Pagan News and Views Since 1998

To other pagan adults, concerning teens coming to our faith:

To other pagan adults, concerning teens coming to our faith:

Hi if you said you liked my blog to pagan teens! I am very flattered, thank you. I really don't think I have said anything too extraordinary, I just think I was willing to say what most of us serious adult pagans have been thinking for a while.

I feel teens as they are forming their identity need adults to help show them how to be ethical, responsible, and conscious of their actions. As pagan adults, we need to act as mediators to a degree, standing behind parents rights, and challenging kids to consider multiple views. I truly believe that pagans (especially authors) often "coddle" kids and act to some degree like they cant handle the truth. Teens are in the perfect position, to be challenged by others based on what they profess.

I have actually had my blog up, and I have YET to receive the angry teen responses I expected. I have no apologies to kids who get their feelings hurt based on what I have said... It is the truth, and if someone feels they are ready to *possibly* implode their family structure, they better be ready for the truth.

I know of a few authors who tell kids "print out this pamphlet"... i say "what the heck?". Kids should be challenged to KNOW what they claim to believe enough to carry on a conversation about it with the people who love them. They don't need an "easy way out" they NEED character building, value establishing, real-life based, tough love.

I think too many people are too willing to tell christian/jewish/muslim/buddhist/etc parents to just "let your kids be whatever they want to be" despite what parents THINK. Do I want pagan acceptance? Of course! But, we wont ever get it if adult pagans are undermining parents' rights. Salvation is a uncomfortable subject to argue. To pagans, it is often the mechanism of persecution... but to a christian parent it is the ultimate gift they can give their child. Should we be allowed to form our own beliefs and identity... YES! However, christian parents also deserve the right and opportunity to do what they can to raise their children the best way they know how!

The other major concern by parents, is that thier children are being preyed on by a cult. We have seen in our history the very real dangers of influential cults. Mass suicide-murders are not so distant in the past that we have forgotten them. They are devastating reminders that we should be wary of the sway others hold over us. The value system of eclectic wicca today would be difficult to turn into a cult... but not all occult and witchcraft systems are benevolent. Indeed, witchcraft did have spells in the past that were created for the means of creating direct harm. As much as we deny the darker aspects of our history, we cannot erase them.

All seekers joining any religion or group should be wary. The unfortunate fact is that there are villians in this world. They belong to every ethnicity, country, orientation, gender, age, locality, and religion- even pagan ones. *Most* of us would never harm an other person... but there are bad people out there. When parents see thier kids "joining up" to something foreign to them, red flags go up! Our stereotypes work against pagans, but also the outspoken minority of our more extreme practitioners. When pagans go to prison- whether they were "true pagans" or not- people notice!

Even if we aren't literally dangerous, parents don't usually don't want their kids to be "freaks" or "outcasts" either. Of you check out a lot of pagan message boards and websites, you'll see our fair share of those. We are accepting, but it sometimes works against us. People make outrageous claims that they are various mystical creatures/ can teleport literally/ can fly/ etc. What parent wants their kids to be part of a group the seemingly cant tell the difference between 'dungeons & dragons' and real life? Add to that the large amount of "goth and emo kids" (guilty) that turn to wicca, and the "hippies" we don't seem as put together as some other groups.

I don't think we- adult pagans, all should drop everything and change. Being "normal" is over-rated... However parents are being GOOD parents when they care about who is influencing kids. Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover... but we all do. People often dress and look a certain way because of the impression it makes on others. When we look scary, we'll make others less likely to want to approach us. When we look and act happy, simple, and approachable, others will react the same. Regardless of what we WANT, our culture has a current social norm, and we expect people to fall somewhere near normal. Would you be uncomfortable if your doctor wore a clown suit to work? I bet so!

In my opinion... pagans should fight for acceptance... the right to believe as we wish! We should also do our part in making the "face" of our faith a more respectable, intelligent, and benevolent one. In an ideal world, pagans would be seen as philanthropists, teachers, free-thinkers, and ethical and responsible contributing members of society. I don't think that there will ever be a day where everyone will agree on a common belief system... but perhaps we can all agree to disagree. I dream of a day when i can raise my daughter openly pagan, without others' fearing for her "spiritual safety". I feel the only way this will happen is through social change, and through trust. Her friends' parents will need to trust that OUR spirituality isn't a threat to theirs. When you read books for teens about wicca that encourage kids to sneak around, and bash Christianity and other faiths, or say "we know better than them"- we are acting as a THREAT to those parents' rights. I would hate any christian book that told my daughter that paganism is evil, devil worship, ignorance and the like. They write them out of misguided fear, but we may be even worse, because we write them out of vengeance. Pagan authors need to be the "bigger person".

