Thoughts on the Label of “Elder”

During Pantheacon 2016, I was reminded by a young lady I was talking to before one of the panels, that I am an elder within Paganism.

“Well, at 50, I guess I can be considered an Elder of some sort.”

“No. That’s not what I meant. I was talking about all the time you have been on your Pagan Path. You said it in one of your podcasts, you’ve been on your Pagan Path for something like twenty years. That’s where you get the perspective of an Elder.”

At that point, I politely nodded, and smiled. Luckily for me, Shauna Knight started her panel, and our attention was diverted to her. But those few moments managed to stick with me through the entire Convention, and on through to today.

I’m no fan of labels, particularly ones such as “Elder” or “priest”. But I do have to continually remind myself I have been on my Pagan Path since 1987. In 2018, I would be ending my 30th year as an individual on a Pagan Path. Thirty years. ::sigh:: It certainly does not feel that way. I have only been picking my way through the OBOD Bardic Grade for the last five-plus years, and what I have read through, and worked through is about the closest framework I have ever found for what I believe. Wicca didn’t do it for me. Moving through a Spiritual-but-not-religious framework was even worse. For the longest time, I wasn’t sure how to classify what I believe and practice. That’s twenty-plus years of wandering through the Pagan desert of Spirituality.

And how does time really make me an “Elder”? Perhaps time should really be a better utilized measure towards personal experience. I have always envisioned “Elders” as those who have accumulated knowledge with that experience – they are the ones that can help keep people on their chosen Paths. I don’t see myself as some kind of Elder. Smeg, I just got here….thirty years ain’t nothing.

Or am I wrong? Last year, I struggled with the terminology associated with “priest” – and I eventually came around to understanding how I am a priest, just not one of the Christian-style concept I had carried around for that word for so long. Truthfully, I still cringe when I hear my name associated with being a priest. But I no longer react as quickly as I had before. But Elder…this is definitely going to take a lot more unpacking. And I am not sure there is enough bed-space, table-space, and floor-space for me to completely unpack this in a way that I can work with.

Walking on Wild Horse Island in Montana

I definitely need to do more walking on my Path before accepting a label of “Elder”

I see the word Elder as being associated with older…getting grey, if you will. But. I haven’t shaved in a few days, and I certainly see a massive amount of grey in my beard. Vast amounts of Knowledge is another area, and here it is my perception that will hold me back. I am not that knowledgable about religious or faith concepts. I couldn’t utilize the etymology of the folks that argue articles and aspects of faith. In fact, that’s usually the fastest way to get me to bow out of a discussion – start arguing the semantics of a term or concept. So I definitely do not see myself as an Elder in that regard. And then there’s the function of helping people on their own chosen Paths. Pointing out some of the pitfalls that one has gone through, so that others may walk the Path smoother than you had. Ok. I’ll plead guilty to that one. I do that with the podcast. In fact, that was one of the primary reasons I started “From the Edge of the Circle” in the first place.

But where does all of that leave me? Can I pick up the cloak that was offered? Can I really be an Elder of some sort? Should I pick up that cloak? And here, unlike my self-discussion over accepting the concept of priest, I just cannot bring myself to do so for Elder. I may have the experience of being a Pagan for nearly thirty years, but I just don’t have the Knowledge-base to do such a title or label any form of justice. In many ways, my Path has only become more developed and refined over the last eight years. Previous to that, it was akin to wandering the desert – aimless, without true definition, and without the necessary dedication I should have had, but didn’t.

And for me, there’s nothing to be ashamed of in what I have stated in the previous paragraph. Its a statement of honesty. Its a statement of perspective. Sure, I can be classified as an Elder simply by the amount of time I have been on a Pagan Path. But time is no measure of experience. And neither are a replacement for Knowledge. And an Elder needs all three, in my opinion, to accept such a label. Sorry, for the time being – that’s definitely not me.

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