What Is An Elder?
Many who have just come to the VC, and even those who have been a part of it for a considerable time, ponder this question. What is an Elder? What indeed?
In many different communities in human culture we find the phenomenon of “the elder”, in which a small elite group in a particular society, culture or religion carry influence and even authority in that group.
The Vampyre community has used the word “Elder” traditionally for an indeterminable period. Other social subcultures which interact with the VC on certain levels, such as therians and weres – at least to our knowledge, do not and probably never have. Though they have a similar concept in their societies, this is wrapped around words like “Alpha”, “Pack Master” and so forth – though there may be some exceptions. At any rate, whatever it is called, the basic notion of what makes an “elder” is similar.
Oxford online dictionary defines an elder in the context we are looking at as:
“a leader or senior figure in a tribe or other group: a council of village elders.” “an official in the early Christian Church, or of various Protestant Churches and sects: ‘he left the Church of which he had been an elder'” and ” a member of a senate or governing body.”
According to Wikipedia,
“The term “Elder” (or its equivalent in another language) is used in several different countries and organizations to indicate a position of authority. This usage is usually derived from the notion that the oldest members of any given group are the wisest, and are thus the most qualified to rule, provide counsel or serve the said group in some other capacity.
Elder is a role played in the organised community that is most common in subsistence cultures, Elderhood being the condition or quality of being an elder. It is essentially the state of being in the latter portion of one’s life and being looked to for leadership of either a passive or active nature by your peers and\or subordinates due almost exclusively to this fact. Sometimes it involves a ceremonial investiture of some kind, and other times it does not. Sometimes it involves a definite chronological milestone which must be surpassed, while at other times the required age is simply relative to the ages of all of the other members of the group in question. Once having met the peculiar requirements of their individual groups, however, all elders are generally expected to mentor, share their experience, create a sense of oneness for their followings and, most especially, act as the spiritual embodiments of their communities.
Informal elderhoods An example of informal elderhood is the role of the matriarchal grandmother as it appears in many parts of the so-called global South. In the absence of viable male alternatives or even in the presence of them, grandmothers in these areas tend to serve as both the de facto heads of their groups of descendants and the catalysts of their periodic reunions and meetings. By so doing they provide their families with a cohesion that would probably be absent if they weren’t present. Another example is that of the vocational mentor who guides his or her apprentices with tools of sponsorship, advocacy and the demonstration of skills. He or she serves to facilitate creativity in his or her charges by teaching the methods of the past as they pertain to their various occupations.
Formal elderhoods In more formal examples of elderhood, elders serve as the members of the governing and/or advisory bodies of higher personages such as kings and presidents. This often gives them a prestige amongst their peoples that’s comparable to that of the classical nobility of ancient Europe. Due to this, elderhood of this variety is generally considered to be something worthy of aspiring to in the communities where it exists.
Elders in online communities There are long established conceptualisations of elders on the Internet. In such online communities elders are typically though of as established members who are outbound, often due to unwanted changes they can’t prevent. It has been argued that such users should be using their experience to help foster a sense of community among newer members, but often instead they take part in ‘trolling for newbies.'”
It would seem from experience that the Vampyre community straddles accross all three these areas, since it exists both online and offline, and is in some groups or areas both formal and informal.
What is the criteria for being an “Elder” in the VC? Is it someone who has spent more time spent in community than others? Is it someone who has a high position in their own House or group? Is it someone who has written a vast number of posts on a forum or articles or books referred to by the community as canon or doctrine? Is it someone who defines the framework of our culture and community and influences what we believe about ourselves and each other? Is it someone who makes a business of making and selling fangs or hosting hugely popular parties around the world? Is it someone who rules the VC, makes decisions for others and acts like a politician or leader? Is it someone who intimidates or abuses others? Is it someone with a popular website or online network and a vast number of followers or friends on Facebook?
Octarine Valur, Regent of the SAVA and also widely regarded as the founder of the South African VC, says:
“I believe it is the same or a similar concept in most alternative communities in that an “elder” is NOT someone who has just been around a while, started a group, tallied up 3 million posts on a forum and is starting to turn green and smell interesting.
