May. 26th, 2013 10:30 am
mdehners: (thor)
[personal profile] mdehners posting in [community profile] dreamwidth_pagans
Ever so often you’ll see a thread online about the subject. “Where ARE our Elders?”. As someone who has been part of Cybergard since the days when alt.pagen was the only “show in town”, I can answer the top 2 reasons.
1: Converted out.
Many of us became part of the alt.rel community in our teens and twenties. Many of the things that may have attracted you to your present Way then no longer do as you get in your 30’s, 40’s and older. Unfortunately, many never fully worked through their childhood religion issues and instead of looking for an alt.rel that would they just return to their previous Faith OR Convert to other more “conventional” religions. I know quite a few Buddhists that began in our community;>.

2: Withdrew.
I’ve personally done this a couple of times in the last two decades. You get tired of the squabbling in general, the disrespect to you personally and sadly, a heckovalot of shallow people who think this is a LARP. You 1st withdraw to closed groups/lists/etc. and then just a close group of friends….usually of the same Way as yourself.

The Truth is, I’ve yet to run into an online community that respects those who have put in a couple of decades on their particular Path, no matter the lip service. Many online communities have a high “tween” and under population(less than a decade and a half in), just the place you’d think those with more experience would be needed and welcomed. Sadly, not. For me, I PERSONALLY get tired of being put down because I don’t know the web source for something I learned 3 decades ago from a college Mythology text(which is where most of the CR and Nordic Folk looked for theirs). Not everything has a “wiki” and not all of that is ACCURATE.
I Honestly don’t know what can be done. In the last few yrs pretty much everyone I’ve known online more than a decade has withdrawn or Converted and a chitload of those over 5. And on some forums just posting this will invite “featherburn”…..

In short, I agree.

Date: 2013-05-26 04:09 pm (UTC)
marusarel: a shot of the banks of Loch Ness all blue-toned and under clouds (Otherworlds: AU Scotland)
From: [personal profile] marusarel
We're 25 and withdrew less than five years into our own transformation. Never went back to our childhood religion, probably never will, and will almost certainly not go back to any online communities. We don't even identify as Pagan anymore, because Gods forbid you make your own practice according to what feels right to you and where your Gods lead you as opposed to something that doesn't have a pre-existing structure. *eyeroll* To me, that's no less dogmatic than Christianity, which is what we left (and one big reason why-all the supposed rights and wrongs made no sense, and we were being forced to assimilate, and did NOT agree with it).

It's sad. I'm not exactly old, here. And yet there are still people who will bite my head off, for trying to help and be sensible about it (aka: not getting caught up in ALL THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE YOU PANIC when you start). Sadly, some of these people have YEARS on me. It's certainly much more common in those that are in their teens or pre-teens, but it's unfortunately not restricted there. I know a woman in her 30's, who has followed her own given path for well over a decade at least, who is no more sensible and no less volatile than the standard (standard, mind you) preteen. And if I know one, then there are certainly others. Anomalies are not exactly a common thing in humanity of any culture. @_@

Re: In short, I agree.

Date: 2013-05-26 07:49 pm (UTC)
marusarel: a picture of two road signs, one saying "one way", the other saying "or another" right under (Moods: Pathways and Crossroads)
From: [personal profile] marusarel
*nod* We're basically saying the same thing two different ways, with some minor differences, I think. I don't know if my comment made it clear, but me not approving of dogma and/or established ways doesn't mean that I believe that it can't possibly work for some people. If what is pre-established works for you, awesome, but if it doesn't, also awesome. In my case....I don't really claim anything. There's a bundle of different faiths (all pagan except for Judeo-Mysticism, which to be frank I'm still researching so I can't really claim it as an active part of my way at the moment) that contribute to how I do my own thing. Some of my gods are Norse. Some are Irish, some are Welsh, some are none of the above. There is little religion, and no worship in my practice, unless you count to the land and the land fae itself....I suppose I'm more like a modern-day druid than anything else, albeit one independent of any organization.

I hear you, though, about people imprinting their beliefs on other people, including in comments. Two sentences exactly the same from two different people of two different ways will mean different things, most likely....and most people fail to comprehend this. Like I said, I've experienced the same, which is why I'm not an active part of any community anymore. I got sick and tired of it, too. Only took me a couple years from square one, max. *headshake* Fortunately, I got lucky. My ex was bad with relationships, but good with objective and adaptable guiding in terms of this sort of thing (yes...my research and education came from books, not the intarwebs). I could develop my own thing and learn properly apart from communities and the confusion and pressure that come with them, but not utterly alone.


