How to Avoid Being Burned at the Stake: A Guide for Pagan Leadership

How to Avoid Being Burned at the Stake: A Guide for Pagan Leadership November 1, 2018

Have you considered volunteering for a pagan leadership position, but are afraid of being burned at the stake? Today I offer you a guide to the community’s expectations, both explicit and implied, with a fool-proof method to make all the pagans happy, all of the time.

During my 14 years of service, I’ve paid close attention to our crack team of armchair quarterbacks and internet trolls, who stood ready, willing and able to yank any errant pagan right back off their high horse. I’ve compiled those volumes of feedback for your easy reference.

Never fear future pagan leaders of the world!  With this no fuss, no muss system of acquiescent leadership, you might bypass the back-alley slander, hexes, and Facebook blocking of even the most passive-aggressive mobs.

<Results may vary; this satire is for entertainment purposes only. Consult your witchdoctor before reading.>

The Pagan Community needs YOU to step up to the stake! …er…<ahem>…I mean… Step up to the plate!

By Anonymous (Private collectioninstitution QS:P195,Q768717) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Be flawless.

Pagan Leadership will be held to a standard of flawlessness; all love and light, all the time. Human fallibility will not be tolerated. You should maintain a constant state of inner peace, ready to interact with strangers as though they are your long-lost brother. You will be the hug they need, while never presuming to touch anyone without explicit consent.  Oh, and you should probably smile more.

Additionally, admission of your own doubts, mistakes and blemishes is also mandatory. Pagan Leadership will require constant self-awareness and honesty about exactly how far you’ve progressed on your path of self-improvement. Lead by example in the acceptance of all people, as whole beings of both shadow and light, with unconditional Divine Love. Find common ground in the messiness of being human.

Unless reminding them of your shared human failings disappoints them. In which case, your honesty will be the exposed jugular they’ve been waiting for, and the jackals of self-loathing will tear you apart. They won’t even wait for you to be burned at the stake. Dinner is served.

2. Be an Armored Empath.

Pagan Clergy are our conduit to the Gods, yes?  Therefore you should be extremely perceptive of the subtle nuances of nature. You’ll need a sensitive heart to serve as our wounded healer. Requirements for this job are to remain wide open, vulnerable, and receptive to the messages of the unseen realms. Then tell the rest of us all about it. No really. We think we want to know the truth. You will offer these gifts willingly, and at your own expense. Sacrifice yourself to our greater good, and we would be oh so very grateful.

Additionally, grow a thick-skin that is impervious to our vitriol, because there will be so.much.vitriol. Righteous victims won’t like your messages to take responsibility for our own healing, to forgive, or cease victimizing ourselves. You’ll need some sturdy protection shields in place to even tolerate our diseased company. A soft-heart is an easy target, so better armor up so the slings and arrows of our petty hexes cannot find their mark.

Unless you can’t manage to be both open and closed at the same time. In that case, you must be a fluffy-bunny charlatan, and will no doubt cry while you’re burned at the stake. <strikes match>

Armored Knight with angel wings and halo
CC0 Creative Commons – Pixabay

3. Be Present.

Pagan leaders are to remain available 24/7/365. The public does not require an appointment to see you. Should two or more pagans demand your undivided attention at the exact same moment, you will transcend space/time and serve them all in as many locations as they require. There will be no leniency for slights to public expectation due to your own illness, pain, mourning, stress, anxiety or mental health needs. You do not get a lunch break; you are never off-duty; their wellness is 100% your responsibility.

Additionally, Pagan Leaders must at all times “walk their self-help talk.” Demonstrate good self-care by maintaining healthy boundaries between your personal life and pagan service obligations. Model the healthy ideal, with proper priorities in order, including your own family obligations, and getting adequate rest and nourishment, both spiritual and physical. I recommend the Kale Smoothie to help wash down the irony.

Until that inconveniences one of those pagans without an appointment, at which point you clearly think you are better than everyone else, and should be toppled from your pedestal forthwith…straight into our Samhain pyre. Burn, baby, burn!

4. Send Only Positive Vibes.

Pagan leadership offers a continuous flow of positive vibes. No matter what asinine, confrontational, or inflammatory thing a pagan says or does to you, a good leader’s only response will be diplomatic, calm, and loving. There can be no public statements in your own defense. To point out the objectively wrong, hypocritical, delusional or criminal truth of your critic’s accusations will be decried as Gas-lighting, so just keep it to yourself. The only road for you is the High Road. You’ll find the upper trails to be so desolate and inhospitable that you will likely die of exposure. Better take a jacket.

Additionally, you can never leave the pagan trenches. No matter how high your trolls stoke the fires of defamation, libel and slander, you will maintain your same level of participation. Continue to organize all the open events they’ve come to enjoy – better make them annual, just in case they can’t manage to show up this year. Your feast table remains open to everyone, regardless of the poisoned apples they bring to the pot-luck.

