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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 20,971,749  

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Question of the Week: 31 - 3/5/2001

Whassa Matter With Kids Today?

Maybe nothing, but you couldn't tell that from the main media news stories or from the often disparaging remarks overheard (overread?) about today's youth in the Pagan newsgroups, message boards and chat rooms. Are the Pagan youth of today nothing but shallow thrill seekers intent on finding some easy spoon-fed answers? Do they come off as spell hungry monsters looking for a quick fix? Are they really unable to delve into the deeper mysteries simply because they are young? "Why can't they be like we were, perfect in every way?" Pagan Adults: What trends and tendencies do you see manifesting in the Pagan youth of today? What would you LIKE to see? Pagan Youth: What about the treatment often received by young seekers bugs you the most? Is it justified? Do you feel 'stereotyped' as a young person? Adults AND Youth: What are the benefits and drawbacks of inter-generation communication?

 Reponses:   There are 71 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

As A Member Of The Pagan Community And As A Teenager, IÕve... Mar 5th. at 12:48:08 pm EST

Callum (Lyons, New York US) Age: 16 - Email

As a member of the Pagan community and as a teenager, IÕve had first hand knowledge of this issue. I can honestly say that there are certain teenagers out there that are "Play-gans". They simply say that they are Pagan, but in reality they neither barely know or take part in the path. Even in my own school IÕve seen a number of these people. They believe once theyÕve seen "The Craft", "Charmed" or read about five pages out of a SilverRavenWolf book that they can declare themselves something theyÕre not. But with my experiences these type of people donÕt last long. Without the will and dedication to their choice they often times fade away from their Pagan facade. To the Adult Pagan community, however they feel towards teenage Pagans is their own choice. I can agree with them that the sight of a teen, whoÕs merely calling themselves a Witch for fad purposes only, is extremely difficult. I find myself biting my tongue and walking away, instead of trying to battle the uneducated minds of a misunderstanding youth. I almost feel that the resentment comes from a deeper fear rooted in many Pagans, not from the actual youth misconstruing the craft. For so long the Pagan communities of this country, and of the world, have been trying to become understood in the eyes of the majority of the religious population. When a teenager fails to keep a certain code of Pagan presentation and conduct, itÕs almost like a shot back down the ladder of success and understanding. Possibly many Adult Pagans, and some teenage, distrust the goth-like teenage Pagans and Play-gans not out of what they do, but out of the fear of what they can do.

Speaking As A So-called "teen Witch" I Find That There Is Nothing... Mar 5th. at 12:51:30 pm EST

Rhiannon Solana (Wichita Falls, Texas US) Age: 19 - Email

Speaking as a so-called "Teen Witch" I find that there is nothing wrong with a majority of the teenage pagan community that I have come across. In any situation, religious or not, you will find people who want power for the wrong reasons, abuse it if they have it, and generally do things that make whatever group they're associated with look bad overall. It's not strictly limited to teenagers in the Craft. I'll admit that there was a certain movie (which I will not name) that didn't help any of us who were seekers at the time. It simply gave society yet another way to label us, to group us into another category where a vast majority of us should not have been placed. I thought that was extremely unfair. But of course it only takes one to ruin it for all, or so I was often told in grade school. There is more truth to that statement than I care to admit sometimes. I myself began my journey down this path at 16 years old. I'll be the first to admit that my interest in pagan religions, more specifically Wicca, began with a spell book a friend of mine bought. I was a little wary of the idea of casting spells to be honest, and I did nothing more than glance over that first chapter before handing her the book and saying, "You know what, this is not my thing." The writer stated in the first or second paragraph that she was not Wiccan; she was merely a witch. She then briefly talked about what Wicca was, and that is what caught my attention and sparked my curiosity. I went on a hunt for information. I read anything I could find. I read about things I agreed with and things that I didn't. From there I discovered exactly what was and wasn't and based on that information began to find the path that is right for me. I suppose I was rather fortunate, I wasn't ridiculed on my search. I wasn't let down at all by most the Adult Pagans I came into contact with, in fact I find that most were very open to me. Of course I was often asked why I chose the path, but that's fine by me. I have nothing to hide, there are no bad intentions here. I'm not here because some guy broke up with me, because I wanted to be prom queen or anything like that. I came here because I found the home that I was searching for. I felt the love that I never felt anywhere else, and more importantly I am happy and satisfied with myself and what I am learning on this path. I have yet to find any drawbacks in my experience with inter-generation communication, and I am very thankful for that. However, I have noticed that I find many young pagans want a teacher, and there are few out there who are willing to take someone under their wing. In a way I cannot blame them, but how are we going to get rid of the stereotypes and myths if no one will speak up about the truth? I myself have been happy working and learning alone for the most part, but in the interest of those who are not, I felt the need to address that issue. At any rate, I have come home, and I intend to stay.

