role models and mature spiritual behaviour

Discussion in 'Alternative' started by bgruagach, Sep 15, 2003.

  1. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    1
    Personally I'm glad to see our fearless moderator has stepped in and clarified some issues regarding copyright and the nature of discussion here. I for one appreciate the mature discussion that takes place here, without the descent into "flame wars" which happens so often on internet discussion boards. I hope we can keep this board that way.

    Now on to the purpose of this thread (which is a continuation of some of what I think were key ideas of a previous thread which was starting to stray...)

    In the vast majority of religious communities, people who are in positions of some authority as priests, teachers, and elders are expected to uphold certain minimal standards of behaviour. In communities that are structured around very clear hierarchies, there are mechanisms in place to at least try and ensure these standards are maintained. If a priest, for instance, does something which is considered a poor example for a role model, those higher up in the hierarchy usually administer some sort of reprimand. Even in the secular world, teachers who fail to uphold the dignity of their position as role models can be stripped of their teaching credentials by their professional organizations.

    Within Wicca and frequently in the larger Pagan community, though, we don't have the same system of hierarchies. Some groups, some traditions do have established hierarchies of authority, and can deal with these sorts of things among their own members. But as a whole, Wicca and the Pagan community does not have a central authority, or even a central scripture. This can be a weakness of our community, but I personally also consider it to be one of our greatest strengths.

    Perhaps because we don't have the central authority in Wicca or in the larger Pagan community, those who present themselves as leaders, teachers, or elders have to be more self-regulating than those in the same role in mainstream, hierarchical communities. We don't have the higher-ups in our community necessary to keep us in line. I would suggest that because this is the case, when we do slip up and act in ways that are not worthy of the respected positions we would like to claim, we should try extra hard to publicly make amends for our mistakes. If we want the respect of our students, our peers, the rest of our religious community, and indeed people outside our religious communities then we have to work hard to be worthy of the respect which we seek.

    Respect isn't earned by having a specific title or lineage, by having a certain number of hours, days, or years of practice behind us, by having any number of "students" who have learned from us. Respect is earned by being worthy of respect, by showing respect to others, by modelling maturity, wisdom, and grace. Respect is earned by being a positive role model for the spiritual ideals of our community, for being a living example of spiritual maturity. Students are to be respected for their desire to learn, their continued efforts to better themselves, their attempts to master and truly understand.

    Just my opinion, of course!
     
  2. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2003
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ben, I wholeheartedly agree with you in principle, but unfortunately human nature is so that there will always be people who will not behave according to the standard one would consider appropriate from elders (be they self-appointed or not). I don't want to sound like the old preachy though-hide jaded guy, but I think this is a fact of life.

    But you are completely right when you state that Neo-Pagan "elders" for lack of a better term must more actively "police" themselves because of the unhierarchical structure of the religion(s).

    Actually, I think that considering the nature of the structure of Wiccan or Neo-Pagan religions, their "elders" have been generally quite considerate in their public dealings, and that the situation could actually be much worse than it is.

    As an aside, just a quick point on the issue of copyright. There is one legal exception to copyright protection, and it is the fair use doctrine. This includes the reasonable and limited use of the copyrighted work such as quoting it for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research. Copyright owners are deemed to consent to fair use of their works by others, and it will generally not be considered an infringement of copyright... Even if the criticism itself is unfair... ;)

    Baud
     
  3. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2003
    Messages:
    6,532
    Likes Received:
    8
    The problem with any form of spiritual leadership is that it will almost inevitably be shaped by two issues to some greater or lesser degree:

    1. Cultural Paradigms, and
    2. Social politics

    The ironic fact is that religion has so often shaped cultures, yet has almost always resulted in distinct local variations. For example, in Europe we have a range of orignally Christian nations, who looked to Rome for the civil and religious laws. Yet there are distinctions in attitudes, behaviours, and practices, across European Christianity, that sometimes make it so surprising that they share such common roots.

