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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 22,753,227  

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Question of the Week: 17 - 12/4/2000

Does Older Equal Better?

Whether it is Traditional Wicca vs. Solitary Wicca or Coven Trained vs. Self-Initiation, there are folks on either side of the issue, "Is Older Really Better"? We have even heard of some folks 'padding' their experience (or years) so as not be called a "newbie" or a 'wannabe". Is there something 'wrong' with being a new seeker? Is there something inherently right about being what some call the "Old Guard"? Is there a point where revering the 'old way' of teaching/passing on the knowledge actually becomes 'resistant to change'? Should the new generations of Pagans follow closely in our footsteps or should they be free to break new ground? Can the old traditions survive if they do? Should they?

 Reponses:   There are 199 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Religion Is Very Personal, Between Each Individual And Their Deity/deities. Everybody... Dec 7th. at 11:51:13 pm EST

hellenichuntress (Flagstaff, Arizona US) Age: 45

Religion is very personal, between each individual and their Deity/Deities. Everybody is a "wannabe" in a way because our interest and passion for our religion leads us to constantly explore unchartered territory related to our religion, to grow in our religion. We all "wanna" do that, right?

"New seekers" may sometimes have a deeper connection to Deity than "Old Guard". (It's not myself I'm defending here. I've discovered that I am a Witch over 20 years ago.) I often meet newcomers to the Craft who have a thing or two to teach me. Granted, I am very traditional in casting a circle, using the same general format for years (works for me); this doesn't mean it will for everyone. This religion evolves with its practitioners. I'm proud to be Old Guard, but we must not look down our noses on those who are just starting out, "breaking new ground". They may be "planting" something wonderful; if the Gods are happy, who are we to judge?

I Think That Individuality Is Most Important In Answering This Question. It's... Dec 8th. at 12:47:02 am EST

Michael John Casey (Portland, Oregon US) Age: 29 - Email

I think that individuality is most important in answering this question. It's the reason I left Christianity behind; most Christian sects seem intent on preserving the "old way" or the "one true way"... But in my opinion, no such one way exists for all people, nor, it follows, for all Pagans. There are over 6 billion human beings on this planet, and which was the last of those humans that you agreed with about *everything*? We all have so many unique differences, preferences, experiences, etc... How can one way hope to express all that?

I feel that there is plenty of room for the "old ways", as there are always people who want or need a predefined structure for their spirituality to grow within. Yet those who break new ground are following their own wants and needs as well; I don't think that takes anything away from those who follow tradition. And there is no room for those following their own path to judge those following the path of tradition - What is important, I think, is to learn from one another and at the same time remain true to ourselves. Those breaking new ground do themselves a disservice, I think, if they completely disregard what's been learned by those before them... If they were scientists, they would studiously examine *everything* that had been theorized and tested before, rather than begin by asking "I wonder what's inside the human body? I wonder what's the smallest indivisible particle in the universe?" Scientists are still searching for that particle, but they don't start from scratch. By the same token, even Albert Einstein, one of the deepest scientific minds ever, did himself a disservice IMO when the science of Quantum Physics emerged... He never found the amalgam, between his theories and those of Quantum Physics, that he sought. But what new ground might he have broken if he applied his great mind more fully toward that new science?

My feeling is that the old traditions will always survive, and flourish, and well they should. But there may be a point where that becomes resistance to change. What is essential is for each individual one of us to seek what we wish to seek, without hindering any other's search or implying a superiority of "our" approach over "theirs". Then we can all learn from one another, without fear of losing anything ourselves, or taking away from anyone else.

This Is A Response To Rowan Amuletsong’s Response #1637. This Is Not... Dec 8th. at 1:11:12 am EST

Steven Bragg (MSU, Mississippi US) Age: 24 - Email

This is a response to Rowan AmuletSong’s response #1637. This is not a personal attack on Rowan. I see Rowan as being representative of the basic views of Traditional Witchcraft, so I am using her statements as the “generic” basis.

