When we speak of the Pagan community you get a lot of different voices and definitions of what the community really is or what it should be. With only minimum economic infrastructure and limited central concentrations of members it does not look like a culturally independent community. Instead the community appears more as a political party where each voice must be seated at the table and given due respect. From Solitaires to Tradition Leaders, from Coven Priestess or Priest to Witch Royalty, the place we sit in the community is not often based on the people who do the most for the community, it is the ones who attract the largest number of people to support them, and to recognize them as leaders. It is an unintentional democratic system with few rules.
In politics the single most important trait you cultivate is recognition. For a politic figure to be considered important as many people must recognize a politician as possible, and they must remember the politician's name. If it is a democracy, they must vote for them. In all cases people have to recognize the individual politician and agree to allow the recognized politician to run part of the vital services of government. Even if that choice is limited such as in oppressive regimes, recognition of the leadership is still that country's politician's most vital trait to their success. As a society we accept this, and have at our core recognition as a valuable and important trait.
Paganism as a community is all about recognition. The number one binding struggle we have publicly is the 'right to be recognized as a equal and legal religion as defined by the Constitution of the United States, The UN Declaration of Human Rights or any number of other documents that recognize human rights all over the world.' This makes us a movement that has deep political implications, and therefore we require the government must recognize our leaders. We must legally exist first before we can claim our rights, and have them recognized. So profound is the need of recognition that it is the one trait that Paganism shares with political parties and movements out of necessity of survival.
In many ways it is the same for Paganism as it is for political figures. We choose our leadership by recognition in that we use Dollar Democracy. Pagans choose their leadership in a large part on how they financially support them. Without resources a Pagan leader can not get their message out or do events or even host rituals. Someone somewhere must have resources, and they must be willing to share those resources in order for any form of leadership to grow. Therefore funding as a vital part of the community is done largely the same way political candidates and parties receive their funding, by asking individuals and groups to donate to the cause. Pagans do so with the idea that they support a particular leader and or the leadership of a particular project or organization. It is a donation generally given freely and without compulsion, in most cases. Yet, like a political contribution a Pagan contribution often carries the idea of favors to be granted later.
Pagans as a whole do not want a compulsory system of tithes or support. For most Pagans that is insane way to run a lifestyle, and certainly they do not want to be compelled to pay money to a central organization for the right to call themselves and be recognized as Pagans. This makes us have to find different ways to behave. Those with resources can have a lot more influence. The earliest Pagan economies of the modern movement are that of the Aristocratic High Priest or Priestess, who paid for practically everything. This allowed great secrecy and control of the mysteries they held in trust. The other early Pagan economy of any scale was the communal model of sharing the needs across the board. In any case, the resources of the movement were limited to very small numbers. All recognition was very local and often very secretive.
It did not take long before the Modern Pagan Movement in America became a lot more public about their Paganism. They shed a lot of the secrecy, especially among the Wiccans, and reluctance to talk. It is here that national recognition became in many ways political campaigns as well as spiritual movements. You had to be seen and recognized by as many people as possible to be interesting to the press, and to gain resources for your national movement. Covenant of the Goddess and Circle Sanctuary were the best early examples of this, and today they stand in International Councils of Interfaith and Religions, and are even able to take the Government on with legally recognized allies. Without each group and individual acting in a way to organize mass action on a volunteer basis, there would be no recognition of our rights today. It goes to this; we do not build structures to worship in, or spend money to have some central office to recognize us as Pagan. Instead we spend money to recognize those who will act on our behalf, and are constantly seeking ways for our leadership to gain even greater public recognition so that they can act with even great effect on our behalf.
Selena Fox is a great example of this recognition leadership. Her willingness to lead, tenacity, wisdom, intelligence, and thick skin, has been able (with help from so many people) become recognized by the Federal Gov't of the United States as someone that can speak for some major faction of the Pagan community. Why did I say faction? Because ultimately politicians know there is no one voice of the Pagan community, No Pope, No Dali Lama, No Messiahs, No single identifiable point of absolute authority. So any given Pagan leader is accepted and recognized as only a leader of those who agree with them, and that makes them factions. Circle Sanctuary has earned the trust of a better portion of the Pagan community, and thus gain resources in our Dollar Democracy. She is a religious leader but also a political one, and her organizations straddle that fence daily. Selena Fox is exactly what recognition can give you, and in her case, very well deserved.
You say Political parties have rallies and I say we do. Seven weeks out of the year, we have a series of open events that simulate rallies, and they are called Pagan Pride Events. They are organized to share information and culture to the public and help the public understand more about Paganism. We are hoping by showing the public our best, we will get them to change their minds about Pagans as a whole. Therefore when the now educated citizen run into a situation that challenges the rights of Pagans that they may stand up for us when it is needed. We convince enough citizens that we have rights, that they recognize our rights, and that they will support our rights, as they would protect their own, we would never need worry again about our rights recognized. It would simply be a fact. While not inherently political with a big P, it is definitely a political statement with a small p. Pagan Pride Days is work that must be funded year after year, almost exclusively by donations and participation fees. No big Pagan Pride Trust Funds yet, and this makes them more akin to a political model that a traditional religious style. They must constantly convince the larger Pagan community to support the event year after year and volunteers to do the work. This is very similar to how a campaign works on building rallies for candidates and movement forums. It is work that I am personally very appreciative of, and supportive of.
There are numbers of other places where we see recognition as a key factor to our community, and how we operate. From paid public appearances to how we interact with the media. Pagan Leader share more in common with Political figures that they do with traditional western religious (Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Islam) traditions in being recognized. This is something that is rarely mentioned in our community, and yet it is the best way we have to allow our open democracy in Paganism.
In conclusion, the idea that Paganism is organized in similar ways as political parties are, that we fund ourselves in similar ways, and have at our community core that helps bind us is a political question of personal recognition of our rights, can not be take lightly. It is one of the largest areas of unrecognized authority in our community, and is in fact, the source of real growth in our community. This need for recognition is the driving force in politics and it is also a driving force in the Pagan community. It is only through understanding this concept that we can find better ways to use recognition for our empowerment and recognize ourselves as equal citizens of Mother Earth.