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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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
| Neko, Thanks For Clarifying... ||Jun 3rd. at 11:59:26 pm EDT|
|Maleciah (Oregon) ||Age: 25 - Email |
In the first statement it didn't seem as relaxed on that subject as you did in the response so I can understand that there was a miscommunication on relaying the actual feeling behind the statement.
I understand how you feel when it comes to that and I do agree.. they better have the *UMF* as you put it to back up their claims of being an elder. but that is what I mean by you just know. you really do.. but I have to admit I don't normally socialize with alot of pagans. not cause of the ones who think they were the elizabeth taylor of the ming dynasty but have just ended up a mad, undisciplined, chatter box of what they think they are. I SO hate to stereotype in this manner but I have the feeling I am in good company on that and that everyone here knows one or has met one. I am not one who likes to hear you list your ordainments (as they can be given out like cracker jacks prizes) or your master reiki degree or how you graduated from some witch school in wisconsin. I could care less. those don't make you a witch. those give you the building blocks you need to truly become a good witch. but I don't see many well educated witches or pagans on basic occult knowledge. It frustrates me to see that.
| Elders: Do We Need Them? ||Jun 4th. at 12:19:41 pm EDT|
|ouida (Parkton, MD) ||Age: 47 - Email |
Yes we do need Elders. Elders link us with our near and distant pasts. There is a wealth of information possessed by our elder folk. Before the time of written history elders were the embodiment of skills, accumulated knowledge and served as consultants and advisors.
Even today on the Gullah/Geechee counsel of elders, they serve Queen Quet in making decisions for her people.Drawing on "Elder Wisdom" can assist us in our daily lives, rituals, and interactions. Embodied skills are key.
Elders carry the history of the people and pass it on to new generations.
Our culture, by ignoring and locking away our elders, is the deepest disrespect that can be paid them.It is a powerful gift to be able to draw on their insights, mistakes, and their unique perpectives. It isn't really a question of do we 'need' elders. We only need more people to honor the elders we already have in our midst.
| Elders And Their Importance ||Jun 4th. at 5:55:33 pm EDT|
|Quill Mastercraft (South Bend, IN) ||Age: 41 - Email - Web|
We definitely need elders, but the right type of elders.
I wrote about this topic some time ago, and the piece can be
found at the listed link.
People like Grant Pontius, chair of the Michiana Pagan Alliance,
or Lon Milo DuQuette, are excellent examples of elders.
Link to More info related to this post -- HERE
| And Something More ||Jun 5th. at 12:49:29 pm EDT|
|Grey Cat (Tennessee) ||Age: 63 - Email - Web|
I think we did ourselves a disservice by confusing teachers, leaders and Priest/esses with elders. Part of the reason stems from the American Indian courtesy of calling one's teacher "grandmother/father". Also, for some reason, someone decided to call fully trained priest/esses "elders" -one assumes with the thought of helping them have the authority to keep the coven running smoothly.
Elders are, of course, teachers, leaders, confidants, counsellors and priest/esses of our community. However, on reading earlier posts on this topic I perceive that everyone shows signs of wanting something more to the definition. And here is where I'm going to make myself very unpopular. Age and experience DO count.
Something happens when an aware person piles one day on top of another. The result is not a matter for simple addition because at some point, "something" happens. It's much like the shift of understanding which initiation, ideally, begins or completes. Note that I have NOT said that age is all it takes.
Several things go into this transition:
1. You finally know yourself well enough that you don't have to elaborately design your response to situations. A certain freedom from the "little self who watches" allows far more direct responses because you automatically have given weight to all the factors it is well to consider before speaking (how you feel about the person, some social or societal reaction to a specific topic or situation, hangover reactions from childhood or teen years, etc.)
2. You realize that there is no possibility that everyone will like you and approve of you and what you say and do. And you also know that if some people don't like you, it's not going to kill you. You can be more courageous because you have a realistic understanding of the risks.
