Recently I was asked if the SAPC had an “orphans and widows” fund. I had to explain that we did not, but that I believed it was a wonderful idea. This conversation obviously got me thinking long and hard, trying to find a realistic solution to a very common problem.
Gone are the days when folk could afford to go on pension and retire to some lakeside home, travel and enjoy the fruit of their years of labour. Yes, there is no trip on the Orient Express for any of us when we stop working and we have had to come to terms with a world economy that is fragile. Yes life is different today, to when this whole thing about Pagan Reconstruction commenced at the start of the 1900’s, and if you think you and your family are struggling I’ve got news for you. Stop, take a look around you and be prepared for what you may see.
I have seen elderly Pagans living and dying sick, alone and in poverty. Someone is always worse off than you. This is the truth of the matter.
Pagan clergy are ill-prepared for retirement because Pagan Clergy are not salaried. In our country we don’t have social grants, retirement plans or social security plans, food stamps and the dole like in the United Sates or in the United Kingdom.
Where do our Old Ones go? Ah, and this is where I hear the clever remarks from the “Peanut Gallery”… “Planning for old age is not materialist. It’s realistic!”
Let us not forget that Paganism is not an organized religion and Pagan Clergy therefore are not salaried and do not get retirement benefits, despite the fact that theirs is a lifelong vocation. Pagans are on average middle or working class people and when one devotes the greater part of one’s meager earnings to networking, keeping a library, teaching, holding Sabbats, feeding the hungry and the thirsty students who constantly wander in and out their homes, seeking counseling, advice, knowledge, a spiritual family, makes of lifelong commitment, a bottomless investment that has little if no rewards.
On social networks and in our writings we quote Indian Gurus and Zen Teachers, we speak about Generosity, Compassion, Love and Community, but some of us entertain the belief that our Old Ones lead lazy lives and then want to live off the community. “They should have made provision for their old age!” I heard someone recently say.
The greatest reason for poverty amongst Pagan Clergy is not laziness’ or short-sightedness, but having devoted their ALL to the ingrate few. They spend years coping and getting by on the little in order to teach and minister to their flocks, who walk out on their Teachers and Elders in the end.
Put aside your purse-fears and look around you. We cannot talk about Community or Compassion if we cannot look after Our Own, if we cannot practice Generosity towards our Elders, if we cannot demonstrate Honour in exchanging a gift for a gift, if we cannot respect their age, their experience, and their years of selfless service, counseling and teaching.
The current economic situation is a harsh one, but it is so much harsher for the aged and those no longer blessed with the strength of youth.
Adopt an Elder. Reach out and help an aged community member. Put aside the inanity of Witch Wars and Traditional Differences, visit them, make sure they are well, alleviate the loneliness, take them a hamper of shopping, help them stock their pantries and feed their familiars, help them clean their homes, tidy their gardens, share what you have with them (literature, news, thoughts, etc.) , take them shopping for groceries, take them for their medical checkup, to the library, the post office, read to them, invite them over for dinner, say thank you, listen to their words of wisdom and before frittering away money on too many beers, on some unnecessary item of clothing, think of them, slip some money into an envelope and leave it on their dining room table as a small hand towards their needs, their medication, their rent, their bills.
Gerald Gardner died on 12 February 1964, at the age of 79, aboard a vessel on the Mediterranean. He was buried in Tunisia, the next port of call, and the only person present at his funeral was the ship’s captain.
Right now, one of the Pioneers of SA Paganism is in need of your help. I am not going to mention names for they would not want it. I simply propose we look about us right now and adopt one of these wonderful old people who devoted the greater part of their lives towards advancing our Spiritual Needs and ensuring that we are in the fortunate position we are in today.
Let us say “Nobody needs to die alone anymore!” and whilst They walk amongst us, let us make their burden lighter and fill their days with laughter and joy.
So Mote It Be!