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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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
| Are Elders Needed? Yes!!! Do We Not Need Teachers???? ||May 28th. at 10:41:32 pm EDT|
|Travis (Virginia) ||Age: 16 - Email |
My opinion on this question what are "elders" and do we need them is this... An elder is one who has risen to a position of knowledge and authority through much study and personal expierience. In Wiccan tradition and in pagan tradition in general it is necessary to have "Elders" they serve as our teachers, the ones that pass down wisdom from one generation to the next. Also they serve as leaders. It is good that we are independent and rely on the self but it is very necessary to have some order. I believe good leaders and teachers are going to be important to the furthering of the Pagan community in general. I'm only 16 but i'm not stupid, i respect those who are older and i believe that as Pagans we need to respect those older than us and wiser than us. Somebody had to teach us our ways, the books didn't write themselves and the lessons we learn didn't just happen by our own creation. Well then, i think i've rambled enough. Thanks for reading my opinion on "Should we have elders?"
| Elders ||May 29th. at 4:00:35 am EDT|
|Sunflower (Calgary, AB) ||Age: 41 - Email |
Ru Mortheus covered a lot of it well and saved me some words; thank you, Ru.
Eldership doesn't come from chronological age - I've known elders as young as mid-teens, and people in their 50's who couldn't have provided eldership to a pet rock.
Eldership doesn't come from age in Craft - just because you've been hanging around casting circles for 40 years doesn't convey it automatically.
Elders are NEVER self-appointed. Oh, they may intentionally place themselves in that position, but it's subject to acceptance or rejection by the community they're in. If you want to be an elder, it isn't enough to say you are, you must BE one - and that's hard work.
I've known people who wanted the respect and status of being an elder. Very few of them got it. Why? Too busy thinking about how gratifying it'd be to be looked up to that way.
Meanwhile, those who weren't thinking of eldership at all, but simply making sure other seekers didn't lack support in their quests (as, very often, the one offering that support had lacked) , find themselves looked up to. Often, these ones will say, "Oh, I don't think I'm an elder. I just do this."
An elder is one who shares freely of their own experience, with those less experienced - and does so in such a way that the less-experienced one is allowed to grow, and gain experience of hir own. If you are stingy with what you share, or if you share it by doing everything for the seeker instead of helping them learn to do it for themselves, you may have elder status at first but you will lose it. Here's where the very young elders come in; they may not have a lot of experience and knowledge, but if what they have is sound, and they give freely of it, they'll be elders.
Like Ru, I could say more, but won't.
| Elder=Doer ||May 29th. at 5:55:16 am EDT|
|Wolf's Voice (Singapore) ||Age: 28 - Email |
In my opinion, an elder is a person who actually does what he or she says/advocates. To me, an elder is never a person who craves attention or the limelight: he or she works diligently, behind the scenes.
I also agree that real elders are not (and should not be) self-appointed. One thing about the pagan/heathen communities is that there are a lot of self-appointed elders running around, claiming to be gurus or 'know-it-alls'.
Lastly, an elder leads by example. By integrity.
| Kicking And Screaming. ||May 29th. at 12:19:20 pm EDT|
|Duck (CA-USA) ||Age: 41 - Email |
I think we're pretty much in agreement on this. Elders are NEEDED, but what QUALIFIES them is a matter of SERVICE, without desire for recognition. They do it for the LOVE of their Faith and Craft. If any of you are wondering about that heading, it's simple. Most "Elders" will fight the title in that manner. *wink* A wise man I know once said: "If anyone tells you 'I know it all', RUN. That person is 'fibbing'. If you must give me some form of title, think of me more as an older sibling, shareing with you some of what I learned at school today. Life never stops teaching you new things. All you need to do is be willing to learn."