As The Single Mother Of 2 Teens, I Don't Feel There Is... Mar 5th. at 1:38:10 pm EST

areille owl (Seattle, Washington US) Age: 42 - Email

As the single mother of 2 teens, I don't feel there is any inherent difference between the teens of today and teens through the ages. They are still going through the amazing hormone flux we all went through. They are still learning to deal with being sexual beings in our society. They are still growing into the adults they will be - despite the constraints placed on them by parents and society. I am fortunate in that I have kept the lines of communication open with my children. And I work at keeping them open. They know that their opinions and wishes are listened to and do figure in the final decisions. This doesn't mean I do what they want, but I do take the effort to consider the validity of what they say, and sometimes they are right. My home has become one of the major hangouts for my daughter's group of friends, and listeneing to their conversations is very enlightening, but not frightening. I think many parents, my ex included, remember their teen years quite different from how thier parents remember them - in the case of my ex, I know this for fact. There is the assumption that they were perfect, and so their children will fulfill the parents personal ideas of perfection. Anything less is unacceptable. The flip side is those parents who assume that their children will fail miserably - and they are so smug when their children fulfill their wishes. Children and teens are human beings - just as we are. They deserve the same respect, rights, and room to be the person they actually are.

First, Let Me Say That The Quality Of The Writing On This... Mar 5th. at 1:44:52 pm EST

Sunfell (Little Rock, Arkansas US) Age: 40 - Email

First, let me say that the quality of the writing on this board by the young Pagans posting here gives me hope and assurance that our schools are actually teaching kids to write, think, and speak coherently. This, above all, is the most important thing- we need to have people who are capable of both thinking and expressing themselves intelligently to hand our legacy to.

On the other hand, every time I post an essay in the Adult section, I get a slew of letters that read something like this:

Òi want to become a witch right now but my parents belefs arent the same as mine i want to learn witchcraft will you teach me witchcraft so i can learn spells and stuff teach me rightnow without my parents knowingÓ

Now how the heck should I address this? My Stock Answer is usually along the lines of it isnÕt nice to start off learning about the Craft by deceiving your parents, and that I never, EVER teach minors without the parentsÕ EXPLICIT permission. And when I say ÔexplicitÕ, I mean, I want to meet them in person, suss them out, and decide if theyÕre on the level. And I will end my letter by telling them not to write me again.

I am very aware that some of these letters might not be from youngsters at all, but from authorities ÔtrollingÕ for unscrupulous Pagans to bust. So, kids, youÕre totally off limits. Read my essays if you want to learn something. Read everyone elseÕs too. There is a lot here on the Vox to teach you, if you look.

I went through the University of Hard Knocks, and I expect that most of my thirty and forty something peers did so, too. My teachers came to me when I needed them, and I learned much. The acquisition of a magickal education is a life-long process, and no weekend seminar or book will impart you all you need to know. And kids, if anyone offers to do that for you, run like hell, because they arenÕt legit. We elders weren't and aren't perfect, and anyone that says otherwise is full of hot air. Sometimes I think that we older Pagans acquire a layer of psychic 'fat' that insulates from the immediate curiosity of our youth, and we forget how eager and what pains to our own elders) we were.

For every genuine seeker, no matter what their age, there are about 20 who are dabblers, want-it-nows, or lost souls. This is true with youth, too. Our culture is an instant-on, ready in 10 minutes, overnight delivery, gotta have it now mess. And our kids have been raised in this environment, and see it as normal. No one teaches or counsels patience. And as a result, many of our kids are gratification poisoned and intolerable.

