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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: 20,939,960  

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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 

For Crying Out Loud, How Old Is "old" In The Neopagan Community... Dec 8th. at 8:25:20 pm EST

Gwydion Oak (Elkhart, Indiana US) Age: 44 - Email

For crying out loud, how old is "old" in the NeoPagan community. There is no evidence of modern Wicca being any older than Gerald Gardner (howbeit that many individual elements of the movement precede him, a few by centuries)? The whole purpose of appealing to age is, to me I admit, nothing more than trying to appear legitimate to our JudeoChristian neighbors who continually point to their 2000 years of history.

One of the greatest strengths of Paganism is that it DOES break new ground, almost constantly. It has been doing so ever since it started. Some traditions are beginning to form, which is good in some ways. Traditions can guide new seekers and help prevent them from going off the deep end. Experienced individuals and groups are a valuable resource for new seekers - if titles and age of your group doesn't count, genuine experience DOES. But the key words are "guide" and "resource." Everyone was a new seeker once, and that time of growth and discovery is a terrific experience. Older by itself doesn't equal better. But if "older" means wisdom and experience than it can help make better. If the "old guard" and traditions survive, it will be because they have something timeless to offer new seekers, that the members of those traditions have left signposts along the way that younger seekers will be able to (and want to) follow. If so, it will be good to have them. If not, newer generations will hammer something out for themselves -- just as we did.

I Think We Are All Born With A Porpuse That Is Our... Dec 8th. at 9:17:58 pm EST

Janet (Carlotta, California US) Age: 18 - Email

I think we are all born with a porpuse that is our own, and not the porpuse of some guru or teacher. All a proper teacher should do is teach someone how to fulfill their own destiny, not expect a mind wiped slave for the rest of their life.

This is an argument going on now elsewhere. I think alot of us miss out on alot because we cannot mesh Teen FX with Adult drive and Cronish wisdom and spiritual connection. I think we all suffer for it, and if we could accept each other with Love and Trust instead of mutual exploitation, I think magick would return in a way not seen in a very long time.

sxoa, aka crone mosh

I've Been A Practicing Wiccan For A Little Over 2 1/2... Dec 8th. at 10:06:20 pm EST

Bryony Ravenwillow (Independence, Missouri US) Age: 32 - Email

I've been a practicing Wiccan for a little over 2 1/2 years, and I still consider myself a "newbie". I'm also not ashamed to admit that I am completely self-taught, as I suspect most who have come to the pagan path over the last twenty years are. I consider myself to be as much a Witch as a 3rd-degree HPS in a coven dating back to Gardner's day is.
I believe that the main problem lies not so much in "Old Guard" vs "New Guard", but the fact that there are so many "New Guard" compared to "Old Guard". In other words, too many students and not enough teachers. Not all seekers are fortunate enough to have close access to an established coven with degrees and lineage. For some people, they're lucky if they know one other pagan over in the next town. It's no wonder that for so many, Scott Cunningham is their High Priest and Silver RavenWolf is their High Priestess, even if it is only through their written works.
I'm fortunate in that I live in an urban community with a sizeable pagan community, so I have plenty of opportunities to meet with and learn from other pagans, whether they belong to covens, are solitary, or practice another pagan path. I wouldn't mind if I found a coven to formally train with, but it's not the major priority it was when I was just starting out.
I believe that all pagan paths are valid. Indeed, ALL paths, regardless of what religious umbrella they fall under, are valid. If what they do fulfills them spiritually, then it is the right path for them. I feel that eclectic Wicca is right for me.
Which leads me to my next point, "traditional" vs "eclectic" Wicca. Modern Wicca in its current form is only 50 years old, though many of its tenets have roots in beliefs that date much earlier. It's not surprising that in the years since there has been much in the way of experimentation. Modern Christianity isn't much like its earliest days, when there were many many different sects practicing and preaching. Eventually there was an internal "Christian War", where different groups battled each other for supremacy, destroying the smaller and weaker groups, until eventually what became the modern Catholic church emerged as the "one, true way" when it came to Christianity, a claim that lasted pretty much until the Reformation. I'd hate to see a similar thing happen to us Witches. So what if one is Gardnerian, or Alexandrian, or Stregherian, or eclectic? What does it really matter whether or not we are self-initiated, or have been initiated into an established coven environment? Does that make our commitment to the Lady and Lord that much less? We are in the earliest stages of a brand-new religion. There will be growing pains and disagreements, but we shouldn't be working towards breaking each other down because our circle-casting isn't up to snuff, or because we wear the wrong color and style of ritual gear. Those are pretty petty differences. We all worship the Lady and Lord in different ways, and if They don't like the way we do it, I'm sure they'll let us know. They seem to be pretty happy with me thus far!
*decides to get off the soap box and let someone else have their say*