(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 06:50 pm (UTC)
jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jenett
Hmmm. I tend to think it's more complicated than that. (Which is to say, of the couple of dozen people I know who've pulled back, *neither* of those is the primary reason they have.)

1) Conversational patterns have changed. There are many fewer really great forums or communities of *any* kind now.

A lot of the ones that are still successful (across a wide range of topics) are the ones that are pretty tightly focused and often very focused on practical stuff - hobby forums, for example, where the focus is on 'how to garden' or 'how to knit' or whatever. (The other place is well-moderated and managed blog-centered conversations, but those are also, by necessity, focused on a specific topic or blog creator's comments)

A lot of people have shifted casual online interaction to Facebook (or picked *up* casual online interaction with Facebook) or to some extent Tumblr but neither of these are (fairly intentionally, on their side) designed for lasting, sustained, persistent conversation. (i.e. a thread that develops over a period of days or weeks, rather than a matter of hours, or one where longer and deeper posts might be mingled with shorter comments)

And then there's all the inherent benefits and problems of online interaction. Not everyone has the skills to do it well (and not everyone *wants* the skills).

I have a couple of places where I spend time (and that are quite respectful of age and experience, as long as someone doesn't come swanning in expecting respect just because they say they should have it: someone who comes in, improves the conversation, shares resources when appropriate, etc. does just fine.) But there are plenty of other forums out there where I don't spend time because it's too much work for too little benefit.

2) The reasons I've seen people backing away from community interaction are mostly not your #1. Instead, I see one of three things;

* Burnout (which is something we could do more about as a community) - and yes, this is where constantly being on the defensive about what you know and why you know it really doesn't help. But among the folk I know, it's far more exhaustion with Drama and "Do we really have to do this round of endless discussion for the 20th time?" or not wanting to deal with another round of organisational ethics failure rather than disrespect or people asking for sources, or different conversational styles. (which yes, can be tiring, but are not the reason people are backing off from the community in and of themselves.)

* Increasing responsibilities elsewhere (someone who joined the Pagan community in their 20s, and who is now in their 30s probably has some combination of kids, older parents, or greater job responsibility than they did when they were in their 20s. For people who are older, the chances of a major health issue (for them or a close family member) or elderly parents just gets even higher. Which means people back off other commitments and interactions.

* Related to the above: I know a number of people (those who had truly dealt with their other religious history issues way back) find they want to be part of a community with better social support. Not necessarily "we have to believe the same thing", but the "I want a community when I'm having a hard time/to check in with me if I or a loved one is in the hospital/to be a place I can connect with others of sufficiently similar values without having to put a lot of effort into it, because I have tons of other stuff in my life, and finding friends is *hard*"

The folks I know who've gone back to Christianity aren't going back *just* because of that: in every case, it has been a deeply felt and truly sincere desire on the religious side as well. But they've also all been quite clear that the greater organisational and social support as they get older is a pretty substantial bonus and consideration when they pick *which* Christian community they join.

Again, that's something the Pagan communities at large could do a bit more to mitigate, in a lot of cases (though it really depends on population density: my first decade as a Pagan was in a major metropolitan area. My last two years have been in a very rural town. Just because someone else identifies as Pagan doesn't mean we actually have much in common, so my chances of finding like-valued people to form a supportive social community with in Minnesota were a lot higher than they are now in Maine just because there were More People.)

I don't mean ritual or coven settings here. I mean 'help with errands if you end up sick and homebound' and 'Check in with you if you're having a hard time' and 'place I can find friends who enjoy at least some of the same social things I do, without being event focused' (i.e. people to have dinner with, watch movies with, go for a walk with, rather than hobby interactions.)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 08:57 pm (UTC)
jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jenett
Some of us go where jobs in our field are.

I love my job, and being a librarian is part of my religious vocation and commitment. But library jobs are *hard* to come by, I got mine after a year being unemployed, and it's four hours from the nearest place where I have family or friends from before this job.

