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Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 22,753,237  

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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 

I Am A Pretty New Pagan Since I Have Only Been Praticing... Dec 5th. at 11:09:55 am EST

fairywhisper aka debi (wilkesboro, North Carolina US) Age: 36 - Email

I am a pretty new pagan since I have only been praticing for going on 3 years, most of that was tentative and unsure since I live in a rural area of the "Bible Belt" and had no one to talk with or learn from. Since I got my computer and link to the rest of the pagan world I feel that I have learned a lot, and become more secure in my beliefs. I look to "older" pagans for advice and help, but still look to myself for my main directions. Truth to one's self is my goal, so guideance and support can come from outside sources, but you still have to look to yourself for the main ideas and feelings that make you who you are.

Well This Is Indeed A Very Good Discussion, As The Following Of... Dec 5th. at 11:34:34 am EST

Michael (Dublin, European Union, Ireland) Age: 23 - Email

Well this is indeed a very good discussion, as the following of paganism is indeed rising rapidly.

I'm afraid that I feel quite happy with my healthy dose of scepticism, I, as an adult respect other adults of sound mind, and would not dare to assume that I am of of superior spiritual authority or experience, or on the other scale I would not view another as superior in a spiritual sence to myself.
I genuinely think that spirituality is not meant to be governed by temporal laws or rank.
People definately do assume an air of superiority when they believe that they are more experienced than another, this is an unfortunate result of our vanity.
I am personally disgusted whenever I see people put other people down in order to increase their own standing, be it in their own, or other peoples eyes. It is rather like trying to increase the height of your "mountain" by reducing the elevation of the surrounding landscape. It is selfdefeating, unethical and above all it is fake.
As for new versus old, well the current incarnation of Paganism is indeed less than a century old, so claiming that one tradition has more authority than the other is rubbish.
As for myself, I am refusing to put specific classification on my own conclusions, as I believe that there is some truth in many of the world religions and as a result I'd like to think that the sum of all these little truths holds some value.

While I relate closely with Wiccan, it would be a mistake to dictate strict dogma, it goes against every principle for which we stand.
Spirituality is a very personal issue and can never be dictated by external influences.
Morality is on the other hand often shaped by external agencies.

There Is Something To Be Said For Tradition. It Offers A Time-tested... Dec 5th. at 11:38:09 am EST

Persipone (Washington, District of Columbia US) Age: 20

There is something to be said for tradition. It offers a time-tested structure, organized and effective methods of teaching, and valuable standards for clergy training. But too often in our community "tradition" becomes and excuse to exclude. No one should be considered, or should consider themeselves less of a Wiccan/Witch/Pagan etc., because they don't have a traditional initiation or a third degree. The initiatory trads are an important part of the whole, but they're only a *part*. A solitary eclectic's dedication and knowledge may be equal to -- or greater than -- a traditional High Priestess's; it's a question of individual feeling and practice. Some people will always prefer the traditional path, and others will always prefer to be solitary innovators. I think we should treasure the variety of our community, rather than striving for uniformity.

And as for people who are new to Craft- we are a religion of converts. Few of us were raised in a Pagan households, and most of us found the Craft after years practicing another religion. We were all newbies once. Let's remember that, and cut our "younger" brothers and sisters some slack!

Elder Does Not Always Mean Better. We All Know That Not Everyone... Dec 5th. at 11:50:48 am EST