It is unfortunate that there is a rift within the Witchcraft/Wiccan community between the initiated and the non-initiated, however, I do not see this rift as being the fault of the non-initiated, which is the implication I felt in Rowan’s response, but in part the fault of both sides of this situation. I don’t believe non-initiates would have such a strong rejection of the initiated now if there had not first been a rejection of the non-initiated from the initiated when the non-initiated first began to emerge, which, in my opinion, was inevitable. Furthermore, the initiated, if they are holders to the secrets of Witchcraft as some claim, could have predicted this divergence and made preparations for it. But as history shows, a bitter and sometimes immature controversy has blossomed from this rejection and rejection of a rejection. Very unfortunate, indeed, from those who claim to be practitioners/believers of the Ancient Tradition of the Wise.

The first issue I take is with the idea of there being a significant difference between dedication and initiation. Rowan says that dedication is “the process in which a person accepts the Craft and vows to study and learn.” I agree with this concept of dedication, however, I disagree with her next statement concerning dedication that “there is no ceremony…” There very well can be a ceremony for one’s dedication; that is up to the individual. Perhaps the Traditionalists do not perform a ceremony for it, but they do not set the implications of common words for the rest of us.

She says of initiation that it is “the induction into an order or coven…that truly alt[e]rs your life and according to most traditions makes a person a witch and a member of the priesthood.” I have several issues with this concept. First, the induction into an order or coven could be an order or coven of one’s own design. Does this invalidate the initiation? Considering that there had to be a first order or coven, not in the least. And since, as Rowan says, a coven “is a law unto itself and is normally autonomous, ” the question may be asked, What validates each individual coven? It’s tie to another pre-existing coven? But if it’s an autonomous entity, it needs nothing outside itself to validate itself. And if that’s the case, then any coven, Traditional or Eclectic, is valid. The second part of the statement, that initiation “truly alt[e]rs your life” I agree with. Any religious experience taken seriously by the person experiencing it usually has great and lasting effects, which, of course, happens in any religion—Traditional or not. The third part “and…makes a person a witch and a member of the priesthood, ” suggests a monopoly on legitimacy of ministering to the Wiccan/Witch community. It is the work done by the minister or priest/ess that proves his or her capability, not a title, Tradition, or degree, or ordination. Of course, a minister cannot function without that which to minister. But then, who says what is truth? One Tradition? It’s offshoot groups? If it’s an autonomous entity, then it’s teaching can hold on its own. And if that’s true, then any coven’s teaching, Traditional or Eclectic, can hold its own.

This exposition invalidates the second issue, that of the rule “only a witch can make a witch.” But the more effective way of invalidating this “rule” is to simply ask the question Who made the first witch? This parallels the Theistic problem of the First Cause argument of Who made God (the First Cause)? One answer to this question is that no one made God, and in fact we can account for the universe by supposing an unbroken line of cause and effect happenings that go back in time forever (assuming time is linear in this case) and forward forever. Naturally, we cannot have an unbroken line of witches extending forever both backward and forward in time. And if the Gods made the first witch, then what’s to stop the Gods from making a witch now, regardless of Tradition training?

The third issue arises when Rowan suggests to the non-initiate “become initiated and train under an existing witch of the appropriate education and degree…” Now, exactly what is meant by “appropriate education and degree”? It is my understanding that even the Traditionalists wage war over this one. How on the Goddess’ green Earth are we non-initiates supposed to determine this? I have a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion and am beginning my Master’s in religious studies. Certainly I can hold my own in the area of education. Does that put me halfway there? Can I just zip through the degrees by sitting down one afternoon and designing my own ritual? I do that regularly over coffee. But more than this, I feel the presence of the Divine when I do this. But am I invalidated because my view of the Divine isn’t that of the Traditionalists’? Exactly what is the requirements for being a witch or a member of the priesthood? Can any human say? I believe that only the Gods can decree this, not humans. And when the Gods have blessed one with this calling, others sense it regardless of that person’s training or degree or title.