There is a lot I love about living here - I can afford a much higher quality of life (no need to have a housemate, I live walking distance from work, dealing with errands and daily life stuff is very pleasant) than I could in a metro area on a librarian's salary. But it has other issues, like the fact I'm 45 minutes drive from any town bigger than the one I live in (which is 8,000 people, some of whom are college students who I like, but don't necessarily want to build my social life around.)

I do have people in Boston - my mother and many of my college friends are there, and it's a manageable weekend trip for me. But that doesn't help if I end up hurt, or sick, or need mild help housecleaning for some reason, or a bunch of other non-computer-possible social connection things.

And I have all the other issues of small towns: there are limited places in the area to make social connections where I'm not going to overlap with either co-workers (potentially tricky but probably manageable) or library patrons (trickier) if I want to talk about some stuff in my life that's important to me with friendships (the general fact I'm Pagan rather than something else, the fact I have some chronic health issues, some of my past relationship history - I'm currently single and have been for a while, but my previous relationships were polyamorous). The fact I'm a geek is a lot easier for me to talk about, but that's not enough to build something beyond casual friendship.

One of my co-workers and I have become good friends - but someone's got to know I'm Pagan if they're going to become close enough where I might ask them to cat sit for me (I have an shrine up, after all, and all manner of Pagan books), or if I'm going to ask for help with some kinds of things related to the health foo, or any number of other 'beyond acquaintance' tasks. Right now, I'm sitting in the place where if I couldn't leave my apartment, I'm pretty sure my co-workers would chip in and help out (they're pretty awesome people), but where it'd lead to some more complicated conversations after the fact, and possibly a long-term change in how they viewed me.

I'd also like to be really clear: the friends I have who returned to Christianity weren't doing it because there "was nothing on TV" (and frankly, I find that comment extremely trivialising on their behalf). It was because established church communities are doing a lot than many other places (including vast swaths of the Pagan community) at certain kinds of social connection, support, commitment, provision of shared resources (especially around things like grief support or support while someone's in hospital, etc.) Part of that is *also* building sincere and meaningful friendships, because that's part of how healthy communities sustain themselves.

At least one of my friends really values having a larger community that is committed to and engaged with about social justice issues, and where they have enough people to do regular meaningful activities that help in that area (everything from the recent push in Minnesota for marriage equality to supporting people in immigration detention to all sorts of other things.) In contrast, the MN Pagan community is doing some of that, but not very often, and not always as effectively as other parts of the larger community.

And so for people whose religious inclinations are leading them in a particular direction (in these cases, toward Christianity) anyway, I totally understand (and support) my friends in recognising that those things matter. Sometimes a very great deal.

It's not about boredom. (All of the people I'm talking about here are interesting, engaged people with lots of other community connections and interactions.) It's about a particular kind of social support, integration, and engagement in parallel with their larger spiritual values. Some people I know find that with the UUs, or the Quakers, or a couple of other places. But some people find it within Christianity, for reasons having to do with specific congregations, locations, or their personal history.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 07:18 pm (UTC)
moondancer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] moondancer
Burnout is, IME, the biggest factor. I've spent most of my life as a Pagan, now pushing 60; raised three kids, held down jobs (until I retired on medical disability) - those things aren't different for any religious path, so the "Increasing responsibilities elsewhere" definitely varies for me - that's a matter of time management and priorities, just as it should be for anyone.

Aside from burnout, the Pagan communities as a whole have a tendency to not only eat their young, but to eat their elders as well; this contributes a lot towards the burnout factor.

Communications styles and methods have certainly changed. Whereas 20 years ago we waited anxiously for days in anticipation of a response to an online posting on a BBS, or in the decades previous to that, weeks for a letter in the post, many seem to insist on instant gratification, within seconds at the latest.

The social & emotional support networks offered in other religions can also certainly play a role. I've a dear friend, who has been in the Craft almost as long as I, who vacillated between it and the LDS Church for a couple of decades, because the LDS could help her when she was in dire straits and the pagan community couldn't/wouldn't. This, however, is something that is beginning to change (see several posts at The Wild Hunt for examples.)

And yes, population density also contributes; living in a rural area myself, I'm well-acquainted with that! (Spent 20 years living in the Seattle area, and before that Southern California.)

