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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: 20,289,866  

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Reponses: 74

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Question of the Week: 112 - 5/28/2003

Elders: Who Are They and Do We Really Need Them?

From The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary:

elder : 1. an older person, especially one with a respected position in society; 2. an official of a religious group.

What is your definition of an Elder? Do we need Elders? Do we want Elders? What would be the role of an Elder in the Pagan/Heathen communities?

Who decides who is an Elder? Can someone simply declare him/herself an Elder? Do you discern a difference between ‘someone with a respected position in society’ and ‘an official of a religious group’? Can a solitary practitioner – who is not an ‘official’ of a recognized group, but nevertheless provides something of value to Paganism/Heathenism -- be considered an Elder?

Is age a factor? Wisdom? Proven track record? Who do you consider to be an Elder?

 Reponses:   There are 74 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

In Search Of Elders..... May 30th. at 10:24:11 pm EDT

Steph (Midwest City OK) Age: 32 - Email

An Elder in the Pagan Community.

Elder is a much abused word of late. Like the phrase "Real Witch, " or High Priest/ess, and references to the Rede, its open to diverse and often laughable interpretations.

In a perfect world on Beltaine Day, an Elder would be a repository of wisdom and humor. A person who can offer useful advice on the harsh realities of this life without automatically placing the supplicant under their shiny boot.

In a perfect world, we would recognize our elders and respect them and support them. We would treasure them.

We don't live in a perfect world.

I meet a lot of individuals who think that a good limp, a retirement fund and a big butt entitles them to elder hood.

I meet a lot of 19 year old elders of their own tradition.

I meet people who place more value on educational credentials than on authenticity or genuine-ness.

Every once in a while, I meet an elder. And I sit at their feet and I pick their brain til I have cotton mouth and crossed eyes.

In this culture, growing old is no great feat of survival. We have crosswalks and public transportation, penicillin, and gun laws. So age is not necessarily a determining factor in elder-hood.

In this culture, producing a degree (college or other) is not necessarily a sign of wisdom or innate intelligence. Paper mill colleges and churches abound online. I can ordain my cat for a small fee and refer to him as Dr Seymore. You can be so smart you tie your shoes together, and be people-stupid or lacking in instincts.

Some groups pick a chronological age for initiates or members and they are eldered or croned. Does that hold any value to those on the outside of that group?

Elder is in the eye of the beholder.
Many Elders I meet are not necessarily Pagan. I choose carefully, who I entitle in my heart with the honorific, Elder, Just as I do with the title, Friend.

Elders.... May 30th. at 10:33:56 pm EDT

Mathair Cat (Clarksville, TN. USA) Age: 30 - Email

Well, to put it in a nutshell..for the most part-on the elder issue. I agree with Morrighan's posting below. (a wee bit tired here so I wont bore all to snoring fits, with basically the same thing she said--lmao) .

Very good topic! Keep up the good work. I love to read everyone's comments. Very interesting to see the difference and as well as shared views on these postings.
Mathair Cat

Elders May 30th. at 11:09:51 pm EDT

anna (Wisconsin) Age: 55 - Email

just are, great age is not required. Yes, we sure do need them. We need a lot more elders.

Elders? May 31st. at 1:03:40 am EDT

Neko (Calgary, Alberta) Age: 21 - Email

What defines an elder? Is it age? Wisdom? Experinece?

I personally don't think that being old and a Pagan makes you an elder.

Let me tell you.. Once I joined a Wiccan "church" because I thought it might be nice to socialize with other Pagan people. I was young at the time, but I had been a Pagan for a lot longer than several of the adult members.. I was highly educated and self educated to boot. I had spent many many long hours reading every single book on Paganism I came across and had formulated my own way of seeing the world, yet I found myself treated like an outsider.. I didn't see things the way they did. When they would share their food, I wasn't invited to talk to anyone... infact I was basicly told to keep my fingers out of it, even though I ended up baking cookies for everyone and took part in cleaning up. So I continued to go for a short time, hoping it would change soon.. but I felt more isolated there and would often sit on my own at the side during the social side of things. They were hypocrites.. they spoke of being one community, but those who were new were pushed to the outside... and they would celebrate everything indoors.. It just felt like Christian church to me.. complete with cliques and a do as I say not as I do attitude. And these people called themselves priestesses and priests.

I get really annoyed when I see people calling themselves Elders and a Priestess or Priest.. Especially the ones who drink ton of black coffee, crack off color jokes, smoke and drink heavily and don't seem to take Paganism or the craft seriously. These people have no right to call themselves that. And juse because you have been Pagan for a few years and are older than alot of younger Pagans doesn't make you an elder.
Neither does being Pagan for a long time.. or degrees and titles.

The TRUE "elders" are shown for their leadership. People naturally follow them and learn from their experience, and no amount of degrees or age or anything else can substitute it.

My Thoughts May 31st. at 1:11:44 am EDT

Eluwei (Omaha) Age: 13 - Email

I follow a Native-American based path, so I think that, yes, elders are important. In their age, they carry a lot of wisdom. They have been around a lot longer and know of the past. They can teach the youth the old ways. They are almost like historians, preserving the knowledge of the ancestors.They're our past, present, & in a way, our future.

