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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: 10,144,898  

Vox Q Stats

Times Viewed: 32,767

Reponses: 199

Lurker/Post Ratio: 164 to 1

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 


An Amendment To My First Response #1575. Some Say That Older Is... Dec 6th. at 11:39:37 am UTC

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


An amendment to my first response #1575.

Some say that older is better in terms of wisdom and experience. I don't think that's necessarily true.

I'd like to point out the common logical fallacy in thinking that the older something is the more wisdom it has. Wisdom is simply knowledge of what is true or right. Knowledge can come from logical reasoning and can be done by someone very young. Children sometimes see wisdom that "grown-ups" cannot.

So, if older doesn't equal better in terms of wisdom, does it equal better in terms of experience? Not necessarily. Experience is simply wisdom gained through doing. As I said above, wisdom can be held by the young. One can gain the same wisdom through logical reasoning as someone else has gained through experience. I always use the saying "We learn from our mistakes, but if we're really smart, we'll learn from other people's mistakes." One doesn't have to experience something in order to have the wisdom from it. If that were the case, then what's the point of school? Why don't we just all go out and reinvent the wheel thousands of times a day?

But someone may say, "but what about experience that involves an emotional aspect? Surely someone who hasn't gone through what I've gone through can understand the emotional component to it." This may be true, but emotions are highly individualistic. Who's to say what you've done in the situation is right? What is right? And why should I do the same thing? I'm a different person in a different situation. Emotional experience cannot be transferred, and therefore is not better than someone's lack of emotional experience. One can give advice, we all do, but in the end an emotional decision must be made alone if it is to be a significant one to that person.

All that is said of older people with wisdom and experience being superior to those younger and less experienced I reject. I do not respect someone simply because that person is older. I take into account what that person says and judge for myself the validity or invalidity of that advice or statement. We are all equals, young and old, but we can all think for ourselves, and we are all equal in the eyes of the Gods.


What Is Older? To Me, "older" Is A Positive State Of Mind... Dec 6th. at 12:07:03 pm UTC

Sarah (Elmira, New York US) Age: 27 - Email


What is older?
To me, "older" is a positive state of mind, as opposed to a physical aging, or marker along a path. When you describe someone as "older, " it conjures up an image of someone who has helpful experience (sometimes it is the quality of the experience, not quanity that matters) and wisdom. This can occur at any age, at any point along a religious path.

I know of many who has taken the title of "elder" by virtrue of their age, but lack wisdom or depth of soul. They are not truely "old, " nor do they deserve the title that they adopted. A "newbie learner" can posses a great amount of wisdom and an inherient ability to learn, which makes them for "older" then then the "elder."

Should newbies even care?
People who are truly "elders" show be listened to and learned from by all new Pagans. They do have a lot of knowledge to impart, knowledge that can lay the framework for any workings done in the future. As someone moves along their religious path, they may find themselves taking teachings from all elders they
have met, and weave them all into their own tradition.

Does it mean resistance to change?
It goes back to what I define as "older." I think that wisdom brings with the ability to have an open mind. Sometimes change can be beneficial, and an elder must recongize that. If they want to reject change in the name of "protecting a tradition, " they must stop and think. Sometimes, the reason to why some things are done are lost in time. People stick to it out of habit and a sense of duty. Perhaps something can be changed to allow for meaning and depth to the act. Conversly, all change should not be embraced wholeheartadly. Such an attitude means a lost of consistancy and possibly, a loss of value.

Traditions can survive some change. I highly doubt any pagan path that is followed is exactly as it was founded. If a tradition is a healthy one, one that indeed, leads to spirtual growth and health to its followers, then it has nothing to fear of change. It is only when people are dissatsified with a tradition, that it fails to provide what people are seeking, will change be destructive to that tradition.

Sorry to rant so much. I have been thinking about this a lot since some problems I have experienced


Of Course Older Isn't Better In And Of Itself. I've Been Doing... Dec 6th. at 12:44:42 pm UTC

Catherine Harper (Woodinville, Washington US) Age: 27 - Email


Of course older isn't better in and of itself.

I've been doing this for a while now (how long kind of depends on what you count -- started studying with a group 14 years ago, more or less). I've certainly have met people who've been studying a long time, and even had a nifty collection of initiations who struck me as pretty clueless, and have heard quite a bit of wisdom from relative youngsters.

