Eldership – Sovereign Earth 16
‘Try connecting with an old and ancient tree in the spirit of experiencing its Eldership -Its wisdom, presence and healing’
One of the key reasons that the Earth has been and is being neglected: because we neglect and ignore the wisdom of the elders.
“We are the dance of the Moon and the Sun
We are the light thats in everyone
We are the turning of the tide
We are the hope thats deep inside”.
Eldership is something of an enigma in our time.
Our culture has tended to glorify and almost deify youthfulness and glamour at the expense of experience and the ageing process. It is as if we have forgotten how a good wine takes many years to mature into a true vintage of exceptional flavour and taste. So it is with humans too. Yet it seems that being respectful and honouring of the older folk in our culture is often something of a lost art.
Yet how many of us can remember being blessed with stories of another time via our grandparents or older relatives? I remember remarkable stories now, which my own mother and father told me while they were still alive – stories which have undoubtedly helped shape me and make me who I am. Yet how I wish that I had written down and recorded those tales. If we are lucky, then we might have such memories. In a healthy community or culture, such stories and ‘gifts of experience’ are an inbuilt part of ‘who we are’.
These stories are there for each of us to be nourished by. Every old person will have a story to tell – often fascinating and inspiring. Maybe try thinking of one or two special old people in your life and asking them to share with you some of their most interesting ‘life stories’.
Try connecting with an old or ancient tree in the spirit of experiencing its eldership – its wisdom, presence and healing.
“She’s been waiting waiting, she’s been waiting so long
She’s been waiting for her children to remember
She’s been waiting waiting, she’s been waiting so long
She’s been waiting for her children to remember to come home.
Blessed are and blessed be those who stand together
Blessed are and blessed be those who stand alone
Blessed are and blessed be the lovers of the Lady
Blessed are and blessed be Maiden, Mother, Crone”.
In our culture, even the language of age – and often especially and sadly of the feminine – has been demeaned – take for example the very word ‘crone’ – potentially associated more with twisted decrepitude rather than the sage wisdom it truly holds.
Sage, Seer, Knower, Crone.
So the first key lesson with regard to our elders is to Acknowledge them. Then to Value them. Then finally to Honour and Bless them.
But as we all recognise, true eldership is about far more than being simply ‘old’.
It is a combination of a significant number of years lived on this earth, coupled with a process of accumulating through learning and experience, sufficient wisdom and presence to cause an energy change for the better.
Its interesting how I find myself describing it in terms of an energy shift. I think thats partly because there is something mysterious and almost magical about a true elder – a quality which is not fully tangible or explicable and yet is fully experienced and present.
It has been said that in order to lead and experience a rich and bountiful life, then in all likelihood it will involve undergoing several deaths. I can certainly equate with that and suspect that many of you listening/reading this will be able to relate to that notion too. I further think that true eldership is likely to exhibit such a trait – an understanding of what it is to have ‘gone beyond’ in some way. In that sense an elder is also quite likely to embody key elements of shamanism: Aspects of healer, magician and priest – Shamanka, wise-woman and Seer, along with the key qualities of light -heartedness and not taking oneself too seriously 🙂
If we are fortunate then we have maybe met an elder or two during our own life journeys – It is about much more than simply ‘being old’ – it is about a presence, a humility and a ‘knowing beyond words’ that permeates the air around such people.
In our time such people are needed more than ever. Yet it is a paradox of true eldership that such people tend to be more retiring than ‘in your face’; more likely to admit to ’not knowing the answers to anything’ than claiming to have the solutions’; more likely to be silent rather than vociferous. (all good reasons to recognise why I still have a way to go).
So it needs a community and a culture to recognise and value an elder, in order to draw out and appreciate what they have to offer. I would suggest it somehow involves a ‘dance’ between the elders and the non elders – of mutual partnership and recognition.
This I think is key: Eldership is something which is recognised by others and then ‘bestowed upon’ those that have earned and deserve it, rather than something which can be claimed by oneself.
“All Round Mother Earth, Bringer into Birth
Sweet Creatrix of the night and day
Bring your spirit through, rest our thoughts in you
Guide our feet in the natural way”
A few personal reflections: I feel blessed and fortunate to have experienced what it is like to be asked to represent eldership within a community. That’s another key aspect – eldership relates to a community – more often these days to a particular or specific group – perhaps in relation to Druidry, or to a personal development group or a political or spiritual group. Whereas I sense that in other times it might more likely have been on behalf of the village or the tribe – now we are more likely to have more than one tribe in our lives – from family as one, to Druid, to activist, to teacher, to sharing a journey with others on the path of self development.