| Beware Of Self-proclaimed "Elders"!!! ||May 29th. at 2:07:20 pm EDT|
|Waterfae (Berks County, PA) ||Age: 32 - Email |
We recently had this discussion in one of the Yahoo groups I belong to. Someone was whining about the disrespect she received from some younger Witches when she gave them advice (not asked for) while claiming to be an Elder. To me, an Elder is someone that has earned that title but doesn't use it. Someone that will quietly sit to the side of a discussion & only speak up when they have something important to say or wisdom to offer. It's not a question of age, or even how long they have been following their particular path. But it's a question of their heart. Do they really respect those that come to them for advice, or do they say what they think is the right way & insist it's the only way? Do they actually listen when someone comes to them with a problem that they cannot discuss with anyone else? That to me is what an Elder is. And yes, I think society as a whole needs true Elders.
| Respect Your Elders!!! ||May 29th. at 2:30:04 pm EDT|
|Silver Raven (Nottingham, England) ||Age: 21 - Email |
"Elders" to me are anyone older than myself. I therefore respect and behave respectfully towards anyone older than myself, unless they prove themselves through their actions to be unworthy of that respect.
As for needing/wanting "Elders" - everyone needs someone to learn from, even if it's only a parent or good friend. I believe it possible to learn almost any knowledge through meditation, as the knowledge is out there for us to gain. However, and this is particularly true of practical activities, it is so much better to have someone to show you new things. Scientists proved years ago that we humans learn by example, something you can't truly experience through meditation. Watching mum bake a cake or helping your best friend decorate their new home is a more immediate and therefore effective method of learning.
As for "Elders" as a figure in charge of a group, well, that just comes down to a natural human desire for everything to be organised. As a solitary, it is possible to be your own "Elder", as you have to organise yourself! Everyone has this same potential - everyone can teach things to others, while learning valuable new lessons from those they consider students. The saying "you learn something new every day" could never be more true! I think what is important is to realise your own abilities, but also your shortcomings and ask for help from those you think can help - in return you will probably teach them something! Never underestimate the knowledge of others - a child can teach you many valuable lessons. Children aren't considered as "Elders", yet many have knowledge and often wisdom beyond their years.
| Teacher / Mentor ||May 29th. at 3:57:41 pm EDT|
|Mothrae (Pennsy USA) ||Age: 38 - Email |
So many good responses that I don't wish to repeat them.
To me, an Elder is a teacher, a mentor, someone who knows more than I do and can ask them for help, advice, or whatever else I am looking for.
An Elder has to earn that title. It shouldn't be automatic. How we give out that title would be cause for debate I'm sure, but it should not be self-proclaimed by any means any more than someone can appoint him or herself HP or HPP.
I agree that an Elder should be someone who is humble and not the Voice Of All, someone who has earned that position by deeds and not public relations or politics.
| Elders ||May 29th. at 4:53:52 pm EDT|
|wolfstar (omahole ne) ||Age: 50 - Email |
I think that it would take a number of factors for one to be considered an elder. age being only one, many are wise beyoud their years, though this is rare. I consider myself an elder, I do have official position in a pagan group.
elder is one of the stages of life, just like maiden and mother. I wonder if this question is about ideals or real people in real communities. I question whether the responses will be relevant to be applied to communities in general.
I have found in my experience that many young people coming into the craft , paganism or what have you do not want to be told what to do. they are escaping from their controlling channel z situation as it is. this is understandable. I had always thought the role of an elder was to teach with an open mind and heart, and to keep history.
| Uuummmm................Respect Your Elders?!?!?! ||May 29th. at 6:31:29 pm EDT|
|Renee (port charlotte, florida) ||Age: 19 - Email |
ok people .... i truly feel that "elders" are some what importatnt but yet somewhat worthless.....let me explain!
ok first off .. elders are important because they know alot of important things about life and how people of the world can or can not be! they've been through almost everything that were about to go through in our lives!
but on the other hand .... elders are also behind the time a bit and can be very closed minded and bitter..... like me for instance .... im 19years old .... my G-Ma ( i call her Nanny) is almost 70years old ..... thats a huge difference ....... shes a christian and im Wiccan ...... shes straight and im Bi-sexual....... i mean times have changed and my nanny is still the same as when she was my age ..... she dosent get the way things are today ..... and wont except it eathier !!