But for most people, experience does teach a few lessons.

On the other hand, I've been hearing more and more people who have become involved with paganism more recently pooh-poohing the established traditions, and that also bothers me. Yes, things will change. They need to. But it often seems to me that many people have gotten so defensive about not having started out in a coven that they become resistant to the learning that does exist in that setting. And, particularly in Wicca, it seems that many people in the newer generations are creating a religion that is simplified, streamlined, and a lot more smug and sanctimonious than are most of the traditionally trained wiccans I know. (When did the Wiccan rede get shortened to two words?)

I'm not saying these are bad people, I'm saying it's a loss. If anything, it's almost inevitable, considering how many more people are interested in learning than have formal training... and worse, how many of the first large generation of the self trained (I'm thinking those who cut their teeth on Starhawk and Adler and then the later writers) are hostile and belittling to "newbies". I see it most from people who have been studying for some years, and have fought tooth and nail to put together pagan circles or other organizations pretty much from scratch (which is an awful lot of work and a laudable accomplishment) who then turn around and try to tell people just getting started that they are too young and too stupid to work magic.

If I was talking to someone who was considering making their first forrays into the pagan community about how to deal with more established pagans, I'd say something like this:

"Listen to everyone, talk to everyone. Don't pass up chances to learn, and be careful about getting drawn into other people's conflicts -- you'll almost always learn more talking to people on all sides. But keep your own bullshit detector turned on and pay attention to it, too. (Though many, perhaps most, people have both bullshit and wisdom in their repetoires, complicating the issue.) Navigation isn't simple, and it's pretty unlikely you're going to find someone to take you by the hand and spoon feed you either magic or religion in a way that will help you in the long run. But there are a lot of people out there who have a lot to share -- learn from them with your eyes open. Part of being a grown up, no matter how old you are, is establishing your own values and making your own choices."


As A Traditional Hps Who Has Been Initiated Into Three Of The... Dec 6th. at 1:08:14 pm UTC

Flora Green (San Francisco, California US) Age: 39 - Email


As a traditional Hps who has been initiated into three of the "older" traditons,
I must say I don't necissarily think "older is better" but I do feel the older traditions offer much in the way of a firm grounding in the Pagan path.

I have personally known Pagans and Heathens who are very talented in both constructing meaningful ritual and working powerful magic. I don't believe you have to train in a traditional coven to do this. However, I have found that the most dedicated of these folks actively seek out traditional groups to gain more experience and to become magically linked to tradition.

If an older coven is a good one, they will not be resistant to change, but embrace it within the larger frame work of it's rituals. I don't think there is any need to worry about these older trads passing away... We usually are turning people away from training groups! Whether or not you believe it, there is a strong connection in these trads with the witches of old. Much of our material is oathbound and so it can't be spoken of, but there is a strong possiblity that the Craft as we practice it may have older roots than is commonly believed. The recent books and articles that have claimed otherwise aren't really looking in the right places or ignoring evidence that is right in front of them.

Blessings to All on their paths,
Flora Green Hps and WQ, Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions and
Feri Priestess


Intent Is All That Matters. People Serious About Their Religion, Pious To... Dec 6th. at 2:07:07 pm UTC

Brian Leach (turnersville, New Jersey US) Age: 17 - Email


Intent is all that matters. People serious about their religion, pious to their gods, celebrating life, this is what matters. Any serious newbie, won't be one for long, because they will work hard to become wise in their path. Then there are naive and very fake practitioners who have been pagan for years and years. I think it is very easy to tell the difference between dedicated people, and the...well, SILLY people.


I Don't Think So. It Is, After All, A Popular Belief Among... Dec 6th. at 2:48:12 pm UTC

Greywolf (Lafayette, Indiana US) Age: 28 - Email


I don't think so. It is, after all, a popular belief among neo-pagans (at least in my experience) that any path to the divine is a good path, so long as it is honestly followed. Old or new, it doesn't matter as long as it is the right path for you.
From my own experience, the question doesn't have much meaning. I'm not Wiccan (and I'm really sick of people who think Neo-Pagan = Wiccan). The religion I am most drawn to has not been actively practiced for 1500 years. There is no-one to pass on the "old ways" except through the suppositions of historians.


