Growing Wiccan Temples and Leaders is typical of Samuel Wagar, whose previous books (The Uses of Ecstasy: Ritual and Practical Mysticism in Wicca and Creating Lore, Writing Ritual) we have also reviewed. As an author, he is a nuts-and-bolts pagan. This isn't actually a thing, mostly because there aren't enough others to need a name for their type. His books are so detail-oriented as to become almost maddening. I would not recommend them to someone who is trying to get in touch with their inner Goddess. (Not to say that he is somehow anti-Goddess(!), he's just not a source of warm comfort in my experience.) However, if he has written on a topic that it currently important to you, it's a safe bet that he's going to give you the kind of detailed explanations and advice that you may find lacking in other sources. This book is no exception; Mr. Wagar has thoroughly examined the importance of growing the membership in Wiccan organizations and the critical role that leadership plays. He draws on practical experience from decades of experience helping to organize spiritual organizations both large and small.
Mr. Wagar is careful to build from the ground up. He spends a few pages at the beginning of the book confirming who it is that the book is aimed at with an examination of Wiccan theology. A stone is placed. He spends a few more pages on the notion of group minds. Another stone is placed. He examines the common desire to belong. Another stone. Well-supported, he now starts in on the nature of spiritual groups (his term "Wiccan temple" is not randomly chosen, but in most circumstances it can stand in for whichever way your own group characterizes itself; "circle", "coven" etc...), how and why they coalesce, and how this can be purposefully nurtured. He takes time to illustrate bad/negative examples of this sort of thing as advice on what to avoid. Beyond the formation of these groups, he discusses what is needed to foster the growth of the temple, and specifically what outreach to the broader community might look like.
Here he shifts gears to focus on leaders; why they are even needed, and what good leaders look like. He is not to be confused with an authoritarian. As he says, "[l]eaders are... servants of the Gods and the church, not the owners of them, loaned gifts of the spirit and organizational authority in order to use them on behalf of them, their owners. It is essential to make the distinction and recognize the true sources of authority." He calls out three "c"s for effective leadership: competence, commitment, and character. Naming them, he then spends some time exploring the need for each and the danger of the absence of each as well.
As is typical with his books, Growing Wiccan Temples and Leaders ends with a wealth of resources; sample training material, an example ritual format demonstrating concepts from earlier in the book, as well as pages of his suggested bibliography / further reading on the subjects discussed. This isn't the first book that belongs in any pagan's library, or even the tenth, but at some point there are a number of us who are going to be confronted with the issues discussed within, and when that time comes it is to the reader's benefit that they have access to this work.
~review by Patricia Mullen
Author: Samuel Wagar
Obscure Pagan Press, 2012
pp. 144, $10.00