Paganism is one of the fastest growing groups of religion in the United States at this time. The term covers a multitude of subsets with a multitude of ideas and practices. Wiccans, Druids, Neopagans, Animists, Witches, Norse; the list is long, with many not always agreeing on who should be on this list.
As Paganism continues its development, it is experiencing quite a few growing pains and one of these growing pains unfortunately concerns the Elders of our communities.
Because many of the subsets under the name Paganism are relatively new religions or religions being resurrected from the past, we have some difficulty in defining who we and our elders are. Is an Elder someone who has practiced their whole life or just the last ten years? Is it someone who has attained high priestess status or the old sage who practices alone? Someone who authored a book on the subject? It is hard to tell within the pagan community. And many young people who are drawn to Paganism don’t even realize there are Elders.
In-fighting has been a big part of the pagan community to date. Power struggles occur, feelings get hurt, egos get bruised, ideas are challenged and some find it difficult to find their place in this loose structure. This makes it almost impossible for the elders to fully offer their knowledge and experience. The groups are ever evolving, building and rebuilding. Beginnings aren’t always easy.
Many of the Elders in our community do not want to get tied up in the in-fighting. They have probably already been through it and past it. Their wisdom and belief systems allow them to choose carefully which situations they choose to present themselves in. Many are out there and willing, but would rather focus on practicing their religion. For now I believe they are watching and waiting, attending only those selected events and festivals where they feel comfortable.
Many in the Pagan community talk of the need for Elders but in fact aren’t really ready for them. Elders make sense and tell truths that not everyone is ready for. Elders have a different point of view. They have learned their craft and learned from their mistakes. I have seen how Elders are treated. I understand them standing back. In our culture, Elders do not have the stature they once had and that is not any different in Paganism.
We Elders are out there and we have all the time in the world to pause and let Paganism go through its processes and then start to settle down. For now we will just practice our arts and wait for nature to take its course.