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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 13,668,983  

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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 

It's Been Brought To My Attention That My Response, Post #1738, To... Dec 11th. at 8:54:23 pm EST

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

It's been brought to my attention that my response, post #1738, to Tarostar's post #1725 proposed one interpretation over another possible interpretation. After careful consideration, I agree that the line "Don't make light of a traditional Witch implement and use it willy-nilly just for the sake of Wiccan nicey-cutesy" could be taken as meaning something other what I took it to mean in my response. I want to apologize for any undue criticism, if in fact the meaning of the post was not as I interpreted it.

I Think In Some Instances, Such As My Own It Comes To... Dec 11th. at 8:05:38 pm EST

Martin McCabe (chamblee, Georgia US) Age: 15 - Email

I think in some instances, such as my own it comes to acceptance. I myself would like to be taught rather than learn by myself becasue I believe that although your own rituals and ceremonies dont lose any of their potential at being powerful, An older tradition could bring it to the peak of its intended power. Like I said, acceptance.. I myself am 15 and am afraid that older practitioners might see me as a "wannabe", or "fake" even though I know myself I am very serious about wicca. Also my race constitutes problems for me, I used to think that I would not be accepted into the majority of the wiccan/pagan society because I am native american, black, hispanic, and white, but have learned that though some might discriminate others wont and dont tolerate it. Others might not know this and might find it more comfortable to take the chance. On the issue of older and newer practices, I dont think there is any way to know whether one or the other is better or worse.


In Response To The Point In Opinion #1725: Perhaps The Witch's Ladder... Dec 11th. at 11:50:57 am EST

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

In response to the point in opinion #1725:

Perhaps the Witch's Ladder was used for a different purpose back in the good ole' days of hexing and cursing, however it's used for a differen purpose by different people today. And simply because something was used for a different purpose at a different time, doesn't mean that it's set in stone and can't be changed. The nature of the Universe, for many, is change. This is also the nature of symbols and tools. Back in the day, the crucifix was a symbol of Rome's power and threat of torture if not obeyed. But what is it a symbol of now? And what is it used for now (other than keeping vampires at bay)?

Things change with time, even cyclical time, and those who don't accept this are doomed to fade with the past.

But what about the threat of an innocently made Witch's Ladder, accidently "going off" in someone's home? This depends entirely on one's subjective view of the Universe and the way it works. Thanks to the philosophies of Hume and other great skeptics, nothing--not the physical world, the spiritual world, even reality itself--can be proven to exist. Therefore, one must take a leap of faith in even believing in existence. After that, if one wishes, one must take an even further leap to believe in a type of existence--philosophical or religious. If philosophical, one must make an even further leap in deciding which philosophy. The same goes for a religion; this includes any mystical system (e.g. Witchcraft.) A large leap must be made to get from the beginning point to that of calling oneself a Witch. So, if someone doesn't believe that simply making a Witch's Ladder will imbue it with unintentional magickal forces without consciously putting it there, then it won't--and no one can prove otherwise. The proof, you say, would be it actually working? Well, the effects of such an occurance is ever harder to prove than the system from which is comes.

Old system, new system; old use of tool, new use of tool; old meaning of symbol, new meaning of symbol--all of these are in the subjective opinion of the person using it, which have no bearing on the empirical world, which itself cannot be proven to exist.

This Is A Direct Response To Tarostar. I Would Use Email, But... Dec 11th. at 11:20:14 am EST

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

This is a direct response to Tarostar. I would use email, but I've had trouble getting his address to work.

Tarostar: I've read criticisms from you for a short while now and have noted each time you've rejected the Religion of Wicca, calling it "Gainist (do you mean Jainist?) fluff bunny" and "Wiccacrap" and such. Each time you've done this I've noticed a blatant logical inconsistancy that I'm surprised others haven't called you on, at least to my knowledge. You've compared your form of Traditional Witchcraft to the Religion of Wicca in terms of quality of magickal practices and concluded that because Wicca uses "watered-down" techniques of magick, that the Religion of Wicca is inferior to your form of Traditional Witchcraft.

Well, I agree whole-heartedly that Wicca magick pales in comparison to the complex Hermetic and Qabalistic structures found in some Traditional Witchcraft repertoires. Therefore, from this perspective, Wicca magick might be considered an inferior practice. However, you cannot prove this. Different forms of magick work differently for different people (hence, the different magickal systems used throughout the world and history), but this is not my point. My point is that the Religion of Wicca is just that--a religion, a fulfilling way of life that helps a person get out of bed in the morning and gives that person the strength, courage, and hope to keep living in this sometimes Goddess-forsaken world (a more refined definition of religion is needed, however, for sake of space I won't discuss it here.) The form of Traditional Witchcraft you seem to advocate is a shadow-cloaked, power hungry mutation of Traditional Western Occultism. I admit, it's good at what it does, magick, but that seems to be its goal. Magick, being a good Occultist, is not the goal of the Religion of Wicca.