I don't apologize for my faith and I never will. I wont give up my practice, my beliefs or anything else for anyone. I sincerely hope that every one of those teens finds a faith they are as passionate about and committed to as i am mine... My faith is built on reflection, experience, and practice. I didn't get to where I am on the easy road, it is the challenges that force us to grow that make us who we are. If I had my hand in helping one child or teen on that path, i am happy!

Blessed Be!
Megan





Views: 15

Comment by Wren Silverleaf on June 24, 2010 at 5:39am
I have enjoyed reading your blog posts concerning teens and parenting. I very much agree with your views, although I don't know if I could express them so well. As a mother, I hope that I will be able to be open to my child's desires to explore other spiritual paths. I would be hurt if my child came home one day and wanted to be christian. My parents took the news hard, I didn't express them in the best of ways. They did however come to accept my choice over time, when they could see that my spiritual path had not changed me for the worse.
Comment by Emairelhd on June 24, 2010 at 11:06am
I also enjoyed this post. I remember the horrors of "coming out" to my parents all to well, and I didn't handle it well either. My parents were (and are still) under the impression that my choices (religious and personal) were made *specifically* to hurt or damage *them* in some way. They never, and still have not ever, entertained the idea that I might be who I am because... well, that's who *I* am. After I moved out (as soon as the high-school graduation hats hit the ground) my parents adopted a nice, comfortable, "just don't talk about it" attitude. Now as an adult, my husband and I are expecting our first child, and find myself going through the same dog-and-pony routines, trying to steer my parents away from an outright religious fight. They just can't believe that this religion that I adopted as a 15 year old, has still stuck with me 10 years later, and they REALLY can't believe that I plan on raising my son in this belief system. At least now I have the ability to have an intelligent (at least on my part) conversation about it. Although sadly, my parents turn to hell-threatening, guilt-tripping, and "why oh why are you doing this to us" pretty quickly... and its pretty hard to counter a fundamentalist elite-opinion attack.

Ok so that being said. I completely agree that we, the adults, need to do all we can to help the up-and-coming generation express their beliefs in the most intelligent way possible. And while I think that every teen should *talk* to their parents about it, I also understand that with *some* parents, there is no getting through. And sometimes an info pamphlet or book AFTER the conversation will help that parent maybe understand a little more clearly later. After all, when their teen comes and tells them they are a witch, parents go through a bit of shock. It can be very helpful for the parent to also have some literature to read later, when THEY don't feel on-the-spot, and can take their time and actually pay attention to what is being explained - since things said in a shocking moment can sometimes go in one ear and out the other. I think its important to remember that teens coming out to their parents is JUST as awkward for the parents as it is the teens. And sometimes parent too want to hide in their rooms and think for themselves without a teen there watching their first reactions ;)
Comment by Megan L Conklin on June 24, 2010 at 1:52pm
I agree that some parents are more difficult than others, and some are truly impossible. There are parents who might listen a little, and others that shut down. Thankfully adulthood comes quick enough for most of us, and despite the fact that in highschool, highschool never ends, when you look at it as an adult it becomes a blink in time.

I disagree with the pamphlets because kids will simply want to say "I am a witch, deal with it... here is a brochure". You aren't asking to go to a concert, you are telling them you have FORSAKEN their religion! Most of the information in those documents is stuff that kids should be able to speak about and understand easily and logically. Those pamphlets are the most basic information about wicca and paganism. To give parents a comprehensive idea about wicca you would have to hand them a stack of books. Parents don't want homework on top of that bombshell. I gave my mom a print out pamphlet when i did my whole "I'm a witch speech"- she handed it back and said "seriously Megan, come back when you know what the hell you are doing!"

I did come back and talk to her again. After reading a ton of books and websites I got a firm grasp of what the core of wicca was. She asked some obvious questions; "do you worship the devil? Are you going to be sacrificing cats or rats or something?" She asked practical ones; "Do you HAVE to use candles, because I don't want you burning down our house? You know this doesn't change your curfew, right?" And she basically laughed and said... "this is a phase, someday you'll look back at this and laugh!"