Moonstone (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania US) Age: 29

Elder does not always mean better. We all know that not everyone is suited to be a pagan. We do not seek converts from other religions. However, we should be more accepting of everyone. This path comes to people when they need it and when they least expect it sometimes. Most of us probably feel as though this path found us. We are all of The Goddess and The God, and we are all equal under them. Sure some may have been practicing for 20 years and some may have just thought about it. We who are of the wicca know who we are and our dieties know who we are. Being the elders of this religion should embrace these "newbies" and guide them. Unfortunatly, many of our priestesses and priests seem to be corrupted by the possible power that their posts hold. An it harm none do as ye will... Does elevating oneself with delusions of grandure not only harm yourself, but also those who could learn from you, and the entire community? We were all "newbie" at one time. I count myself lucky that the group that trained and initiated me did not have these problems. I am relatively new to this path. I have been practicing for around 4 years. During this time I have practiced alone, been self dedicated, worked with a group from a local store and finally found the coven that trained me. Like I have said I am lucky to have them. Although many of my tradition elders have been practicing for many years and have been initiated into several traditions NEVER has any willing seeker been turned away. That is the way of the wicca. We need to remember that learning doesn't end with initiation!!! that is only the begining. Who knows what some of these newbies have to teach. Besides we who are of the wicca know who we are, and even though some may be newer than other, I am willing to bet that if asked most would say that they were a Witch long before they started to practice, they just didn't know it yet.

Before we become too corrupt and power hungry lets step back and take a good look at where that attitude will take us. And always remember the three fold law... If we put out an attitude of intolerance with in our own community what do you think we will draw to us from the rest of the world. It wasn't that long ago that we could be killed for these beliefs. I doubt that anyone wants to go back there.

I Believe That One Should Be Open To Both The New And... Dec 5th. at 12:07:18 pm EST

Priestess Morganna (Birmingham, Alabama US) Age: 29 - Email

I believe that one should be open to both the new and the old. If one gets stuck in tradition then it can become stagnant. Being a priestess in a coven that is starting up a rather new tradition, I believe both are worthy of the future. There are those who prefer to be taught by someone who has been around for awhile as though this gives what they are taught more meaning. And this is true for some. And then are those who wish to learn by those who are easier going or have something that may be considered simpler than what the old guard may teach.

For me both are just as valid!

No, One Thing I Like About Wicca Or Paganism Is The Acceptance... Dec 5th. at 12:49:45 pm EST

Lady Gwendolyn (Dothan, Alabama US) Age: 46 - Email

No, one thing I like about Wicca or Paganism is the acceptance. I have seen a trend over the past few years that appears to be "I'm better than you because I've been practicing longer than you." Everyone has their own unique gift from the Gods to share with each other. Older is not better than younger, just different and sometimes wiser.

If "older Is Really Better" Then I Am In Some Serious Trouble... Dec 5th. at 12:56:43 pm EST

Jim (Lynn Haven , Florida US) Age: 37 - Email

If "Older is Really Better" then I am in some serious trouble for I am the dreaded "newbie" solitary that is consistently asking questions. At 37, I hope that as I get older I continue to get better, but the only "padding" of experience I show is around my waist line. If there was something 'wrong' with being a new seeker then we wouldnŐt be here today in this forum. The "Old Guard" should be revered for the wisdom they can pass on but if I have learned correctly, Wicca itself as a religion is fairly new in the scheme of things. The new generations of Pagans, which despite my age includes me, should follow in the footsteps of those who have already started the journey down the path before us. However, no one should be chastised for breaking new ground as long as it harm none. Intolerance of any kind, even of fellow Pagans, is something we need to avoid. The old traditions survive and will continue to survive as long as people continue to seek knowledge.

Does Older Equal Better? Absolutely Not. Neither Do The Old Sayings "might... Dec 5th. at 1:16:02 pm EST

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

Does older equal better? Absolutely not. Neither do the old sayings "might makes right" or "ten thousand Frenchmen can't be wrong" hold inherent truths. Many things are old that are not better than their contemporaries: buildings, automobiles, governmental systems, and religious organizations. Buildings and autombiles and those that fall into that category have physical components that can be improved. Governmental systems and religious organizations and those that fall into that category need to change and improve because they are based on the needs and desires of humans. Humans' needs and desires change based on situation and time, and, therefore, these need to also change in order to continue serving their adherents. Older systems, such as the ones mentioned, are less likely to be meeting the needs and desires of their adherents than the more contemporary ones. Therefore, older does not equal better.

