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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: 20,910,355  

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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 

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

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 EST

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

The Answer Is Yes To All Of Those Questions. That Is The... Dec 6th. at 10:32:20 pm EST

mandy and lexi (canyon lake, Texas US) Age: 17 - Email

the answer is yes to all of those questions. that is the whole point to religion to expand and teach new people the old ways. you can follow footsteps while being free and with new things it doesn't mean you have to lose the old.

Truthfully; The Path You Follow Is A Personal And Private One, It... Dec 6th. at 11:36:55 pm EST

Ricia (Memphis, Tennessee US) Age: 0 - Email

Truthfully; the path you follow is a personal and private one, It really has no relationship to an "identity as a witch", among others; or impressing them that you possess "secret knowledge". To thine own self be true.
But; never-the-less be wary of "Lord and "Lady" this and that, who propound their vast credentials, and want to instruct or ordain you by degrees.

However; Your qustion contains the Answer. If you follow "the old religion", you follow that path. If the new generation wants to "break new ground" the the "new age" is for them. But as they say:

"Honey; they aint no sub-ste-tute fo experience".

I Have Been On Both Sides Of The Fence. I Had Been... Dec 7th. at 1:16:19 am EST

Denise (shorewood, Illinois US) Age: 40

I have been on both sides of the fence. I had been in a Traditional form of Witchcraft and also worked as a solitary Witch. I believe it should be up to the individual to decide what is best for them. The only proplem with the Traditional form of craft I was in was that it became stagnant! Same ritual structure was always practiced, same dieties always worshipped same everything! It soon became very boring and rigid! Traditional Witchcraft is not for everyone. I am of the personal belief that if witchcraft as a religion is to grow, then we need a diverse and welcomed variety of methods of worship and expression to be spiritually fulfilled. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the newbie to the craft as we all were once newbies!I believe that self Initiation is just as valid (or should be) provided that the person doing it is a sincere seeker of our faith. I loved the words of scott cunningham "only the Goddess and God can make a wiccan who is better qualified?" Scott was by no means a fluffy bunny as he once belonged to a tradition himself before he broke free to be a solitary! I dont believe older equals better. I believe it is all a matter of what the individual decides for him or herself. I believe in order for old traditions to survive they must adapt more modern thinking for our times. I believe both can be combined happily but it will take time and a willingness to do so. I pattern myself after the late Scott Cunningham I am a solitary who invites friends to join in my rites occasionally or go to the rites of others sometimes provided they know of my intent to remain a solitary.I am considering forming my own coven and I dont mind "newbies" so long as they are sincere seekers! I have been in the craft over 20 years and am a ulc minister but I never felt the need to wave it in front of others faces as I can learn something from everyone! Funny thing is that when I do decide to form a coven I will pattern it after Scott Cunninghams rites most likely. I love the open honest simplicity he presents in his books!

Ours Is A Spiritual Community In Which The Oldest Of The "old... Dec 7th. at 6:49:54 am EST

Kellogh MacAodh (Morgantown, West Virginia US) Age: 39 - Email

Ours is a spiritual community in which the oldest of the "Old" Traditions isn't really all that Old at all. Despite some entertaining but inaccurate romantizations. Certainly, I think all of us respect the right of the individual to find their own personal Path. MOST of us these days are the products of reading rather than Traditional study. I have some doubts about the validity and value of "Mass Market Paperback Enlightenment", but then again everyone has to find someplace to start their search.

I have known friends in several of the Traditions and found their practice interesting but extremely limiting and prone toward horrific heirarchal feuds.

I know lots of new "Witches" who want instant validation without putting out any greater effort than reading a couple of books and lighting some candles.

One of the things I respect about the Tradition Witches is the hard work and focus necessary to progress through their degrees. There is a great deal to applaud about dedication and discipline. Unfortunately that approach doesn't work well for me. As a consequence, I think it took me longer to progress through my solitary, personal approach than it would have taken had I followed their regimens.

Out of respect for my friends who have taken the harder path, I do not refer to myself as a "Witch" at all. I prefer to leave it simply at "practicing Pagan".

I think we have to respect the personal validity of all seekers, but should take some of the claims of "newbies" with a grain of salt. Too many seem to think that they are taking part in a role-playing game or indulging in personal fantasies of several sorts. I think that the Traditional "Old Guard" has worked hard and long and earned the right to be listened to with respect, but ultimately we all have to make our own ways. No one, regardless of the length of their practice or the degrees they have achieved or at least claim, "commands" my respect. I give it freely to anyone who hasn't proven themselves unworthy of it.

I Consider Myself A Priestess Regardless If I Am Solitary Or With... Dec 7th. at 9:53:48 am EST

Amethyst (Lynnwood, Washington US) Age: 42 - Email

I consider myself a priestess regardless if I am solitary or with a group. I am called to the service of the Goddess and do not feel the need for the approval of anyone who would tell me otherwise.
I have spent more than 20 years studying Wicca and other religions, so I'm not really impressed by those who are full of themselves and want to intimidate others with their titles and degrees. If Wiccans and Pagans would stop playing these silly games, we might actually get something done, like buying land and building temples and universities where students could be taught in a less haphazard manner.