An elder is someone who acts as a mentor, a teacher, a guide, someone who displays skills of benefit to the community and who passes these on to others and who ACTIVELY does things in the interest of those who rely on or depend upon them. Being called an elder does not entitle one to act like an ass towards others, to put on fancy airs, or to be abusive. The community does not need to bow and scrape to an elder.
An elder is someone who *should* have the needs of the community close to their heart, and is essentially a servant for the community – which can be a pretty dangerous and thankless job. I prefer being called a “bat farmer” to an “elder” personally… perhaps because what we here do boils down to community building. I may not take myself seriously on a personal level – but I take what I do seriously. In any case – in South Africa we seem to refer to “mentors” not “elders”.
A leader, on the other hand, is something not entirely different, not completely the same thing.”
During community debates in early 2014, opinions were offered within the community on what an elder is, and the criteria for measuring up who deserves to be given such a title. It was even suggested that sites such as Sanguinarius, Smoke & Mirrors and the AVA should provide a public listing of trustworthy and ethical “Elders of the VC” so that participants could know who they are and approach them for advice should the need arise.
This prompted the thought-provoking response below from Merticus on the subject of Elders in the VC.
Pitfalls, Mousetraps & Elders Of The Vampire Community
(Reposted from the article with permission of the author.)
Lately I’ve been asked ad nauseam for an opinion on the following topic so here you go…
The Vampire Community is a convoluted ball of hypocrisy that has devolved in many areas into a form of perverse entertainment — many playing their own angles to nurture disruptive goals and longstanding vendettas. Any truth to be found is measured in shades of gray and who can convince what mercurial faction or personal friends to side with them while everyone involved conveniently ignore facts to support their own version of reality. If one delves too deeply into the outcries of dissatisfaction they may find themselves lost in the minutia, manipulated like pawns and trapped by madness.
After more than a generation of existence we should consider the inescapable reality that we are a fractious, stubbornly independent and often egotistical lot who have embraced the label of ‘vampi(y)re’ as an extension of our personal identity. If you are not happy within your own personal life you do not need to look solely towards the Vampire Community as the beacon of hope, means of an escape or a friend group who will be there to encourage your development. We do not hold the master key that one needs to be successful — that begins with finding the inner strength to develop your own voice and take control of your life.
Before contemplating accomplishing anything of significance on a large scale we need to first work towards understanding why many have stepped into the shadows decrying ‘elders’ and ‘cookie-cutter groupthink’, establish defined goals that are realistic to achieve and make a good faith effort to educate the uninformed as to how the Vampire Community has developed during the last few decades. This includes examining similar projects which either failed or faded from our chronically short-term memories. Setting aside for a moment the notion of serving as an elder, council member, ambassador, representative of an embassy, et. al. one should ask themselves what have they individually done – not just talked about doing – to improve problems they have identified within their local or greater community.
Back channel lines of communication between groups and individuals already exist. Choosing to use them and engage with others you either do not personally care for or trust is the true crux of the issue that needs to be remedied. Mutual cooperation among all vampires, groups and organizations along with other grandiose ideas would do well to take a back seat to focusing on personal growth, education, research into our own identity and learning to initially support one another as individuals rather than as a collective horde bound by artificial hierarchies.
I would like to remind everyone that perhaps the greatest source of confusion when attempting to conceptualize or define what it means to be a ‘real vampi(y)re’ stems from a confluence of various diverse movements within the Vampire Community (or the overall subculture alongside mythos, folklore, philosophical adaptations from spiritual, cultural and fundamentally disparate groups) approaching the subject at differing points in time, direction and originating influence(s). One’s self-identity with the loosely defined concept, condition, state of being, et. al. of ‘vampirism’ is entirely dependent on the individual and no more or less valid than the next person.
To frame this another way…
- Some vampi(y)res have medical and/or mental conditions which they’ve yet to find a satisfactory answer for.
- Some vampi(y)res have medical and/or mental conditions which they’re in denial over.
- Some vampi(y)res incorporate magickal or ritual practices with a spiritual blend of ‘vampirism’.
- Some vampi(y)res are left-hand path leaning ‘vampire’ spiritualists or esotericists.
- Some vampi(y)res don’t believe ‘vampirism’ has anything to do with religion and/or spirituality.
- Some vampi(y)res believe their soul is inhabited and/or are fallen angelic or demonic ‘vampires’.