3. You have learned how to tell if something is or isn't your responsibility. You know more or less how much responsibility you can guarantee to follow-through on and you refuse to accept responsibility when necessary.
4. Like Miss Marple (Agatha Christie's elderly sluth) you recognize in someone's behavior traits you've observed in the past and you can be alert to the possibility that in some way the situations might be similar. Without prejudging on person on the basis of the behavior of another, you can be alert to danger signals you wouldn't have perceived at an earlier time.
Obviously, there's more to it than this but it's necessary to limit this response in size. LOL And the sub-topic of "who makes a Priest, Elder, etc." is not only somewhat extraneous to the discussion and a question which has been debated since the first Non-Gardnerian Wiccan went public, it's also one which I trust will never be solved. Much as it irritates me to see ignorant 20-year-olds being named Elders, that's a whole lot better than having a central authority would be.
| Elders: Who They Are And Do We Need Them ||Jun 5th. at 9:16:19 pm EDT|
|Laurie-Ann Potter (connecticut) ||Age: 33 - Email |
Elders are peopleolder then onesself that have proven themselves in society not by what they, preach but by what they teach. They treat others with respect unless given a reason (not excuse) not to. They pass on their knowledge to all young people equally with out prejudice, even when this may cause problems in their families and communities.
We need elders to help future generations learn from past mistakes. That by following examples we can forge peace among different races and religions in the future. Elders can be people in your age group who have shown mature restraint in the face of adversity. Or they maybe older generations who have remained true to their heritage and pass on their knowledge to better the future.
| Elder Question ||Jun 6th. at 1:24:45 am EDT|
|Chasmodai (Las Vegas) ||Age: 42 - Email |
Yes, we need Elders. IMO their role would be to help provide the community with guidance, help keep the community functioning together and moving forward. The Elder is the community's voice of wisdom, of conscience. A sometimes mediator, sometimes teacher, sometimes leader, sometimes storyteller, always respected and usually beloved.
A person cannot simply call himself/herself an Elder. A person becomes an Elder simply by actions, by track record. A community will rely on this person in the function of an Elder, and that is how this person will be recognized as such.
I think we have to be cautious about assuming that age alone can make a person an Elder. A person with an untreated personality disorder may not learn well from his or her mistakes and may never develop good judgement. A person with strong bias or prejudice may over time become more entrenched in distorted beliefs and perceptions. Some people decide they know enough and stop learning. Some fools simply become old fools. These types of things can prevent a person from ever becoming an Elder.
| Addendum, Inspired By Grey Cat ||Jun 6th. at 6:46:47 am EDT|
|Sunflower (Calgary AB) ||Age: 41 - Email |
Grey Cat isn't wrong about there being something that happens as the days stack up.
I've been saying for years that this age/wisdom connection is that, the more time you've been around, the more -opportunity- for experience, i.e. "stuff happens to you"; the more such opportunity, the more chance that you've learned to do something with it (like learning from it, and the kind of personal development Grey Cat cites) . As a result, the older someone is in years, the better the odds that they'll have -some- wisdom about -something-.
Of course there are those who never did do anything but stack up years; we've all known them. That's the above process working v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.
When I spoke earlier of very young elders (I'd guess most of those who mentioned this were thinking much as I was, but I can't be certain) , it was because sometimes the process goes quite quickly. I'm not any more impressed by ignorant 20-year-olds than the next midlifer, but that's no reason to dismiss those who are anything but ignorant. As I read Grey Cat's description, I thought of one "baby elder" of my acquaintance, who at 17 fits the description. I'm not saying this is common; its rarity is what makes that young lady so remarkable.
