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Why do Pagans think any Pagan needs to ask Permission to be in the Media? June 8, 2011

Posted by witchschool in Pagan Leadership.
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I have come across a new phenomenon in the Pagan community in their perpetual quest for identity. It is a double standard that I find glaring. Here it is: Pagans as individuals and groups want to self-identify and have full control over their own explanations, yet demand that others in the community conform to an orthodoxy presented by our Pagan Media representatives.

I do not really get this. I consistently see that Pagans as groups and as individuals demand freedom of speech and religion in their practices, yet demand conformity and consensus in all other Pagan groups which use any form of public media platforms. It is as if it is okay to be individuals in and among ourselves, but we must form a solid wall of uniformity when dealing with the media. In fact, it is considered better to spurn, ridicule, and denigrate the media rather than allow them into the Pagan World. It seems it is actually something of a sin to work with media, if Pagans had sins.

In the case of media, every Pagan has a right to their own views. Each and every one of us, under the UN Human Rights Declaration, as well as national laws in some countries, have the right to present ourselves to the public, as long as we are willing to stand up for what we believe in. Everyone has a right to their opinion, their art, and their image as individuals, and collectively as chosen representatives of a specific group.

So I am shocked when any Pagan or Pagan group cuts through media noise, gets a big story, and then is immediately attacked by other Pagans, saying that this person or group does not represent us all, and therefore is illegitimate in all cases. These critics feel that the perpetrator of the story should be punished for speaking out; that if anyone speaks up for themselves, that they should have community consensus.

So I see a double standard has been created in which we each speak for ourselves individually, but we must gain some sort of consensus and approval of the community to address the mainstream media. How delightfully contradictory and such a wonderful source of drama and energy in our community this is.

So why do Pagans think media personalities should get permission from anyone in the community, as long as they are not mentioning anyone outside of their own groups. After all, we represent ourselves in our personal and spiritual lives, so why should we set aside our individuality in our public lives.

Since 1990, I have firmly believed that we needed our own press to tell our story. In the time since then, WSI Media has had many successful projects and in 2011, we developed an embryonic media network on a global level. We never asked permission to publish, to broadcast, or to be interviewed, when using our own materials. Simply put, that would be ridiculous because then we would be claiming we are speaking for everyone. But when we speak, we speak for ourselves.

I have believed in the concept that each Pagan or group represents themselves, and no one else. I would not and do not censor other groups or their message, or representatives. In fact, I consistently seek ways to get as many Pagans as possible to tell their own stories. From magazines, to radio shows, to videos, and events, each of these was always designed to allow individuals or groups to represent themselves in their own way.

Trying to keep the communication going, against all odds, has proven to be a difficult path. Yet it has been very rewarding as well. We have done hundreds of interviews and over a thousand radio broadcasts, always giving voice to as many Pagans as we had the resources for. This process continues to this day. At the core of all the media we do is the belief that Pagans can represent themselves and are always their own best spokespersons.

So I am perplexed by a community that recoils at the idea of a Pagan Reality Show, thinking that it somehow represents the entire community; that it could somehow damage them and their groups on a personal level. And because of that they seek to deny permission to producers of the show. They would never tolerate, even for a moment, such a restriction on themselves if imposed by the Pagan community. Yet they demand conformity of image, of message, and the words of our public media personalities. It is a striking double standard, and one that tears at our community.

I do understand that we all have a lot invested in our image and how we present ourselves to the public. Yet to show a sanitized community image against the hurly-burly diversity of the Pagan community is a lie that is hard to accept. So it always has been my belief that you are in control of your own press, and that you don’t need permission from anyone else. In return, no one needs yours to represent themselves. That is what makes Paganism a great faith, a faith that honors personal freedom and responsibility.

In closing, recognize that you have the right to represent your story as you choose, and respect that everyone has the same right. After all, there is no official Pagan news service, nor is there any way for us to find a consensus of our image. And we would not accept one if there was. So please, when demanding others not to represent you, remember they do have a right to represent themselves.