As a senior member of the Craft, my responsibility is to find that the jewels in the bucketful of sand- and impart what Light I can to them. Age is not important, intent is. If you shine, you will be found, respected, and treasured as the asset to the Pagan community you truly are.

We know you're there. We'll find you! Be patient! :-)

I Believe That All Of The Negative Ideas About The Youth Of... Mar 5th. at 4:05:48 pm EST

Kaicielia BlueDragon (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 24 - Email

I believe that all of the negative ideas about the youth of today are blown out of proportion, greatly. i have found that you are much more likely to remember a negative experience with anyone, especially teenagers, than you are to remember neutral or positive experiences. I know many youth, children of friends and family, and feel very positive of the future of the world.
The media blows things out of proportion, and, face it, if you are going to go around gossiping, you are going to talk bad about everything and everyone you talk about. People love to gossip, why do you think daytime talk shows are so popular?
Also, you have to remember, children are primarily seekers. Few youth who come to us looking for information truly know what we stand for, that is why they are asking. They have been fed a lot of bull from the media, some from families, friends, and schoolmates, and who knows where else from?
Many of us do not have the time or patience to deal with these questions. I have to admit that, at times, I fit into this group. But we must all try. It is the only way to correct the misconceptions.

Well I Wasn't Going To Put In My Two Cents, Seeing As... Mar 5th. at 5:09:44 pm EST

Shadow (Miami, Florida US) Age: 17 - Email

Well I wasn't going to put in my two cents, seeing as the question seemed to suggest "for us old folks only". However after seeing all my peers' opinion I decided "why not". As I see maturity and wisdom don't hold consistently together. I can bring up as many teenagers who would rival Mo Tzu (ancient taoist master) as I have seen full fledged adults display the mentality of the common toddler. Yup, it's a brave new world out there. There will always be the spell crazy quickies and wannabes out there; and from ALL shapes sizes and ages. The question is what to do with them. I say we give them a pat on their preverbial little head and let them know politely " patience is the essence of which you know yet not"; then let scoot them along out the door until they re-enter with some level of maturity, humbleness, and wisdom. Thanx for your time, and your actual patience to follow my ramblings this far. Tootles!

Among My Young Friends Are Some Amazing And Wonderful People. A Young... Mar 5th. at 5:45:44 pm EST

Sue McCullough (Oakland, California US) Age: 41

Among my young friends are some amazing and wonderful people.

A young man of 22 whom I've know since he was 15 - and would have trusted even back then with emergency baby-sitting of my then infant son. The number of people on that emergency baby-sitting list was 5. My teen-aged friend and his step-mother were the only non-relatives, and he was the only person who was a minor.

Today I know two girls, ages 14 and 15, who I would trust with my children, and my older boy, the infant mentioned above, is now 8 1/2 and has been diagnosed with autism, a severe developmental disability that many adults are not competent to deal with.

One of these young women has been on the staff of a major Pagan religious conference for the last two years, and worked as unofficial "junior staff" the year before that, at age 13, and I do mean WORKED.

The other young woman has proved herself an enormously powerful and conscientious priestess. She probably does more public ritual in the area than any of the adults who work with her.

And these three aren't exceptions. The other Pagan youth all seem to be making their contributions to the community and making that community sit up and take notice in positive ways.

Yes, I've seen my three young friends (and many of the others) have difficulties and conflicts with their parents. That's normal and expected of teens. They aren't children, and they need to move beyond parental controls.

What I think makes the difference, is that the larger community has accepted these young folks as talented individuals, ignores their ages except where legal considerations require it, and gives them opportunities and support to express themselves and make contributions outside their family unit. And their sensible parents have let go of their "babies" and allowed and encouraged the larger community to get these terrific people involved.

When my own youngsters have outgrown mom and dad's limits, that larger community will be there to support, encourage and nurture them. It will be hard for my husband and me to loosen the apron strings, especially with our autistic boy, but I'm looking forward to the day when some of my age-peers in the community can say about my boys, "Glad to have them here. Look at all they've given to the community."

