See, you can do things like that--be classy like that--when you're famous.
With all this crazy, status-seeking stuff going on among Pagans all the time, why does at least part of me want in on the action?
I think it's partly because Pagans don't really have any other way of keeping score. We do not acknowledge any gradations in that quality Quakers sometimes call "weight", and so the sixteen year old third-degree High Priestess in the Tinkerbell Tradition of Vampire Wicca feels fully empowered to speak with equal authority with men and women who were running covens and training students decades before her birth.
Of course, by saying that, I'm implying that age is the crucial factor in who should be attended to, and that's false. Many a time I've had my breath stolen away by listening to some elder-in-years-but-not-widom condescend to someone new to Paganism, whose words and actions reflected real seriousness and depth. It's not age that's the difference, or not age alone. And, yes, the gods can inspire any of us.
If we're listening. But so often, we are not. Pagans so often act as if there is only one scale in which to measure spiritual worth or development...
I've known at least one local elder to state the case in nearly those very words. At one point, that elder was organizing a networking group for Pagan leaders and teachers--a good idea, and one that ought to help us develop our depth, our weight, in dialog with one another. But her plan was that only those with "national or international reputations" should be invited to participate.
You can't cultivate wisdom if all you select for is fame.
What about the quiet, competent Priests and Priestesses who are just serving their local communities, raising healthy Pagan families, nurturing caring, rooted covens, hofs, temples and groves? I asked. And the answer that came back was that, if they really had something worth offering, they would be famous.
Quakers may get confused about that some times. I bet they do--Quakers are at least as human as anybody else. We're all surrounded by our fame-obsessed culture 24/7, and it wears down our common sense and makes us all foolish at times. I bet there are Big Name Quakers out there, and people who drop their names for a little frisson of importance, too.
But the Pagan world has no other stock in trade. We don't know the difference between fame and wisdom. Fame is the yardstick by which we measure worth. And even if I don't measure you by that means, I think perhaps I measure myself that way.
I want the respect of my peers--Quaker or Pagan. I want to be taken seriously--seriously enough to be heard and disagreed with when I'm wrong, or guided deeper into an idea when I'm right. This kind of discernment is something Quakers are at least seeking to give to all members of the Religious Society of Friends, however often we may fail.
Pagans don't even recognize the need, yet.
So, either because my Pagan heart has stunted roots from the years I have spent in that community, or because I live in a fame-mad culture, there is a part of me that doesn't just want to write a book for the ideas it might contain, or for the connections it might foster with readers, or even because I love books.
Part of me wants to be famous, because part of me doesn't trust part of you to care about me unless I am.
I think I ought to work on that, don't you?
Wiccan since the late '80s, Cat Chapin-Bishop has also been Quaker since 2001. Cat's essays have appeared in Laura Wildman's "Celebrating the Pagan Soul", "The Pomegranate: The Journal of Pagan Studies", the Covenant of the Goddess newsletter, and "Enchante: The Journal for the Urbane Pagan". In addition to her work as a Wiccan HPs, Cat is the former Chair of Cherry Hill Seminary's Pastoral Counseling Department, and she currently serves on the Ministry and Worship Committee of Mt. Toby Quaker meeting.
Cat and her husband maintain Quaker Pagan Reflections, a blog dedicated to exploring the connections between Pagan spirituality and Quaker practice. They reside in Northampton, Massachusetts, where they attempt to live peacefully in the midst of chaos.