In fact my parents didnt really say much for 4 YEARS! They were waiting for me to grow out of it like I grew out of beanie baby collecting. Finally one day i was organizing my room and my mom found a witchcraft book and she said "Do you still read this crap" I retailiated saying "It isnt CRAP it is my religion... do still read that bible Crap?" Bad move... but my mom and I started a series of heated debates after that. She argued that I was being stupid or joining a cult... I argued that she already said I could study it and that it was my spiritual calling. Finally she said something along the lines of "Why dont you just go be a buddhist or something not so weird..." That was what finally created a dialogue. I told her the truth... that I hadnt just decided to become a witch... when faced with my catholic confirmation I ran scared and had looked into buddhism, taoism, shinto and more, ending up at wicca. I said that wicca was in many ways similar to those religions, but it came from western origins so it was easier for me to connect with. I told her that it valued the same core values she wanted me to have... compassion, responsibility, thoughfulness... I never could find the same solace and hope in catholicism because I felt that you were doing everything right as "points" to get into heaven, and everything you DIDN'T do wrong was not because of character, but because of fear of hell-fire and damnation. I told her about the wiccan rede and the law of return and about the balance of the Goddess and God. I told her that wiccans act as their own clergy, with a direct connection to the divine- rather than having to contact god through a mediator. Somewhere along the line she realized that my faith could be HER ally in the fight to raise a descent daughter.

Mom accepts my faith today. Occasionally she buys me "hippy" items or eco-stuff that makes her think of me. She knows i am raiding my daughter wiccan and she approves, saying that i am a good mom and a caring person regardless of my faith. My dad has never said anything, one way or the other. We have never discussed it and probably never will. He believes in god to some degree, and he knows what i believe... and that is good enough. I actually gave my parents the freedom to divorce... because my faith doesnt damn you to hell for breaking your wedding vows to end a ruined marriage. My only thing to say was that dragging out a broken union caused them both more harm than good, and in my opinion, it is the value of your character that affects your afterlife, not the sum of your sins.

My journey took time. I still have extended family who want to save my soul. My in laws could care less that I am a heathen, but they always nag my husband to get our daughter christened in the church before its "too late". Little do they know that their boy is agnostic.. smirk. We WONT be christening our daughter for their sake or anyone else's, because I firmly believe that that is our choice alone. If someday she wishes to be a christian, she'll do it herself, and can tell me if she feels any different for it.

I think the misconception of a "pamphlet" conversion is that parents will suddenly say "Okay! Great, I now understand and accept your new beliefs!" These things take time, dialogue and hard work. They don't happen over night. Perhaps they help with the awkward moments... but i think parents feel bullied by them. Whenever my mom and i needed to talk about something "sticky" we went out for coffee. We chatted openly and frankly... and as long as we were sipping coffee, I was relatively free to so as I wished without fear of punishment. I hope other kids can find this type of situation in their families.

I want kids to find spiritual solace, I want them to maintain happy homes too. Parents have a lot on their plate with teens. I got in a lot of trouble, I was part of a "bad crowd", when I rebelled I REALLY rebelled... I still feel for kids like I was, the best advice might be - "just wait, you'll grow up soon enough."

Here is the flip side. Other parents were right, it was a phase. Of the 6 kids who were into wicca when I was a teen, I am the only one that is a wiccan or pagan today. One is an atheist, and all the rest are christian. Looking back, it was a fad among my freinds... that I started. I thought wicca was GREAT and I exposed several people to it. I know that they thought "Man, this will piss my parents off!" So we got together and did our thing. They all eventually "came out" and apperently that didnt last long. Every so often one of them says "wow, you are still into wicca???" which always makes me cringe. I feel like 5 out of 6 teens i talk to on the internet are the same... just "dabblers". The adult pagan community wastes a lot of energy helping out these dabblers that will be gone in a year or two. Is it worth it, I guess so... If we really do help some of them.

That is why i am not "lovey-dovey" with teens. Sometimes they need a wake up call. The ones who are serious, will get it, the ones who aren't wont want to do the work. Or at least that is my theory.

Emairelhd, see your point... and I counter (lol). Find me a pamphlet that is worth the paper its printed on and I will agree with you. Until then... I still say these kids need to do it themselves.

Blessed be! Thanks for reading my *book*-

-Megan

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