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February 2, 2018

Pagan Community Leadership

This has always been a difficult one for me. We are in so many respects, a young Spiritual community here in Ireland, and I was very young (16-18 years old) coming to it first, although I slotted in with a long standing group and mentor from my 18th birthday, so I guess I was in the thick of it from my first community forays.

The BNP (Big Name Pagan) notion is an American one really, maybe English; we don’t have it here, except more recently to use it ironically, to maybe slag each other when we get ‘too big for our boots’ – or rather, when we do something (like a national media interview, or present to a big conference/audience, publish a book, etc) that might put us in danger of getting ahead of ourselves, as the Irish say.

That being said, there are of course those in the community who (whether they admit it or not, even to themselves) crave or grow to need the inevitable ego boost that comes with the BNP experience. Let’s be honest, it feels good to be adored and sought after, who wouldn’t enjoy that? Thing is, if you’re feeding off that with no responsibility, or even awareness in some cases, you get mad addicted to it. And it obviously becomes very unhealthy very fast.

I very much relate to what Peter Dybing says in his article ‘Killing the Big Name Pagans‘: “During my years in the community the most influential people on my path have always been community members who are doing the work”.

That is why I lead, when I lead – because there’s work that needs to be done, and I have a somewhat natural (though developed by years of practice, and many mistakes!) ability to get stuff done, to help people figure things out, and to solve problems when other people are stumped.

There is a part of me that LOVES being centre stage, being adored, being right – and I get that ‘fix’ for myself in very aware and consensual ways; so that need in me doesn’t bleed into the work I do on a day to day basis.

Now, part of that work, the work I do and the work that my community looks to me for, IS to be a ‘BNP’ on occasion. I am a writer, a teacher, an activist, an event presenter, a guide – and I often speak for those who can’t speak for themselves, particularly in the context of rural Ireland’s restricted views around religion and spirituality, equality, or personal liberty of choice.

Maybe if my life was different, and I hadn’t spent a good 10 years being firmly grounded by having kids and animals and country life – cleaning up piss and snot and shit and puke on a regular basis makes it tough to be all that self important – maybe I’d be different, more in danger of getting ahead of myself. But maybe not, because I am usually the one moving chairs, cleaning toilets, singing songs, making sure everybody has what they needed… and listening, observing, waiting to be called to work.

Because leadership is service, and priesthood is the responsibility on all levels, to the best of your ability, to ensure your community is being cared for, worked for, spoken for – when their own voices are silenced.


[This article first published on my original blog, Speaking for Ireland, in January 2014 – and it’s even more relevant today. Our Pagan Community Leadership is in shite, and the old ways of closing ranks around abusers who are friends MUST cease and desist. Stand Up, Speak Up. Do the right thing.]

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About the Author

Irish Author, Educator, and Guide to Ireland. Co-Founder of the Irish Pagan School, Eel & Otter Press, and Pagan Life Rites (Ireland).

Lora O'Brien

Join our Tuath (community, tribe) to get Course and Scholarship info, and regular (free) Irish resources on topics such as Mythology, History, Society, Spirituality, Storytelling and Travel directly from Lora O'Brien and the team at the Irish Pagan School.

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