The fourth issue is an emotionally charged one for me. Rowan says that “many, not all, self taught “witches” use the term Eclectic or self initiated, as a refusal of a structured format or laziness…” I cannot attest to the actual number of self taught that are lazy or resent formal structure to religion, but neither can anyone else. I resent the inference, though of laziness. I have studied the original myths and legends in the best English translations I can find and in a more strict and rigid setting than even the Traditionalists—the University classroom. I have read more books (in their entirety) on the occult, Wicca, Shamanism, comparative religion, etc. than some Traditionalists I have made contact with. If it’s one thing I’m not lazy about, it’s knowing my religion. And most of the self-taught Witches I know are avid readers and excellent interpreters of what they’ve read. Now, academic study is not all that is needed to be a Witch, I realize. Experience of actually executing ritual and communing with the Divine is the key. But I wonder: If one were to measure the actual practice and participation of an initiate, who gets to participate in some, but not all, ritual procedures, and hold these up to the solitary non-initiate, who has had to do all by him or herself, and through trial and error, find the best working path possible for that person, which may take years of hard practice, which of these would come out on top? Who would then be considered the more experienced?

The fifth issue, and probably the most emotionally charged, is when Rowan talks about “not gathering information and using what ever gives them [non-initiates] that warm fluffy bunny feeling…” That “warm fluffy bunny feeling, ” as she puts it, is the same feeling, just a different variety, that a Christian feels when he or she prays, that a Muslim feels when he or she worships, that a Buddhist feels when he or she meditates, that a Native American feels when he or she chants and dances…and what I feel when I commune with my Gods. And I absolutely resent this feeling being reduced to “warm fluffy bunny feeling.” This is the stuff that we’re all going after, what lets us know we’re on the right track, what leads us to truth and from deception. Is religion supposed to be an organized way of stifling this feeling? Should we institutionalize religion in order to give us a more “grown up” and serious outlook on this feeling? Can we not take it for its simplicity and beauty, accept it from the Gods as a gift that even though we face hurt, pain, and disappointments in our daily lives, we have something attainable to give us hope and strength?

I hope these are not the only issues that separate the initiates and the non-initiates. For if they are, then I have to say we’ve been quibbling for all the wrong reasons. It’s time for the “mystery” traditions to grow up, compare notes, not be afraid to bring our beliefs and practices to the light, and get on with living and celebrating life. What are we scared of? We can talk about the mysteries without losing them. The mysteries are experienced inside each person, not in ritual design and secret scripts. Nothing will be lost by finally talking, but much could be gained.

As Being A Younger, And Relativly New To Wicca, I Can See... Dec 8th. at 2:31:07 am EST

Randall (aka Drayca) (Jacksonville, Florida US) Age: 18 - Email

As being a younger, and relativly new to Wicca, I can see an arguement on either side. Of course, one would like to have experiance and knowledge in what they are doing. As a younger pagan, I look to those older than me for guidance and knowledge.

Of course, there are always those who let their wisdom and knowledge cloud their better judgement. Some who may think of themselves as intelligent, do seem to become more resistant to outside and different thinking. One becomes sure in themselves after learnin so much, it makes them hard to believe someone else, and maybe younger, would know better. This goes for anything, not just the topic at hand.

As for how this relates to the topic and myself, I do believe that newer pagans should let their newer ideas and beliefs knownn to the elders. I, personally, wouldn't expect to be greeted with enthusiasm if I shared my ideas.
Every person's ideas and beliefs differ, and this is one of the true blessings of this walk of life. We aren't held to one particular set of rules. If new ideas surface, then they should be embraced as any older ideas would be. Within a certain degree of course.

Looking At The Posts, I Think One Of The Problems Is, As... Dec 8th. at 5:20:07 am EST

Skye Cat (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 27 - Email

Looking at the posts, I think one of the problems is, as it always is, definition.

Like most people, when investigating Paganism for the first time, I got in through Wicca. For a variety of reasons, it's one of the most accessible perspectives, certainly in it's eclectic form. I use principles that most people would recognise as Wiccan occasionally, but I wouldn't define myself as Wiccan.