- Some vampi(y)res believe ‘vampirism’ to be an evolutionary advancement in certain humans.
- Some vampi(y)res believe ‘vampirism’ is caused by a virus because they read certain websites.
- Some vampi(y)res simply enjoy the ‘lifestyle’, wearing fangs, and dangling an ankh around their neck.
- Some vampi(y)res really wish they could emulate fictional (perhaps even folkloric) ‘vampires’.
- Some vampi(y)res felt a void in their life and have ‘attempted’ to fill it with ‘vampirism’ and the O/VC.
- Some vampi(y)res have no clue who or what they are and don’t care either way – ‘vampire’ sounded good.
- Some vampi(y)res have no desire to define their own identity because they never learned to think for themselves.
- Some vampi(y)res are still searching for their own answers (physiological, medical, spiritual, or otherwise).
- Some vampi(y)res are completely deluding themselves (regardless of whether ‘vampirism’ exists or not).
- Some vampi(y)res really wish they could close their eyes and wake up somewhere else.
- Some vampi(y)res won’t be here this time next year because they will no longer identify with ‘vampirism’.
- Some vampi(y)res are just bat @&*# crazy.
- Some vampi(y)res think ‘vampirism’ is a combination of ‘everything’ because they think this is an appealing idea.
- Some vampi(y)res will think I didn’t cover some element of their own personal experience in any of the above.
- Some vampi(y)res will be correct in this thinking.
I am personally indifferent to anyone and everyone who either ‘trusts/doesn’t trust’, ‘likes/doesn’t like’, ‘respects/doesn’t respect’, or ‘considers me an elder/doesn’t consider me an elder’ in the context of their professional interactions with me through the Vampire Community. Furthermore, how long one has been participating in the community is completely irrelevant to any personal opinion or measure of respect I may hold when weighed against the merits of one’s contributions or actions. I am far from perfect and will not pretend to hold anyone to a standard that would require or encourage that they ‘bow’ or ‘kiss a ring on my hand’.
While I personally consider the application of such doctrine disingenuous to the practical expectations of our, or any contemporary, ‘society’ I have not, and will not, intentionally dishonor those who believe in such formality or respect given by them to any existing elected or title bestowed vampi(y)re. I embrace the individually and rich history of our community and thereby the right of free-thinking adults to form whatever institutions, guiding precepts, rituals or beliefs they wish to follow. With this comes an acknowledgment of those who came before me, those who have come after me, and an objective evaluation of what ideas formed the basis of various segments of the community and which of these ideas can still be improved upon today.
In keeping with this view, I do not feel it is within my right nor ethically responsible to compile any list of individuals I would deem as ‘elder(s)’ and place this information in a publicly accessible group, forum, website or resource for newcomers and interested parties to reference. It is my belief that the attempted creation of any singular authoritative ‘elder listing’ would never obtain universal or even widespread acceptance without the presumption of personal biases and individual allegiances. I believe that opinions regarding the suitability of individuals to mentor and teach others rests in the hands of the seeker to discern; and that we as a community should provide the necessary tools for them to be able to independently make this evaluation through the lens of safety and abuse awareness. I will continue to focus my efforts on the compilation of resources, strengthening communication infrastructure and placing those who seek answers in touch with responsible individuals from their local areas who are willing to lend a hand.
Attitudes of entitlement, deep-seated mistrust, intentional deceptions or duplicity, wanton ignorance and purposefully baiting others to engage in negative rhetoric is not improving any of our lives or friendships. Such behavior is simply narcissistic and predatory vampires using their fellow vampires as prey. Rather than investing energy into destabilizing the efforts of other individuals and groups, those who are sincere in their claims of wanting to help should use their talents and time towards assisting those who are in the most need of direction and support.
I do not believe the majority of problems some perceive as prevalent within the Vampire Community derive from a present lack of organization, communication or information availability. No matter how all-encompassing or elegant a system that is designed, it is only as effective as the people involved and their willingness to continually invest time, effort and monies despite any setbacks they may encounter. Any system, council or organization’s ability to garner participants is only as effective as the level of respect afforded to its creators and in turn that respect offered unconditionally back to the members themselves.
Pitfalls, Mousetraps & Elders Of The Vampire Community By Merticus – January 15, 2014
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