A reader writes, “I’ve recently begun following a Pagan path, and I’m meeting some resistance from my friends and family. They keep pointing out that there aren’t any Pagan role models to look up to in today’s society. Christianity has a number of famous people who set an example for others with their spirituality and good works. There are a lot of Jewish people who can be held up as an example of their faith. But everyone keeps asking me where all the famous Pagans are. I don’t know what to tell them, but I’m wondering if this is something I should even worry about.”
Well, your friends and family do make a valid point – there aren’t a ton of famous Pagans in today’s mainstream society. And honestly, that’s partly because there’s still some degree of secrecy about following a Pagan path, although that’s certainly changing. People may be concerned about losing jobs, kids, housing, or whatever if they reveal their Pagan beliefs. Despite the fact that modern Paganism has come a long way in the past few decades, it’s still something that people tend to keep private. And while we’ve talked about “celebrity Pagans” being few and far between, there are certainly Pagans out there who are part of mainstream pop culture.
Singer Sully Erna of the band Godsmack is an initiated member of the Cabot tradition, and actress Fairuza Balk owned an occult store for a while, and has said she became Pagan after starring in the movie The Craft. A number of popular authors, including Laurell K. Hamilton, are Wiccan.
Those are all people who would probably be known to mainstream – i.e. Not Pagan – society. However, there are countless numbers of people in the Pagan community who are openly practicing.
Take any of the published Pagan authors, musicians like Wendy Rule and S.J. Tucker, or outspoken educators and activists like Selena Fox or Starhawk – all of these people are unapologetically and openly Pagan. Feel free to point to any of them as a role model if your family feels you need to offer one up.
Finally, and this is the most important part – there are people in the Pagan community who are just average folks who have done some pretty awesome things, and they certainly qualify as role models too, even if your friends have never heard of them. Take, for instance, Roberta Stewart, the widow of fallen Wiccan soldier Patrick Stewart.
Roberta worked tirelessly to make sure that other Pagan soldiers killed in action could get a pentacle on their headstones. Or what about teen Pagan Jerica Haynes, whose school presentation on diversity got cancelled? Even in the face of opposition, Jerica still stood up for her beliefs and managed to work together with school administrators to present a thoughtful program on her Wiccan faith.
How about the countless covens and groves that organize food drives each fall, or who gather up ritual materials and books to send to soldiers overseas? The priestesses and priests who offer their time and energy to counsel others in times of need? The solitary practitioner who anonymously shovels his elderly neighbor’s driveway in the middle of the night? Sometimes, you find role models not on the cover of a magazine, but right in your own back yard.
It’s also important to note that in many Pagan pantheons, there are legends about gods, demigods and mortals who perform actions worthy of emulating. Perhaps you could cite some of these to your friends and family members as examples of role models. You could also point out some non-Pagans you admire, if their work or ideas have influenced your life – the Dalai Lama isn’t Wiccan, but many non-Buddhists honor him for his wisdom as a spiritual leader.
So, while I wouldn’t worry over much (or really, at ALL) about whether or not there are public Wiccans or Pagans in pop culture, there’s certainly no shortage of people whose work and efforts are worthy of honor and respect. If you feel that offering your friends and family a list of role models (even if they’re people typically only known to the Pagan community) helps, then go for it. Meanwhile, continue learning and growing yourself, and who knows – maybe someday you’ll be a role model for others!