| Knowing Where We Came Form Will Show Us Where We Are Going ||Jun 6th. at 3:27:02 pm EDT|
|Aberon the seeker (ca, usa) ||Age: 27 - Email |
An elder has in the modern era been considered a position held by a person in a Christian institution, one that has a vast amount of knowledge of the chosen path. In more recent decades, approximately 1970 to today the Neo-Pagan movement have been more visible and open to public scrutiny. A primary problem that most movements have, whether they are modern or ancient, is the language that must be developed in order to communicate with those who are outside the movement as well as those who are inside the movement. Some words have been borrowed from the Judaio-Christian Lexicon, such as Sabbath or more commonly seen as Sabbat. Other words that Christians considered Christian, but truly remain neutral; Liturgy, from the Latin word Liturgia ( a derivative of a Greek word) that means public works - such as a bible or manuscript. Some words we have invented, like Esbat, I believe Doreen Valiente coined the term. This is where the understanding of elder comes into play. Do we as a community of Neo-Pagans use the term Elder, or do we choose another term. Do we ignore the modern-day-interpretation of the term and not mistake the vehicle for the tenor? I feel that we are able to utilize this phrase with all of its great meaning; one that is of a respected nature in the community, who passes down knowledge, not law. An Elder is a person who is not necessarily older than you in birth years, but one who teaches the whole community with great wisdom and skill. With this I feel that we are able to use the term Elder.
Needing elders is definitely a personal decision at the micro-level of being, but in the macrocosm of our Neo-Pagan community I think that Elders are needed. Our community as a whole is in desperate need of people who have been around for a while and have spent a great deal of time to the understanding of our nature and disposition as a community. We also need those who have a greater understanding of what it is to be a Neo-Pagan, the ethics and morality of practice, as well as a sound common sense of our needs as a community. As a community we need a variety of things, I feel some of them are in education both to those young people who choose to enter our community in their teen-aged years as well as a bridge of communication to those who misunderstand our community (a dialogue if you will, complete with a vocabulary that will create a common ground for conversation between ourselves and others) . Next, we need inform our newcomers of our history. It is not a fact that we have any, if at all direct links to traditions that have been passed down since the time before written accounts of our rites existed. Wicca is a new religion, more of a reconstructive religion than it is a path that has always been. Yes it taps into ancient knowledge and uses techniques form ancient religions, but it is not ancient in and of itself. Understanding and education of the Ethical and Moral implications behind spell-work is also a very well deserved and needed material for our community. These are only a few of examples of the many things that our community needs. These are the things that our chosen Elders should be able to impart.
Wanting Elders is definitely a personal decision that only 'you' may answer for yourself.
Each community should decide who their Elders are, for instance, the N.R.O.O.G.D. community ( one of the oldest traditions in the United States today) have what are called Red Cords. These are their Elders, unfortunately they sometimes make a person a Red Cord when they are not ready as an individual to become one. I am in Southern California and met a Red Cord in that particular tradition, she was not ready in my opinion for a few reasons. She was rather self centered in the aspect of her importance above other people (we are all equal, she acted as if she disagreed) , she often used her 'Red Cord' status as a levy against other people in discussions, she was also not apt at teaching people a technique with the understanding that the methods are open to interpretation. Regardless of her poor behavior, the local communities should decide who their Elders are. Once I read that an Elder is considered a person who has been practicing the 'Craft' for ten or more years. If that was the case I would be an Elder of more then two years now - I don't think that is a substantial enough reason.
I do feel that a solitary practitioner is quite capably of being an Elder - look at the mythos of Merlin, he was a solitary Druid (seeing that many Druids were not mentioned in eth Christianized version of the legends) and he was quite the Elder to the boy king Arthur. If a solitary fractioned has a set of valuable skills and sufficient knowledge (book, practical, and wisdom) yes, they may be the Elder of a community. Sometimes, a solitary is all we have.
Age is not a factor, to a small degree - I feel that Wisdom and a 'proven track record' help with matters... I consider NovaMoondancer, EmeraldEyes and Samwise (peace be with the departed) all Elders. Nova belongs to a tradition, the latter do not, in fact Samwise wasn't even Neo-Pagan, but quite understanding of them.
