One day some years ago, around the time that the second or third Harry Potter movie was coming out, my husband and I were listening to a Christian Radio program. I like to do that so that I hear different perspectives than my own. The local Christian stations are all very Conservative.
This particular day they were talking about the "evils" of the "occult" and Wicca. At least, what they think the occult and Wicca entail. Which is to say half-truths and falsehoods shaped to support their own spiritual understanding of the Divine and the world. (I realize that those half-truths and the like were based on ignorance, but still...)
They talk about Neo-Pagans with minimal understanding. They say that we worship the creation, not the creator (that is not true.) They also paint us as a bunch who are hungry for "power," and they claim we are simply lost and seeing to gain that power through consorting with fantasy or worse, diabolical powers.
If you read the earlier post on Pagan values and compassion, then you read "The Charge of the Goddess" by Doreen Valiente, and you will have noticed that power is indeed listed there.
But this isn't power like the Christians on the radio are thinking. Starhawk writes extensively about power. She classes various types. Most people interpret power to mean "Power Over." Which is, she posits, where a great number of our society's errors descend from. CEOs have power over their employees. Hierarchies and the like proliferate. Few understand that it is much more important to have "Power Within." This is the ability to manage our impulses, our base urges. It is the ability to master our sense of duty, to face our responsibilities with honor.
He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still. - Lao Tzu
But really power is more than that. Power is the ability to believe in yourself. To understand that you can make a difference in the world. Starhawk classes this as "power with." It means being able to unite in common cause to do what is right.
This includes power within as a matter of course, because working with others is not always easy and means mastering one's smallness inside.
I am not interested in power for power's sake, but I'm interested in power that is moral, that is right and that is good. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do we as Pagans seek power? Yes. Many of us do. But by that do we mean the power to curse? I'm sure there are some who do so. Just as there are Christians who pray for the harm of others. Those who have, honestly forgotten that even those who you despise carry the Divine within them.
But by power we do not mean power over. Power over is manipulative and destructive and often relies on tearing others down, when in truth we are all equals. The money and materials we gather do not make us better or worse than anyone else.
Power is bigger than that. Power is the ability to face fear and do right in spite of it. Power is the ability to overcome what challenges we face. Power is the call to become whole, to be empowered to act in a way that best reflects our world view.
And it is a view that accepts diversity, that accepts that we can be wrong and that we should grow.
Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. - Epictetus
The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any. - Alice Walker
Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment.
I only wish that ordinary people had an unlimited capacity for doing harm; then they might have an unlimited power for doing good.
Nothing external to you has any power over you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.
You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
The power to do good is also the power to do harm.
May the Gods guide you true,