    With paganism - my understanding is that, effectively, we're talking about self-structured cultural outlooks, feeding on a variegated hybrid of various viewpoints - not simply cultural, but various environmental and personal. For example, does a person killing an animal for ceremonial purposes really represent somebody trying to emulate the ritual meaning of ancient sacrifice practices, or is it partly an empowering behaviour for somebody who feels a need to cause pain to balance their own personal sense of pain?

    Of course, I'm playing on extremes here, but the point is simply that "moral standing" is hostage to a great many local factors - general culture, personal preference, and probably a number of other local considerations.

    The political issue is a main bugbear here, which is why I listed it separately. The problem being, that any organised group for people therefore creates a political force that can be tapped. (This is, of course, over and above any immediate issues of social politics - the relationship of the dominant males and females to subservient members of the local group, very much in the mould of any other social ape.)

    The notion of the wider politics itself is very important for understanding many movements within various religious histories. For example, the Crusades represent a particularly acute example of how local problems (an ever cramped and bitterly factionalised European nobility) could be directed into turning their political aims and military needs into something masquerading under the guise of a religious banner (land grab in the east).

    Of course, there's also the consideration of how thought within any theological structure can change over time. A modern-day Crusade would not at all receive widespread Christian support in the modern world.
     
  4. BlackHeart

    BlackHeart New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2003
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree with this--but I wonder how to apply it. Paganism isn't one, unified community; not all pagans have the same spiritual ideals or the same ideas of how to reflect the ideals they do share.

    In some groups, kindness & gentle speech are highly valued. In others, truthfulness and keen perception. This leads to name-calling, as each group acts in the way their ideals lead them--and one gets called "wimps" for not speaking out against problems, and the other gets called "rude" for saying what they think when others would rather they didn't. Both are acting according to good pagan ideals.

    Most (possibly all) pagans agree that Maturity, Wisdom, & Grace are traits of respected elders. But many pagans disagree about how those traits are shown.

    There's the other issue... the people who have the respect of their own community by its standards, and really don't give a damn about respect from anyone else. Most of us fall at least a little bit into this--we don't care if we're respected for "good Christian morals." Just as we don't care if we are "sinning against JHVH", some pagans don't care if they are "violating the Rede" or "not working towards the 13 goals of a Witch" or "ignoring the 9 Noble Virtues".

    Should they? Do we have a set of standards that *all* Pagans should follow, even if their own spiritual path doesn't care about those standards?
     
  5. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    1
    I agree completely that the Pagan community is too diverse to even really attempt to establish anything like a "code of conduct" or "moral standards" that are to apply universally. I'm not sure I would encourage that anyways as we would have to sacrifice some of our diversity and autonomy, which I consider among our community's strongest assets. We could certainly try to identify common values (however they are expressed) across our diversity, but I don't think it's a good idea to try and set up a standard and then try to impose it across the whole community.

    Regardless whether we agree on uniform standards, I would suggest that we have a problem in our community at large where some people take on the mantle of leader, teacher, or elder while not living up to the implied responsibilities even within their own specific tradition. It's a case of wanting the privileges that go with the title (like respect... which in these questionable instances is often demanded of others) while not wanting to have to bother with the obligations (being an appropriate role model for their particular tradition, for example.)

    I suspect that this sort of arrogant "witchier than thou" attitude is behind instances of where someone "gets to big for their britches" and steps over the line in telling others outside their tradition how they should live their spiritual lives. Within Wicca, having the title High Priest/ess in one tradition does not automatically guarantee you will be considered a High Priest/ess in any other tradition.

    An example from a few decades ago in the American Wiccan/Witchcraft community that comes to mind is recounted in Isaac Bonewits' "Witchcraft: A Concise Guide" (available through Amazon.com... I believe it's actually a self-published book but is excellent regardless.) The story Isaac tells is one he knows first-hand, since he was present when it happened. It was in the 1970s, I think, at a witch-meet conference held in the US (perhaps it was the same one in the early 70s when the Council of American Witches put together the "Principles of Wiccan Belief"... but I'm not sure offhand.) One Wiccan in particular, who went by the name Lady Sheba (responsible for the publication of "The Grimoire of Lady Sheba") announced to all present that they were to turn in their Books of Shadows to her so that she could combine any variations with her own and then produce a single, authoritative, Book of Shadows which would then be universal among at least American witches.

