Realizing the Pagan Evolution
Article ID: 8747
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 4,734
Times Read: 7,807
Author: Rev. Gina Pond [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: October 10th. 2004
Times Viewed: 7,807
."..[M]any of us "oldies" becom[e] quite dismissive of the younger, which is a shame as this new generation has much to contribute and should not be dismissed as "fluffy bunnies" - a term we detest by the way! This generation is one of the first which is truly Pagan; many have been brought up within Pagan families or in multi-denominational communities and do not carry the same monotheistic baggage that many of us have had to learn to cast off. We think this will result in one of the biggest challenges for neo- Paganism and particularly Wicca, as the older generation strive to maintain the integrity of the philosophy and beliefs that have developed over the years, while the new generation attempt to incorporate new ideas which may be at odds with the old established doctrines."
-- From The Witches' Voice interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone by Caroline Kenner
When I read this paragraph from the TWV interview with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, I was truly heartened. As a 28-year-old Pagan, I still come across, from Elders, the attitude of: "Well, you weren't there when being a Witch was so secretive and there were no books out! You have it so much easier than we did, so you don't know what it means to really be a Witch!" Or, "You aren't a real Witch because you haven't been initiated in X Tradition (or Path, or Family, etc.)!" It disturbs me to still find this attitude in paths that profess to be progressive and moving with the Earth. It is a dark topic that not a lot of older Pagans seem willing to talk about, especially those in a specific tradition. What we need to look at now is why there is a turn towards a more black and white view of Paganism among some Elders and why there is an aversion towards allowing the Older Paths to evolve and accept fresh ideas from the next generation.
In some ways, I suppose this is a sign that Paganism has truly become more mainstream. All major religions have those who know that their way is the correct way. The attitude of "We are right and you are wrong" has created so much havoc in the world, that as much as it can be a barometer of becoming more mainstream, it seems counter to the ideals that the average Pagan holds dear.
This can also cause many problems for the new Pagan who is truly searching for teachers. One is that the young Pagan can find an Elder who has this attitude and be so turned off, that she is disheartened and stops her Spiritual quest. And second, in the most extreme (and a trap that I unfortunately fell into), a new Pagan can be taken in by an Elder who is only interested in his or her own prestige and end up feeling used and scarred from the experience. In some cases, it may even be abusive. This can result in a new Pagan turning away from Paganism altogether or being wary even of true Elders who genuinely want to give of their knowledge.
I know that a majority of Elders in this community are there to genuinely help new Pagans find their way, but as we move forward in strength and power as a community, this is a topic that must be talked about and discussed. In some ways, the more we try to convince the general public that Pagan groups are not cults and not abusive, the more we avoid the subject all together. As I've said to people in several different communities: How can we be taken seriously as a community if we are turning against our own? How can telling a new Pagan that his or her spiritual experience is not as legitimate as the Elder's experience be a good thing?
From my experience, it has always been expected that we respect our Elders in the Craft. And I fully agree with this. But I also ask Elders to respect those who are new to (or young members of) the Pagan Community. We may not have been through the time where Paganism had to be kept secretive, but we have had our own experiences with discrimination, bigotry, and hostility. We are the future of Paganism, and are trying to move it forward. We also have new ideas. Maybe it's a new way to meditate, or a different take on a part of the ritual. Maybe it's a view of the Goddess that could be considered entirely unorthodox, or maybe it's just interpreting someone's writings differently. Maybe it's the integration of a totally different pantheon with the one that's already being used. The thinking is truly evolutionary and global since we have access to so many new ideas and beliefs.
Without influx of new ideas and experiences, the Pagan movement would grow stagnant and die. As Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone said, Elders need not dismiss the ideas of the next generation. We have so many examples of how religions can stagnate and turn away practitioners that we should be learning from them and making sure we don't fall prey to their mistakes.
I have had the unfortunate experience of falling prey (for a long time) to an "Elder" who has done what I have just described: belittling my own personal spiritual experiences, not listening to new ideas, and telling me that the tradition I was learning was the only real way to be a Witch. Granted, what happened to me was an extreme, but I have heard and read about other Elders who think the same way. For a time, after I left, I was disillusioned about the Goddess and in doubt of my own spirituality. I have been lucky and blessed that I've had a lot of good Elders cross my path since then, but I wonder what would have happened if I wasn't so lucky. I might have turned away from Goddess all together, and I think that realization is a sad one.
Pagans are people who celebrate the Earth and Her changes. She is changing all the time, and as a community, we have to shift and grow with that change. It is the only constant we are given.
Rev. Gina Pond
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Author's Profile: To learn more about Rev. Gina Pond - Click HERE
Bio: Athena is a Witch currently living on the East Coast, but will soon be moving to the West Coast. She is now a solitary, and looking into a more shamanistic approach to her magick. She is also an AIDS activist, political activist, writer, and the mother of two cats. And when she's not doing that, she works as a scientist.
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