I Personally Believe That Any One Person Who Believes In Pagan Traditions... Dec 6th. at 4:16:04 pm UTC

Sarah A. Carter (Sioux City, Iowa US) Age: 22 - Email


I personally believe that any one person who believes in Pagan traditions is valid, regardless of how long they have been practicing. Your beliefs make you who you are, not your status. This is not a blue-blood community, where we all sip brandy from crystal snifters and discuss rituals. We are Pagans, let's act like it?

That having been said, you also need to take your practices seriously. I know many who start simply to be Wicca-chic and that is wrong. If you are researching Paganism, do not do so with thee intent of turning people into frogs or flying on a broomstick. This is a serious religion and we take it seriously.

No opinion or tradition ever has to fear becoming 'extinct' as long as there are those who would practice it. If it becomes impractical or undesirable, let those who would shun it do so. We do not recruit, or proseletyze. This is a rule. Any questions to 'letting' people do this or that go against this rule and are irrelevant.


I Don't Think Anyone Should "pad" Their Experience... No One Should Be... Dec 6th. at 5:51:30 pm UTC

Priscilla (Ft. Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 29


I don't think anyone should "pad" their experience... no one should be ashamed of their status. There's no shame in being a "newbie" or "wannabe" these are just labels and a label does not provide an accurate reflection of the persons status.

We can learn from everyone... therefore it is not necessarily inherently right or better coming from the "Old Guard".

I suppose revering the "old way" of teaching could foster a resistance to change... people are generally more comfortable doing things the way they've always been done... but that doesn't mean that new ways should be completely disregarded.

I think new generations of Pagans should be free to break new ground but behind their motivations they must hold close the "old ways" so that the older traditions are not lost or forgotten.

Every generation has something valuable to offer...


The Beauty Of The Generic Pagan Experience Is Adaptation. The Universal Law... Dec 6th. at 6:34:08 pm UTC

Mimir Essedari (SLC, Utah US) Age: 24 - Email


The beauty of the Generic Pagan experience is adaptation. The Universal Law of Change was believed by the 'Ancients', as you can see in the example of Odhinn progressing from War God, to Wanderer, to Teacher... How can you create something new, if you don't know the Old? I believe a moderate knowledge of the past is required for any forward momentum, and I believe that Change being Constant, and part of Nature, is Essential to Growth...

Does Older = Better?

No, not Better... Older should be engrained in Newer, or no advancement has taken place. If you know the past, you can see the Cycle of Events which Shape not only the Present, but the Future as Well.

Thus a combination would be better.

Blessed Be to Thine and Thee!


I Think It Important To Remember A Couple Of Things...we All... Dec 6th. at 8:06:47 pm UTC

GrayMoonDragon (Idaho Falls, Idaho US) Age: 21 - Email


I think it important to remember a couple of things...we all come from the same source, and our beliefs of what that source is are very personal. What is important to keep in mind that no matter where we are on our search, we are all continually learning and no one has the right to say another is wrong. It might not be right for me, or you, or whoever, but it's right for that person.


Balance In All Things Is The First Phrase That Comes Into My... Dec 6th. at 8:21:30 pm UTC

Trish Telesco (western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email


Balance in all things is the first phrase that comes into my mind reading this question. If we do not honor and understand our past, we are doomed to repeat terrible errors in it. If we do not grow, change, and adapt, our magick will stagnate and die, becomming like rote dogma without power and meaning. Spirituality is not lip service, nor is it measured by any guage other than that of each person's soul. We cannot look at this like a "keep up with the jones'" situation. Tradition is important because it offers continuity, culture, and the power of repitition. Inventiveness is important because it, like the willow, bends with the storms that rage now, and those that will rage in the future. Let us treasure our traditions, our lore, our history as a great gift. Let us honor our elders and teachers as an amazing resource. But let us also look to the future with creative eyes so that future generations can take the foundation we've laid and make it WORK in their reality. BB


I Have Always Read, Read ,read. Since I Was In Grade School... Dec 6th. at 9:00:52 pm UTC

diana (amherst, Virginia US) Age: 68 - Email


i have always read, read , read. since i was in grade school, i have been tuned into 'comparitive religion'. everything blends into everything else. that is the only way i can express it. there is no 'old' or 'new'. there is only 'now'. and whenever one becomes 'aware', it shares the same 'time' as whenever anyone/everyone becomes aware. we are one. and i love you. yes. dia


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