Until you tire of the poisonings, and ask them to meet with you in person to resolve your differences. Now you’re asking too much. At this point it is clear that you were always an evil cult-leader out to exploit them, and should have been burned at the stake a long time ago. We’ll have your heart in a box! <cackle>

CC0 Creative Commons – Pixabay

5. Stay in your lane.

Pagan Leaders are religious, and religious people should stay out of politics. In order to maintain happiness of all the pagans, all the time, do not express any political opinions, or admit any preference for parties or candidates. Criticism of the system or administration would surely make someone consider alternate ideas, and that might upset them.

Additionally, Pagan Leadership must have a strong moral compass with clear discernment between that which is sacred, and evils which must be stopped at all costs. You know what happens when good people stand by and do nothing about tyranny, right? Espousing that all of nature is sacred, you will obviously protect that sacredness. So, you march, protest, speak out, and vote because not doing so makes you a hypocrite. All social capital and privilege you happen to have must be spent to lift us all up together. When in doubt, punch Nazis.

Unless that upsets the Nazis, at which point you are clearly just a snowflake Social Justice Warrior and should obviously be burned at the stake. White hoods and Tiki Torches at dusk, boys!

6. Know Everything; Appropriate nothing.

Before you dare to teach or lead spiritual events, pagan leaders are expected to know everything.


  1. Read all the books, but not the wrong books.
  2. Study at the foot of a master, but only the legit masters.
  3. Attain as many initiations and degrees as possible, or none at all. Only narcissists mention their pedigree.
  4. Leave no mystery unexplored; have all the answers, but keep them secret. Reveal them only to the properly prepared, or anyone who asks. Who made you the gatekeeper?
  5. Be well-versed in history, beliefs and practices across indigenous cultures. Keep each one locked tightly in their individual boxes. Ignore the obvious similarities and syncretism between them.
  6. Only practice or teach to others the spiritual system that is your genetic inheritance. DNA testing will be required to authenticate.
  7. Ace all of the pop-quizzes. (There will be so many pop-quizzes.)


  1. Conquer all your phobias, and accept all beings and expressions of love as equally Divine.
  2. Awaken from the illusion of separateness.
  3. Transcend into the highest vibrations of cosmic consciousness.
  4. Evolve beyond the prejudices of materialism, racism, elitism, heterocentrism, cis-ism, sexism, able-ism, dualism, colonialism, and age-ism.
  5. Attain enlightenment, realizing that in Spirit, we are all aspects of The One.

Unless that offends the gatekeepers, TERFs, White Supremacists, or smacks at all of cultural appropriation. At which point you are a traitor to whatever flavor of beast your meat-suit says you are. You clearly need a good stake-burning, barbecue style. Your bones will be picked clean.

Rudolf Cronau [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Be a Sexually Liberated Celibate.

Pagan Leaders must affirm the sacredness of all body types, and reject the puritanical taboos of the patriarchy. We reclaim Women’s bodies as the sovereign Creation Goddess herself. Affirm the lusty Wild God of Nature as holy and re-awaken humanity to the sacred ecstasy of the flesh! Pleasurable and consenting sexuality among adults is an act of devotion, after all, regardless of gender, sex, numbers of partners, or combinations therein. Sex magick is hip.

Additionally, don’t put too fine a point on anything in that first paragraph, especially around Beltane. Healing the wounds of the patriarchy is touchy – so don’t touch-y. Don’t be a homewrecker. Don’t be a creeper. Don’t be a slut. Don’t be crude. Don’t be a prude. To keep the peace, avert your eyes; dress modestly; keep your hands to yourself. You are in a position of power, so just about everyone is off-limits to you. You should probably just be married already, but keep your sex life on the DL because we really don’t want to picture those bodies doing that. <shudder> Better yet, remain celibate.

Here is the part where I’m dead serious, all satire aside: Mind your manners, folks! Or all those reclaimed Creation God/desses will show you their terrible faces of destruction. If we have to remind anyone that rape, assault, and pedophilia are an ABOMINATION, we will rise up as a united inferno to smite them into oblivion – legally, socially and magickally.  They’ll wish they were only burned at the stake. Just ask Kenny Klein.

Moral of the Story:

Don’t even try to make everyone happy, all of the time. If you are doing your job at all, there will be criticism. “Paganism” can be a maelstrom of mixed messages, and incompatible expectations. We are a diverse and opinionated bunch, but I’d say that most of the “leaders” in this cat-herding business are trying really hard to contribute something helpful. Paganism is self-regulating, so we’ll need to set decent standards, and then hold folks to them, but there is a constructive way to go about that. Please. For the love of all the gods, stop tearing each other down!

Think you can do better? Get in the game and make it happen. It’s up to YOU to step up to the plate and do the right thing. Either batter up, or shut up, because in today’s political climate of intolerance, the “stakes” are simply too high to sit this one out.

<end rant>


About Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle is a witch, priestess, mom, artist and shopkeeper living in Greenville, North Carolina. Connect with her on Facebook: Witch on Fire: Heron Rising Services and follow her on Twitter @HeronMichelle13. You can read more about the author here.

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