A while back, I wrote a post about being a “helicopter Elder” and how this was definitely something I didn’t want to be involved within. The younger generation of Pagans is moving into positions of leadership throughout the various Pagan communities and traditions, and they bring a lot of expectations of what they can do for the way Paganism currently is, or at least the corner of that they inhabit. And a lot of that desire for change, that desire to place their stamp on Paganism as they see it, is likely to ruffle the feathers of a lot of older Pagans. That’s the shorter arch of the plot, but the longer one is whether the various traditions – and even Paganism itself – will survive the potential sea-change that is coming.
Recently, Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship – otherwise known as ADF, went through an issue related to the actions of their tradition’s founder. I’m not going to cover the issue in its entirety, if you are looking for all of that, a Google search will provide all the reward for your efforts. The previous actions of Isaac Bonewits, in regard to under-age individuals, was seemingly brushed over in the past. Sort of like an “Isaac being Isaac” type of statement. However, now, after his passing and in the age of the #MeToo movement, there was a lot of backlash over these previous actions. How would ADF deal with this? Well, it took time, as well as the resignation of a few folks from ADF, but the Mother Grove repudiated (rightly so) the actions of their founder, and removed his status as a venerated ancestor – effectively putting the tradition in the awkward spot of moving forward without a piece of its foundation. But that begins to beg another question, is there a future for a Tradition without its founding member(s)?
Moving Forward Without the Past
So, let’s set the ADF off to the side at this point. They provide an example of what will be happening throughout Paganism in many Traditions and frameworks. How does one move into the future when the Past does not seem to translate well or correctly into a constantly changing social paradigm? Well, sometimes the aspects of the Past do not translate well going into the future. Newer generations will look to the manner in which to alter or change aspects of a Tradition to meet what they will need. Certainly, this can be done without firing the Past into the fire to burn into ash, but the new will alter the Present for the Future.
For instance, going back to the ADF as an example: repudiating their founding member does not change what ADF is today. Nor does it remove the strong basis that the ADF built, not just on Isaac’s work but the work of countless and thankless others. In fact, if you look at the current members – even those who have decided to leave – what ADF is today is the product of their hard work, dedication, sweat, tears, love, fears, and bravery. Certainly, an aspect of their foundation is having to be chipped away because of the unethical behavior of their founder, but there is more to the basis than just his name. A de-emphasis in Isaac will be necessary going forward, and a re-emphasis on what the members as a collective group have accomplished to this point and into the future will be needed. Honestly, that is for ADF to decide – I am not a member. Just a friend to many members of the Order.
Change Will Be Necessary to Grow
I remember very well what I was like when I first set foot into my Pagan Path. I had dreams of good activity. Where my Path was about upholding what was great about my new Path when compared to the excesses and hypocrisy of Christianity. Ah, the “fluffy-bunny” days. So idealistic. However, as I progressed on my Path, so did my expectations and understanding of what I was experiencing within Paganism. As I grew, my Spiritual Path changed. I learned to work with the Dark aspects of life. I learned that the “love and light” perspective was only one of many. I was burned by others who were hypocritical, untrue, and even predatory with their own Paths. I found that Paganism was no different than Christianity or any other Spiritual Path. For me to become the Pagan that I am today, I needed to alter and change my Path – not only to my own understanding, but also to the manner in which Society around me changed as well. if I was to grow, I had to change.
Paganism is going to go through this as well. The younger generations that are stepping into the roles of leadership, even the lower level aspects of leadership, will help place their own understanding and experiences into what they do. They may change the approach to public rituals, altering ritual structures to accommodate what they feel works. And honestly, I will likely disagree with them, as may many others who have been in the leadership roles of Paganism over the years. But many of us may be set in our ways of how to do things, having done these for so many years. Sooner or later, we will realize that we need to step aside, and let those with energy, youth, and – yes – new ideas come to the forefront. Paganism will change going into the future. As will Wiccan, Druidry, and other Traditions, as each evolves into whatever the future social environments will provide and require.
When groups, like the ADF currently, go through troubling issues, there is a tendency to thank one’s lucky stars that you are not a part of their system. After all, their issues just give Druidry and Paganism a black-eye, right? We should avoid these folks at all costs. Because if Isaac did it, the rest of ADF is the same way, right? Well, some folks can think like that, but not me. I may be of a different Druid order, I may be a different kind of Pagan, I may be a different type of Priest, but I still grieve with them over such an issue. My compassion for the members of the ADF doesn’t stop at the border of my own Druid Order or at the borders of how I approach my Paganism. My compassion is there for them. I want to see their Order succeed from this ordeal (and others that are also being addressed within the Order). Because I don’t see them as competition, I see them as human beings – working their way through this Life by finding the Spiritual methodologies that translate best to what they are trying to do. And I really just want the best for them; however, they may find it. I would say the same for any group of Christians going through the same thing – even if they wished ill to me. Its not for me to say how people walk their own Paths. Nor is it for me to try and keep the future generations of Pagans from altering aspects of today’s Paganism for their future.
Will ADF survive? I believe so. It will still take time, a lot of discussion, debate, argument, tears, shouting, hugging, and mutual respect/love. However, I am confident that the organization will get there, once common ground is achieved. The process will be painful. As a friend to many of the members, I am always available for hugs, support and a shoulder to cry into. I have no solutions for them, I am not a part of their Order, but I certainly have compassion for the growth and change they are going through.
Will Paganism survive? Of course it will. Some of the changes that may occur will not always be to my liking. However, the Paganism that I will eventually leave behind at my passing will be what worked for me. Others may take up what I have done, alter it for their means. When they are finished with the alterations, I would probably not recognize it. But then, its a Paganism for them, not for me. I’ll be happy being a foundational part (or not, as the case might be) of what they do.