Perhaps you missed the transition in your cryptic, Crowley-laden rants when Starhawk and Adler came into the picture, but there is now a group of people who don't give a flying salamander about your "Eldership" or Hermetic teachings. Their goal is to be happy practicing a religion that reflects their inward spirituality. They don't care about your acceptance or your rejections, so you're wasting your precious energy by doing either. Just as you have no inclination to be a Jainist fluff bunny, these people have no inclinations in becoming a Dunggeon Master High-Class Adept Mage, with a demon perched on both sholders ready to leap forth and torment the next poor, short-sighted Wiccan who passes by with a hint of happiness in his or her aura.

There is one way, though, that you can crumble my argument, at which point I will gladly admit my unsuccessful attempt at verbalizing my feelings. You must show a religious system equal to that of Wicca. I have yet to find any Traditional Witchcraft teachings to be consistent within a religious practice, much less what you have said about your own. Of course, that won't completely destroy my point, because your rants have been about the magickal practices of the two items in question. And I've already shown this matter to be settled.

I'd love to hear your attempts in either equating your form of Traditional Witchcraft to the Religion of Wicca as religioius practices, or your attempts at rejecting Wicca as a legitimate religious practice (be warned on this one...unless you have expertise or accomplishment in academic religious studies, I wouldn't try this one with me.) Use this list or email me directly at

Brightest blessings.

It Is An Interesting Fact Of Human Nature That Those Who Have... Dec 11th. at 9:21:09 am EST

Steve Wright (Theresa, New York US) Age: 30 - Email

It is an interesting fact of human nature that those who have power, wisdom, or knowledge believe others must suffer before they are worthy. It is also notable that people love to rebel against authority.
As with so many other things, this is not a black or white subject. It is an area of grey shades. Some older traditions and knowledge are to be respected. We might not be burned at the stake today, but we can (and have) lost jobs and homes. Likewise, we have turned toward the lighter side of Wicca. It's original practices and ideas were lost (yes lost) a very long time ago, so nothing is completely old.
If I have confused you, good. We should all be seekers.

Blessed be!

I Was Guilty Of "padding" My Years. No, I Lied About My... Dec 11th. at 8:46:46 am EST

Elizabeth (okc, Oklahoma US) Age: 27 - Email

I was guilty of "padding" my years. No, I lied about my first year status. (Let's be real here!) It would be easy to blame other people, and say that the community has a negative attitude towards newcomers. But that's unfair to the countless people who have dedicated alot of time to helping people come into Wicca and learn. Also, alot of studious newcomeers realize that much of the Wiccan community will be cautious about extending precious resources to those who are still in the beginning stages of learning, and have not had enough time to know if Wiccan is for them. I think I padded my experience because I wanted to look cool. I wanted access to more, to groups, to knowledge, and of course, to feel welcomed by other Wiccans.

I am a solitary, I have only been in Wicca for three years. So I don't know all that much about other Wiccans. But I have noticed that I tend to get snotty sometimes. When I read about newcomers, I sometimes smirk. Maybe it's me. Maybe it's a sense of competition? (I don't like admitting to that.) Or worse- a sense of doubt about myself, my faith, and my direction.

For a long time I have suspected that Wiccans will tend to look up to older traditions as a way of validating historical claims our community has made, and the nonWiccan community questions. The older it is, the more valid Wicca, and the claimer, are. After all, we need a sense of history. Everyone does.

I think traditions will survive for as long as they are needed and asnwer to the need. I think we are all wannabes. And wannabe status is in every religion. I don't know anything about imparting knowledge, since I am a solitary, and have only three years experience.

Thankyou for your time & Blessed Be

I Have Been Practicing For Around Two Years. This Makes Me A... Dec 10th. at 9:28:50 pm EST

Rick Miller (San Diego, California US) Age: 26 - Email

I have been practicing for around two years. This makes me a rookie of sorts. I started as a solitaire and later joined a coven. I found that being a coven member did not quite work for me. My wife had the same experience. We now have our own little family tradition that her, myself, and the children practice. I feel that being a solitaire or a covener are equal. Not everyone makes a good covener and not everyone can do it on the own like a solitaire. For that matter, some folks like a little of both. I thought part of being pagan was to be opened minded. It is unfortunate that pagans fall into the same trap as other paths. We are human though. I guess that is why we are on this plane of existence and not another.

Blessed Be!

Hi!; Looking Over These Posts Many Are Complaining The Old Timers Seem... Dec 10th. at 9:25:55 pm EST

Tarostar (Toronto, Ontario CA) Age: 58 - Email


Looking over these posts many are complaining the old timers seem to
look down their noses at new comers.

Some become offended and leave the Coven trads to be solitaires.
Others rationalize their right to be "new".