Why? Well, I feel the term is becoming diluted. If a person says they're Wiccan, they could mean anything from they practice in the most traditional Gardnerian coven you could find, to they're as eclectic and solitary as they come (I'm sure I missed out some interpretations). It doesn't mean anything. Also, I know that I'd annoy some factions within the Pagan community if I called myself "Wiccan". What's the point in doing that? A rose is a rose is a rose.

Personally I refuse to define myself any more closely than as a "Pagan". To me, that covers a multitude of viewpoints and perspectives. I don't need to be defined any more closely than that - it puzzles me that other people seem to need this. Who's approval are you seeking?

I see a person's spiritual journey as very personal - whether working in a coven or alone in a "Witchy" context. To me the whole idea of coven and structure is anathema. So, I'm solitary. Others will make a different choice. That's OK too.

I think it's time we celebrated our commonalities rather than fought over our differences. We're all on different paths up the mountain, that's all.


Merry Meet All! No!old Isn't Always Best.. I'm A Young 40... Dec 8th. at 6:07:26 am EST

Emerald rain. (corfu.) Age: 40

Merry meet all! NO!Old isn't always best..

I'm a young 40 and I've been given the stongest felt lessons of my life, by youth.Young (I hate this word..)'wannabe's', often open our eyes to new issues that they feel effect them more directly-Selfish attitude? NO! We were young once and our parents didnt or couldn't listen to us when we told them that what they were doing would have this or that effect on them/us/the world/the planet..whatever we were into at the time. It hasn't changed much today.

I check myself frequently, when I hear myself telling my children that 'I know best'


These young ones are running and slipping and skinning their knees on exactly the things that we did, at their age.(they're doing it with roller blades) They have the benifit of the www.font of info and they're no less devoted to their particular form of the faith than we are to ours.

They're full of new hope and energy and a font of new ideas.It's not surprising, since as each day passes more and more info is coming to light- science and the craft working with each other...
They're interested and interesting.Whether we like it or not they are our tomorrow.We had just better be ready for them.

I hope we have the brains and the to NOT act as our parents did-'DO AS I DO!'

Really- do we want rebels? or a new generation who show respect for us because we show them the same resect that we knew we deserved..way back when..

I might add that I've never been a circle person..My grandmother and I had a lot of time together and that was my school.There was nothing that she wouldn't have done for me- part of which was to listen to and guide me if she felt I was off the track.

Upon finding 'like spirits', I became quickly dis-illusioned by their methods and narrow-mindedness towards 'newbies' and wannabe's'.I found that they reminded me of my mothers church..UGH! So I lit out on my own.

I've treated my own daughter with the respect I beleive she is due, for all the wonderful new things she teaches me..'Come on your mind...'and the result is that we work together on all levels and love the time we spend together, whether in worship or working making soap!

Dont think, please, that 'wannabe's' are all shooting stars that'll burn out- If they do, it might be because we didn't listen when we should have or perhaps we didn't take them seriously enough.
It might be because we sound like a conventional church group and scare them away or bore them to tears...Woe betide that!

I hope, as I said 'above', that we're more clever than that.

I hope that we love and respect tomorrow enough to guide these wonderful inquiring minds, so that we DO have a tomorrow-full to the brim with the beauty of our history and the joy of spending our beloved celebrations in the company of our grandchildren, all in love with our beleifs, because they are the ..WISE! CRAFT!and we know that they are..

Details, Details, Details, The Goddesses And Gods Have No Concern Over These... Dec 8th. at 9:36:58 am EST

Green Sprite (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 18

Details, details, details, the Goddesses and Gods have no concern over these details. Old or young, new or veteran, solitary and coven practitioner, just details. Love the Goddesses and Gods, reverence them, be loving and gentle to your friends, loved ones, neighbors, and even enemies, and all those things will be enough. The divine doesn't haggle over details, it only cares what's in your heart and spirit.