Love and Light,

Bryony Ravenwillow

The Truth Is Eternal; The Craft Is Perennial; But The Forms Of... Dec 8th. at 11:14:07 pm EST

john (in transit) Age: 33 - Email

the Truth is eternal; the craft is perennial; but the forms of expression do change.

essays more could be written on this question; almost 150 responses just on this board show that. the jist is the same.

but here are my additional two cents on the topic:

for a *Pagan* example of old and new, traditional and eclectic, iconic and icnoclastic, hereditary and converted that all, somehow, works more or less together... look to India and its Hinduism.

all of those elements (and more) are there in Hindu India: a form of Paganism that's been going strong for 4000+ years now and which is currently reinventing itself too in response to this (current) modern age. and among the Hindus, Truth is heard (the Vedas, especially the Bhaghavad Gita); Truth is recited (the Upanishads); and Truth is expressed and lived through human forms, some religious, some vocational, some Craft (sadhus, sannyasis and more, oh my!) and some mundane, some saintly and some evily, and most somewhere in between.

it's just a thought: Western pagans examining Hinduism. most of us are not from hereditary families, and most of us are therefore new to paganism. on the flip side, the Hindus have been successful at being pagan for 4000+ years... without interruption, in urban as well as rural environments, and in the face of imperial christianity and islam to boot. considering that, they might have a thing to teach us here in the West, as we awake in the cradle (and in the ...... diapers!) of a pagan rebirth.

the study of Hinduism need not be mimickry of it; it could be just discerning some essential lessons to help us as we develop our own paganism.

and one of the first lessons of Hinduism is that "Truth is One, and the sages call It by differnet Names."

and another one of the first lessons of Hinduism is for everyone, especially new students, to revere and learn from the sages and gurus (teachers)... because the sages and gurus are people who have already been down the road, so to speak, and thus often have something worthwhile to teach to those just starting out.

and another one of the first lessons of Hinduism (which some Hindu fundamentalists would do well to recall) is that any part of all is All, i.e. atman is Brahman, and all that any of us are doing ultimately is realizing that.

those thoughts aren't goofy if given more than superficial consideration; nor do they fail to address the question; they point instead to the answer, which is bigger than the question asked here.

blessed be.

Old Guard? New Guard? Why Is It That In The Pagan Community... Dec 9th. at 12:00:02 am EST

Toliara (Phoenix, Arizona US) Age: 25 - Email

Old Guard? New Guard? Why is it that in the Pagan community today that people must boast of themselves in this manner? I have been practicing for over four years, and I will never consider myself anything other than a student. I am a student of Life. I know people who think their pedigree is more important than actively pursuing education and it sickens me. Since when did Paganism become an exclusive country club? Exclusive meaning that it excludes certain people. So, who decides which Pagans are good enough and which arenÕt? If this is how the community is going to be, then four years ago I made the wrong choice.

Modern paganism has no history. Fifty years more or less does not a history make. Just as the ÒfoundersÓ of our religion innovated, so too should we, the inheritors, make our own Òtraditions.Ó

The issue here isnÕt innovation and creation or even alteration. It is not age or traditions. It is personal vanity and the need for some people to feel special.

No! Indeed Not. "older" Can Often Equate To "jaded" And Losing Sight... Dec 9th. at 5:33:47 am EST

Marilyn (Mansfield, England UK) Age: 46 - Email

NO! Indeed not. "Older" can often equate to "jaded" and losing sight of ones spirituality. I am 46 years old and am a new active seeker of personal spiritual enlightenment. "Newbie" do I hear you say? No, quite the contrary. I have had time to examine the prescriptive religious institutions and only NOW am I ready to begin my quest in earnest. I have always had very strong leanings to pagan ways, thoughts and ideals whereas many practising wiccans etc. are relatively young and have little experience or life. In order to gain spiritual enlightenment, you have to know yourself intimately, warts and all (excuse the pun). For those who view new seekers in this negative way, they should take care to ensure that their egos do not create negative energies that will only serve to impede their own quest and maybe they need to question the reasons and motives for following their chosen paths.

I would like to hear from anyone who has something intelligent to say and can speak with a voice or calm reason and experience.

