Introduction 

                                                                                            

One of the most precious resources any community has is the wealth of experience and lore carried by its elders. Yet many Pagan elders withdraw from active participation in community life, long before age and fate would have taken them from us.

They leave for a variety of reasons. Some are emotionally wounded by interpersonal or intergroup conflict. Some are exhausted from years of overwork and under-appreciation. In a first generation religious community, the eldest elders around may feel like advanced beginners themselves and long for elders of their own to guide their growth. Some lose faith, either in the Gods or in the humans around them. One way or another, their needs are not being met.

They leave in different ways. Some will reject religion of any kind, others will convert to some other religion. Some will continue to worship the Old Gods, but withdraw from community to do so alone or in small, closed groups. Some will become corrupt, staying within the community but doing great harm.

We cannot force anyone who is unwilling to remain active in our community, nor should we. We certainly should not even try to manipulate or guilt-trip anybody into staying. The purpose of this workshop is most definitely not "dropout control" in that sense.

If we truly love and respect an elder who, after many years of good service to the Pagan community, finds respite and nurturance elsewhere, we will simply thank them and bless them as they go.

But we will miss and mourn them when they are gone. With every elder that leaves our community we lose a piece of the hologram. We will still have the whole picture within each one of us, to be sure, but it becomes more blurred. Subtler details are lost. Without the benefit of their wisdom and experience, we will sometimes unknowingly repeat their mistakes and sometimes replicate their discoveries instead of building upon them. If we're forever having to get out of ditches or reinvent wheels, we can't expect to move very far forward along our shared Path. Especially since our road does dead end, and we must make or rebuild it even as we travel it.

And so, it is prudent to ask ourselves and one another how we might increase the probability that our elders will choose to continue their active participation within our community. How can we properly prepare people for the role of elder? How can we decrease elders' discomfort and stress? How can we nurture them, or even simply show them our appreciation? And, as each one of us also ages, how can we protect and nurture ourselves and each other so that we can continue to serve the Earth, the people and the Gods together for many years to come? Finally, since all must leave at last, how can we best prepare for the community to continue when age and fate remove beloved elders from our midst?


About these notes

These notes are intended for use by Pagan Elders and by those who are in active training to become Elders. They present some of what we have learned up until now, but they are hardly the final word on the subject. They are not intended to become the basis for the next Pagan fad, nor do they replace what you learn from your own Tradition, your Elders, and your Circle.

As you might expect from Wiccan High Priestesses, our primary religious vocabulary is Wiccan. But these notes are intended for Pagans of all Paths, and for anybody else who may find them useful. We hope that our Druid, Heathen, and Reconstructionist (and anybody else we may have missed) readers will not feel left out, and will make any translation that is necessary to suit their own Paths.

As usual with this series, this is a work in progress. We hope to receive advice, corrections, inspirations, great ideas, criticisms and manifestos concerning this notebook from its readers. Please email Judy to let us know what you think should be different in the next version. We appreciate your feedback. 


We dedicate these notes to all those who seek to learn how to better serve their Gods, their People, and their Earth.

About the authors:

Judy is High Priestess of Proteus Coven, a liberal Gardnerian Wiccan coven in the suburbs of New York City, and proud Grandmother of several covens in that lineage. As a retired civil servant in the best Gardnerian tradition, she is now a full-time writer, teacher and priestess, also maintaining a small private counseling practice. Judy holds an M.S. degree in counseling from City University of New York, and served as chair of the Pastoral Counseling Program at Cherry Hill Seminary. Gwyneth makes her dwelling-place in a small village surrounded by mountains and well-fed ravens…

As you might expect from Wiccan High Priestesses, our primary religious vocabulary is Wiccan. But these notes are intended for Pagans of all Paths, and for anybody else who may find them useful. We hope that our Druid, Heathen, and Reconstructionist (and anybody else we may have missed) readers will not feel left out, and will make any translation that is necessary to suit their own Paths.

We have a long-term passion for sharing skills and information we have learned with Elders and Elders-in-training of every Pagan path. Since we consider this a major part of our calling as priestesses, we do not charge fees for these workshops, but do ask for carfare and crash space.

Acknowledgments

Many people helped us to put these notes together, and we are grateful for their help. Some, like Carl McColman and Jonathon Tominar, are comfortable with being named or directly quoted. Others are not, and we respect their privacy while thanking them as well. Thanks also to the patient and supportive members of our households and covens.

Thanks, most of all, to the first generations of the neo-Pagan renaissance, who found the buried sparks and nurtured them back into flame. You set the light in the window that guided us Home.

Copyright

Copyright for original portions of this work is claimed by Judith S. Harrow © 2005, 2012.  Excerpts of works by other authors presented within these notes are copyright by their respective authors and/or publishers. In accordance with Canadian and American copyright law, reproduction of the published and unpublished works of other authors is for the purpose of private study and fair dealing. .

This notebook, like all the other notebooks in this series, are our free gift to the Pagan community. You have a moral obligation to pay this gift forward. You may use these notes only for not-for-profit purposes of teaching and study. You may freely distribute copies of these notes for such purposes, provided that the authors are clearly identified and that the text is not altered.

These notes may not be reproduced for commercial gain.

You may not incorporate these notes or portions thereof in a work for commercial sale.



Go ahead to Section 1 - Why do they leave?