Defining who is an Elder

by Jesse Potter aka Elkin Vanaeon

An elder is a person (either man or woman) who has reached an age (usually in their 50s for a man and in their late 40s for a woman) that they deserve respect and honor; who is called to play a significant and crucial role in fulfilling the promise of our future; and whose work it is to provide wisdom from long life experience and carry a legacy which they provide to the community for future generations.

Elder Roles are in being:

Elderhood is defined as containing both Crones and Sages: Elders are to be honored for their wisdom, knowledge, skills, or whatever they have gained from their years on Earth. Very often, it's they who settle disputes, give blessings (babies, handfastings, house blessings), and speak with greatest authority in councils.

Our Pagan Elders: Who They Are and Why

From interview by Melanie Fire Salamander referenced from

In the 1995 Mabon, Samhain and Yule issues, Widdershins took up this hot topic of elders, though not in the same fashion. Writing under my then-given name Miriam Harline, I interviewed certain area elders: Pete Pathfinder, then pastor of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church (ATC); Haragano, a leading high priestess of the Kingstone Tradition; Blacksun and Shadowhawk, of StarWyrm Coven (Blacksun also later worked with the ATC); and Changing Woman, then archdruid of the Greenwood Grove. In Imbolc 1996, Sylvana and I interviewed Leon Reed, another Seattle-area elder, later a founder of the Bards of Caer Pugetia. Those interviews, online at, contain these elders' still-engaging thoughts on the Seattle-area pagan past, present and future.

Looking at the topic of elders again after eight years, we sent a different list of questions to a different set of elders:

Question - What is your definition of an elder? What does an elder do?

Moondancer: I define an elder as a person of authority (in their area of concern/expertise), who is entitled to respect for that expertise and experience. Among tribal cultures, the elder, or elders, are the highest authority in the tribe. However, in our magickal community, we are not a single tribe, but at best a loose confederation of tribes, each with its own elders. Elders should advise and lead by example, not command (as if anyone could realistically command the magickal community!). They also need to be active within the community.

Dana Corby: I make a distinction between a coven elder, who is simply a senior member who is in service to the coven, trad and Craft; a tradition elder, who is the upline for several covens and is a source not only of learning but of authenticity; and a community elder who is a teacher, an organizer, an activist and in many ways a states(wo)man. I "had words" with a young man in TERRA not long ago who made the remark that what was important to him about an elder was not what they knew but what they did, and I rebutted that that was what elders do -- know things and share them.

Robert Reeder: I would consider an "elder" to be someone who has celebrated the Saturn return of their original third-degree initiation, in the Wiccan or equivalent sense of that. So if someone were "red roped" at the age of 30, they could be considered an "elder" at the age of 59 or 60, assuming that the individual had been actively teaching and studying during that time and not just sitting on their laurels admiring the lovely red rope around their waist. And by that definition, an elder should "do" pretty much whatever they please. If that means retirement, more power to them; they've earned it.

Stephanie Raymond: My definition of an elder is someone who has reached the point in their lives of being a crone or sage. It has much less to do with the idea of being a community activist or attaining a particular level of magickal training, and much more to do with fulfilling the traditional role of elderhood -- keeper and teacher of old knowledge, one who is able to offer the perspective of the years, etc. -- that exists in traditional communities. If I may make a huge generalization, I think modern America has lost the type of community structure in which elders are valued, or even in which elders exist. It is very easy for us to spend most of our time around only the generation of our birth, and apart from others. I think neo-paganism has grown in recent years as a part of the neo-tribalism that anthropologists and sociologists have observed happening to compensate for the very transient, socially isolated overculture that exists in America today.

 My Services to the Community

Writs, Books and expanding knowledge to the World

I am Jesse Potter but known in the pagan community as Elkin Vanaeon. Since 1993 - I have been disabled , This has created a difficulty in being able to go to many of the Gatherings, much less set up camp, and not being able to see or be seen by many Elders that I would have liked to have met. The Gatherings that I have been able to go to I have enjoyed and met many people (pagan) whom I worked with as well as learned from - If I couldn't pay my way I worked by provided teaching programs (just as my wife, priestess and life partner has done) as means of payment for our entry to the gatherings (as we do not have a large income). I have served my community in many ways which can be read in the section about me at

My website, which is a teaching website for the larger worldwide community, has been accessed by over 398, 125 people (as of 07/10/2011), and recognized by both Secular Sources and Pagan people around he world. It is my way of reaching out to the greater world wide communities, not just one community, in ways that others cannot. It entails rituals, histories of Wicca and many pagan peoples, and resources such as a book I have written on the history of paganism and social intolerance that is over 600 pages in length. I have researched thousands of sources and countless hours to provide eBooks that I have written for the pagan community to help them learn how to initiate, what is needed to become priests and priestesses, and how to form covens, to learn the laws and principles of the craft, herbalism, aromatherapy, phytotherapy, cooking, preservation and survival techniques, etc….

On Yule Vigil 2010, I was "Eldered" by my High Priest who had been Saged about eight years ago by the Greater Community of Sages, but this was contested in that he did not have the right to do so as an individual (though it was before the ring bearers of our covenstead community), since it is the greater community of Elders who determine who is to be an elder. A man can be an elder of his family, of his covenstead, or of the larger community of covens and tribes. The elder is not created or made by the Eldering ritual. The Eldering ritual is the means by which family, coven, and community recognize and acknowledgie him for who he is and his accomplishments.

In my view - I was "Eldered" by a respected Sage as was done in older times, to be understood and respected without disrespect to others – done in the way before there were gatherings, associations, or councils of Sages. That in being an Elder is to be a male crone and a sage; you have to be one in order to be the other. This is who I am and I don’t need to brag or hold over others a title to declare it as something to be demanded, in some respects I hate being old and being constantly reminded of it, but again – that is also who I am. I may still be reviewed by the greater community to determine the legality of my eldering and that is okay too - I respect their right to do so.

Summary on Definition of Elders and Sages

There are many communities in the country that have groups of men who gather to provide an Eldering or Saging for men whom they feel worthy. The definitions used in many Communities define that being a sage is a part of being an Elder inclusive of both men and women, that an Eldering or Saging meant the same thing depending on the particular tradition used by a community. In some respects the definition of being the Crone entails all roles of being an Elder.

Final Thoughts

Many in the Pagan community talk of the need for Elders - but in truth many want the prestige of having and elder, but aren’t ready to hear them. This is especially true in some families where sons and daughters choose to make their own mistakes, rather than listen and learn from their mothers and fathers. Elders make sense and tell truths that not everyone is ready to hear. Elders have different points of view and, surprisingly, are sometimes very competitive and territorial. This is seen even when defining who are Elders - such as distinguishing an Elder as a woman, as in her not just being called an Elder - but as a Crone. Whereas when it comes to an Elder as a man - he can only just be considered being called an Elder.


Return to the Main Index to Elkin Vanaeons Website fro the Mysts of Time

Idaho Web Design Tools
 Idaho Web Design Tools