    She was basically laughed at by the others present, and her quest to formalize American Wicca through a single official Book of Shadows failed. It's not surprising... doing that, and taking this task on herself (and presenting it to others the way she did... apparently it wasn't really a request as much as a commandment from a "senior High Priestess") really was quite arrogant on her part, overstepping the boundaries regarding the independence of covens, traditions, and even individual practitioners within Wicca. She failed to understand that even at this relatively early stage of the modern Wicca movement, it was a diverse community without an authoritarian hierarchy to back up her position. She could very well expect her own coven or groups of covens to abide by her decisions, but she shouldn't have assumed her authority extended outside to others as well, even to "merely" other Wiccans.

    The whole issue of leadership/eldership, role models, etc. is certainly a complex one and not something I expect to have "solved" in any definitive way. But it is an issue that I think needs to be brought out into open discussion, as it affects all of us. Every elder, every teacher, every leader needs to consider their responsibilities, and take appropriate steps when they do make mistakes as we all do. By demonstrating mature spiritual behaviour (however that is definied in our individual paths or traditions) we earn the respect of others within our communities, and confirm the validity of being considered a leader, teacher, or elder. As our communities as a whole become more mature in their behaviour, we in turn start to earn the respect of outsiders as well.

    After all, we Pagans certainly don't respect religious leaders of other communities just because they tell us we should. We respect those who demonstrate they are worthy of respect in the first place.
     
  6. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2003
    Messages:
    6,532
    Likes Received:
    8
    Some good points made - and welcome to the comparative-religion.com forum, Blackheart!

    I do especially like Ben's rounding statement, though:

    And as has been stated, if paganism is a diverse group encompassing different ideals, then the criteria for respect and acceptable of respect remains an individual one (even denominational, if that term is allowed to be applied here) in its application.
     
  7. BlackHeart

    BlackHeart New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2003
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think some people forget that respect doesn't equate to authority... that we can hold someone in high esteem, love her ethics & have great respect for the students she's taught--and still not follow her instructions.

    That there's a difference between, "you should acknowledge the great wisdom I have and the hard work I've done in the Craft" (which we'll do to anyone who deserves it), and "you should help me do _______ because that's what my great wisdom tells me needs to be done." Just because we acknowledge the wisdom & experience, doesn't mean we're gonna have the same conclusions about what-must-be-done.

    There's a rough line here... On the one hand, we don't get behind anyone who sets herself up as a "Leader of All Witches." On the other, we don't want to send the message to the beginners, "you can ignore whatever advice or instruction you get & make up your own mind." (Well, you can, but that doesn't mean whatever decision you make will be Wiccan or even Pagan.)

    I see a lot of "do whatever feels right to you" in paganism today. And that's fine... but it doesn't work to bring people onto a spiritual path. "What feels right" is often thought to be "what feels comfortable and easy"--And I've seen plenty of very solid, wise elders & pagan activists get lambasted for suggesting that some paths are not comfortable, are not easy, and that "what works for you" is a useless piece of advice if you don't know "what really works." (Nobody tells beginning chefs, "if you want to cook a meal, just go into the kitchen & use whatever ingredients you like.")

    Several sides to this issue. Self-proclaimed "elders" insisting that 5 years of reading about Paganism makes them authorities, recent initiates (still caught up in the bliss of the change they're undergoing) who think that their lines' guidelines really are universal, jaded elders who've decided that the opinions of those not in their line is worthless, and experienced, compassionate pagans who get caught in power-struggles with any & all of these while trying to help those who need & want it.

    And, of course, the outsiders & newcomers who can't tell these apart. Hell, we can't always tell them apart. And the sticky issue of "how do you show respect" is even more convoluted that "who is worthy of respect?"
     
  8. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2003
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    0
    The issue of people pretending to be holier than you also arises in other circumstances. An unrelated example: live role-playing. In these, players dress-up so some kind of (often) medieval grab and play a chosen role in some kind of play, the story of which they don't know in advance. I've seen many players imperson arrogant, haughty, aggressive characters, usually of noble birth. I think it was a way for them to somehow feel more powerful than in "real life" where they were usually students or simple employees.

