Angel sent me a link the other day about Pagan Elders and it got me to thinking. Here’s the link if you want to go read it, and for those of you that don’t have web access, ask me and I’ll send you the text. Click here: Our Pagan Elders http://www.greeneggzine.com/Our%20Pagan%20Elders.html
By the way, I don’t think our group has much in the way of issues of the kind of “Elder Problems” nailed down in the article, but I know that Michael is right in general.
I think part of the problem with the Pagan community isn’t just with the Elders and leaders of groups. It has to do with the lack of what the mainstream religions call “fellowship”. They can go from one church to another, at least in their own denomination and be able to sing the same songs, pray the same prayers and so on. They can be pretty sure of being welcomed, since they know how to dress and behave and usually don’t get needled over “doctrine” as long as they are visitors.
Our religion is not based on being part of a flock. I often refer to “herding cats” as the way most of us respond. We are always individuals, always disagreeing even over fundamental points. That is the basis of our faith, but it goes deeper than that.
If we are a community we must have community values. So far, so good! Those we’ve got. The only problem is that the greater pagan community seems to have at the top of the list of community values, “disinterest, fear and “I’m the one who’s right!” <sigh> Dang, we all fall prey to that, but still….
One part of the dedicant pledge and the oaths that Initiates swear is always to serve. Usually, they do, and do it well, but everyone burns out eventually. My own teachers did. “20 years of butting my head against stone walls earns me the right to *sit* on my butt!” Lorena said at one point when the group that they started was dissolving. I agree with her. 2 ½ years of leading, teaching and counseling full-time is difficult enough. I’m not sure that I can do this for 20 years!
The odd part of it is that not only did the core coven dissolve and people scatter to the 4 winds, but the rest of the covens dropped out of touch.
Part of what I so loved being part of that group was that there were about 200-250 people at that height of things that could get together and have rituals and all understand what was going on, no matter how odd the ritual (and some of the experimenting covens came up with true weirdies!) The overall group’s composition resembled ours, actually, with the addition of more “just participants” and more “spouses”. There were 13 covens at the height of it and Lorena’s used to refer to the group as a “witch’s gross”, which still makes me laugh.
But why did the groups not continue to associate after Lorena and Henry left? I keep asking myself that and I don’t truly know the answer.
I do know that as my life fell apart I lost phone numbers and other contact information, but certainly the others didn’t. The few times I saw folks that I recognized and spoke to them they talked about that, too, but I don’t think anyone did anything about it. Were there no leaders in the other groups? The couple that Lorena and Henry turned coordination over to dropped out of sight within weeks from what anyone could tell, and truthfully, I had too much on my plate to even worry about it for a couple of years, and by that time no one was around.
I only recently got back in touch with two people and I don’t even have their contact info. They talk faster than I do (quite a feat, admittedly! <grin>) and have never responded when I asked for that.
I think just plain disinterest in staying together was the problem. But that I don’t really understand. “Real Life” gets in the way, of course. That’s what happened to me. Why did no one try to keep in touch with *me*, though? Why was it only up to me? I know I was going through a rough time, but that’s just when a person needs help.
I know that in certain folks it looks like just plain laziness. How tough is it to pick up a phone and call someone? Or to yell to someone that you know is in your 101 class. “Hey, no class this week!” or to grab someone in the smoking gazebo and say, “Did you get to read the Stuff? Esbat this week.” How hard is it to take a minute to let the teacher know that you’re not going to make it to class? If I had a quarter for each time I’ve gone down to the shop and no one showed up, I could have dinner at the Embarcadero…
I get nabbed whenever I walk into Job Corps because the kids know that I will take a moment to stop and talk to them, even kids I don’t know. So why don’t the rest of you in Job Corps get nabbed? Or do you and you just don’t talk about it….hmm….
But that’s exactly what happens that leaders and teachers burn out! About the 10th time I was at the shop to meet someone or at Job Corps to pick folks up and they didn’t show, I got annoyed. About the 50th I got mad. Now, I just keep telling myself that I asked for this when I did my 2nd degree initiation and promised to serve, but that’s not going to keep me going forever.
Ok, fear… maybe masquerading as reluctance to try something new, or to show for a class or a circle or to join a new discussion group. The mainstream religions talk about fellowship from the standpoint of “we all do things together”. What’s stopping pagans? I must admit certain practices are more comfortable for me than others, but I’ve worked with all kinds from Gardnerian to Feri, from Druids to Dianics and I’ve never had a real issue….except with Satanists (the upside-down xtians, not the LeVey types. …. so, why, when we get together, even though we know the same chants, do we not sing? Why, if we know the same prayers does one person do the saying of them? About the only thing that pretty much everyone says is the “merry meet, merry part, merry meet again.” People not knowing what’s going to happen get afraid to try again. We’re doing ok, I think, because we’re not too burned out to assign someone to the new folks and we’ve got the quick reference sheets.
And then…. I’ve had it happen… you get stomped all over for opening your mouth. I’m both annoyed and upset with the Feri community right now for the way I’ve been treated by a small minority who refuse to believe that I’m an initiate because I don’t fit their parameters. A lot of you have heard me talk about this. It may stop me from becoming part of the community again. Yes, fear on my part, but legit, I think. Who wants to be stomped?
I wish we could leave dogma and doctrine to the x-tians. <sigh>
Ok, enough of my ranting…. but let’s think about this one and see if we can head off some of this before it gets going in our group.
If you have ideas, *don’t* hesitate to bring ‘em up!
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Last update 3/5/21