Cat Chapin-Bishop at Quaker Pagan Reflections has posted a very brave personal essay exploring the need for, and hierarchy created by, fame in the Pagan community. In the process she outs her own cravings for Pagan-world fame, and how this fame-centered economy sometimes brings out the worst in those who would be our leaders and teachers.
“…there’s also something that’s a little off in my craving for fame through writing. I can joke about it, but I know it’s there. When my friend K. is talking about his latest writing project, or the interaction with the organizers at a festival where he’s presenting, I think, “I want that!” I don’t just want to write for the sake of the writing, or publish for the sake of communicating with an audience. I’m attracted to the shallow, superficial aspects of it, too. I want the sense of being Important, and having people act like they agree with me. It’s very adolescent, really. And it’s also very, very Pagan … it’s a way of life in the Pagan world. In the Pagan world, all too often, you can tell exactly who the Big Name Pagans are by how they walk into a room. And those of us with friends who are Big Name Pagans–or even passing acquaintances who are Big Name Pagans–are under a constant temptation to puff ourselves, at least a little, by name dropping.”
While I’m certainly no Starhawk, Margot Adler, or Thorn Coyle, I have spent quite a bit of time processing my own small piece of Pagan notoriety. I too have felt the pressure to publish that book, the book that would cement my name and place in Pagan history, and I was more than a little pleased when I started getting offers to speak at festivals and public events. But at the same time I, like Cat, have felt deeply ambivalent concerning the way our communities measure what she (and the Quakers) call “weight” (which I gather is akin to spiritual authority). I have also realized that I may never write that book, or if I do, it won’t be anytime soon, or in a form that will garner me the kind of Pagan-fame that gets people to name-drop you in occult stores. I realized that what I am is a new-media journalist and commentator, and that for me to be truly effective at what I do I can never aspire to be part of the unspoken Pagan hierarchy Cat describes, a pecking order that can value sales and volume over truth or accuracy.
I urge all my readers to read her post, and tell me what you see when you look at our “leaders” and “teachers”. Are our brightest lights there on merit? Or are they simply the ones with the best representation and publishing contracts? Have you felt the urge to “publish that book”? Have you ever found yourself name-dropping some BNP (big-name Pagan) at an event or shop? What do you think about Pagan fame?