Witch School and Pagan Leadership, Part 2 February 26, 2009

Posted by witchschool in Daily Report, Pagan Leadership.
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Witch School when it began was a concept that was shocking to most people, and was one that was highly derided and openly criticized. It was berated and even attacked as a idea that was not workable. I even lost a good friend and ally who promised everyone that Witch School would fail within a year as it was a unsustainable model and did not respect the leadership of the Pagan community. After all, Wicca could not be taught over the web. Now more than seven years later Witch School stands, not just as a school but also as the leader among a plethora of online Pagan and Wiccan schools that followed.

Among the reason Witch School was seen as something undesirable was that if offered a open access to an education. This many felt cut at the central authority of what was the primary source of leadership in the community. This allowed people who wanted to learn to be Wiccan, Witches, and even Clergy without having to be judged by a High Priestess or Priest to see who was worthy or who was not. It made the concept of learning Wicca at home, anytime, anyplace, and anywhere. The second concept was that you could earn clergy status without the rigors of dealing with the personalities of local leadership. In this Witch School has worked and worked well.

What was not obvious and even discussable at the time was the principles by which we would structure the Witch School community, and by association the Correllian Tradition. This is the first time that I have ever written down those concepts for the world to see, and share. It is important as these principles must be taken to a higher level as Witch School is going global at a quickening pace.

The first principle is virtualization, or simply that we would be virtual. Virtualization means that we would no longer require everyone to be in the same place at the same time in order to teach or to learn. A virtual organization is one that that you do not see, certainly not all together in one place but nevertheless delivers required services.

In such a organization you would have distributed leadership. In this I believe nature is not hierarchal. Wisdom is distributed through out the system. All the cells of the body is needed to repel the invading disease, all the fish in a school swerve as one, all the geese in formation takes turns at the point and then drop back to recuperate in the airstream of the wings of their fellows. This is how one can reach people and share in their knowledge.

At the top of a distributed leadership organization is a personalized leadership style, because the task at this level is to provide the glue that holds this virtual community together. The glue is made up of a sense of common identity, linked to a common purpose and fed by an infectious energy and sense of urgency. As a leader, my job is to inform and educate our mentors and provide the tools they need to do their jobs without the continuous need for instruction and permissions from above.

In this case, you can not simply assign positions and have people respect the people in that position simply because of their place in the hierarchy. In this type of organization you have earned authority. Being involved with Witch School is not simply a ladder of roles you climb, but instead where you lead by growing a reputation for getting things done and making things happen. Influence, not authority, is what drives true leadership in the Witch School community.

In this type of virtualized community, leadership means managing people you cannot see and cannot control in any detail. In fact, many of the people you are involved with you may not have ever met or may never meet physically ever. Only through distributed leadership and earned authority can you build the flow of trust in both directions to make this work.

This brings us to the next and final concept of this exploration of leadership and that is the principle of subsidiarity. This is a very old principle that holds a higher body should not assume the authority that could or should be exercised by a lower body. In this aspect a company should not tell a employee how to run their family. In Witch School terms, we believe that mentors are allowed to run their groups with guidance, not by authoritarian structures. Further that the Correllian tradition can not be run by a central authority but by the local temples. We cannot allow the hierarchy to steal responsibilities that belong to the lower levels of authority, as this will cause our mentors and students as well as future clergy members to be unskilled. Every time we have gotten away from this principle, we have tremendous fights, and every time we stick to this principle we have amazing results.

By this principle of subsidiarity, we are able to form really good teams. In this concept a true team both defines it’s objectives and finds ways to meet them. In our case, it is teaching students, and the mentors and members decide what they really want to learn and how they will learn. Further they are able to integrate the tools we have into there styles. They are also free to use any information that comes their way to refine their methods and skills as needed.

This has allowed us to understanding the universe works and encompasses a vision of life as one great-interconnected web. As we have come to recognize the dynamic connectedness of the various parts within a whole educational ecosystem and the world beyond our school.

Witch School with these principles, has avoided having the form of top-down leadership that control groups by withholding power from their ranks, deprive them of the ability to use their expertise and information vested in them to respond directly and with speed the needs of their students. With these principles we unlocked the power of Wicca unto the world with good people, who are dedicated and focused on other people as well as their own spiritual growth. With these principles we have been able to unlock people from their limitations and gave them hope for a better world today and in the coming future. We have awakened the leader within, and that is the greatest feeling in the world.

Ed Hubbard