There's a dearth of material on elders in pagan literature. This book fills the gap! “The Heart of the Elder” is a compilation of material from several writers that's introduced, collated and organized by the authors.
The introductory chapters pave the way with definitions: what is paganism? What is pagan culture? What is an Elder? What is the cultural role of an Elder? The opening of the book is fantastically well-researched and includes information from statistical surveys along with excellent summations of the place of paganism in contemporary society. The first 30-or-so pages should be revised as an article for The Atlantic Monthly or a similar magazine because it's such a top-notch summation of modern paganism and the role of Elders in pagan culture.
Subsequent chapters include numerous quotes from people who participated in an extensive survey by filling out open-ended questions about their opinions about and experiences with elders. The book becomes a delightful dialog with the authors facilitating discussions. Participants represent a wide range of pagan paths and viewpoints. The authors work their way through defining what an Elder is (and this is not as simple a question as one may think), and give many examples of the roles an Elder might take within pagan and mainstream culture.
Rituals for Croning and Elder ceremonies are provided from pages 185 to 223; Rites of Passing follow with several amazing commentaries on the impact of the death of an elder on the individual and pagan community. The end matter includes detailed appendices: the survey method and questions; biographical information about the elders mentioned by the authors; a list of contributors, a glossary; suggested readings; a reference list and index.
The book is well-written and nicely edited and formatted. As pagans who joined the Earth Spirituality movement during the 1980s and 1990s start to reach the age and experience level of Elderhood, there will be a greater need for rituals to mark their transition to this phase of life. This book is additionally valuable because it emphasizes the strong thread of respect for Elders in pagan tradition that is sadly absent in contemporary culture. As the authors point out, this Elder respect is one way pagans can take the lead and set a good example in mainstream culture in the 21st century.
Very highly recommended book; and big kudos to the authors for their remarkable efforts to make this material coherent, easily understood, and available to all. Blessed Be!
~review by Elizabeth Hazel
Authors: Lillith ThreeFeathers and Joy Marie Wedmedyk
2019, Megalithica Books
297 pages, $17.50 pb