Back to the OP for a moment, in closing - there are a few - very few - online communities that are functional, even on Facebook. Finding them is the challenge, as many of them are invitation only groups, i.e. you need to know someone in it to get it. That's also part of the problem, though, especially for those who may be isolated from others physically and not know folks online to that degree.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 07:54 pm (UTC)
jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jenett
On the increasing responsibilities elsewhere, to clarify - it's not that people drop everything. But if you were active on 3 or 4 or 5 different online spaces, and maybe a couple of face to face projects (of varying degrees of time commitment) and then you have health issues, or you hit the stage where you have kids who need to be driven to their own activities, or you have elderly parents who need more regular visits and time - well, you're probably not going to drop *every* place you were active.

But you might drop a couple that are lower priority.

If it's just one person doing that, that isn't a big deal. But in aggregate, especially in places which had, for whatever reason, a group of people in roughly the same life stage, a number of core posters doing so within a time span (six months, a year) can radically change the dynamics of the discussion or organisation, even if every single one of them had excellent reason for it, and even if the group still has a lot of good stuff in it. Some discussion spaces recover from that, or route around it, without any problems. But a bunch don't.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 07:28 pm (UTC)
sophiacatherine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophiacatherine
I like the Cauldron online community. It has a good mix of seasoned practitioners and newer people. (But no, I'll never stop asking our visitors for sources - it's for my own benefit, because I'm *learning* and I can't take everyone's word for it that what they remember is accurate!)

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 07:55 pm (UTC)
finch: (Default)
From: [personal profile] finch
This, as far as sources are concerned. And I don't expect the sources named to be websites, necessarily, but some sort of breadcrumbs I can follow is always nice.

I'm also going to second (third?) the "burnout, burnout, burnout" above as the reason I've seen people leave. There are definitely areas with well-established communities that respect their elders. Phoenix was one, at least on the Asatru and ADF side, and I got the impression that extended to Tucson. Portland, on the other hand, seems to have very little "infrastructure" despite its reputation as counter cultural.

My wife and I are trying to start a family, and we want to be able to raise a child in a faith community. We can't do that here as pagans the way we could have in Phoenix, and that's one of the reasons we've been looking at UU churches and Buddhist temples. There comes a point where you just... Don't want to be solitary anymore.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-27 08:27 am (UTC)
sophiacatherine: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sophiacatherine
"This, as far as sources are concerned. And I don't expect the sources named to be websites, necessarily, but some sort of breadcrumbs I can follow is always nice."

Actually I prefer sources that are from books or, even better, academic journals. I trust the peer review system far more than I trust the urban myths that websites are often full of...

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 09:08 pm (UTC)
roguesareth: Sareth icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] roguesareth
I don't believe in the concept of "elders" While it is always good to have people around with more experience and knoweldge, who can point you to good resources so that you may find you own path, I also feel that this can easily be corrupted, with these so called "elders" ( or even just some of the more well known members of the community) using their status to police other peoples spiritual paths, manipulate people for their own gain, or spread incrediable harmful ideas.(Let me bring up my issues with the likes of Sannion) Just because someone is older, does not mean that they are a mature, rational person.

Personally, I'm 24 and have been practicing paganism in one way or another ( secretly, Catholic family ya know) since I was-well I don't even remember when. Consciously, I adopted the pagan label when I was 15. I have always studied alone, using either mythological texts from the Library, or the internet. I find both types of sources work pretty well.

Then again, I am almost entirely solitary. I don't work well with others, and while I have a small group of friends I can talk to about spiritual matters, we do not share the same path or experiences, so community in general means little to me.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 09:14 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] druidtru
Guess I run with a different crowd as I personally don't see this question asked too often :)

In ADF we have trained clergy. They have taken at least some coursework and so theoretically know what they are doing, regardless of whether they have been a pagan for 2 years or 20. Some members die (like Isaac himself a few years ago), some may leave for whatever reason, and some are occasionally stripped of their titles. But the body of clergy as a whole goes on.

As far as greater Heathenry, to which I belong, I don't really see people asking "where our our Elders?" Rather they tend to ask "why do you think so-and-so is an Elder? They don't make an Elder because of [insert long list of alleged shortcomings]. I make a much better Elder than they do!" So when ever the topic of Elders is mentioned in Heathenry, I tend to run, and it reminds why I pay dues to ADF and not to national Heathen organizations.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-26 10:01 pm (UTC)
jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jenett
There's also the question of "Elders in what context?"

