Wait… Someone’s Leading This Tradition?

What qualities should a leader in your tradition possess?

Sufficient stability and sanity so as to set a good example, but not so much of either that they’ll realize just what the hell they’re getting into.

It’s hard to say, since this tradition is just me, for the most part, and I’m not sure I have complete faith in the current leadership.

That said, I could list the virtues I’d want myself to have, to feel confident in my own leadership of whoever decides to follow me down this path:

A Strong Relationship With Dionysos: While I wouldn’t require proof of Mystic Woo Powers (and I’m not sure how one would prove it, in any case), I think a working relationship with Himself that involves an active ritual life, a deep understanding of the God and His ways of moving in the world, and the ability to reliably do divination so as to get advice and instructions from Him are all necessary things.

Scholarship: I am not a reconstructionist as such; I’m not looking for someone who can do a dissertation on Dionysos worship in the ancient world. However, I am trying to root my practices and my understanding in what ancient sources I can find. This is a modern practice for a modern Dionysos, but without a strong connection to the past, there’s no continuity.

Hospitality: So much of how I understand the relationship between gods and mortals is rooted in mutual hospitality that I don’t see how one could be a leader in this tradition without also knowing how to be a good host and a good guest. My view of what kind of role to take, when varies (I’ll do a post on hospitality soon), but a leader should be able to put themselves in the role of host to the God, host to the congregation in the God’s name, host to the congregation in their own right, and as a good guest who represents the God wherever they go.

Compassion: This is the worship of the God whose train includes the mad, the lost, and the broken. Being able to relate to the person, and not just their loudest (and possibly worst) qualities, is absolutely required of a leader. Leaders must be able to feel another’s pain and rage and fear, without judging it or taking it on themselves.

Boundaries: A complementary quality to both Hospitality and Compassion, a leader must be able to set boundaries for the good of the group and the good of the individuals in that group–including themself! A leader who allows themself to be swept up to such a degree that they can no longer differentiate between their own mood and the needs of the group or its members is helping no one.

This is especially important for a Dionysian. While there is a place for losing onself to passion, someone has to hold the space for others to do this. Someone has to minimize the risk so that others can let themselves go. Hopefully, there will be others who can do this, so no poor soul is stuck being the designated driver every time.

A Sense of Group Dynamics: Of the many bits of advice that Starhawk wrote into her first books, the bits that I think have aged the best are the ones which speak to a leading witch as someone who has to keep an eye on the relationships of the members of a group to each other. It’s easy to get caught up in the passion and the mysticism, but it’s even easier to not pay attention to seemingly mundane aspects of the group dynamic that can be as dangerous to the congregation as any malevolent spirit.

Logistic Fu: Scheduling isn’t easy. Neither is making sure there’s enough food and wine for everyone, making sure people who need rides have them, making sure that the ritual site is accessible to everyone, and the hundred other things that require someone to make a plan and see it carried out. While I’m not saying that a leader has to do all this themself (we’re all mad enough already), they at least have to make sure someone competent is doing it.

There are no doubt other qualities a leader should have. Some of them I probably take for granted, and so haven’t thought to list. Others I may have yet to learn. It’s an ongoing process.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.

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About Lon Sarver

Lon Sarver is a polytheist priest of Dionysos, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and contemplating (with a healthy amount of dread) making a second attempt at a career in Marriage and Family Therapy. View all posts by Lon Sarver

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