    It would suggest that this factor probably also plays a role in neo-paganism. Some people who reach a position that they consider "influential" turn into arrogant pontificating persons as a way to compensate the fact that they don't have any power over others in their mundane life.

    I'm not saying this is the case for everyone, but I've seen it often enough in other circumstances to think that it can play a role in the issue we are discussing.

    And, just for the fun of it and without in any way intending to disparage anyone, a little note: in Belgium/France, "Sheba" is a well-known brand of cat food. :D

    Baud
     
  9. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    1
    I've seen "Sheba" brand cat food too on this side of the pond... at least in Canada. I'll have to watch for it the next time I'm in a grocery store now that I'm in the US.

    By the way, I think the observation about how some who do role-playing games (whether the "live action" kind or the dice-and-paper kind) and how similar it seems to at least some cases of "holier than thou" attitude in the neopagan community is right on the nose. In other social circles, this type of behaviour might also be called "nouveau riche."
     
  10. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2003
    Messages:
    6,532
    Likes Received:
    8
    That's a very salient point, and more wide-ranging even than Neopagan branches in themselves.
     
  11. WHKeith

    WHKeith New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2003
    Messages:
    201
    Likes Received:
    0
    The story of Lady Sheba reminds me of Alexander Saunders and his split from Gardnerian tradition to create what became known as the Alexandrian tradition of Wicca. This was in the late '50s, I believe. He declared himself "King of the Witches" . . . a fascinating claim considering how the Craft thrived and continues to thrive on the principle of full equality of the sexes, and tends to consider the patriarchal model of religious leadership espoused by historical Christianity and other religions bankrupt ethically. [Though even THAT'S not an absolute. Dianic circles--most of them--will not admit men at all, and at least one traditional Gardnerian group I know of insists that ONLY a priestess can initiate, which kind of flies in the face of what Gardner himself established in the eighty-some initiations he led.]

    There are four ways of governing a church, "polities" as they are known. They are:

    Episcopal: the church leaders are selected and anointed by other church leaders in a line of succession going back to whoever founded then church. Catholics, Episcopalians, C of E, and Methodists are examples. The assumption is that trained people with their own personal agendas, issues and prejudices can effectively and altruistically decide what is best for the congregation.

    Presbyterian: A group of church lay leaders get together with a group of senior church leaders and choose a trained leader. Presbyterians are the obvious example. The assumption is that a committee of trained people with their own personal agendas, issues and prejudices and untrained people with their own personal agendas, issues and prejudices can effectively and altruistically decide what is best for the congregation.

    Congregational: Each member of the congregation has the Divine working within him or her, and has the right and the responsibility as a group to call a trained leader. This is how Baptists and Congregationalists work. It's also the way most covens function. The assumption is that completely untrained people with their own personal agendas, issues and prejudices can effectively and altruistically decide what is best for the congregation.

    The fourth polity is rare and tough to live by. It's called Egalitarian, and says we are each responsible for our own acts and decisions, and can function together by consensus rather than by fiat. This pretty much sums up the polity of my coven, and a very few others I know of. The assumption is that a bunch of untrained people can figure things out for themselves, suppress egos, prejudices, and personal agendas, and work altruistically for the good of the group.

    In the first three polities, authority arises from a select group (church leaders, church and lay leaders, or lay leaders) determined by the founding covenant of that church. People who attend that church agree by doing so to abide by its rules and leadership decisions. The fourth polity can be applied only by relatively small groups and in special circumstances.

    The church leadership, of course, establishes the authority of that church's ministers. If you're Catholic, you accept or at least acknowledge the Apostolic Succession from Peter to the current Pope. If you're Baptist, you accept the choice made by the lay leaders of your congregation who prayed and received guidance as to which minister would be called. If you're Wiccan . . . well, it gets a bit dicey at this point. As bgruagach points out, we have no scriptures and no Pagan-wide set of principles of belief, doctrine, or even common tradition. What works for YOU and YOUR coven doesn't usually cross over to another.