You'd Have To Be Blind To See That This Issue Cuts Both... Mar 5th. at 7:13:14 pm EST

Stephanie (Midwest City) Age: 29 - Email

You'd have to be blind to see that this issue cuts both ways. With the commercialization of NeoPaganism, the old timers have to realize that the image that is sold to "misguided youth" is not always realistic, deep, or anything the old timers might consider sacred. But who might I ask wrote and marketed this stuff? And how many of the alleged old timers buy into that material as well?
You would also have to be blind to not realize the ever-widening generation gap between the founders of the NeoPagan Community, and its first generation students who are now leadership in many groups and traditions. Gardner is dead, so is Stewart Farrar, our "elders" are really getting old now. Its not just a title anymore. Aging is a reality.
The movement whether we like it or not, is being marketed to the 14-24 year olds by certain publishers and authors. There are not enough HP/S's and ArchDruids to go around, not enough Gothis and Gythias. So like many of us [old timers], these youngsters have to settle for a book instead of a living breathing teacher.
The Goth thing is scary to the Hippies and the NeoHippies. The Nature children of the 60's and 70's. The Dark hair dyes, death/romance, vampire stuff, the fascination with all things dark almost to what appears to be the exclusion of anything topside (daylight) is a little unsettling. But is it really any different than the scary hotpink powersuits and the coke of the 80's? the Punk green mohawks? Is the Goth stuff any scarier than Carlos Castenada? Or the Radical Feminism of Z Budapest?
I think that the old timers need to think back to the radical changes and rebellions they participated in when they were teens and young adults. And I believe that the youngsters need to remember that you don't need wear black lipstick or dye one's hair dead black to understand the underworld, death, dying, and all that. Stop trying to impress and scare each other and get to the interesting part. Communication.

Okay. If We, The "mature Adults," Were Honest With Ourselves (and The... Mar 5th. at 8:53:08 pm EST

Julie Peavler-McCord/Estara Korai (Santa Ana, California US) Age: 30 - Email

Okay. If we, the "mature adults, " were honest with ourselves (and the kids) for a many of us originally came into the Craft or Paganism already full of deep, intuitive wisdom, peace, and rich knowledge about the Gods and Their ethics? Mmm-hmm. many of us came because we thought Glinda the Good Witch was kewl and we wanted pretty pink dresses and a magic wand...or because we secretly hoped that there was no reason we couldn't become Merlin or Gandalf...or because, darn it, that cute kid in our social studies class wouldn't give us the time of day, and maybe if we knew the right spell...?


Many of us were pulled in by the fantasy. I sure was. I wanted elves and unicorns and the ability to bend the cosmos to my will with a mere thought. Of course I did! Who wouldn't? Tell you the truth, I still want those things. The big difference is that I've learned to be content with having them on a nonphysical level.

Of course, I also wanted Goddesses, and I was studying them from an early age. And I was, I think, a "good girl, " comparatively speaking, ready to learn ethics if someone had shown up to teach me. But I was also silly, frivolous, melodramatic, and self-absorbed. Yes, naturally, all of those. I was a teenager. Did that make me a bad candidate as a future Witch? I don't think so. I dare to hope that my history as an adult priestess has absolved me.

I happen to know some teenage girl witches and pagans. They are silly, frivolous, melodramatic, and self-absorbed. Yes, naturally, all of those. They are teenagers. They are also funny, loving, helpful, and full of wonderful energy. Are they ready to plumb the darkest depths of our religion? Heck no, and frankly I'd be more concerned if they were, at this age. They have years and years ahead of them for that. Let them have what they're ready for, and don't judge them too harshly because they don't happen to think like forty-year-olds.

Unlike Many Of Those In Their 20's Who Have Posted, I... Mar 5th. at 9:21:41 pm EST

Firesong (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 24 - Email

Unlike many of those in their 20's who have posted, I most definitely consider myself in the "Pagan Youth" category. I suppose I probably will when I'm 64, instead of 24 as well :-) Who ever wanted to be in the "Adult" category? Although I was born into a family of Pagans (Gaelic witches, to be exact), they taught me only what I was interested in learning as a child, and left the decision to join a coven up to me. Between the ages of about 14-22, I "sampled" at least a dozen varieties of Paganism, before finding a group with whom I KNEW immediately were the teachers I NEEDED to learn from at this point in my life. What's the old saying? - "When the student is ready, the teacher will come!"