Merry Meet, Merry Part, and Merry Meet Again
Aberon the seeker.
see the link for NROOGD
Link to More info related to this post -- HERE
| The Need For Elders ||Jun 6th. at 5:18:56 pm EDT|
|Angela Patterson (Pheonix, Arizona) ||Age: 26 - Email |
The need for Elders is still alive and well. I am a young woman of minimal knowledge. Without the Elders greater wisdom those such as myself would wither away.
I believe that an Elder is one who needs no social standing or leads any religious group. In fact to me an Elder is an older, wiser person who strives to pass on their great knowledge. I think of myself as a solitary practioner but I have Elders that guide and encourage me. I give them the respect of the title Elder because they offer their time to teach myself and my sister much of their vast knowledge. I believe Elders are different people to us all. Most of those that I would consider Elders would not in fact consider themselves as such.
We need them as much as we need each other. Without the older, wiser ones we would be lost; without the guidance that started us all on this path. Elders are part of pagan, wiccan, heathen tradition. I know that were it not for those that I consider Elders I would not be the peaceful woman on a marvelous path through life that I am.
| Age/Wisdom/Knowlege ||Jun 6th. at 8:44:55 pm EDT|
|Penny J. Novack (Berkshire Mntns, MA, USA) ||Age: -62 - Email |
Is an Elder someone who KNOWS?
Is an Elder someone who has EXPERIENCE?
Is an Elder someone of compassion who is COMPETENT?
Is an Elder someone who TEACHES?
Is an Elder someone who has an Old Wisdom?
Is an Elder a HEALER?
Is an Elder anyone you feel respect for?
Does age itself mean anything in the context of the term Elder?
This is a matter, it seems, of personal definitions.
I will always believe all beings are capable of teaching me if I am ready to learn from them. I am always grateful for kindness and generosity of spirit. I will always admire the knowlege of those who have struggled to attain mastery.
But to me, Elders will always be at least a little wrinkled and perhaps have at least a bit of grey in their hair. My own personal "take".
| Continuity ||Jun 7th. at 2:27:12 am EDT|
|Mark Martin (Port Orchard, WA) ||Age: 41 - Email |
A simple word -- Continuity.
I have seen it fail in business department and seen a that business scramble trying to reinvent and redevelop the attitudes, ethics and simple "knowing" that is involved in handing down information from a previous generation to a new one. What is written is a guide and is raw information. That can "help" but information without context leads to confusion and misinterpretation/misapplication of that information.
That is the purpose of Elders. To help provide the "knowing" of what was and understanding of how it applies to what is. What will be is something the they may choose to look at and participate in the construction of but that is usually the province of the younger generations to build because the younger ones first must LEARN what came before and get the "why" of it answered. Not just the "what" but that ugly "why" question...
Value? So massive that it cannot be expressed with any ease.
| Elders Yes And No ||Jun 7th. at 7:29:32 am EDT|
|Dave (Pa.) ||Age: 51 - Email |
I look at the word Elders from two different ways. The ones who destroy and the ones with great teachings within.The White Man ways for which I am, taught me the path for which I don't want to be.The path of disrespect for that of our land, air and that of our water.
I feel I was born with the heart of an elder and many of the older people around me seen and felt that energy within me. To me an Elder is one that shows love and respect for all things on Earth.It takes a great heart to love all and only the heart of a true Elder can have that much respect.I feel age has no bearing on this matter.
I seen myself on the Angelic Planet before the Earth was even born.Many old souls are on this planet at this point and time to help bring forth change.Are they the real Elders on this Earth? I learned nothing but greed and hate from my father.
I feel everything comes from the heart or Spirit Self and the child within that heart is the ture teaching of an Elder.Older people can teach us much, but it is what they teach that makes one an Elder and only a small percentages of humans will ever learn the ways of a true Elder.
Love and Blessing to All
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