Compassion May 31st. at 8:34:07 am EDT

Al K (Perth, WA) Age: 15 - Email

Just a short reply;

As young and "naive" as I am, I dont think that age has anything to do with it, its just unfortunate that many people think that being an elder of life makes you a wise source of information. That said, I dont think that information has a great deal to do with it either. I think the best kind of elder is someone who takes time out of their life to teach you a little something they do know, and help you along those path. And even if you disagree, even if these people aren't elders, they definately deserve our respect.

?????? May 31st. at 1:17:57 pm EDT

Charles (Alderez) K. (Texas) Age: 16 - Email

Um i cant realy fully answer the question because i am an all but solitary pagan with a very small group i sometimes practice with. But i think elders are needed but like any source should not be relied completely on. They allow ppl to remember farther than there singular memories. They allow a compilation of many generations. Elders have also had a far longer life than those they lead. Thus they have more life experiance. But as a whole i think elders should be held in high esteem not ones to be tossed out like rubbish.
Charles (Alderez) K
Thank You

Old People Smell Weird May 31st. at 6:34:12 pm EDT

Al Roth (San Francisco) Age: 44 - Email

Ya know, when an old fart tries to offer a young man/woman a pepermint, they're only doing it so that they can get near enough to choke 'em with their "here comes the grave" musk. Elders?! I say shoot 'em before they start to smell too bad. All they do is talk about how their bowel movements are going and which stool softener gets them off the best. Then, as if they haven't already grossed us out enough, they find that swimsuit they wore twenty years ago that they looked horrific in then, put their latex swim caps on, and take over the swimming pool. Well, at least they had the courtesy to change their Depends before they got into the pool. Which reminds me...oh well, no one will know - not with the crowd that I hang out with.
Full of sh*t as usual,
Al Roth

P.S. The wisest elder has the most irreverent sense of humor.

WOW. Neko That Is Pretty Totalitarian . May 31st. at 7:17:59 pm EDT

Maleciah (Oregon) Age: 25 - Email

If you think drinking black coffee and soda disqualifies you for being an elder then you are going to be hard pressed to find an elder in your eyes. I have been in the craft since I was in kindergarten and have been raised in it. I too find it hard to find people who have been in paganism longer than myself. Elders in their own right will never have to worry about convincing people. when you meet them and get to know them you just know. And people that I come across I find to be elders, I am extra respectful to them simply because I value their wisdom and presence. And I don't base it on what they drink. There is a point to the term of treating your body as an altar. And to disrespect or look down on them due to what they drink or do shows how much learning is still left as far as teaching people pagan ways.

Admittedly there will be those that claim to be an elder but you don't feel that they are. You should have the self- responsibility to know and to approach those people cautiously and take what they say with a grain of salt. They may not be an elder to you, but they maybe to someone and you are not ment to learn under him or her so, therefore, you wouldn't see them as an elder. so you should move on. but don't disrespect someone for something so petty.

"I Aspire To Nothingness." May 31st. at 8:41:06 pm EDT

Frater Nun (Durham, NC) Age: 34 - Email

Dear brothers and sisters,

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

What does it matter what a man proclaims himself to be?

His true nature is apparent to the worthy.

Love is the law, love under will.


Frater Nun
"I aspire to nothingness."

Elder-teacher/mentor/guide/sage/crone Jun 1st. at 1:45:15 am EDT

Rev. Frank Paldino (Youngstown, Ohio) Age: 35 - Email

I am an ordained Wiccan Priest and licensed in the state of Ohio, although I hold no degrees or have been initiated in a tradition. I am currently attaining a masters degree in Counseling, although it is not the education, degrees, or titles we hold that determines our importance. Those in The Craft who have met me perceive wisdom beyond my chronological years sensing an old spirit, even though I do not place myself above anyone.
I believe we are recognized by our actions, words, and beliefs perceived by others that determine our importance. We are remembered by our wisdom and virtues. I offer my knowledge and experience freely to those who the Lord and Lady has sent me, asking only companionship in return. At every opportunity I increase public awareness of The Old Religion for I know that it will eventually be known for what it truly is and not prey to the falsehood of propaganda. The few of us who are brave enough to understand our path in life is not one of pride, arrogance, or prestige but of the continuation of paganism as a way of life and of our own enlightenment.
The qualifications of an elder in paganism depends on one's point of view and the path one walks. I believe the criteria of being accepted in the community as an elder should be considered on an individual basis. Not all pagans live in an area accessible to initiate into a tradition, wisdom is not determined by age, it is not in everyone's interest to attain an advanced education, years of magical knowledge or experience is determined by how many incarnations one has lived a magickal life, and how much we make personal sacrifices for the betterment of others who have come to us in need. Since there is no recognized criteria determining if one is an elder, the decision is a personal one. Once we make that decision we are tested, and tested hard, ultimately by the Goddess and God themselves. If you do succeed then other pagans who
meet you will percieve your right to be called an elder for they will sense the Lord and Lady's touch within you, your unique oneness with nature, and the sincerity and truth radiating from your heart. They will reconize your value because they will say, "I have been searching for someone and I know it is you", or perhaps you will know the Lord and Lady sent them to you for a reason, not to someone else.

Everyone Are Elders Jun 1st. at 1:53:43 am EDT

Gabriel (vegas) Age: 14 - Email

In a way, I think all people are elders. The traditional deffinition of an elder is someone older than you who knows more, someone you can learn from. I believe in reincarnation, so a lot of people are older than me. And as for the second issue, I belive that you can learn some thing from everyone, no matter what their age.

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