Once this particular group decided I was serious and a good fit, they have treated me with the greatest respect, even though I am one of the youngest among them. They have shown a tireless willingness to teach, explain, and indulge my curiosity, while at the same time, asking about my childhood background as a "hereditary" witch, and about anything that I have read or learned over my life so far. The High Priest & High Priestess (as well as everyone else) told me right from the beginning, that if there was any part of ANY Ritual, Festival, etc. that they couldn't explain to me the reason for, they would toss it out, because they don't believe in just "going through the motions" in order to appear wise and all-knowing. They also expressed a willingness to help me learn more about my own specific interests and heritage, and to incorporate some of my own family traditions into their Rituals as well. As far as the treatment I have received, I coudn't ask for better!!!

Regarding the benefits and drawbacks of inter-generational communication within Pagan Communities, I can see very clearly why the youngest of babies love to spend time with the oldest of the "Elders", and young adults find wonderful mentors and teachers with their groups. While in turn, one of my best friends from childhood became a Catholic Priest (Franciscan Monk, to be exact), and he says the greatest fear of Church authorities is the ever widening gulf between the older clergy and the younger generations of worshippers. He has told me that more and more young people aren't teaching their children about their faith, because they simply cannot find a connection between those not of their own age, and young people are simply not interested in joining the clergy anymore.

Pagan Communities will continue to grow and thrive because they embrace change and encourage questions - both most often brought by the younger Pagans that are just beginning to find their (our) paths.

Remembering My Own Distant Youth (i'm 55, Now), I'd Have To Say... Mar 5th. at 9:30:12 pm EST

Sena (OKC, Oklahoma US) Age: 55 - Email

Remembering my own distant youth (I'm 55, now), I'd have to say today's youth are very law-abiding. Many are decent and well-behaved. They are certainly stricter in their behavior than ever I was! I can't imagine these kids today doing any of the stunts I did, they are sooo good! Even the supposedly 'bad' kids get a bit shocked when I relate to them the things we did and tried when I was younger - the rituals, and the experiments we tried in our search.

In my personal experience, the teen years are a time when they are exploring just who and what they really are, questioning their beliefs and questioning authority to define themselves. Today's kids mostly do so in tamer ways than we did overall. This is the exact time when they are SUPPOSED to delve deep. Their brains are stretching once more, and they are open to new concepts. Sure, it's a time of rebellion, because rebellion is a way for them to gain experience and new knowledge. To many of these kids here locally, I represent that fine edge of safety and danger. This is because not only am I openly pagan, and a commonly seen figure at their high school, I allow them free run of my library, and time to talk about anything they read. Their parents know this, so while they are rebelling by reading my books and talking to me, that makes me safe. I have 'forbidden' knowledge, and parental approval both. These kids don't take the easy way out - and if they try, I make it harder for them. They always rise to the challenge. Kids are a lot smarter, and a lot more savvy than adults often believe.

They are, to me, a delightful mix of naivete and knowledge, energetically seeking life. Not as wild as I was, but then, nowadays, that's harder to do.

Hi!; Pagan Kids? As An Old Community Elder, The Best Thing About... Mar 5th. at 11:42:30 pm EST

Tarostar (Toronto, Ontario CA) Age: 58 - Email


Pagan kids? As an old community Elder, the best thing about Pagan kids
is that you can hold them and coo over them and hand them back the second you feel something damp.

It is kids in general that I see as a problem.

It seems that whenever there is a public event, a bunch of disaffected young rowdies decide to carnage the city.

Why does Philadelphia and Seattle need a mardi Gras? They turned into
smash and grab fests and riots. This is happening more and more frequently.

It is almost as if this bloated old Empire of the West is just waiting for the barbarians, but this time the Goths and Vandals will come from within, rather than from without.

I can't mark it up to just a generational misunderstanding. There is a whole
set of young people who seem to want to bring the "Rave" phenomenon out onto the streets.

Then I see so many young people responding on internet talk and message boards who can't spell the English Language effectively. Language and grammer and proper forms of the written word have vanished.

Perhaps, we should just let this tired old society and culture fade and go under.
Is it worth saving? It doesn't seem to want to save itself. Rome died with a wimper. North America seems to be doing the same. BB

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