    I am an elder in my coven. That and ninety cents will get me a cup of coffee at the diner in town. A friend of mine with her own coven is a 3rd-degree Gardnerian high priestess. There is no way she could acknowledge my eldership in her circle; by her tradition, I can't even join her in her inner-circle rites. My coven might respect her experience and training, but that respect would end the instant she came into our circle and began telling us what we had to do to be "real" witches.

    The word "elder," though, is slippery. It has a variety of definitions and different groups apply the word differently. Some see it as a function of age--as when a coven member becomes crone or sage. Some see it as a specific title conferred by lineage and tradition. And, sadly, too many see it as cause for an ego trip. In my coven, we keep threatening to change the term to "janitor," since what it REALLY means--to us, at least--is someone who serves the others and takes care of the necessary scutwork. (In truth, we try hard to avoid hierarchical frameworks entirely, and function as what we call a coven of equals.)

    What it all boils down to at last is respect. Elders are respected for their service, their commitment, their learning, and their experience. Elders, in turn, respect the coveners for THEIR service, commitment, learning, and experience. It's gotta go both ways. BlackHeart is right: respect doesn't equate with authority, necessarily, but authority itself is something that comes from the body of coven members and from no other source. I have authority within my coven ONLY so long as the coven gives me that authority. To do that, they must respect me. And I them.

    Conversely, I have exactly zero authority within my Gardnerian friend's coven, and rightly so; I haven't been through her tradition's training and initiatory sequence. As friends and as fellow witches, however, we certainly respect one another. She's just invited me to give a series of talks on the Craft at the U-U church she attends, so we can assume she respects my learning and experience, at least, and making this a case where respect does not translate as authority.

    Baud is completely right that too many let the fancy titles go to their heads. I could call myself Lord Bill, Grand High Pooh-Bah of Rambling Epistles, but it wouldn't mean a thing. Someone who tells me she is a high priestess certainly commands my attention . . . but not my respect for her as anything but an interesting person. She COULD be a complete fluffy-bunny who got her title off of one of those Internet learn-your-Craft-title sites, or from the Wiccan equivalent of the Church of All Worlds! I'll need to interact with her a while to learn what's beneath the fancy title.

    And all of this supports bgruagach's contention:

    QUOTE Within Wicca and frequently in the larger Pagan community, though, we don't have the same system of hierarchies. Some groups, some traditions do have established hierarchies of authority, and can deal with these sorts of things among their own members. But as a whole, Wicca and the Pagan community does not have a central authority, or even a central scripture. This can be a weakness of our community, but I personally also consider it to be one of our greatest strengths. /QUOTE

    I, too, believe this to be one of our greatest strengths. It requires us to develop a discerning and critical nature, rather than leaping at every fad or fast-talker who happens down the road. My mentor in the Craft once told me that the very BEST magicians, the very best witches, were at heart skeptics. I DON'T believe every claim, every title, every pomposity, and that helps keep me out of trouble.

    For the most part, anyway!
     
  12. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    1
    Some good points, Bill.

    I have a few comments about the first part:

    While I do consider the title Sanders assumed to be rather pompous (kind of like that guy who seems to want to be the current King Alex... Kevin Carlyon) there is some justification for this in some Wiccan traditions.

    I think it's in the Farrar's book "The Witches Bible" where it's described how a High Priestess can be given the title "Witch Queen" when she has had three or more daughter-covens "hive off" from her own coven. If this is the case, then I don't see why the High Priest in that same circumstance might not also be given the title "King."

    It is a bit of a leap, though, to go from "Witch King" of a specific lineage to become "King of (all) the Witches" like Sanders proclaimed himself.

    Another thing I wanted to mention is that the two covens I've worked with over the past twenty years of my Wiccan practice have both been egalitarian and also eclectic Wiccan covens. We didn't have a high priest or high priestess, instead rotating who organized (and more or less "lead") the ritual often from one meeting to the next. Both covens were also big on spontaneous ritual too, at least once we'd become comfortable enough as a group to do that sort of thing.
     
