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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: 12,934,542  

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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 

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.

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.

Elder Are A Tradition Jun 3rd. at 5:30:35 pm EDT

Starshark (New Mexico) Age: 36 - Email

As academics and others look at the various traditions found in Contemporary Paganism, a unique set of religious traditions have been identified. These "Role Traditions" are based on what people do in a community and the spirituality that develops through the actions of the doers. For example there are the Drummers. Does it matter whether they are African, Native American, Celtic traditional or have formal training in some music school? No. What matters is that they fulfill a purpose for the Pagan community that they are in (the lead and oversee good drum circles) . Same applies to the Elders. There is some basic criteria common to most Pagan communities (year of life, years of involvement in Paganism, emotional and spiritual stability, etc) . However, the need thing about Role Traditions is that each community specifies exactly what is the criteria for the position and who meets the criteria. True through netowrking and communications, the accepted Role Tradition members of community is often accepted in other communities; but it is not absolute. What is a "great Drummer" in one community may be seen as only a mediocre drummer in another. An Elder in one community may be just an old person in another. An Elder in one tradition may be just a interesting person (or worse) to the community of another tradition. So defining what an Elder is, what an Elder does, what respect is given to an Elder, and what is expected of an Elder, various from community to community. An Elder is a community service position. Based upon the needs and desires of the community that the Elder is in. The Elder serves in a manner that meets the desires of the community of s/he loses the title and respect of the community. Same applies to drummers, earth keepers and guardians.

Elders Are Created, Not Self-proclaimed Jun 3rd. at 10:03:38 am EDT

Alan Braden (Aiken, SC) Age: 37 - Email

What is your definition of an Elder?

Our ancestors are our elders. Those who came before us, either through relation or spiritual legacy, are our "previous generation." Some of these people may have passed on, others are still with us. The people who blazed the trails that others now walk in relative safety are our elders.

Do we need Elders?

Elders create what the basis of the world will exist for the next generation. Thus, it would be impossible to exist in this modern Pagan world without the work of the elders who came before us.

Do we want Elders?

The young of any path look for elders to teach them, the adolescents look for establishments to rebel against, and the adults of any community look for fellows to join with and raise their children together.

>What would be the role of an Elder in the Pagan/Heathen >communities?

To establish the traditions that will become embraced, encoded, enriched and/or ignored by future generations, just as we follow this same behavior in all other walks of life.

>Who decides who is an Elder?

I think its a zen process. Time and experiance make you an elder, if you engage in the actions that promote community. Someone who hides in the broom closet all thier lives leaves behind no spiritual legacy for others to learn from. I'm not saying its all about covens, I'm saying its about giving back to the larger world. How you find a way to do that is between you and the Gods you serve.

>Can someone simply declare him/herself an Elder?

There are people who declare themselves High Preistess and High Priest without ever having done a thing to earn that title. There are obviously people who declare themselves elders. I do not personally think you *should* declare yourself, as it should be a title of some tiny honor. I think you shoul mention that you consider OTHER people to be elders, and hope that your actions are befitting that they think of you in the same way. Chasing after, or demanding the status of an elder is childish, counter-productive, and nauseating to watch.

>Do you discern a difference between ‘someone with a >respected position in society’ and ‘an official of a >religious group’?

Either person of either position stands to act as much like an elder (giving back to the world, teaching, creating, supporting) than not (hoarding power, creating turmoil for the sake of personal gain, destabilizing community) . So no, I do not make any special distinguishments between these positions.

>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?

Yes. I feel I should point out that many "Big Name Pagans" have gone for periods of time without belonging to any particular group - in some cases have even been ostracized from groups they in fact created. Does this diminish their achievements? Obviously not. Therefore, "current" membership has nothing to do with one's ability to contribute to their community. Likewise, a dedicated solitary has much to teach people who are afraid that they could *only* be effective in a group setting.

Again and again it seems that contribution is the key.

>Is age a factor? Wisdom? Proven track record?

I would have to go with "track record" as it implies conduct along with at least a minimal passage of time. If you could show me a teenager who has freely made it part of their own life to take on the responsibility of walking this path and helping others walk with them, then I would be amenable to the agurment that this person might be considered an elder in their community.

As for wisdom - we are all human. We all make mistakes. None of us are so perfect that whatever advice we give will always be completely right. How then do you measure "wisdom" as an absolute? It makes more sense to measure wisdom as part of that track record.

>Who do you consider to be an Elder?

There are too many people from too many places to list here. I can only say that my life has been enriched by the guidance and perserverance of the elders of my spiritual community, whether I have ever met them or not.

Elders Are The Backbone.. Jun 3rd. at 7:49:43 am EDT

Kieran (Georgia) Age: 38 - Email

Elders are the backbone of the community, large or small. Yes, age does matter along with experiance. That is why they are elders. In my thoughts and what I have seen in the last 11 years of practicing, an elder is someone who is older then you in the age and practicing since of the word. I have elders in my coven that are only a few years older then me but have been practicing longer and more activly. I believe the elder can have as much fun as the younger ones but with more respect given. I am an elder to my children, we are all elders of one kind or another. I must agree though, it is a little off the wall to say that a 13 year old is an elder, but yet they are an elder to the 9 year old if they are mature enough to be. Yes, elders are very important, and it is hard to believe the question was even asked. I look forward to being gray haired, wearing long dresses, and watching the young work as I have done to become what I became. I pray one day, that question does not have to be asked anymore and respect can just be given because it is only right to respect and learn from who has been there before you.

