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< song >

Where have all the Elders gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the Elders gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the Elders gone?
Ignored them every one.
Oh when will they ever learn?
Oh when will they ever learn?

< /song >

(with apologies to Pete Segar)

Another question that is asked a lot on forums and online, and even in various communities is “Where have the Elders gone to? Why aren’t they around to teach us?”

It’s a combination of things, some of it you, some of it knee-jerk reactions due to others who approached those Elders and burned them.

The “good elders” are right here, and always have been. But we learned to shut up when we see posts asking for teachers on forums, because invariably someone posts something asking for advice, and answer, a serious question. Then we spend several minutes to an hour or two writing a post detailing exactly what needs to be done, and then as sure as I breathe, someone else comes along and posts something that is completely counter to what we just put up, and we get ignored. Why? Because what we put down is hard. The other person’s post is easy and it validates the first poster and enables them to be lazy.

So mostly when a call like this goes out, we have learned to ignore it. Because it’s just not worth the fight. When the spiritual path is “too hard” to walk, when the path is easy, then it is shallow and then there are complaints about how their religion has no depth. And it’s because it has always been shallow, because the hard aspects have been ignored in favor of what is easy.

It sucks since that is going to mean that real and true students who want to know will be ignored, but that is one of the prices. If it were an easy path, it would be on the “Wicca Channel” and we would have something like the “4400 Club” with Ed Hubbard preaching on it, King Kevin saying that he was going to go to Purgatory unless he raised $2 million by Ostara, and Anton LeVey begging for forgiveness for his sins in public while tears streamed down his eyes…

Those who want to know, those who REALLY want to know about Wicca and the Old Gods, who feel magick buring in their veins, who want to read everything they can on herbalism, crystals, magick and ESP, will do so. And since that is 98% of what the Elders will tell you that you need to do, you can educate yourself without us most times.

I understand that you aren’t looking for a teacher. That’s fine. Just hang around nearby and do introduce yourself, but try not to look like a “fan girl”. LOL I know it’s disingenuous and probably assuming a lot, but if you know a BNP (Big Name Pagan), following them like a puppy dog is not a way to make an impression.

From our perspective, there’s a lot of times that no matter how you say “no”, the person asking for whatever assumes that you don’t really mean it. Or that they are entitled to training. Or that the “no” doesn’t apply to them since they are special. Or that you are obligated to train everyone who asks. Or that you must teach them Wicca, even when you aren’t Wiccan yourself.

Get a clue, right now: You are entitled to nothing. You earn it through your actions. I don’t care what $ilver Ravingfluff says in her book, if you are training with me, it will be done my way or that is the door right over there. In this Circle, I am the master, you are the apprentice. If I say “frog” you say “how high should I jump?” There are reasons for this, but I think I’ll let you figure those out for yourself. Trust me, it’s not because I’m a megalomaniac and enjoy making you do ridiculous things just because I can.

Most teachers enjoy teaching, but we HATE it when the students think that we are making you do something for no reason. There is always a reason for every exercise and every little piece of information you need to hear. We don’t want to hear “Scott Cunningham says…” when we say to cast a Circle THIS way, we probably already know. If you have read so many books, why did you come to me for training?

There was a quote I read that went like this:

There was once a Zen master of great renown who lived in the mountain. One day, he received the visit of a young philosopher whom had traveled from afar especially to meet him. That philosopher came under high recommendations by his teachers, so the master agreed to see him. As the two sat under a tree to discuss, the subject hastily came to what the master could teach the young philosopher. Recognizing the flame of youth, the master smiled warmly and started to describe his meditation techniques. He was cut short by the philosopher who said: “Yes, I understand what you are talking about! We did a similar technique at the temple, but instead we used images to focus! “

Once the philosopher was done explaining to the master how he was taught, and did, his meditation, the master spoke again. This time, he tried to tell the young man about how one should be attuned to nature and the Universe. He didn’t get two sentences in when the philosopher cut him short again and started talking about how he was taught of such things and so and so.

Once again, the master patiently waited for the young philosopher to end his excited explanations. Once he was done, the master got to the subject of seeing humor in every situation. This time, the young man didn’t lose any time and started to talk about his favorite jokes and how he thought they could relate to situations he had faced.

Once the philosopher was done, the Zen master invited him inside for a tea ceremony. The philosopher having heard of how the master performed the ceremony like no other accepted gladly. Such a moment was always a privileged one with such a man. Once inside, the master performed flawlessly up to the point where he started to pour the tea in the cup. The philosopher noticed as the master was pouring tea, that the cup was being filled more than usual, then, as the master kept pouring tea, the cup got full to the brim. Not knowing what to say, the young man just looked at the master with a look of astonishment on his face. The master kept pouring has if nothing was wrong and the cup, not being able to contain anymore, started to overflow, spilling hot tea on the floor mattresses and the master’s hakama. Not believing what he was seeing, the philosopher finally exclaimed: “Stop pouring! Can’t you see the cup is already full and overflowing?”

