'Old Guard Paganism'.  The phrase started out as a joke, but then caught on.  
This tells us something.  It tells us there is a NEED for such a term.  It 
also implies its own antithesis, 'New Guard Paganism'.  And it indicates 
that there is some difference between the two -- a 'difference that makes a 
difference' -- and thus requires differentiating labels.  (It should perhaps 
be noted that the word 'Paganism' is used in the present context -- however 
inaccurately -- to refer to modern Neo-Pagan Witchcraft , or Wicca.  With 
grave misgivings, I have adopted this usage here.)

The first time I heard the phrase 'Old Guard Pagan' (used as a pejorative, 
as I remember) was during the organizing of the first Heartland Pagan 
Festival.  It seems that the festival was being organized mainly by 'New 
Guard Pagans' who felt they were not getting the anticipated support from 
the 'Old Guard'.  Yet, even after such misunderstandings were cleared up, 
the phrase remained.  Why?  And what is the line of demarcation?
I remember a discussion I had at the time with a long-time High Priestess 
and friend, in which we laughingly concluded that an Old Guard Pagan was any 
'pre-Starhawk' Pagan.  ( Starhawk's important book, 'The Spiral Dance' was 
first published in 1979.)  Th us, an Old Guard Pagan is any pre- 1979 Pagan.  
And yet, seniority alone couldn't BE the difference -- although it might 
ACCOUNT for many differences. (It is interesting to note that Starhawk's 
book is responsible for a massive influx of people into femin ist traditions 
of Wicca, and this shift in focus may likewise account for key differences.)

I suppose it's time for a bit of a disclaimer on my part.  By the preceding 
definition, I myself am an Old Guard Pagan, having become a Witch in 1970.  
Thus, my views may be consequently biased toward the Old Guard.  Still, I 
don't intend for this essay t o degenerate into shaking my cane at novices 
and using words like 'whipper-snapper' and 'scalliwag'.  On the contrary, I 
enjoy working with novices and have taught a beginner's Witchcraft course 
for the past 18 years.  No, my real goal here is to examine what I believe 
to be real and profound differences in attitudes concerning certain key 
issues between the two groups.  Hopefully, this will lead to greater 
understanding and tollerance on the part of both.

In the following passages, I've tried to distill the differences between Old 
and New Guard Paganism, presenting them as strict dichotomies. However, bear 
in mind the vagaries that must accompany all such generalizations and the 
exceptions that will inevit ably be cited.

FEW VS. MANY: Even today, with a substantial Pagan community for support, a 
newcomer often feels insecure, frightened, and alone when rejecting the 
religious training of childhood in favor of Paganism.  Imagine then, how 
much more insecure, frightened and alone an Old Guard Pagan would have felt, 
with literally no one to support such a decission.  In fact, no one to talk 
to at all.  When I first became a Witch, I knew of no other Witches 
anywhere.  For all I knew, I was the first human being in centuries to make 
such a conscious choice.  And this, I found, was typical of most Old Guard 

RESISTANCE VS. ACCEPTANCE:  Naturally, only those of extraordinary courage 
and perception would make such a choice back then.  Not only because they 
assumed they were choosing a solitary path, but also because they were sure 
to encounter active resistance -- if not outright hostility.  Today, of 
course, Witches have appeared on Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, Geraldo 
Rivera, and other national TV and radio shows, and the general populace is 
becoming more educated and, if not totally accepting, at least more 

SECRECY VS. OPENNESS:  But before such positive media PR, most Old Guard 
Pagans learned quickly to 'keep themselves to themselves'.  Usually, there 
was no one to talk with anyway, and when there was, it was someone trying to 
dissuade you from your choice.  Thus, most Old Guard Pagans are more 
inclined to secrecy concerning their involvement than New Guard Pagans.

was hard won indeed.  There were no Starhawks or Margot Adler's back then -- 
no one to neatly organize and systemitize the beliefs of Pagans. There were 
instead books by Sybil Lee k, Paul Huson, Leo Martello, and Lady Sheba (at 
best), and books by Hans Holzer and Louise Huebner (at worst).  And there 
were the historical tomes of Murray, Thorndike, Robbins, and others, as well 
as the disorganized 'linking' work of Gardner, Leland, a nd a few more.  And 
there was no one to tell you which book was worthwhile and which wasn't -- 
so you read them ALL!  Typically, an Old Guard Pagan has read (and owns!) a 
small library of books on Paganism.  And, back then, if you HADN'T read the 
classics (like Murray and Gardner) then you weren't taken very seriously by 
other Pagans.  By contrast, many New Guard Pagans feel that reading one or 
two books (usually Adler and Starhawk) is quite sufficient.  One unfortunate 
result is that Adler's or Starhawk' s version of Paganism is taken as the 
'standard' by the New Guard, which is far from the case.