What is not being picked up on by the "newbies" is that one will always be discouraged by the Elders just to see of what stuff the newbie is made.

If one is easily discouraged by criticism and judgments from experienced people, one would not be considered worthy of Witchcraft and simply left to Wicca.

Dedicated perseverence and a healthy ego are what experienced Witches want to see in new comers.

Sadly, those qualities are sorely lacking in today's World.

If one is so sensitive to rebuffs by experienced persons, that one runs away to sulk, rather than determinedly sticking with it, Witchcraft is not the place for one.

That is the way the Craft works, as it is designed to produce practical occultists. The Occultist needs a healthy and strong ego.

If one is to leard to weave the warp and woof of metaphysical Time and Space, sissies need not apply. BB

Hi!; Does Older Equal Better? A Strange Question To An Old Time... Dec 10th. at 9:01:55 pm EST

Tarostar (Toronto, Ontario CA) Age: 58 - Email


Does older equal better? A strange question to an old time Witch.
Case in point: Your article on "Witches Ladders".

Have you run across the original meaning of such a thing?

It is not a cutesy fun and games decoration with bright cords and feathers.
It was always a hexing implement to weave ill will and a throttling force into the life of an enemy or victim, as the case may be.

It would be made with Saturnine correspondences and heavy invocation of
malice and dread. Then secreted in an enemy's home to bind and constrict his/her life circumstances.

Wiccacrap converts red-blooded Witchcraft into nicey-nicey, which we old timers find appalling.

Taking a fearsome hex and converting it into a parlour decoration is an insult
to the entire Witchcraft genre.

Letting people think it is just a decoration, such as a Yule Wreath, deprives them of knowledge of what it is and what needs to be done, should one ever find
such a thing secreted in one's own home.

Let's face it, not all your Witch acquaintences are trustworthy individuals.

One does not hex strangers, but those with whom one has an intimate knowledge of their coming and going, strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes.

One would gain the victim's trust and put him/her at ease, before a hex is laid down. Then the damn things work.

Don't make light of a traditional Witch implement and use it willy-nilly just for the sake of Wiccan nicey-cutesy. BB

I Recently Joined The Craft Myself, I Consider Myself Half-way Through My... Dec 10th. at 8:15:28 pm EST

Winterraven (Indian Mound, Tennessee US) Age: 28

I recently joined the craft myself, I consider myself half-way through my year and a day, and have a few views. I was a member of a coven until the high priestess disbanded it over racial prejudice. I was very disgusted with that I assure you. I also experienced the discouragement of my own gifts by the experienced witches, and information was witheld by them, because I was not far enough on "their" idea of wicca. I have become solitary, praise the Goddess, and feel sorry for those people who are told what they can do, and practice.

I also frequent a chat room where young teenage witches come in to ask older witches for help. Instead of helping these young witches, they ridicule them, ignore them, and eventually find some reason to TOS them. If you don't agree with them, then you are wrong. I'm sorry, but even Merlin had things to learn at the age of 80, and he would be the first to admit it. I now have spirit guides, and have found another pagan in my community who helps me. I would never go back to the confines of a coven.

I'd Like To Comment On The Question Of Experience Vs. Inexperience: From... Dec 10th. at 8:13:02 pm EST

Matt (Edmonton, Alberta CA) Age: 20

I'd like to comment on the question of experience vs. inexperience:

From my perspective, I know that in any discipline there is a rule that says: learn the rules first...then you can start breaking them. I think that if someone is ready and willing to make Wicca or any ritual magick their way of life or a large part of their life, they should go into it as someone who knows next to nothing, and only after (x) amount of time should they even consider doing things their own way.

I've been researching and studying various religions, ways of life, and practices since early adolescence, because my parents decided I should choose my own faith. What I've found is that there is no one way to live your life, and therefore no one practice is right for anyone. I feel that there should be a combination of beliefs involved, not just some hollow belief system based on the dogma of one practice. I plan on doing my fair share of learning before I decide what is the best way for me. I bought a history of witchcraft after reading from Llewellyn's Magickal Almanac (which sparked my interest), and from that I'll decide what's the next step, and so on. I DON'T plan on buying the Witch's Bible simply because it's all-inclusive, and doing everything according to what they say. I'll find my own path, but it'll be an educated decision and nothing less.

Absolutely Not! I Learned What I Was Doing After I Was Doing... Dec 10th. at 7:30:51 pm EST

William Reid (Hurricane, Utah US) Age: 67 - Email

Absolutely not! I learned what I was doing after I was doing it, and I believe I had more raw power then than now. Besides, what are we really talking about? Using your entire brain to perceive more. Who else does that? The young, who have not learned the discipline of proper, acculturated behavior. Older, also, means you have had more opportunities to succomb to displaying your power for personal dominance or agrandisment. So, on a probabilistic basis older is not better either.
Bill Two Leggings.

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