  13. beltainelady

    beltainelady New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Just a really quick post, pressed for time these days. I've read the preceding posts and find some salient points. However, I have to wonder if some of the bitterness displayed toward true elders in the Craft is due to misunderstandings and the limitations of communication, at least online.

    I don't hold up my degrees for all to see. It doesn't really matter, until someone brings it up. I *do* answer questions as concisely and honestly as my oaths allow, and do not suffer fools gladly. I will correct misinformation when I see it, and try to be gentle about it.

    *However* it seems to me that a great many people do not like to be told they're wrong. (Ok, no one likes it, but the reactions in the online community is extreme.) I'm sorry if I've burst someone's bubble, but no, Wicca is not "whatever you want it to be" and I would be remiss as an initiated priestess if I didn't correct that assumption.

    Do some people do it with less style and finesse, sure...but the point is to educate others, not tear them down. At least, when I'm speaking -- that's my point. I don't want to speak for others.

    I know some elders online who take the time to continually answer the same old questions, over and over again, never getting snippy b/c it's the 900th time they've disassembled the Rede for someone. It's their *job* as an elder to educate. But then I see the recipient of this hard-earned wisdom snap at the elder. Why? Because they weren't handed an initiation on a silver platter? Or they were told they were wrong and their fragile ego can't take it?

    It's a two way street. Y'all are complaining about the perceived "holier-than-thou" attitude of elders. How about taking a look at the petulant child attitude of the querents? Respect is earned both ways. An elder should be respected for their time and energy put into the practice and education in their respective craft, and a seeker should be respected as a possible inheritor of that craft.

    Personally, as someone who really tries to educate people as best I can, I will say I'm a bit tired of the perception that anyone who's been around for a while and is willing to part with some hard-won knowledge *on their terms* is acting as a "holier than thou" stick up their butt.

    Ok. So it's not so short a reply. But I think y'all needed to hear the other side of the story. See...there are still some elders out there who *remember* what it was like to be a seeker. Painting everyone with so broad a brush is unfair.
     
  14. bgruagach

    bgruagach eclectic Wiccan

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2003
    Messages:
    522
    Likes Received:
    1
    In situations where there is a teacher-student relationship, it is important to keep in mind the question: "Of the two, WHO is supposed to be the mature one?"

    I have to say I've witnessed exchanges where a "petulant student" was put down by an "elder", and as an observer I can honestly say that I wasn't surprised by the student's behaviour towards the elder. Students learn from what they see demonstrated as much if not more than from what they are told. Students are much more likely to do what they see the teacher do, rather than doing what the teacher says they should do.

    I'm not sure that anyone here was painting with a broad brush, but then I've also been here just a little bit longer and know the other posters here perhaps a little bit better from my interaction here (and elsewhere). What was brought up for discussion was a very specific type of behaviour which I think we've all witnessed at some point. I don't recall seeing anyone say or even imply that all elders are full of themselves, all high priest/esses are just inflated egos. If you check us out, I suspect you'll find a few here qualify as elders themselves and they've been participating in the discussion quite happily.
     
  15. Baud

    Baud Seeker of Knowledge

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2003
    Messages:
    71
    Likes Received:
    0
    Beltainelady, I just want to point out that I certainly do not consider all Pagan elders to have a "holier than you" attitude, far from it. I confess that my personal experience with Pagan Internet discussion boards is somewhat limited, but the vast majority of the elders (again, for lack of a better term) I have encountered were learned, considerate and wise persons. I have only seen a few elders with an attitude that I would consider inappropriate (and this was not towards me). So I'm certainly not bitter about anything.