With those words, the master gently placed the teapot back on the fire and looked at the young philosopher with his ever present warm smile, looked him in the eye and said: “If you come to me with a cup that is already full, how can you expect me to give you something to drink?”

Most, but not all, people who are looking to learn come with their cups already full. Because of this, the teachers get ignored and belittled and compared to substandard works. It’s at that point that they generally throw up their hands, quit teaching and accepting students. It can lead to not talking to anyone else at all.

When approaching a teacher who you desire to learn from, some humility and a willingness to be taught really and truly helps. Yes, keep the experiences you have had from other places with you, but when your teacher starts talking about why they do what they do, pay attention and be respectful. There may be insights in the speech that you may not know. EVERYONE can learn from others. Do you honestly think that when you see an Elder attending a class with another Elder that the first is totally ignorant of the material? No, generally it means they are attempting to expand their understanding of the material and build on what they know.

Plus there is a lot that can be done by you. As a clue, most of us who are considered “Elders” these days didn’t have teachers. We didn’t have the Internet to do research on. We didn’t have much face to face interaction except in very rare circumstances. We still studied. We found books, we found information. We haunted libraries, we bought books related to Wicca, but not necessarily Wiccan. We looked at mythology and read the Key of Solomon. We actually practiced and meditated. We did all these things, learned from the Gods and nature itself, read books of anthropology and read things like Sybil Leek, Gerald Gardner, The Farrars, Buckland, Margaret Murray, Alice Bailey, and the Theosophical Society as well as things like the Principia Discordia, “Black Elk Speaks”, the works of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley. And then we went on to read the books they referenced in their bibliography.

We didn’t have 7/8 of the books that are currently available. We had a few BBS systems or America Online that had the same 12 documents available to us, and we read those and expanded on them to develop our own set of information.

But then this kid comes up to us and wants us to make them a High Priestess. So we tell them about what we studied to gain that title and we get ignored. there is no easy way to get the title of high priest. The only shortcut is lots of study and lots of effort. So we tell them all of us and since it doesn’t fit with their expectations of what we should be teaching them, normally we get a pissed-off-flounce away from us. Then normally there’s bad mouthing going on in the community because they, the student, had decided that we are not “true” Elders.

This reaction only makes us one to not take any students on at all. We do ask that students who wish to study with us prove it to us somehow.

So no, we don’t make it easy. Want to study? Then go study. Read, read the things that are referenced in the book you’re reading, read and think about it, find connections between all those facts. Meditate, walk in the woods and have a conversation with the deity you say you love more than life itself. Ninety percent of the time you are going to learn more this way than what we can teach you. And since this is exactly what were going to tell you to do anyway you will have gone much as a preliminary work for us. And since that preliminary work is already done will be even more impressed and willing to teach you.

But, the point of this diatribe, is that we are still here, and we will always be here. It is getting harder to find us because other idiots have fouled the pool and scared most of us into hiding.

When I posted this to a list where this question was asked, one gentleman responded and posted a litany of problems he had witnessed or personally encountered from a situation like this. Student approaches, Elder responds and takes them in to teach, Student starts causing problems for the Elder and as a result the Elder gets burned badly.

Among the litany of problems were these:

  • Being publicly outed by indiscreet students, resulting in loss of job, and bankruptcy. In one case, loss of custody of their child.
  • Being used behind your back- and always misquoted in the process- to settle arguments in covens, resulting in gaining enemies you’ve never even met.
  • Being threatened with death by family members of the student- or even just the acquaintance- that just KNOW you were the one who “corrupted” their innocent baby. Of course, they don’t always threaten you- sometimes they just egg your house or trash your car.
  • Being flamed behind your back by a student who read something different from what you told them in some Llewellyn publication, resulting in getting stuck in the middle of some witchwar you wanted no part of.
  • Being latched onto by someone having a breakdown and needing someone to blame it on.
  • Getting invited to parties or events just to show you off like a trophy, so the one invitee can boast of knowing a “real, live witch!”

and the list goes on. This is one reason, one of the main reasons, that many elders don’t take students on anymore.

And it makes me wonder why anyone would want to be known as an Elder.

Originally posted 2014-09-30 10:30:22. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

One Response to “Elders”

  1. Toni Keys says:

    Thank you for this article! I’m a solitary, eclectic from way, way back and I remember one of the elders who has since gone to summerland, said in the 70s….”Watch, the pop stuff is coming and all the wannabes who want instant knowledge…..”
    I’ve been approached many times to teach witchcraft, but I decline because those seeking want to be instant witches without working and studying toward the goal.

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