I mean, in the context of my tradition (initiatory religious witchcraft), I'm an elder. (I'm a 3rd degree priestess, and these days, the senior priestess currently active in the tradition). And there are times when that's actually relevant to the world - when I'm consulting with the other active third about stuff for the good of the tradition, or this spring, when I helped with several initiations while I was visiting Minnesota, or ... stuff. And in a specific context (a tradition, an organisation) that makes sense.

But in terms of the larger Pagan community? It means very little, and it *should* mean very little, because the vast majority of people? (almost everyone on the planet, in fact). Not in my tradition. Not even in any thing terribly like my tradition.

I'd much rather people look at what I do, and how I interact, and what they think about that, and decide whether they agree with me (or about what.) When I'm running larger community events, I hope they'd look at whether I'm running stuff they're interested in, and whether I listen to concerns and take them seriously, or whatever is relevant, rather than assume I know what I'm doing because of the in-tradition title. (And I'd much rather have people ask me questions, or tell me when I mess up, than put me on a pedestal. Uncomfy places to live, pedestals.)

Same deal online: I'll mention my training and such if I do a formal bio somewhere (because it's part of my history, and it's part of my commitments, and I'm proud of the work and the growth and my connections there). But 95 times out of 100, I'd much rather be talking about something else, or learning from someone who has a different set of experiences, or swapping "Hey, have you read X?" recommendations.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-27 03:54 am (UTC)
strixluna: small owl (Default)
From: [personal profile] strixluna
I haven't interacting in any pagan forums other than the odd DW or LJ community in... years. I can't even say how many years because I don't know. I was more active online when my children were smaller because they were lap children (and it was always an interesting experience to juggle a sleeping infant and a sleeping toddler who both wanted/needed to be held). Interacting online was one of my few outlets at that time.

Since I've been more free to get up out of my chair I've been online less. I wonder if that's a common theme? I notice a couple of folks have mentioned the added responsibilities of being in your 30's or older that are rarely (but not never) part of the life of a teen or person in their earlier 20's.

Granted, I'm not an Elder by anyone's definition (I'm a) 36, b) less than two decades into my practice, and c) completely eclectic and solitary) so my experience may not actually answer your question really.


Date: 2013-05-27 08:01 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Well, I'm still Pagan. I lost the Pagan job I had. Most of the people I've circled with walk away when I ask for basic things like actually showing up or anything else that smacks of responsibility. This is close to #2 in terms of the tedium factor. I have observed that the Pagan community does a lousy job of taking care of its elders, or anyone really. That does not help the retention rate.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-05-28 04:01 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>> A big problem, IMO is the nature of a lot of groups and Trads today. Their focus is Spontaneity and Creativity, which to a lot of folks means ANYTHING and ANYONE not new isn't worth carp. <<

Both of those things are good, as far as they go. They're great for exploring new things. But you have to learn from those experiences and figure out what works. Otherwise you spend all your time reinventing the wheel instead of taking the wagon somewhere.

>> The problem with this Attitude is that nothing really grows beyond what the members came in with. Those who want more LEAVE. Those that aren't getting entertained anymore do as well. <<

People expecting religion and magic to be entertainment ... yeah, that's a problem too. As soon as anything looks like work, they leave.

But even Yoda had that problem.

Re: Hmm...

Date: 2013-05-29 03:42 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I prefer to balance freedom and responsibility. I don't like people who demand a fussy level of politeness; I'm a fairly casual and often blunt person myself. Neither do I like drama queens or people who have mistaken "fuck" for a comma.

It's my distaste for drama that minimizes the number of people I'm willing to put up with.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-05-28 09:26 pm (UTC)
drgnhlr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] drgnhlr
I left my community at least 6 years ago, tired of the infighting, lack of respect and general 'ball biting' going on. My Way was not theirs, and therefore, it sucked, and was wrong. Same with my experiences. I am a solitary, though I tried Circles and other groups. Each imploded.

Online isn't much better, IMO, but again, I am on the fringe even now. There is barely any respect these days (like there wasn't then) for people on a solitary path. Somehow, it means less that you are walking your Path alone, than if you have others of the same belief system or Trad.

Do I miss the in-depth discussions? Couldn't say, never really had any.
I occasionally miss the people, but I'm not going to convert, or stuff my beliefs in a shoebox for someone else's convenience.

And let's not go down the road of 'who's turn is it to run the events' (Sabbats, festivals, etc)...that's an ugly place.

Blessed Be.


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