SOLITARY VS. COVEN:  Old Guard Pagans used to dream of the day they might 
meet another real Witche, or maybe even (ecstacy of ecstacies!) an entire 
Coven!  Meanwhile, there was nothing to do but continue studying AND 
PRACTICING alone, as a 'solitary'.  Th is meant that, since Old Guard Pagans 
studied and practised the Craft in relative isolation, they developed strong 
individual concepts about it, an inner sense of theology, and the ability to 
use ritual and magic effectively alone.   By contrast, New Guar d Pagans are 
often introduced to other PAGANS before being introduced to PaganISM.  Their 
first experiences are group-oriented (Would you like to come to a Circle?), 
and the group continues to DEFINE Paganism for the novice.  Without going 
through a solit ary phase, most New Guard Pagans never develop a strong 
personal sense of what Paganism means. Worse, when asked to perform magic or 
rituals on their own, they are brought to a complete standstill, since all 
their experience has been with groups.

LONG VS. SHORT PERIOD OF TRAINING:  Even for the Old Guard Pagan who had 
managed to find a Coven to join, it was only the beginning of an even longer 
period of intensive training -- 'a year and a day' was the standard minimum.  
During this time, the novic e might be apprenticed to any number of members 
of the Coven, to learn what they had to teach.  At the end of that time, the 
candidate MAY or MAY NOT be judged ready for initiation.  By contrast, New 
Guard Pagans are often introduced to Paganism and invit ed to join their 
first rituals in the same breath (often at Pagan 'festivals').  From the Old 
Guard point of view, this is not only wrong but actually DANGEROUS!  A 
person who is untrained in handling magical power has no business inside a 
magic circle -- for their own sake, and the sake others attending!

JOIN VS. CREATE A COVEN:  Naturally, the Old Guard Pagan would much prefer 
to join a pre-existing Coven -- the older the better.  Only then could there 
be centuries-old secrets passed down through oral tradition for the novice 
to learn!  The New Guard Pag an seems to care nothing for this.  It is 
enough to gather a small group of people interested in Paganism, and start 
your own group.  From the Old Guard perspective, this makes as much sense as 
a novice mountain-climber being taken on his first climb by a group of rank 
beginners as green as he is!

ONE VS. MANY COVENS:  You may also be sure that an Old Guard Pagan is only 
going to belong to a single Coven.  By contrast, New Guard Pagans often join 
as many Covens as will have them, collecting initiations as though they were 
stamps.  (This is also a m ark of New Guard Covens, because an Old Guard 
Coven would never consider initiating someone who is already a member of 
another Coven.)

INITIATORY VS. NON-INITIATORY:  And, of course, initiation was the ultimate 
goal of most Old Guard Witches -- the one moment of transformation that all 
the training led up to -- the final reward for years of difficult study, 
work and devotion -- both alon e and in the group.  Most New Guard Pagans 
don't believe in initiations, since they claim (and they are often right!) 
that there is no one in the group more advanced than themselves.

RESPECT FOR ELDERS VS. NONE:  This may come the closest to sounding like 
cane-shaking, but it follows logically from the previous passage.  Most Old 
Guard Pagans would tend to assume that someone who has been a practising 
Pagan for more years than they ha ve, has more knowledge and experience to 
draw on, and consequently more to teach.  And unless situations prove 
otherwise, these Elders deserve our respect.  New Guard Pagans, often 
feeling that Elders must first 'earn' their respect, do not seek out the w 
isdom of the older generations of Witches.  The unfortunate result is the 
loss of much valuable legend and lore.

TRADITONAL VS. ECLECTIC:  Granted, there is no such thing as a 'pure' 
uncontaminated tradition of the Craft, stretching back to the dawn of time.  
Nor would such a case be necessarily desireable, even if it could be found. 
Every tradition has borrowed fro m outside sources and is eclectic to some 
extent.  Yet, while Old Guard Pagans often work to preserve their own 
traditions, New Guard Pagans are often deliberately eclectic, with a 
wonderful disregard of cultural heritage.  The advantage of being eclectic 
is that it doesn't require much work, in the way of research.  The 
disadvantage is that one often becomes 'jack of all trads, master of none'.