I Think That The Older You Are Doesn't Matter As You May... Dec 9th. at 6:45:08 am EST

Lady Silvernight (Ryde, Isle of Wight, England UK) Age: 16 - Email

I think that the older you are doesn't matter as you may have more experience but you may not be wise. People try and say they have been practising for longer than they really have because to be a newbie is seen to be oh yeah its only a phase or it is when you are in your teenage years. The thing that is annoying is that some people who have been practising longer are more arrogant and think they know best and altough they may do it is annoying whjen they will not even give any information to any enquiring people wanting to know more about wicca. So many young people have to go by books and web sites and when it is difficult coping with people who are totally against anything but their own religion it can be very difficult to cope and find out anything.

As A Neo-pagan I Don't See Anything Wrong With Being What Some... Dec 9th. at 6:54:36 am EST

Lore (Caledonia, Missouri US) Age: 21 - Email

As a Neo-Pagan I don't see anything wrong with being what some call a 'newbie'. because in all pagans they at one point and time were new themselves, noone is born knowing all they have to in the way of the craft and all make mistakes. I have been a witch for about half a year now and am still collecting things for my self-initiation. Am I afraid to be a lone witch in the area of Missouri dubbed as "The Bible Belt"? No. I see it as my chance to show that I don't embrace wicca to be viewed as 'cool' by anyone and instead use it to grow in my spirituality. I take time to learn of other religions also because knowlege creates understanding and if you can see why someone believes differently then you are one step closer to understanding why you believe what you do. The old ways are fine to many and I am trying to learn of them to gain the heratige I wanted to take when I embraced witch craft as my religion. Noone is wrong as logn as they strive to do what is good for themselves and their family be it animal, insect, plant, or the Mother Earth. Just do what comes naturally, hide your ears from the thoughts and persecution and listen to your spirit and you can rarely go wrong. And those times where you do go wrong you will often times learn from your mistakes. But... this is just the view of one new witch.

Just As We Have The Right To Follow A Pagan "religion," We... Dec 9th. at 10:44:30 am EST

Christy (Powder Springs, Georgia US) Age: 26 - Email

Just as we have the right to follow a Pagan "religion, " we also have the right to follow it as we please. I admit I'm a newbie. In fact, I'm in the read, read, and read some more stages. I've seen different perspectives in the books I've read. To be honest, the dogmatic ritualism scared me at first. I have read some authors (i.e. Scott Cunningham) who say that not everything is written in stone - "do what pleases you." Besides the basic beliefs that attracted me in the first place, this view appeals to me.

I found Christianity stifling (not to mention misongynistic). If I felt I would be raked over the coals for not celebrating every sabbat or esbat, or for wearing street clothes during ritual, I would have stopped my study of witchcraft. For those who prefer the old way, to each her own. I think we all have things to learn from each other.


Being A Druid Myself, I Feel That Traditional Means Are Better For... Dec 9th. at 11:48:10 am EST

Jacob Lewis (Fayetteville, Arkansas US) Age: 20 - Email

Being a Druid myself, I feel that traditional means are better for learning. Passing up the wisdom and experiences of the prior generations means you have to make the same mistakes they did, with many similar consequences. It also means you have a history and an ideal to fall back on. That having been said, I must confess that I am a *self-taught* Druid, although much of my teaching was given to me by elders who were not of that class. Having a history and a body of knowledge to fall back on is great, but it seems a waste to not use it to try to push ahead.

The Problem Dosen't Always Seem To Be Older Is Better, The Problem... Dec 9th. at 12:23:44 pm EST

Pattie Rose (Dover Plains, New York US) Age: 32 - Email

The problem dosen't always seem to be older is better, the problem is the traditions they follow. for example one Pagan may choose to follow, do, or believe something different than another. What it then comes down to is a battle of I've practiced longer than you therefore I am right. And if they can't get you with that it becomes who did you learn under and what books do you read. I for one am very upset with the witchier than thou mentality.Pa

There Is One Definitive And Unquestionable Answer To This Question: It All... Dec 9th. at 12:58:52 pm EST

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

There is one definitive and unquestionable answer to this question: IT ALL DEPENDS ON YOU. Old or new, coven or solitary, Druidism, Wiccanism, Shamanism, and all these other details mean less than what feels right to you. I'm not saying be greedy, the universe doesn't revolve around us, but I am saying that for us as a race and as individuals it is healthy to have variety, and I happen to think it's equally healthy for the divine that we should worship it in so many different ways, it really gives it a personality. And besides, if the Gods and Goddesses compell you along your own path you should follow that compulsion, as you should if they compell you to choose a traditional path, they do know best when they help us find our proper paths in life.

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