By Amy Hale
The term “Pagan Elders” has never rested well with me as a cultural convention. Believe me, I am grateful for those who have gone before, those who have courageously blazed the trails, taught, led and agitated. I am so delighted to honor these people, but I do so at my own judgment, not because I am compelled to by convention. I find this term, elders, problematic in that it apes our perceptions of “respected tribal elders”, and thus smacks to me of appropriation. Similarly, the term “ancestors” to reference contemporary Pagan thinkers who have made important contributions and who have passed on also rubs me the wrong way. I know many Pagans for whom ancestor worship/ritual is an important and useful concept, and I’m not saying I don’t resonate with that term when appropriate (for me it is related to my actual family). As the term is becoming more widely used in Pagan cultural discourse rather than being tradition specific, as suggested by the Cherry Hill Seminary “Pagan Elders and Ancestors” series of courses, there seems to be a movement toward a type of institutionalization of the term that could do with some closer consideration.