With All Due Respect, Older Is Not Always Better. The Idea Of... Dec 7th. at 10:57:12 am EST

WindSong (Los Alamos, New Mexico US) Age: 17 - Email

With all due respect, older is not always better. The idea of traditional paths must be taken with a grain of salt. The "Old Ways" are not necessarily the original. For too long Witchcraft has been supressed and destroyed, to be sure that it is "pure". It is good to remember that Wicca is actually a very new religion drawn from older sources.

While the older pratictioners and their practice are extremely valuable, the new is equally so. Spirituality is constantly evolving. That is why one must do what works best for her. The Goddess reveals herself in many ways. The different design of an alter or the different chant to summon the elements are different, but equally valid, methods to reach Her.

It is the insistance on a one true way that poisoned most other religions to me. It would be the greatest sorrow for the Craft to follow in this trend. "Old" is valuable, not more right or wrong.

I also resent being called a newbie. In some sense, we all are. I find the term wannabe even more demeaning. Just because I am new to the Craft, just because I am not from a Pagan family, just because I draw my teachings from books, none of this means I am truly seeking or truly practicing. I have a relationship with the Goddess and none of those things gave it to me but myself.

I know that the question of whether one should learn from books and solitary is much debated. I am solitary and I learned much of what I did from books. I have several reasons for this. Books were my first introduction to the Craft. I read one and was immediately enamored with the concept. I went to the bookstore and began to select books I thought would be valuable. Not much later I learned that an adult friend of mine was a practictioner. She was wonderful for me, but I still went my own way. She wasn't an authority, she was a resource, albeit a much loved and trusted one. Organized religion makes me nervous, but if one is completely alone, I feel that the opportunity to become stagnant is too great. Also, it can be very lonely. Therefore, it was wonderful that my friend and I found the Craft together and explore it together, though we are not any sort of coven, just two solitaries using each other for support and empathy. Finally, I didn't want to join a coven because there are some cults out there that pass themselves off as practitioners of the Craft. I am not yet an adult and am unsure whether I have the strength and experience to avoid such cults. Also, my mother supports my choice, however, she has no intention of practicing herself and to bring her with me just because I am unsure would not be right.

There is no one true way. The Goddess is within us all. There is truth and value in all methods. The most important is to find the one that gives one a better relationship with the Goddess. We are all different and so will need a different method to reach our inner spirituality. We are constantly changing and evolving and so our ways will change and evolve with us. To insist on one way is to lessen the spirituality's infiniteness.

Blessed be.

I Do Not Believe There Is Anything Wrong With Being A Newbie... Dec 7th. at 11:08:59 am EST

Teresa Lotz (SIBLEY, Louisiana US) Age: 47 - Email

I do not believe there is anything wrong with being a newbie. How else do we continue to grow. I believe it is very important to teach the old ways and the old traditions. I have a great amount of respect for the Old Ways and those who have learned them and now pass them down. The old traditions are very vital to us. New ones should also be welcomed as long as they follow Rede and Law. The thing that drew me to Wicca is the freedom and tradition of beliefs.
I believe the problem comes in and what I have personally experienced is when ego proceeds personalities. When the "teacher" becomes so "taken" with themselves and how great and wise and all knowing that "they" are, they lose touch with those of us who so desperately want to learn. When they become so self important that they can no longer hear the concerns or questions of the students or display such disdain and lack of respect for a students lack of knowledge, that the student feels less than, stupid, or totally discounted and unimportant in the group.
Once a person puts "themselves" on the Pedestal of How Great I Am, they are no longer effective as a teacher, a role model or even High Priest/ess. They become unapproachable, and untolerable.
In closing I say, when you teach always remember that we all stared at one point or another at the beginning. That each one of us is loved by our God/dess, that each individual is important and has a right to be heard, respected and treated fairly. All that truely seek have the right to learn when their hearts are right. When you start throwing people out of Groups because you don't like their openness, their questioning, their concerns, putting personalities first, then you are no better than the Inquistors and those others who persecute us because we believe differently and dare to question.

This Is Really A Rather Difficult Question, And The Answer Tends To... Dec 7th. at 11:40:03 am EST

