There are two types of individuals who are qualified to be esteemed as Pagan elders. The first type is extremely wise in the use of his or her knowledge of Paganism, or a specific Pagan tradition. The second type is one who "gets the job done" for the betterment of the Pagan cause. Such elders are needed and welcomed in the Pagan community; they are the "bright lights" along what is often a long, dark path.
Those worthy of Pagan elderhood are those who don't really wish to be Pagan elders. The wise individual and the active individual are simple people, with a great love of their faith. They help others because it is natural to them; it is part of their true selves to share their talents or wisdom. They are not proud; they do not attract attention to themselves. Pagans are drawn to them for advice or assistance, as if drawn by a magnet.
It is possible to find a great comfort in the presence of a true Pagan elder, because their words and actions are honest. No hidden agenda provides their motivation. They live, in harmony with nature, with other people, with the Gods. To view their aura is a spectacular experience. Pagans who discover a true elder are very reluctant to let that person go, even though these unwilling elders tend to move on after awhile. The attention and adulation of others may make them uncomfortable in a way, so they seek a new, quiet place to live. It doesn't take long, however, before Pagans in the new location recognize their presence and seek them out. A distinct energy emanates from these individuals - even as they shop at the mall or grocery store. And, this is a good thing.
In sharp contrast, there are those who set a goal to become a Pagan elder, thinking they can amass money, fame or power in such a position. They promote themselves as experts, usually on a specific tradition or subject matter, and either offer themselves as public speakers or preachers, hold classes for a fee, write articles or books. In today's society, where so many people gullibly believe what they see and hear - often ignoring their intuition or better judgement - such self-proclaimed elders draw the naive to them, and proceed to mislead, confuse and sometimes totally disillusion them about the true meaning of their Pagan faith.
Some of these types seek ordination (usually through various websites) and use the title "Reverend" at every available turn. They may see no use in observing the Sabbats, or the lunar cycles (depending on their professed tradition). The rituals they do hold may seem rather lame, and may tap the energies of others in attendance for the leader's own purpose, rather than raising it and putting it to good use.
The self-styled elders are very careful to offend no one, and end up saying little of any practical use. When confronted by someone knowledgeable in Pagan matters and practices, they avoid answering questions, fearing they will be exposed for their lack of knowledge and their real motivation. They may also become defensive when challenged by an honest seeker, and deride these inquirers for not falling in line with their own skewed beliefs.
The effect of self-proclaimed elders on the Pagan community can be devastating. The media, knowing little about Paganism, will eagerly respond if notified that Reverend So-and-So is holding a public ritual where the attendees will be skyclad, or if he or she offers to give an interview about their unusual (often unorthodox, even in Pagan terms) "ministry". Journalists will take what such a person says at face value, not having any means to counter inaccuracies, through their own lack of resources. Then, when the report is broadcast or printed in the newspaper, and members of other faiths express public horror at the practices of this "elder" and his group, Paganism is dealt a blow which honest individuals will be hard pressed to mend.
True Pagan elders most often see little point in doing battle with these self-proclaimed leaders. More often than not, the life-span of false elderhood is short. Call it karma or the Three-Fold Law, their unethical actions return to haunt them and they eventually vanish into the ether.
It still remains for all Pagans to beware of those who make claims they cannot support, or which are clearly false. The ongoing struggle for acceptance and understanding of Paganism by the general public is difficult enough without misinformation being circulated, or a so-called elder's questionable reputation or actions adding to the difficulty.
Better to trust the quiet Pagan, whose magick is evident in every aspect of his or her life. From these elders, the truth can be learned, and the spirit can grow.
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Last modified: June 12 2016 13:09:05