Older Does Not Nessecarily Equal Better. Its Nice To Have Someone With... Dec 8th. at 9:52:25 am EST

Cheilis (Chatham-kent, Ontario CA) Age: 27 - Email

Older does not nessecarily equal better. Its nice to have someone with experience around but sometimes a new person offers a new perspective on rituals , rites, ETC. Its when we blend that we can truely understand the path.

Each of us has something to offer whether old or new.
The untapped energies of a initiate or the wisdom and guidance of an elder.

Merry Meet! I'm A "newbie" Who Is Still In The Investigation And... Dec 8th. at 10:05:24 am EST

David Page (Phoenix, Arizona US) Age: 37 - Email

Merry Meet! I'm a "newbie" who is still in the investigation and practice phase, and I am still discovering something new about Wicca and/or Paganism every day. What I've learned today is that people are the same, no matter where you go, or what religion you practice. If somebody looks down upon me simply because I'm at the beginning of this wondrous path, I figure that their disdain will be answered when the Threefold Law gets to them. The people I choose to associate with will be the ones who deserve my company and may by be enriched by my presence, as I would be enriched by theirs. Whether I choose to apply to a coven or practice solitary makes me no more or less a Pagan than anyone else. The "Coveners" who feel that the "non-initiated" are beneath them (and I know not all coven members are like that) are no better than the Right Wing Christians or Muslims that believe that anyone outside their sect is a lower life-form and not desrving of their attention. I feel that once you have truly bonded with the elements and revere Nature in all Her glory, you ARE initiated, no matter if you've been the subject of (or performed) a ritual or not.

It Never Fails To Amaze Me... The Topic Of This Post Is... Dec 8th. at 10:11:14 am EST

BlueMystravyn (Harrisville, Wisconsin US) Age: 36

It never fails to amaze me...

The topic of this post is: "Is older really better"? I believe my point, (post #1636) was made by Skye cat, "27" (not a magickal name, just deliberately cheesy, post #1653), who did not even attempt to comment on the topic but instead chose to belittle others for thier opinons and tell a tale of "wholier than thou". Then there was a very brief and I believe quite eloquent post from Green Sprite, "18" #1655.

Yes, a person can be younger and wiser and another can be older and quite the opposite. Who's to say what is "better"? For some, one and others...well, themselves!

If The Older Generation Doesent Teach The New Then The Craft Is... Dec 8th. at 10:14:15 am EST

Kuulei Makanoa (Kahana Bay, California US) Age: 36

If the older generation doesent teach the new then the craft is lost. If the new doesent teach the old "a few new tricks" then the craft is lost. SHARE! Comprimise and lots of guidance can go a long way and for years to come. It's all in the vision.

Is Older Really Better"? Age, In And Of Itself, Is Irrelevent, As... Dec 8th. at 10:57:53 am EST

Silicon Rat (Montreal) Age: 31 - Email

"Is Older Really Better"?

Age, in and of itself, is irrelevent, as far as I am concerned, in so far as it applies to the physical age of an individual. The simple truth is that I know people who are younger than me who's experience and natural talent far exceed anything I can ever hope to achieve. At the same time, I know many people who are older than me who I wouldn't trust to mail a letter properly.

As far as tradition goes, we have to look at the age of the tradition in question. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't a Wiccan tradition that yet qualifies as 'old', while some of the rites and symbolism from these traditions may originate mucg further back. However, since we are discussing the traditions themselves, and not the individual rites of said traditions, I would have to say, since I don't believe that 50 years constitutes 'old' in a religious tradition, that there are not older traditions... only some that are slightly less young.

Now, my view on this entire topic is skewed by that fact that I don't believe in 'One True Path'. I go one step further, however. I don't believe that any two individuals follow the same path.... even the people in a coven are folloiwing individual paths that are similar, not all the exact same. That being the case, can it really be said that those who are older than me are any closer to the spiritual goals that *I* seek? Just because they are older does not mean that they hold the key answers to my questions.

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