BrightRaven (Williamsburg, Virginia US) Age: 22 - Email

This is really a rather difficult question, and the answer tends to change depending on the situation. I would say that the way I look at it is that it's not the length of time that matters, but the "quality", so to speak, of belief. A one-day-old Wiccan who has finally just managed to name her religion is a much better thing than someone who has claimed to be Wiccan for years, but really just involves herself for the trappings. Usually this is very easy to discern with a short conversation. The baby-Wics who have just found the path are just as important, especially if they have already waded in soul-deep. I must be honest- as a *very* solitary person, as well as one who has trouble using rituals written by other people- I really have a hard time feeling the emotion they must have invested in it- I tend to make up my own traditions, and I do not think this is the sort of thing we should be standing by merely for tradition's sake. Yes, the leaves sprout and grow and fall and die ever year without fail, but it it never the exact same leaves as the ones that sprouted and grew and fell and died during the previous year. Life is a cycle, but not a circle; it is a spiral that move around a common point but does not repeat itself exactly, for it is both cyclical and linear. Yule approaches again, but it is not the same as Yule of two years previous, when my Da was still alive, and it is not the same Yule as last year, when the pain of our loss of him was still horribly fresh, and every decoration we hung reminded us that he was not there to hang it with us. We Pagans, as an Earth-based and nature based path, must know how to keep *change* moving with us even as we follow the paths of those gone before. We should not scoff at the newbies who really mean it, and those who are merely blinded by the moonlight need to be taught what the real meaning of being a Witch is.

I Am A Dedicant To The Aridian System Of Stregheria As Outlined... Dec 7th. at 12:11:39 pm EST

simona elda marseglia (duluth, Minnesota US) Age: 30 - Email

i am a dedicant to the aridian system of stregheria as outlined by raven grimasssi's "italian witchcraft, " but i also incorporate my own gifts and talents into my work--both in spellwork and ritual.
however, i have opened my mind even further to realize that time is not linear--it is circular. everything that is now, in my belief, has been before. i don't believe that we've only progressed into the age of technology only once and only during the last fifty years or so. i believe that there was an ancient global civilization just as there is now global world trade.
i believe that past and future freely intermingle. i know, i know, i sound like a science fiction novel. but i truly see that time is circular and *not* the linear scope that our tiny human minds put on it. it will continue to be circular because that is the way of the goddess. look at the shape of the earth, the sun, the moon and the other planets. look at the shape of a woman's breast, of the female egg, of the parts of an atom. they are all circles to one degree or another. why should time be any different?
witches and pagans, we must learn from the past and from what will be. i believe it was winston churchill who said, "those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it."
i believe that antiquity has a special place, and i think authors of hereditary families for bringing the past to the present, but when you start to realize that time is circular, and not linear, you realize that we must not only follow something just because that's the way it used to be done. neither must we follow something because that's the way it is now. life must be a dance of combing the two, past and future, to orchestrate the present. otherwise, we don't grow, we don't progress, we don't evolve and we are bound to physical re-birth.
so, do i think mystery traditions are necessary? yes. do i think that these traditions are a requirement for everbody? no. this doesn't make me a "wanna be, " it makes me a solitary because that is in my nature in this incarnation--i've always been a loner. do i think we can learn from those who went before? absolutely! do i think that it takes a witch to make a witch? no. i know there are some who would disagree greatly with this statement, and their arguments are just as valid as mine from their viewpoint--they have studied hard to learn their traditions and deserve kudos for that, but the time has come to recognize that witches are born, not made (in my opinion.) that kind of ideal is more for the orthodox religions--those one converts to--the non-pagan religions. true, there are those who have and are and will initiate into group practices, but for myself and many others, well we received spontaneous shamanic inititations. i received two different types myself. but i digress. we are called to the craft by our mother and father. whether we choose to answer that calling or not is what makes one a witch.
this is not to say that i don't appreciate the old guard. we have the craft as it existed, swirling over time, because of them. but since i believe that time is circular, i believe that if (goddess and god forbid) the old guard were wiped out tomorrow, the gods would give us the same repeat information as they did to our ancestors. why? because all pagan religions from antiquity began as organic, as shamanism, as growing up with a people who added their own voices and visions to it as they went along. eventually these people became the wise and the sage. the old guard gave us a wonderful gift by going underground and keeping the occult alive for us during the age of persecution. let's honor their memories by discarding the fear that kept them hidden for 2000 years. let's treat the religion(s) as "normal" rather than "fringe." let's stop the inner feuding of labels such as "newbie" and "wannabe" and "old guard" and such. when people ask me if i am a witch, i say yes with confidence, knowing that the godess and god have called me.
i mean no disrespect to those who have gone before, but i think it's time to stop obsessing so much over length of time of consciously practitioning and degrees and all that stuff unless one is entering a formal group. we must break free of all limitations, new and old. blessings be!

We Are A Path Of Converts. For Many Of Us Pagan/wicca... Dec 7th. at 12:42:42 pm EST

Lady Gypsy Hawk (st. louis, Missouri US) Age: 21 - Email

We are a path of converts. For many of us Pagan/Wicca is not the religion we were born to. I think it is wonderful if you can find deep roots within your family. But for those of us just starting out, or solitaries who claim no linage what is needed is support an acceptance. As soon as we as a community start bickering about who is more valid than whom then we start to wander into the idea that only a particualr way is the correct way. This makes us no better than the mainstream religions so many of us converted from.

There is value in "old ways" they give us roots, but "new ways" give us wings and move us on the path toward the betterment of our world and ourselves.

Blessed be

Lady Gypsy Hawk

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