Our elders are leaving us at an alarming rate. Just these past few months have seen the passing of Judy Harrow, Donald Michael Kraig, Morning Glory Zell Ravenheart, and now Margot Adler. More will surely follow, and the loss to our community is multifold.
As voices and leaders leave us, it is clear that others must take their place. Too many are too willing to step up –for the chance of fancy titles and an adoring crowd, and too few are willing to do the work –yet will criticize those who try when their attempts fail. But the need for leaders, for teachers, for positive examples of what it really means to live this life, to see the world through starlight eyes, this need is real. It isn’t going away. And with every passing elder the need grows.
It makes sense that those with firsthand training from our elders should step up, take their place, and maintain that legacy of wisdom, experience, and knowledge. But the need is far greater than they can manage, as it was for the elders, too. And we are flung so far across the land, pockets here and there. And the diversity that is Paganism now is… breathtaking. Is it even possible to find one of a like mind, anymore? To find another whose practice is similar to our own? That high level of variation will be key in our survival as a movement.
Paganism is a new religious movement, and all religious movements face a crisis point when the founder(s) pass(es) away. Those who laid the foundation and set the course are no longer around to provide guidance. And the times have changed, as they are wont to do, from that of when the movement first came to be. The vision of the elders may be hard to perceive in the given societal atmosphere and with differing motivation and viewpoint by the younger generations, it may not have a place nor purpose anymore. Maintaining a balance between adapting to the current culture and upholding the integrity of the movement (and what drew everyone to it in the first place) becomes crucial to survival.
As Pagans, we prize personal responsibility and self sufficiency. Not only do we hold ourselves accountable for our choices, but so, too, do our Gods and Spirits. We work firsthand with Them, listening to Their guidance and asking for help, as needed, in exchange for doing Their work and the energetic exchange that comes with devotion. We build these relationships, these friendships, and our lives are changed for it, made better for it -even when numerous challenges surface as a result. For many of us, these relationships are the only teachers we have, that firsthand interaction with our Gods and Spirits and the experience gained from these relationships and from living in harmony with the Land and the changing of the Seasons. There is wisdom, experience, and knowledge within these ways worth passing on, too.
So, those of us who are not elders, whose lives are filled with conversations with Gods and Spirits, who no longer know any other way than the turning of the Wheel, than the feel of magick coursing through our bodies, what obligations are we under to the community? To the ever constant, and ever growing, need for teachers and leaders? Does our level of commitment and dedication obligate us to step up, to do what we can, to teach what we know to those who will listen? If not us, who?
Truth is a personal and subjective thing, and the greater the variation within Paganism, the less clear certain “truths” remain. Yet, lies and misinformation are often blatant, and allowing those to flourish, especially in regards to something that we hold as sacred, can be not only harmful but counter to any claims of importance and sanctity we may profess. In this same regard, are we not then obligated to squash such lies and misinformation? Are we not, then, obligated to teach our truths?
For those with the luxury of teachers, training, and lineaged traditions, the way forward may be a bit clearer. But, for those who are Spirit led, the way is often… winding, muddy, and unpredictable. The Spirit led, even operating within the Pagan umbrella, often walk a very personal, rather solo path, engaging with the community sporadically. Our wisdom is hard gotten, and may not be appreciated much the same by those who didn’t have to work so hard for it, and surely the Mystery isn’t there for them… What obligation are we under to the community and the growing need for teachers and leaders?
My mind runs in circles and the questions far outweigh any answers…
Throwing the Bones