The learned brock_tn said:
For several years I have been intrigued by the degree to which some segments of the modern pagan movement in the United States appear fascinated with the concepts of “elders” and “elderhood.” Given the wide disparity of beliefs and practices within the pagan community in the US, the general lack of organization above the level of the local worship group within the modern pagan movement, and the militant aversion to religious authority manifested by many pagans, it is not immediately obvious (to me, at least,) as to why this subject seems to so seize upon people’s attention. This is especially true when the matter being discussed is, as is often the case in public discussions on this subject, the question of which person or persons ought to be considered to be elders with regard to the modern pagan movement as a whole.I said...
I am interested in hearing people’s thoughts on why this issue seems to come up so regularly. What are the forces or needs that are propelling it to the surface of the collective consciousness? Are there personal agendas involved here? Group agendas? Mass delusions and the madness of crowds? Inquiring minds want to know!
*What are the forces or needs that are propelling it (recognition of elders) to the surface of the collective consciousness?*
I believe that fritterfae covered most of the possible reasons. Kudos! I would only add three.
1) Influence of Mundane Society via "Hierarchy Archetypes"
2) Desire for Justice
3) Recognition of Connection Between Local Worship Groups
Here are the details...
1) Our society is divided into levels of hierarchy. These are evident in the military, police, firemen, business and so on. The traditional family has it's own hierarchy with children, parents, grandparents, and uncles/aunts. The existing major religions have degrees of rank, including "elders". People don't leave their past memories or impressions at the door when they fully embrace the neopagan path. Some neopagan traditions stress family, ancestors and community. This opens the door wide to the embrace of "family style" elders. While all of this may not be completely compatible with local worship group structures, it is a part of societal human nature.
2) Bad stuff does happen in local worship groups. It is life. The general lack of a organization above the level of the local worship group does not completely exclude some loose acknowledgment of authority, wisdom or institutional knowledge. Those with perceived injury seek outside remedy, and perhaps, restitution. Sometimes people just want a sanity check to see if what they are experiencing is properly part of a larger tradition. An elder or group of elders is sought out to provide support in response. Those seeking help ask "who is an elder" or attempt to identify one(s) on their own.
3) A local area or region can have many local worship groups. It is human nature to seek connections with like-minded people. It is not practical, or even desirable, to automatically grant full “rights” of a priest or teacher when they interact with another local worship group. The label of "elder" is a good one for recognizing the established local ranking as people interact on a larger scale.
*Are there personal agendas involved here?*
Life is a personal event. Those who call themselves elders or recognize others as elders do so with their own agendas. As long as this is permitted by the tradition(s) involved, the propelling of elders is legitimately the individual's prerogative.
Franklin D. Roosevelt did "stuff" the Supreme Court with judicial elders in order to shift political power. Witch Wars have happened in the past. Perhaps there have been artificially created groups of "elders" with a political Craft goal in mind. Just as the common man on the street had little to do with Franklin's actions, individual neopagans should have little to do with the political maneuverings of agenda motivated groups.
*Mass delusions and the madness of crowds?*
Mob psychology is a interesting topic all by itself. Mobs are either created or led by firebrands. Can an "elder" motivate a crowd of people to action? Sure. The traditional local worship group could be swayed into a form of mob action by force of an internal personality. With that said, those outside of the affected worship group can recognize the results, disregarding the outside affluence of the self-made "elder".