    Actually, the original point made by bgruagach was that there was maybe more difficulties to ensure that Wiccan elders behave properly because of the lack of structure in Wicca. Following this line of thought, elders caught in a structure could be brought in line by the hierarchy more easily. I'm pretty sure that this was not supposed to mean that all - or even a majority - of Wiccan elders behave badly. As I said, this is not my experience. :)

    The status of elder very much depends - I think - on the knowledge, experience and character of the person. Age plays a role, but is not IMHO a driving factor. It also depends on the subject. I will certainly be in a student position when Wiccan elders like the ones participating in this discussion start discussing deeper aspects of the Craft or the meaning of rituals. I will read and question with respect. On the other hand, on discussions related to international affairs or law, I would generally expect not being told by a 17 years old boy from Alabama that I don't know what I'm talking about (this is just an example: I have nothing against 17 year old boys from Alabama). ;)

    But on the still other hand (this makes three hands already!), when I ask questions to a Wiccan elder about the Wiccan religion, I expect to be treated with some measure of respect. This has nothing to do with Wicca: it is just polite manners. I have the same obligation to someone who asks me question on areas I know more about, even if I don't really like the question. Of course, nobody is perfect, and everyone will one day snap at someone.

    So in summary: I don't think this discussion was ever meant to disparage Wiccan elders in any way.

    Baud
     
  16. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2003
    Messages:
    6,532
    Likes Received:
    8
    Absolutely agree there - life experience is an ancient teacher, but age is no guarantee of degree of life experience.

    However, on top of that, there's inspiration. Yet even then, inspiration does not reveal a pyramid of information, of which the most inspired therefore know more of the pyramid than others - but instead inspiration covers different colours and textures of ideas.

    My own personal inspiration is not a mantle of authority to dictate to others with, but instead a shepherd's crook used only on certain hills. When on those hills I can give plenty, yet on others I am but a novice.

    Perhaps off the point a little, but here's a Buddhist quite I once "channelled" -

    "The Fool who thinks himself a wise man demonstrates folly, but the Fool who knows he is a Fool demonstrates wisdom."

    The Fools are the greatest teachers, and much underrated. However, it is in their nature to be so. :)
     
  17. BlackHeart

    BlackHeart New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2003
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Ah, that's such a deceptively simple question. Were these "students" young children, perhaps it would be appropriate. But as many of these students & seekers are adults in their own right, just not experienced in Craft, I don't believe that they should expect the "elders" to be any more calm, respectful, patient or mature than anyone else.

    Many pagan elders are wise & compassionate. But that doesn't mean they have an obligation to be nice to jerks--these aren't paths for everyone, and the elder is perfectly within his rights to say, "I am not wasting my time teaching anyone who just basically doesn't get along with me." Maturity doesn't mean omni-tolerance, nor coddling of misconceptions.

    After all, it's known as the Craft of the Wise, not the Craft of the Really Nice Friendly People.

    I've seen that too. I've seen students & seekers (two different categories, in my mind) try to emulate the behavior of pagan "elders": the firm confidence in their explanations, the near-instinctive understanding of how different aspects of Craft all flow together, the calm acceptance of those who seriously follow different paths.

    This can cause problems: the neophyte doesn't actually *have* the understanding he's imitating. So he comes across as cocky & immature--even by copying the exact same verbal pattern as the experienced pagans. And it grates on some of those elders (or whatever we're to call them; "elder" seems like an odd word in many cases).

    And I've seen them copy the less-pleasant but fully understandable attitudes of some: the irritation when their hard-learned lessons are ignored or insulted, the title-claiming or name-dropping or credential-sharing that's sometimes necessary to show that one does have the experience one claims, the outright anger at people who insult the traditions & Gods they've grown to love.

    And again, the neophyte imitates what he sees: it's okay for elders to act like this, it must be okay for me, right?

    Saying, "It's not really okay for elders to act like this" is only half the problem. The other half is telling the beginner that No, you don't have the right to act like that. Or at least, you don't have the right to expect *respect* after acting like that--and the elder might.
     
  18. brucegdc

    brucegdc Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2003
    Messages:
    436
    Likes Received:
    1
    I think this discussion is pointing out one fundamental difference with many Wiccan groups and many "organized" religions. (And there are exceptions either way).

    Fundamentally, respect is granted on a one to one basis by most Wiccans. In general, credentials aren't useful across traditions - the knowledge and experience gains the respect, not credentials. Within a tradition, this may or may not be valid - depending on the background of the tradition (eclectic traditions being less likely to have or recognize credentials directly).

