Power over, or power with? The Pagan leadership debate.
Over the last month I have been engaged in numerous discussions with various Pagans in South Africa on the current status of Pagan leadership and community. Some sincerely believe that the Pagan community is irreparably divided and in need of formal leadership through some form of national Pagan governance structure.
I disagree. I am fundamentally opposed to a governing body for South African Paganism, and I am opposed to a small group of self-appointed leaders seeking to govern all Pagans. I do not believe that any such group would have any standing to dictate terms or conditions to existing Pagan groups, their leaders and individual Pagans in South Africa. Such a group would at best only represent the interests and concerns of its participants, not of the entire Pagan religious community.
The question was raised, are Pagans already an existing religious community, or does that community still need to be created? The term ‘community’ is defined as an identifiable group of people holding common characteristics or interest/s (a) living together within a larger society, and / or (b) scattered through a larger society. This description, at least in terms of a diverse collection of existing Pagan groups, fulfills the requirements of the term ‘religious communities’. All of these communities self-identify using the same religious identification – Pagan. The Pagan community already exists.
Whilst it is true that some Pagan leaders choose not to engage with other Pagan leaders, for various reasons, I do not see the Pagan community as irreparably divided against itself because of this. The community is greater than its parts, and more numerous than a few Pagan leaders. Many covens and individuals have and continue to interact and participate with one another in actual communities and on social media, to mutual advantage.
Paganism in South Africa is not and has never been a homogeneous group, but rather, a diverse collection of groups and individuals, all members of an existing and thriving national community. The national religious community is growing organically, with many Pagan leaders who each hold their own autonomy.
It is my opinion that all we collectively need, as an existing community, is to be welcomed, supported and encouraged by each other, to do exactly what we are motivated to do.
We do not need to be corralled, and we don’t need to be led. We need to be allowed to exist on our own terms. Through our everyday interaction with each other, we have, will and do cooperate with each other when we need to.
Whether Pagans not involved in these discussions choose to voluntarily sacrifice their individual autonomy in order to support the creation of a national Pagan governance structure which will seek to regulate all Pagan covens, hearths, clans, kindreds, groves and individuals, remains to be seen.
I favour power-with, not power-over. I support individuality and cooperative empowerment, not regulation by any authoritarian structure.
Where you stand on these issues is up to you. Choose wisely.