One of the themes at this year’s Sacred Space conference turned out to be legacy. We are now losing many of our Pagan elders at a rapid pace. A new generation of cradle Pagans and of Pagans who came to these religions, not through secret initiations or the occasional book found in some long-since-closed occult book store, but through the internet, tv, or their out Pagan friends are coming into their own.
What will our elders leave behind for this new generation?
Several years ago, at another Sacred Space conference, John Michael Greer talked about his work to preserve the (often) typewritten and/or mimeographed papers of 1950s, ’60s, and 70s Pagan groups: boxes left to moulder in someone’s basement, files saved at the last minute from non-Pagan relatives who had no idea that they were about to throw out, for example, the last remaining set of instructions for a dwindling order of Druids, an important Book of Shadows, or the minutes of the meetings of an important esoteric society. Getting those documents online and onto CDs is part of the work, but, as Greer explained, in a post-peak-oil world, information stored online or on disks may or may not be preserved, readable, recognized. And so acid-free paper copies, stored somewhere safe, become important, too. Greer noted that much of the work of recent decades (and this is certainly true of his work) has been about re-discovering how to do magic that earlier cultures had already figured out. It would be good if post-peak-oil Pagans didn’t have to re-re-re-invent the wheel.
At this year’s Sacred Space conference, Jason Pitzl-Waters (of The Wild Hunt) and Michael G. Smith (who is involved in the construction of the New Alexandrian Library) discussed the need to preserve the libraries and papers of our Pagan elders. This can be a difficult “talk” to have with people, but, as Mr. Smith emphasized, a necessary one.
I’ll go farther and say that all Pagans “d’un certain age” should have a will, and, depending upon their state of residence, an advance medical directive and a power of attorney. (Large Pagan conferences and festivals could even sponsor speakers/workshops/vendor table on these topics.) There are resources within each state for those with low incomes to create such documents. Invoke Hecate, Kali, Vulture, Ereshkigal, Hades, or Anubis and vow to get it done before Samhein this year. Why leave your family or friends to wonder? Why force your non-Pagan relatives to figure out what should happen to your athame, Book of Shadows, wand? You can spell all of that out in your will (e.g., Burn my journals, unread. Give all of my papers to my graduate school. Let my friend, X, go through my library and figure out which autographed books deserve to go to a Pagan Library or community center and which paperbacks can go to the local library. Give my G/Son my athame. Burn my ritual robes in my funeral pyre.)
Being in control of these decisions can give you a great feeling of peace.
I’ll add one final note: For many of us, a huge part of our written oeuvre is online. Most sites that host blogs, etc. have a policy that essentially says that X number of months/years after any activity, they can delete the blog or website. Does someone have the password to your site so that they can preserve your online writings, artwork, and photographs?