes the less connected it's practitioners are from the Ultimate Reality. I fully believe that those people of "small religions" have a deeper and more profound understanding of the Divine than those of structured, mainstream religions who just follow prescribed codes, gestures, and prayers. I truly believe that those early Christians who were part of the Apostolic Church had a profound understanding of the divine and of Christ as God but I think that modern Christianity is a much diluted and does not have that same understanding as those who knew Jesus did. The same can be said for any religion which had a founder and is over 1000 years old.
I guess the same applies to Wicca, but generally speaking it seems the majority of people who practice a particular religion are satisfied with basic tenants, rules, rites and rituals, but a small portion of them are searching for something more and desire a deeper connection with God. That is where religious mysticism comes in. Nearly every mystic, no matter what religion, will say the same thing, and will desire the same outcome: oneness with God in what ever form they see It. It seems to me that the majority of people come to Wicca hoping for that, and many authors seem to write with that goal in mind. Maybe times are changing and Wicca is expanding and our majority are now the former.
Maybe I'm completely off topic here and I'm just going off on a tangent, but I would really appreciate any feedback on this. What are your thoughts?
In the coven I'm with, to take on any sort of leadership role takes anywhere between 5-7 years with the coven, and to run a coven takes no less than 10 years with a coven, plus additional study beforehand. Whereas ritual skills and clergy skills are core parts of the training, teaching leadership skills is not uniform in any traditional practices. Some covens do bring in training aspects for leadership training, conflict resolution, and so on, but many more do not. "From the seed, the bloom"--if training in leadership is not provided, although people may be put into the role of "in charge", they don't have all the skills needed to be the best leaders that they can be. Being a good ritualist, a good priest or priestess, or a good witch is not requisite to being a good leader--and while a person can run a group with those skills alone, the discussion in relation to Peter Dybing's announcement isn't about running a coven, but rather taking that step outside of the circle to be a leader in the pagan community. In order to achieve that successfully, good training as a *leader* is a must. Because of the resource requirements of being a pagan leader in the "greater community", like Mr. Dybing mentioned, one's personal practices (and if one belongs to a coven or tradition, those roles and practices) sadly are restricted and often die off. It is why I continue to avoid taking on a leadership role in the "greater community", and keep my service focus on the coven level.
Regarding reputable leadership courses being study-intensive and expensive, I absolutely agree. I also value the importance of fun, as well as the value of good ritual experience outside one's own group. That being said, part of being a leader is about resource management. If one wants to be a leader in the pagan community, they may have to readjust their resources to be able to take on leadership training, even if that means that they have to forego some of the "nicer" things in life (festival time, the latest book, a fancy piece of ritual jewelry, another statue for a shrine, etc.). I absolutely agree with you that because many of the leaders we have are not respected that there are few people who would want to make that sacrifice. I study and facilitate leadership training because I am passionate about it and enjoy it, and also seem to have a good knack translating it to the Craft setting. Because I don't have a desire to be a "pagan leader", I don't take those resources out to the "greater community" beyond kith and kin (although the next book I am publishing will be available for general consumption and not just by vouch and will contain some basic-level leadership skills written with the Craft practitioner in mind). I think you absolutely nailed it when you said that there are not many who would make such a sacrifice. That is exactly what I meant when I stated that I'm not convinced that paganism wants or values leaders. Although I'm glad we are in consensus on that point, it is a sad commentary on "pagan community" that we are in agreement on that.
Lastly, although the coven I'm with is a of a traditional line, I don't feel that the future of Craft is exclusive to traditionalists. My view is that the future will encompass a multi-branched stream running the gamut from "congregationalist paganism" to BTW and TIW covens, groves, and circles, with many people falling somewhere in the spectrum between those extremes. I think it is out of that middle area where most "pagan leaders" will come from, as those who take on roles of running a traditionalist coven will need to put their energies into the coven or line, and those who take on roles of running a congregationalist structure will have their hands full managing the needs of an individual congregation.