Have We Forgotten Our Elders?
Article ID: 11871
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,482
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Author: Church of the Blessed Moon
Posted: July 8th. 2007
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Once upon a time, I spent a season on an e-list of Pagan Leaders. There I came to enjoy the writings of many of the elders in our community. Their thoughts, feelings, and struggles with the answers to questions beyond what could be found in any book or class I could have taken, as I was new to my leadership position at the time. Some of the ideas, in particular that of a man named Bonewits, still echo in my mind as I strive to do the words “Pagan Leader” justice.
Once upon a time, I spent many years, listening and watching Pat Allgeier, as she taught me through words and example. “What would you like to know, ” she said with a smile. Time and time again I asked the questions that, as a neophyte, I could find no answer to. Not in any book, not on any website, not in any Wicca 101 class.
The respect I have for my elders is immeasurable. The thought of their sacrifices (and it’s not just a matter of time and money spent) brings me to tears, and awe. It takes my breath away. Even as I experience what it means to lead my small community in the boot heel of Missouri, I know it is only a taste for the years to come.
All the days I will spend from my children, and my career. All the time I will devote to students, with the hope that I can be a catalyst for change in their lives. All the moments I will fret, that when the day comes to retire, someone will take on my responsibilities. All of it is just a taste. A taste of what they have been doing, and beyond, before I was even born in the 1970's.
When I hear word of people disrespecting our elders, I have to wonder, why? Is it a matter of ignorance? Do they fear what they do not know? Perhaps they do not understand the sacrifices or know their words. Is it a matter of ego posturing?
I know sometimes people only feel great if they put someone else down. Are these mental health issues? Some people feel a psychological need to unleash fury upon others. Are people not listening to the Divine within us all? Or do they not know it is there to listen to?
As I travel and experience different Pagan groups, I often wonder about the forms we are taking. I have met groups of Pagans where their only frame of reference is a book, website, or movie. As a result, they do not have the knowledge base or confidence to be competent within their own faith perspective.
Sometimes they want to know more, but don’t know how. Sometimes they are content in their ignorance, and fight vehemently to maintain it. That is not to say that learning Paganism through books makes one ignorant. Rather it is the intent to stay ignorant.
Has our mass marketing of our faith created an environment where Pagans do not feel a need to know and appreciate our elders? In this, has the richness of learning Paganism through human contact been lost or minimized?
Perhaps that is why it is so easy for some to play at magick and ritual. Perhaps to them, the universe that Paganism helps one to discover is symbolic, or a joke. I imagine to some, an elder is but a face on a book, a person on a DVD, or some speaker at a workshop. They are not people to them.
Maybe the freedom that we enjoy in this day and age to be Pagan in public places has been taken for granted. Although I’m not one of those types of folks to scream persecution at a whim, I can imagine living in a world where our religion is not legally recognized as legitimate. Please, do not think the government gave such legal graces to us because, one day, the President woke up and said, “Wouldn’t it be nice to recognize Paganism?”
Long before we fought to put a symbol on a tombstone, we had to fight to even be recognized as a legitimate faith perspective. This took time, money, and effort. Efforts made by our elders to secure the future, not only of our religion, but the future of their children and grandchildren. Otherwise, we may not be able to join together in public places with 4 generations of Pagans, without fear of reprisal.
Sadly, maybe for some people, our elders are nothing more than a symbol. A stamp, a name, a brand. When they talk about their new practice or ritual or writings even, perhaps naming an elder is just an attempt to give credence or class to something that would otherwise be unnoticeable, plain, or just another. Perhaps in symbolizing our elders, it makes it ok to try and hurt them or to ridicule them. After all, it’s just a symbol.
Symbols don’t have feelings, or families, or lives. Perhaps a symbols only purpose is to twist it to whatever means the twister wishes to accomplish. I hope this is not the case, but lately I am left to wonder.
But for some of us, and I hope many of us, our elders are our grandparents, our parents, and our dear friends. They have been there for those precious moments in our lives, and held our hands through times of darkness. They have been the needed voice of encouragement, and the ones to make us push ourselves to be more. They are a large part of the reason, why I will keep doing the work of our Goddess.
The most important lesson I ever learned from my elders is that we are all family. We may bicker, we may disagree, but we love each other in the end. Love that is unconditional and healthy, not harmful. Even when we do not like or follow some of the decisions or words of our elders, we nonetheless love and respect them.
Why? Because we ARE family.
All of us.
Kendra R. Reece
Church of the Blessed Moon
Copyright: Kendra R. Reece, June 30, 2007
Church of the Blessed Moon
Location: Dallas, Texas
Bio: Kendra Reece is HPS of Church of the Blessed Moon, a group for Pagan families in Southeast Missouri. Kendra is a single mother of 2 toddlers, and does disability law.
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