In her book, ‘Women who run with Wolves’, Clarissa Pinkola Estes suggests there are sixteen cycles of womanhood, each of seven years. Of particular interest in the context of eldership are some of the later stages:
49-56 – The Age of the underworld/learning the words and rites
56-63 The Age of choice – choosing one’s world and the work yet to be done
63-70 The Age of becoming a ‘watchwoman’
70-77 The Age of re-youthenisation – more cronedum
77-84 The Age of mist beings – finding more big in the small
84-91 The Age of weaving with the scarlet thread – understanding the weaving of life
91- 98 The Age of the ethereal – less to ’saying’ – more to ‘being’
98- 105 The Age of Pneuma – of the breath
105 + The Age of timelessness.
It is also worth noting that it is possible for a younger person to embody certain qualities of elderhood, just as it is quite possible for an aged person to still be quite juvenile.
Here are some of my own reflections as a man, on what it means to be an elder
An old man‘s thoughts are full of chatter, trivia and distraction
The object of the thoughts tend more toward consideration of the self
An elder‘s thoughts are spacious, still and present
The object of the thoughts tends more toward Self
The greater good beyond the self.
An old man‘s actions are filled with pain and suffering
Bemoaning an aged body and things ‘gone wrong’
His resentment is having to do anything to help anyone but himself
The result is he resents himself
An elder man‘s actions are filled with a sense of joy
and fulfilment; of sharing his gifts without condition
His holy sacrifice is to give of himself from a loving heart.
As he blesses the world around him, he is blessed too
An old man‘s feelings are more generally unconscious
He diverts by default to whatever addiction best satisfies
His penchant for distraction
Rather than acknowledge and owning who he truly is
Warts and all.
An elder man has shed the need or the illusion
To constantly satisfy the ego self
But being human still recognises and acknowledges
His tendency to do so on more occasions than he might wish
However, being an elder man, he has an easy capacity to forgive himself
Just as he forgives others.
An old man finds this much more difficult, almost impossible
To do. Shutting off to his inner truth and in trying to deny the pain
He inadvertently makes his life and all around him , a misery.
Dwelling in inadequacy and resentment he is more likely to blame
anyone but himself rather than take responsibility for being who he is.
An elder man fully owns his pain – the inevitable consequence of a life
And transmutes it into an unquantifiable wisdom presence
Which is nonetheless fully tangible and available.
Transformed into a gift
An elder man, having been stripped back to his core
understands humilty as being at the heart of his humanity
And thereby enables a contagious humour and infectious smile to
Break out wherever he wanders.
An old man meanwhile, regards humilty as being a weakness
diminishing his stature and questioning his manhood
An arrogance and false smile in public
Belie an inferiority and sadness in private
His energy leaves a shadow in his wake
An elder man inspires and enthuses simply
through his presence
His supreme vulnerability is his supreme strength
A consequence of letting go rather than grasping towards.
An elder man is a radiator while an old man is a drain
An elder man recognises and understands his fallibility
He can smile at the perverse and the tragic
As well as the trivial and the comic
An old man is more likely to be of the grumpy variety
We’ve all seen what that means
Grump grump grump grump grump grump grump
An elder man inspires through simplicity of being
An old man fears death
Dreading his inevitable departure
Denying his mortality
And thereby paradoxically
Denying his life
An elder man embraces death
Living each day
As if it were his last
Spilling forth his bounteous legacy
In truth, we are each of us likely to be a mix, somewhere on a
Continuum -life journeying along the spectrum. True grumpies are rare
Just as true elders are too.
Elderhood is not the result of reaching a certain age and being claimed by oneself.
It is the consequence of a rich life well integrated and having it recognised – and elderhood consequently bestowed naturally – by others
I received a letter from a friend recently which said the following:
“I think that at certain point in life, without being overpowered by ego, it is appropriate to be proud of the wisdom each of us have gathered, even if it is incomplete; even if we still fail every day”
Deep into the Earth I go
Deep into the Earth I know
Deep into the Earth I go
Deep into the Earth I know
Hold my hand Sister hold my hand
Hold my hand Brother hold my hand
‘We become much more interesting with life experience’