Down the years, I've heard the same warning time and again from tribal elders all over the world--the Americas, Australia, Africa--as they contemplate the potential end of their own traditions.

If ever the Old Ways were to cease, the world itself would end.

think that the elders are right.

Oh, Earth would not stop her endless dance of summer and winter, no more would Sun cease to shine. Moon would not forget her monthly courses, nor Thunder his seminal rains.

But the wer-├Âld, the "age of humanity," the human world: this would surely end. If ever humanity were to lose its immemorial religious relation to the rest of existence, our man-age would be over and done. Without its pagans, humanity would die.

My initiating priestess always used to say: "Earth needs her witches. If they killed us all today, she would raise up more tomorrow, and why? Because we love her and serve her and she needs us." And indeed, in our own day we have all seen her do this very thing.

I am not one of those who was born to the Old Ways, but it was my wyrd to come to them early in life, and down the course of (gods help us) nearly 50 years on this road, it has invariably been my experience that when the elders of many traditions speak with one voice, it is time, and high time, to listen.

The elders' message does not end with this warning, though. A warning is useless unless there's something that can be done. In every case, they add a hope.

But the world will not fail so long as even one keeps the Old Ways, even one.

One person to keep the world alive.

One person.