Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pagan Blog Project: An Aging Community

Here's something you probably don't want to hear: our Pagan community is aging. While it is certainly true that Paganism has been expanding at a rapid pace over the last ten years and is particularly appealing to young persons, there is a core segment of the community who came into the picture with the advent of Gardner's public reconstruction around and prior to 1951. What that essentially means is that those who were standing on the threshold of the first generation of modern Wicca,witchcraft and Paganism did so 60 plus years ago. Many of those we view as founders and elders of the Craft are now truly elderly. It doesn't mean that those folks are going to wither into wizened old coots, but let's face it-everyone is not as spry and sprightly as Raymond Buckland in their elderhood. (

I came into the Craft during the 1970's at the tender age of 17...thirty-nine years ago. Another mid-50ish woman and I are presently planning our Croning Ceremony, which will take place in a couple of months. Being in the Craft 39 years doesn't make me more important or better than anyone else; I'm not an adept at anything as far as I can tell.( And yes, it did freak me out just a little when I did the math that so many years have passed.) What it does mean is that I am a potentially valuable resource in my home group, and perhaps the the community beyond. It means I have more experience simply because of tenure ( not superior to anyone elses, mind you).  It also means that  one day in the not so distant future, I may not be able to fully participate in the activities of my community unless there is careful planning by those mindful of the limitations we all develop as we age. There are things I cannot do even now as well as I used to, but on the other hand, that is off-set by the knowledge and ability I have developed in other areas.

The  aging of our community will require how we look at things when we plan gatherings and events. (Frankly, we should already be doing this with regard to those members who have physical disabilities.) Accessibility may not be an issue where you hold rituals now, but there is a genuine likelihood it can be in the future. No member of the community should be turned away or  left out of an activity because there are barriers to their participation due to age and/ or infirmity. There are certainly many ways to make adaptations during the planning phase of events to be sure the chosen area does not bar anyone from participating. And yes, that may mean at some point that you need to change the meeting place to reasonably accommodate everyone. I assure you that the Divine will appear wherever you hold your event with the proper invitation.

Architectural and physical barriers are not the biggest obstacle. The biggest obstacle is attitude. Policies and practices of the group may inadvertently lead to unintentional discrimination. Discussing the needs of our aging community now will largely by pass any misunderstanding or hurt feelings later. Nobody wants to feel like they no longer have a part because they are 'too old', or that certain activities are only for the younger members of the group...and no one should be allowed to feel that way. Leadership should make clear that every member of the group has their own uniqueness, and what makes the individual valued does not diminish with age.

Make no assumptions about the ability of others. Don't assume that the coven mate with failing vision also has a problem hearing, or Lady Lighthawk will be unable to walk up the hill to where the circle is being held because she does, after all, have a cane. In this instance your adjustment in planning might simply be  using a larger font when printing written parts of the ritual, or working with the individual in question to have the printed part translated to braille ( many individuals with low vision or who are blind have access to a facility which will do this). It doesn't hurt to ask-in fact, it makes the individual feel valued because you are willing to help remove the barrier to their participation. That participant who uses the cane may just have to be given a little more time to make the trek, or have a 'buddy' to help with the rough spots. The same goes for those using wheelchairs and scooters; many of these devices are capable of being used in moderate rough terrain with the assistance of others. Others may have respiratory or cardiac illness; would it be possible to give them a ride to the ritual spot? Again, maybe all they would need to do is to pace themselves and be given additional time to reach the area under the watchful eyes of others making the trip on foot. Designate a member of the group to be the official communicator with a deaf coven mate who uses TTA( phone service for the deaf using telecommunications). Work with the individual toward a solution! They deal with the physical challenge all the time and may have developed some innovative solutions on their own. I cannot stress the value of open communication enough.

I have a personal example of this: just at the time I was about to undergo  my Ordeal Ceremony in the Order of the Arrow (Boy Scouts), my MS kicked in full force. While I could walk and carry a light backpack unassisted, I could not use a sleeping bag on the ground. The leadership wanted to put me in an indoor lodge for the night, to which I objected, because the purpose of the evening was to be in the out of  doors for the evening. The solution we came up with was this: I still went out on the mountain with my group, but my sleeping bag was put on a cot for the night,giving me the proper height from the ground where I had leverage to be independent. It was a simple, dignified solution. The ultimate benefit from this experience was that it became an opportunity for discussion and education for the OA chapter leadership, which resulted in adapting their routine so that other Scouts who were physically and mentally challenged were inducted in our OA Lodge. Now the participation of these individuals is not considered a 'problem' by the more able bodied, and other participants are not only delighted to pitch in where they are needed, but knowing they helped make the experience a reality for another fellow gives them the satisfaction of being truly useful. Perhaps the most important lesson is that they now view ability verses inability through new eyes.

Most of all, allow those who are differently- abled their dignity, particularly those who are experiencing problems connected with the natural aging all of us will experience. None of us would intentionally be mean-spirited...but you would be surprised by your own reactions...I was, and I am a trained paramedic. Curb your impatience if it's taking a little bit longer for that older member to "get it". On the other hand, don't treat the elderly as you would a child. Take into consideration that "things don't work like they used to". Speak a little more clearly, adjust your tone of voice if you realize the other person isn't quite comprehending what you're saying. Offer to enlarge printed materials, or to read to them if the person seems to be having a problem. There is no harm in gently saying," Can I help you with that?" The offer is more often than not appreciated because the individual doesn't want to appear useless or a burden. We all have our pride....and occasionally we all need the help of another.

I feel that within our community there is a vague sense of  disconnect in genuinely equating our aging membership with the worship of the  Maiden, Mother and Crone ( and their male counterparts). This is curious to me and  I cannot put my finger on it other than to say it is a normal development phase of the young. It is a boon and not a burden to have older members among us. Not everyone will be the endearing image of the coven grandma or grandfather, but even those who are disagreeable and set in their ways have something to teach us. The experience of long life only comes from those who have lived it. Please remember that those aged members of our community will all too soon become the ancestors from whom we seek help from across the Veil.

(The CDC has an excellent informational source on aging on their website, including a course which offers CEUs for some individuals:


  1. Excellent post on a subject that's often overlooked. THANK YOU!!

  2. I really enjoyed this post! As the mother of an Autistic child I am used to considering differently-abled (I LOVE that term, thank you)people in everything we plan for. Birthday parties, outings, etc. It never occurred to me that others may not think about it.

    It got me thinking how my ability to worship has changed from what it was when I started. I have realized that i have taken more to the sitting down and shorter rituals than when I started and was in love with the beauty of a long ritual.

    Thanks for this post!

    I also came to tag you for blog fun! The details will be posted on my blog after 2 this afternoon :) You are not at all obligated to play and don't feel bad if you chose not to :)

  3. You are all very welcome and thank you for reading my blog. I think we need to get the word out that the 'sudden' graying of our community is nearly as charming as we envision and that we need to start preparing so that everyone can come to the circle equally and no one feels they are a burden or no longer needed.

  4. " not as nearly..."

    See? It's starting already!


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