If someone wants to follow a spiritual/religious path that reveres Nature and its cycles, then that person has every right in the Universe to do so. And if a person wants to call it "Wicca" or "Witchcraft" or "Pagan, " then as long as that person's spiritual/religious path falls within the general field of those religions, then that person has every right to call it that without the consent of another human being. What that general field encompasses, however, is a matter for much study and discussion with those who already adhere to those paths, not simply reading a book and deciding one will be of that tradition with no further effort. If I find out what the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca believes and does, and I do the exact thing, then I can say that I follow the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca. In logical terms, this is if A=B, and B=C, then A=C. (Let A=the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca; let B=my research* of the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca; and let C=my own practices. *I realize that theory (research) and practice are not the same thing, however, this signfies that the research is an unaltered flow of the tradition's beliefs and practices.)

However, if the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca says that one does not have permission to claim this tradition without initiation into the tradition, then no one expect initiates of the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca can claim this tradition as their own. But it the person above says "I am not an initiate, and therefore cannot claim it as my own, of the So-and-so Tradition of Wicca, but I follow a Wiccan path that closely resembles the So-and-so Tradition, " then that person is not in the wrong and can be considered a Wiccan, just not a So-and-so Wiccan. No one has any right to learn a tradition's ways like the So-and-so's and say "yes, I am of this tradition" knowing that it is against that tradition to do that. If that person wants to use that tradition as a basis and add to it his or her own personal flair and then call it something else, he or she has every right (that's where the "original" traditions came from to begin with). (Now, if a person publishes a book with verbatum writings of the other tradition, then copywright laws and such as that come into play.)

Wiccans across the board agree that no one person or tradition represents Wicca, that there are many types of Wicca. If this is true, then no person has a right to say that Jane is not a Wiccan because she is not a So-and-so Wiccan. According to the belief of Wiccans just mentioned, which is all Wiccans, only the Gods can make one a Wiccan, for the Gods are responsible for all that is, according to the Wiccans. This can be equally distributed throughout the Neo-Pagan movement. And this is exactly what has taken place over the last few decades of Neo-Pagan history.

In My Experience (3 Years Now :) I Have Found Solitary Practice To... Dec 5th. at 1:30:57 pm EST

Tarah D (St. Paul, Minnesota US) Age: 24 - Email

In my experience (3 years now :) I have found Solitary practice to be by FAR the most rewarding. I have been to several public Sabbat festivals, and have had the unfortunate parts in planning this years Yule fest. The unfortunate part of it is, when we (my husband and I) go to the planning meeting, we are ignored (I guess if you're not a member of a certain coven your opinions and input don't count), and there are too many leaders, and no one is willing to compromise, and the whole thing is quite disorganized. It reminded of me of a Paris fashion show, full of prima donnas. I have no problems with healthy positive self esteem, but when you trample other's ideas in your haste to be right, it tends to get a little old QUICKLY!! Also, a few of my dearest Pagan friends have quit going to festivals all together because of bad coven politics and the negativity that circulates during these festivals.

I have found this during other public festivals as well. The people are courteous, but unwilling to go outside their little circle of friends, and then they whine why the Pagan population as a whole (especially we "errant" solitaries) won't "get with the program" and participate. Not even willing to realize that they themselves are part of the problem. I am actually thinking of writing in to a Pagan newsletter and telling them of my comments; whether or not it will actually be published is another matter entirely. Grr. Enough with that BIG rant!!

Personally, I have NO problems with seekers, it's how you learn. If there were no new seekers, the Pagan population would dwindle, and eventually die out. In the beginning of my journey, I felt a little scornful of the newbies as they are called, and assumed (very wrongly about some of them) that they were just wannabes. But then I stopped to think, that without my wonderful and supportive Witchie friends, I would be in their shoes. Ouch. That brought me down a few pegs, and made me think more closely about my thoughts and actions towards those who might be my new "brothers and sisters" in the Path of Life.

