We are in what the Brotherhood of the Phoenix calls the season of Quietus. It is the time of the Elder. This is a season for reflection. For gathering to ourselves the things we have learned and done, for understanding what the legacy of the past year is, how that legacy will shape the future, and deciding what course to take in the coming months.
The Elder has been seen and portrayed in a number of ways throughout the Brotherhood’s existence. I have seen sober reflective Elders. I have seen boisterous story-tellers and grim men with a flinty gaze. Most often, the Elder comes to us wearing a cloak of benevolence and beneficence. He tells us that the past is gone, and that we have a world of opportunity awaiting us. He tells us to think upon where we’ve been and where we’re going.
And this is understandable. This is a message, time and again, that we need to hear. It is challenging to be queer, to stand outside of society and continue to see our own value in the mirror.
But there is more to the Elder than this wisdom. There are parts of the elder that we rarely see, because they make us uncomfortable, or sad, or remind us of our mortality.
The Mad One
The Elder can be mad. Not as in angry, the other mad. The world in which we live is a fabrication, and sometimes it is profound wisdom to recognize that it makes no sense whatsoever. But it is madness to maintain that awareness for more than moments. To reject all the deceits and lies that surround us and refuse to engage in them might be a virtue in truth, but it is madness indeed. Yet it is only by engaging this madness that some of the most important truths come to light.
The Elder is often seen as being in the last stage of his life. Our culture assumes this means he is infirm, that he has nothing left to create. This can be true for the Elder, but it is not always so. The Elder has walked many roads in his time, and knows how to get from here to there. He is the fully realized individuation of the Queer Identity, and in his self-posession he is more powerful than ever. From this place he can build great things. He is the vital center of the community. He knows the way of things and helps us to grow and become more fully realized in ourselves.
The Elder is also the wily god. We note that the Elder gives way to the youth, but they are often partners in crime. For where did the youth learn his craft but from the Elder himself. The pair of them are a team. Sometimes, often even, the Elder plays the straight face and sets us up for a fall. He brings us somber wisdom and careful advice. Then along comes the Youth and turns the world on its head. Sometimes though, it is the Elder himself who pulls the rug out from under us. For what is the use in being known as the serious one if he can’t use that expectation to surprise us with a trick now and then?
The Dying One
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the Elder is the part of him that is indeed ancient. It is wonderful to celebrate the long lived and their wisdom. But passing the torch to the next generation is inevitable. And though we may recognize that death is part of life, there is still tremendous sorrow in the process of dying. And this too, is one of the lessons of the Elder. For as we are joyed by the vibrance and occasional absurdity of the Youth, we are saddened and compassionate with the decline of the Elder. Sometimes even the Gods need a shoulder to lean on. An open heart and a willing ear go a great length.