:::: takes a deep breath :::::
thats all im gonna say about that!
Love You All!
| A Place For Everyone ||May 29th. at 7:16:26 pm EDT|
|Mistress Morrigan the Raven (North Carolina, USA) ||Age: 30 - Email |
The greatest factor that drew me to paganism and keeps me here, has been the honor that is given to all ages (in most forums and groups) . In the group I work with and teach for, each stage of youth/parent/elder, has it's own facets of service and gifts to offer. Young people offer strength and energy - they literally put their backs into the work of the community. Mothers/fathers nurture and guide the group - still young enough to participate, but old enough to offer some loving guidance. Elders offer wisdom and patience and guidance that comes from experience. An appreciation for and love of all peoples is what brings an undescribable beauty to the pagan/wiccan community. I do realize that many groups/individuals don't honor all peoples, but when it does happen...it's grand.
Blessings, love and honor, to the beauty in all.
| Merry Meet To All ||May 29th. at 8:54:46 pm EDT|
|Freya (Raleigh, NC) ||Age: 28 - Email |
I believe in the principle of the Elder for personal growth but believe it comes in many forms. I myself have not "studied" with in a formal way but have come across what I would call many wise spirits on the spirit path. This is far more important to me, i.e., one who is on a life affirming, healing path, than a formal Elder, who as a matter of fact I have yet to feel any affiliation with. I find so many beautiful, wise women and men of all ages and spiritual paths (not just Wiccan) . Speaking as a solitary, I find this part of my path right now still in it's smorgasbord stage if you will, and I am blessed with the insight I have gained from many an inspiring teacher. I am always grateful for some kernal of truth to nourish my soul that I have found in the people I have met so far. I can only hope I meet more.
| I Have No Title ||May 29th. at 11:31:23 pm EDT|
|Morrighan (A surreal existential social embryo) ||Age: 25 - Email |
Well, in the question, "elder" is pretty much defined. I think within the framework of this, I'll consider "elder" to be the second definition. In that sense: What is? Who is? Why?
I'm a solitare, and I'm also a cynic. I don't give a lot of hoop-la to people unless they deserve it. An elder is someone who deserves credit and has served for...oh....a long time. I wouldn't consider someone my age or within ten to fifteen years of me an elder.
I don't even consider many of the prolific Pagan writers to be elders, and I'll tell you why. This spiritual path derives part of it's uniqeness from it's liberty. The late great Scott Cunningham wrote books on how to be you're own personal practitioner because it is necessary in our society. Human beings have a tendency to elitism and most of it is self appointed.
I don't give a flip about what other people think about what I do. I respect opinions, but they are, after all, like armpits. Too many people come to these forums, questionaires, and to groups and such to boast of their great powers, accomplishments, experiences, etc. However, it's all relative.
I'll tie all of that in by saying: It's your reality, you do what you want with it, as long as it doesn't infringe on someone else's reality. When you start tellig other people how to do something, how to think, or how to behave, you start running into problems with individuality, personal preference, and what not.
I don't need someone connecting me with the divine. I don't need someone telling me how to run a ritual. If I want to put my wands in the north, for instance, that's my perogative. Why? Because it's all about symbols and how we interpret them. Nobody can tell you how to interpret something (stop signs and other traffic commodities excluded) .
In essence, I don't think that elders are useless. Some people need them. However, don't expect me to bow down and kiss bootie to someone just because they've done a spell or two or they've been innitiated in the Super Coven. It's not going to happen.
Also, I just want to remind people, though I'm a hypocrit for doing it, we're not supposed to post on other people's posts. Keep your comments about what others say to yourself. It's a place of free expression. If you're offended, I'm offended. Where does that get us? Nowhere...fast.
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