There are terms that I will always struggle with. Priest. I still have strongly attached symbolism with that of the Catholic Parish Priest. But I am coming to grips with the concept that I am a Priest. The other is a term that I have tried to resist….even up to this moment is “Elder.” What follows here is a word-for-word typing of something I wrote on Saturday afternoon while at the ADF Imbolc Retreat. What this represents is the thought patterns that were in my brain at the time, and showcases some of the struggles I have with the concept of being an Elder within the Pagan community. In some places, I am a bit harsh with myself, so let me apologize for the way some of it may sound to you as a reader who might not be intimate with my thought processes.
WARNING: Some of the language I use in this post is definitely NSFW.
What does it mean to be an Elder of the community? I just don’t know how I should act or how I should respond to various stimuli or questions. I started on my own Path back around 1986. I had no clue where I was going. I had no idea what exactly being a Pagan meant in my life. I knew that I believed in many, individual Gods and Goddesses. I knew that a central focus of the “Natural World” was what I believed. Until that time I met JB, I never knew there was a name for what I believed.
Those first steps. Those Gods-awful missteps are so vivid in my mind. They were just yesterday – not thirty years ago. Thirty fucking years. How does time pass like that? It certainly doesn’t feel like that much time. But thirty years will make me an Elder, whether I like it or not. Whether I like the designation or not. “Its there, “says Crow, “Deal with it however you want. Just deal with it.”
This weekend, I am spending at an ADF Imbolc Retreat, and so many of the folks here are far younger than I – some just barely twenty or even short of that mark. Which means when I started down my Pagan path – they had not even been born into this lifetime. I watch how easily they step down this way – and remember my own tentative steps. I was twenty-one, nearly the same age. I remember how overwhelmed I was, how confused I was as new and foreign concepts were shown to me; how frustrated my own teachers and Elders were when I tried to transcribe those thoughts and concepts into verbiage I could comprehend. And I wonder – what obstacles do they encounter as they move through their first years? Are these similar to what I went through? Are these issues different because they have so much more access to introductory materials? What am I going to contribute to the overall bedrock that they have?
I’m not a teacher nor am I part of a group. Outside of the blog and the podcast, how am I adding to the community? The blog never receives that much traffic; though the podcast will generate traffic over a period of time. Changing the format of the podcast to one where others tell their stories is far better than me blathering on like I did on From the Edge of the Circle. But I need to focus on the overall timing of shows as well – both the length of each show, and when it gets published. Creating podcasts has a degree of tedium and time consumption to it. I need to focus on how to achieve that with a better degree of consistency. But beyond the podcast and the blog, what the fuck am I doing? What am I giving back to the Pagan community, as well as the younger generation of Pagans?
I know some might perceive this to mean I am slightly concerned about the younger generation of Pagans. That is correct to some degree, but not really the complete truth. This younger generation of Pagans seems to be more grounded, more focused, more intent, and more in-tune than when I was their age. Much of that can be attributed to generational differences, as well as a desire to learn. At their age, my focus was on partying and living life by using the maximum amount of money and time possible – much like the rest of my generational cohort in the middle of the decade of excess. My focus seems to be on how this newer Pagan generation might view the stupidity of my generation.
Perhaps my thoughts are focused on a concept of legacy, or maybe its the sentimentality of an older, foolish me. But then, what the fuck am I expecting? Trumpets? Cheers? Back slaps and fist-bumps? To be told that my generation of Pagans actually matters? All I really need to do is look at the authors, the bloggers, the podcasters, the musicians, the artists, the poets, the metal-smiths. I’ll find my answer there. Wake up and look at that, Tommy! The legacy is already there – who gives a shit how smooth or polished it is or isn’t. You are an Elder here and NOW. Whether you like it or not. Deal with it. However that happens. There are other things that need to be done. Some Pagans will look to you for leadership; again, whether you like it or not. BE THAT PAGAN instead of the one mooning and pining over a Past that is already written. Come to the now, not the yesterday. Be the Pagan Priest that are meant to be – stop worrying about the Pagan that you weren’t.
“Elder is just a word; focus elsewhere. You want a place to start? Be who you are, not a definition. Start with helping to grow more Bardic Arts. Learn and tell stories by the campfires with the other Bardic folk. Get used to being in front of people. Because that’s who you are. You cannot hide any longer.” -Crow