I find that a basis in the Ancient Ways, but a willingness to break new ground is the way to go. It makes us strong in our past, but willing and open to new ideas for the future. I believe that those in the "old" traditions will survive, but strength goes with change, as all things do.

In strength, wisdom and CHANGE,

Brightest Blessings,

Tarah :)

As In Everything, There Is Always A Place For Something Old And... Dec 5th. at 1:56:13 pm EST

Alumenios (Danvers, Massachusetts US) Age: 25 - Email

As in everything, there is always a place for something old and something new. No two people think exactly alike, so how could they both see the Lord and Lady, God, Buddha or {insert higher power of choice here} in the same way? The same holds true for the way that we choose to revere them.

Ok, Grizzled Old Vet Wading In Here... I've Been On This Path... Dec 5th. at 2:03:44 pm EST

Sunfell (Little Rock, Arkansas US) Age: 40 - Email

Ok, grizzled old vet wading in here... I've been on this path for almost 29 years. I started when I was 12. Back when I was first away from home, the Pagan community was still pretty much underground, so the situation when I was a newbie was quite different from what newcomers meet now.

That said, I don't think my way is any better than any one elses- I've just been at it longer. I haven't become 'set in my ways'- doing so invites the slow death of Orthodoxy. Instead, I have kept an open, inquiring 'Beginner's Mind' and relied on my past experience to help me Spot The BS Artist.

There is nothing wrong with being a newbie, except, like baby crabs and turtles, their 'shell' of knowledge and experience hasn't been developed yet. So they are vulnerable to all sorts of hype and disinformation- from the predatory 'initiation' to the ego-driven 'witch war'. It takes time, and sadly, hard knocks to get away from that 'wide-eyed newbie' state. It's too bad there isn't a Pagan version of the New York Face newcomers can wear to make them less of a target.

As a soon-to-be Elder, I make it part of my responsibility to steer newcomers in the right direction. This doesn't mean I want them hanging around my neck like an amulet- independence is my goal when dealing with them. I use my experience and insight to spot the dabblers and time-wasters, and waste no time of my own in telling them to take off. Those who are sincere seekers get my time. This doesn't mean that I am a ego-puffed 'high poobah'- far from it. I want to keep sincere seekers from getting hung up on the thorny issues that block the entrance to our Path, and help them navigate their first months and years of their Pagan life. All I ask is that they do the same to those behind them.

Is older better? If wisdom and experience is considered, yes it is. Are Newbies a hazard? No- we were all newcomers once, and our duty as Elders is to steer them right. Should newcomers trust all elders? Yes and no. There will always be bad apples in the bunch, and sometimes bitter experience helps to fine tune that all-important intuitive gut.

The bottom line is that we are a living, growing community, and considering the forces that want to pretend we don't exist (and help us along), we need to band together- new and old. Strength is in intelligent numbers.


Sunfell- battlescarred, but proud to have stuck with it for so long.

The New Generation Of Pagans: Should They Follow Closely Or Should They... Dec 5th. at 2:48:40 pm EST

Nighthawk Stallion (Louisville, Kentucky US) Age: 21 - Email

The New Generation of Pagans: should they follow closely or should they break new ground?

It is easy to make a game of any religion, and if the new generation does not learn what is behind the magik the religion may disolve. All the work that has been put into the importance of keeping it going, leads me to believe that the new generation has larger shoes to fill. However, the basis of the religion includes the freeness of the individual, and it would also be wrong for us to influence them with our own preferences.

Yes, we should be doing some seriouse teaching to keep the old ways true and real, as to not loose the knowledge and background we have worked hard to sustain. However, it is important to not influence their growth and learning, for how are they suposed to learn, and expand the craft if this is not allowed?

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