    This lack of credentialling makes the behavior part of the process. I am unlikely to respect someone whose behavior I do not wish to emulate. Similarly, I'm more likely to take on faith someone's statements who has behaved in a fashion congruent to my personal ethos. And that goes for both directions - if I act in a manner that is not acceptable to another, I cannot expect respect. It may be that we are on divergent paths, and we need to recognize that and move on.

    I hope the above isn't too confused. It's been a long day, and will be longer as I get back to work again.
     
  19. Guard

    Guard New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Quote: Baud
    It would suggest that this factor probably also plays a role in neo-paganism. Some people who reach a position that they consider "influential" turn into arrogant pontificating persons as a way to compensate the fact that they don't have any power over others in their mundane life.
    Baud[/quote]

    I agree entirely with this point of view and it is the reason for my interest in this intellectual forum which I find to be high on etiquette and non judgemental.

    A Point in case:

    As a seeker of knowledge and a deeper understanding of my own spirituality I recently encountered a pagan forum that I ultimately found to have heavy Dianic leanings verging on feminism. This is simply my own appraisal of that forum. It would not be constructive or helpful to name the forum but sufice it to say that the "god" was conspicuous by his absence in the title of the forum. Most curiously, the forum is administered by a male which in itself is unusual for a female dominated forum and you may take from that what you will. The forum has a disproportionately high number of moderators to members (at this time one mod for every three regular posting members).This situation is conducive only to an unhealthy control and dominance over the views of ordinary regular members which in turn destroys any hope of providing a useful learning environment. In this case, I believe this need to dominate and control others in order to address failings in one's own life has led to a degradation of the forum. Likewise, in any environment most people will simply move away from what they perceive to be uncomfortable, unfair or unhealthy,rather than confronting those responsible for this discomfort. When we do confront we are often accused of being irrational usually in an attempt to further dominate and control us.
    I suspect that the witch in question in assuming a position of superiority and exercising influencial control may have blindly sealed her own fate in the same way as that of the aforementioned forum. I have heard it said that those who really do have power and control seldom use it. It's only when we feel that we are not in control of our own lives that we often try to control, manipulate, dominate, criticise, belittle and poor scorn on others in an effort to raise our own self worth. What has any of that got to do with any religion !. These actions serve only to plunge us deeper into the abyss. The result of a lack of mutual respect. Not the moral highgound, just my own humble opinion.
     
  20. Käthe

    Käthe Kitchen Witch

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2006
    Messages:
    140
    Likes Received:
    0
    I really hope that this doesn't get me in trouble, because there is one "naughty" word in it, but I'll chance it:

    Your "jaded elders...." mention made me think of this (I haven't thought of it in years - since I wrote it, in fact):


    Our Trad
    Filk by Käthe


    (To the tune of "This Land is Your Land”)

    CHORUS (Start with this and repeat after each verse):
    Ours is the One Trad,
    Ours is the True Trad,
    If you don't believe it,
    Well that's just too bad.
    You're all misguided
    If you don't agree with me;
    Our Trad's the only way to be!

    VERSES:
    We never circle
    With other Witches;
    If they're not Our Trad,
    They're useless bitches.
    Their Magic's worthless,
    As we can plainly see;
    Our Trad's the only way to be!

    At open Rituals
    We never mingle,
    Our secret wisdom
    Really makes us tingle!
    We look down our noses
    At others' Mysteries;
    Our Trad's the only way to be!

    We don't like Gardner,
    We don't like Cochran,
    Our Trad is harder;
    We're really rockin'.
    We're not Dianic;
    We're more correct than Z;
    Our Trad's the only way to be!

    We spout Kabbalah,
    We practice Tantric.
    What we stole from Starhawk
    Really made her frantic.
    We’re proud of Our Trad’s
    Originality;
    Our Trad’s the only way to be!

    We won't wear Nylon,
    We make our own tools.
    Right-thinking people
    All follow our rules;
    If we're self-righteous,
    It's 'cause we're right, you see.
    Our Trad's the only way to be!
     

Share This Page