SKEPTICAL VS. UNCRITICAL: Perhaps because of the value Old Guard Pagans 
place on traditional forms of magic and divination, they are very often 
skeptical of new forms. For example, you won't find many Old Guard Pagans 
going in for the current fad of quart z crystals. In fact, Old Guard Pagans 
will likely point out that there have been no controlled experiments 
concerning the psychic property of crystals, that there is no historical 
precedent for such beliefs, that the use of crystals by Native Americans ha 
s been overstated and misrepresented, and that other precious and semi-
precious gem stones are traditionally just as effective. New Guard Pagans, 
however, are often not far removed from New Age Pagans, and go in for 
everything from crytals, to channeling, to UFO's, without much hint of 
critical evaluation.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE that exists between the two groups, and it could well 
account for many other differences. For many Old Guard Pagans, there COULD 
be NO SOCIAL REASON for becoming a Pagan, since Pagans were so few and far 
between that most of us didn't know ANY other Pagans anywhere! New Guard 
Pagans, on the other hand, often become involved in Paganism for purely 
social reasons. One has the feeling they need the security of being in the 
SCA, or some other form of surrogate extended family. Not that such a need 
isn't valid. But if social reasons are the primary motivation for becoming a 
Pagan, it marks a significant break from the Old Guard, whose motivation was 
chiefly religious. Perhaps that is why Old Guard Pagans are often a bit 
isolationist, and are quite happy with a fragmented, insular Pagan 
community. In fact, Old Guard Pagans tend to look with grave suspicion on 
the 'calls to unity' -- to create a homogenous Pagan communi ty -- that one 
often hears coming from New Guard Pagans.

this again deals with one's primary motivation for becoming a Pagan. For Old 
Guard Pagans, being political was something that grew out of one's religious 
ideas. But, just as there is much variance in Old Guard Paganism, so too 
there is much variance in Old Guard politics. From my own friends, I can 
cite Old Guard Pagans who run the gamut from Socialist to Libertarian. This 
same political diversity is noticably absent in New Guard P aganism, with 
most New Guard Pagans sticking to the same party line. Also, there is less 
tollerance of Pagans who diverge from that party line. More stress is placed 
on being 'politically correct'.

have become feminists AS A RESULT OF their Pagan beliefs. By contrast, many 
New Guard Pagans are Pagans AS A RESULT OF their feminist beliefs. Once 
more, it's a question of which t akes precedent. And although it may seem 
like the final result would be the same, such is not the case. Pagans who 
come to Paganism via feminism are often separatists, Goddess monotheists, 
anarchists, distrustful of both structure and authority, insisting on such 
ideas as consensus political forms, rotating High Priestesses (often without 
High Priests at all), and other non-traditional Coven structures. ( Often, 
such groups disdain to use the word 'Coven' and simply refer to their 
'Circles'.) The perenial problems that plague such groups (the lack of 
focus, the inability to set goals, the endless personality clashes and power 
plays, and the fact that nothing ever gets done) come as no surprise. Much 
of this would be unthinkable to Old Guard Pagans, who wo uld no more rotate 
the position of High Priestess in their Coven than they would rotate the 
position of mother in their family. ( The New Guard attitude toward 
authority arises, I believe, from a healthy mistrust of it as it is 
typically used (abused) in patriarchal society. This perception is 
particularly acute among feminists. What it fails to consider is how 
authority may be used positively in a matriarchy.)

NON- VS. PROSELYTIZING: For an Old Guard Pagan, the idea of saying to 
someone 'Would you like to join our Coven?' or 'Would you like to become a 
Witch?' would have been unthinkable. Proselytizing was one of the most 
detested aspects of the religious tradi tion (usually Christian) being left 
behind. Those groups who actively recruit members were, to the Old Guard, 
groups to be shunned at all costs. Witchcraft is not the one, right, and 
only religion. In fact, it probably appeals only to a select few. And th ose 
few exhibit their courage and sincerity when they seek out a Coven or a 
tradition. When a Coven seeks THEM out instead (Won't you please join our 
Circle tonight?), there is no guage of the novice's devotion. Perhaps that 
is why the 'drop-out' rate is much higher for New Guard than Old Guard. 
(Other mystery traditions, such as the Freemasons, strictly forbid a member 
to ask an outsider if they would like to join.)

Lest one conclude that there are only differences between Old and New Guard 
Pagans, let me mention a few things they seem to have in common. First, 
there is magic -- both in its frequency of use, and what it is used for. 
Second, the use of drugs by modern Witches has always been a minority 
position, and seems to remain so. Third, the times of celebration and 
festival, appointed by the seasons and the phases of the moon, seem constant 
(although New Guard Pagans often employ inappropriate names for the holi 
days). So, while there are differences, there is common ground as well.

If the remarks you overhear made by Old Guard Pagans (and the remarks made 
in this essay!) seem slighty petulent, tinged with sibling rivalry, it is 
not to be wondered at. The Old Guard Pagan is in the position of older 
brother or sister of the family. Th ey often feel, quite justifiably, that 
the things which they had to fight Mom and Dad so HARD for, are now being 
handed to the younger brother or sister on a silver platter. They feel that 
since their freedoms and privileges were so hard won, they value t hem more. 
They often feel that the younger siblings do not APPRECIATE all the things 
the older siblings have done to make such freedoms possible. And, of course, 
they are right. Such will always be the way of the world -- the march of 
generations. Still, the thing to remember about sibling rivalry is that, 
underneath it all, we ARE siblings; we ARE brothers and sisters, whatever 
forms may divide us; we ARE all sons and daughters of the Great Mother.