Elders Jun 3rd. at 3:40:09 am EDT

Rainwriter (Hawaii) Age: 33 - Email

Elders-what a loaded word, and perfect for such a seemingly simplistic question...

Elders are teachers. No, that is not quite right. They do so much more than teach. Hmmm..

Elders are old. No, that is not quite right either. A person can be an Elder and not be "old" per say. Why, most of the Elders I have meant are forever young. Cheers..

Elders have knowledge. Yes, but that isn't quite right either, because knowledge without experience is just book learning. There is so much more, not that I'm knocking book learning. Heaven forbid..:)

Elders pass on their lifetimes so their mistakes and triumphs can be shared by anyone who seeks what they have to share, all while offering endless comfort and guidance and while wielding great patience. Whew..

Elders are to be appreciated, cherished, thanked, and then... pumped for all the knowledge they have to pass on. :)

Elders are priceless.

Oh yes, thank you Wren, Fritz, Penny Novack, Grandpa, Doris, and so many, many others who have been generous enough to guide me, even when they didn't know they were doing it.

Thats A Debate Jun 3rd. at 12:21:38 am EDT

darkendstar (ontario, california) Age: 21 - Email

As they tell stories and experences there is almost always a need for Elders. There life stories, experences, and all around knowledge is one that enlightens us. Though some may seem as if there tails are to herindous to believe or partake in, there is still the knowledge that we can learn from them. For them, with age, know experences that we may never partake from but can learn from, and relate to. I have learned about this world from them, there travles, there excitements. I learned about love, the sprits, the world around us all from my elders. The teach us, help us grow, and see our futures. So as for me my elders are my past and the link to my future. Learn from them, listen to them and be enlightend.

Now please, I am new to this website. So if this offends anyone I am truly sorry, but is says to express your thoughts and this is them. So I did that.

Elders? Jun 2nd. at 9:01:53 pm EDT

T. Brisson (Visalia, Ca.) Age: 44 - Email

Based on my experience so far, an elder's primary usefulness is to teach you that you don't need one.

I'm willing to change my mind, of course! ; )

What Is An Elder? Jun 2nd. at 2:25:22 pm EDT

Dame (Michigan) Age: 31 - Email

An Elder is someone who can read these responses and not burst out laughing. Also, an Elder is someone who will not hold you accountable for your typing or spelling. Do we need Elders? Not half as much as we need Grammar Check! Forces that you cannot control or interpret designate an Elder. For some people there entire existence is simply to provide an example of what not to do. They in there own inept way have cleared your path. Be grateful for those who know not what they do. It keeps the community so busy we don't have the time to check your credentials. And it harm none . . . yeah right!

A Little Of Both Jun 2nd. at 11:45:53 am EDT

Severix Bloodfox (Kentucky) Age: 14 - Email

To me, an elder is someone with experience and with that experience guides others. And whether they know that they are elders or not, they continue what they do as a sense of responsibility to preserve what precious little is left in the gloomy days ahead.
If age were a factor in an elder's life, then we would have several more elders. Some of which wouldn't have any sort of experience. I have several elders in my family, and I use my description of elder to describe them.
If an elder were based on age or wisdom, some things would be left unknown, because sometimes the smallest, most insignificant things, are the most important of all.
Blessed Be,
Severix Bloodfox

Elders? Jun 1st. at 8:45:21 pm EDT

Charlayne Elizabeth Denney (Friendswood (Houston) Texas) Age: 46 - Email

An Elder is someone who knows more than anyone and still knows they have a lot left to learn.

The Elder walks in grace and beauty but isn't afraid to get her hands dirty caring for that which needs caring for.

An Elder will impart wisdom to those who seek it but will not force the issue: they realize that the best lessons are learned by the seat of your pants just as the Elder learned them.

An Elder sets the example but does not miss the fact that there are those who set the example for them as well.

An Elder knows when to speak up and knows when to stay silent and can tell when it's right to smile because what wasn't said was wiser than the spoken.

An Elder isn't afraid of age, doesn't care about the gray hair, and knows that life is too short to worry about the laugh lines.

An Elder will probably be the last one to admit they are Elders and the first one to be asked to stand in as an Elder when needed.

It doesn't take rites, religious definitions, age, gray hairs, or even lots of book-learning to be an Elder. It takes having the wisdom, knowing the way, being willing to impart when asked, stay silent when not asked, and to lead by example and by personal responsiblity.

Elders are the students of yesterday, the leaders who were and the examples of what should be in the future. They are very important in the community and should be honored for their wisdom.

Elders Exist Jun 1st. at 8:40:22 pm EDT

Ailliefilliu (Norfolk, Va) Age: 22 - Email

I think of an Elder as one who spreads wisdom to those who have less of it. In paganism, we find that not all youths are young, and not all Elders are truly old. An Elder can quickly be found, usually it is because they are recounting tales of days gone by.

Not all Elders are Elders. Being a Crone or Sage is posible with out some form of recognition, but an Elder is teaching wise things, intended or not.

I personally know five elders from different paths, three Matriarchs and two of their consorts. Though, each follows a slightly different path from each other, and all follow a different path from mine, I still recognize them all as Elders through the respect given them by their students and clansmen.

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