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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: 20,879,362  

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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 

I Am The Future Of Neo-paganism. I Started Studying Wicca When I... Mar 6th. at 9:02:15 pm EST

Metalligoth (Brighton, Michigan US) Age: 18 - Email

I am the future of Neo-Paganism.

I started studying Wicca when I was 13, along with any other religion I could find something about. I couldn't find anything accurate about Wicca in my hometown (which was very small at the time, but is in the 3rd fastest growing county in the United States). I settled on being Agnostic for a little while, becuase I didn't agree with my parents religions, but I knew there was something "more" out there.

There was a girl I dated as a freshman and sophmore in high school. I cared for her very much, but she had a secret. One day she called me in tears, telling me, "Kevin, I don't know how you're going to take this... But I'm a Witch."

A student in a class had asked her if she was, but they knew nothing of Wicca and soon a rumor was going around, as one would expect.

So, I wasn't startled becuase I had read bits and pieces on Wicca, but I wanted to learn more. It was the only faith I hadn't studied in depth.

I've been initiated since I was 15. It has been hard at times, first convincing my parents that I don't worship their devil, then coming out of the broom closet to my peers and extended family, and eventually co-workers.

My first couple covens were small, as most teen covens are. My parents eventually decided they respected my religion, but would not support it by signing any permission forms. Most Wiccan groups make you get forms signed for fear of being sued.

I didn't have an Internet connection for a while, either. So, all I knew about the larger Pagan community was a guess. I knew about Covenent of the Goddess from reading The Spiral Dance, how it was a legally incorporated church. I knew my religion was right for me, and I wasn't going to give up.

But, it was very hard. With no spiritual community to back me, I had to teach myself everything. I quickly became a "young elder", as all the teenage Wiccans in my school had to come to me for any advice. They were all in the same boat I was, but I had studied harder, and longer.

There is a dividing line in our Pagan community. Due to the fear of being sued, there is a whole generation of us being left behind in misinformation. Many give up, becuase of the cold reaction they get from older Pagans they try to contact for advice.

I understand, don't get me wrong. I am 18 now, I can be sued. I am not, however, afraid to speak my mind and answer questions. We owe these people the knowlege they seek, becuase they are our future.

Another hardship: I am goth. I was goth before I was Pagan. What does that mean? Hell, I don't know! It means that when I was younger I wore black nail polish, becuase it kept people that would judge me as far away as possible. It means those willing to talk to me, to get past the clothes, or rumors, or whatever else... Those people are open minded, and I want to know them. Now that I'm in college and I have a "real" job as a computer programmer, it means that I can be truly free and creative when I am no longer in a suit, or "corporate casual"...

Becuase I was a minor, and becuase I was goth, I was judged. Many times, it was by those that shared my faith! It was by you, the Pagan adult. Those "wannabe's!"... Can you believe them?

Dealing with wannabes is simple. Ask them if they have any interest in the religion, or if they are just looking for spells. If they are interested in learning what the religion is, take them seriously. If they could care less, then they deserve to be yelled at, becuase by naming themselves a "Witch", they undermine the seriousness of our faith. They create the stereotype in the media we hate.

When we simply blow people off, though, without consideration as to who they are, and not their clothing or their age, we damage ourselves. We damage our future.

I've done what I can, becuase I am serious about my faith. I started and helped direct a comparitive religion study group when I was in high school. Now, I am starting a local group, The WitchMoon Network, to help Pagans in our area find each other more easily and get a presence on the web. Also, we'll be hosting real study groups, and not just Wicca 101. We'll have as much as we can offer, from real people. We'll teach the youth that can legally learn from us how to teach their friends that cannot, so that their will be more young elders.

...and I'm just getting started!

So, to those that blew me off becuase of my age, did you really try to help?

Did you care about me? About the future of the freedom of YOUR religion?

Did you see "metalliGOTH" and think, "wannabe"?

If you did, then screw you.

I know more good Pagans under 18 than you can imagine. I'd estimate that one fourth of all Goths are serious Neo-Pagans.

...I am the future of Neo-Paganism, and we are just getting started.


Rave" Phenomenon... What Do You Have Against Peace, Love, Unity, Respect (plur... Mar 6th. at 11:41:51 pm EST

angel (Madison, Wisconsin US) Age: 19

"rave" phenomenon... what do you have against Peace, Love, Unity, Respect (PLUR)), which is the basic principle of raveing? and actually, ravers are not a majority. yes, there are idiots who go to raves who are just there to do drugs or whatever, but there are higher percentages of violence and drugs in your standard high school. and yes, if you haven't noticed, i'm a little annoyed. yes, i am a raver, no i don't do drugs, and i am a 'serious' pagan (why are we haveing to defend ourselves against people who aren't pagans, even thou they call themselves that?)...what, the "elders" can't figure out the difference? we can, and they're supposed to be wiser.
i am appalled that people that claim to be open minded can be so age-biased and look with blinders on. and for people that are supposed to be open minded, slamming ravers when you don't have a clue what you're talking about is disappointing.
btw- most of the people at mardigras, etc are 'overage', ie mid 20's, not youth. wrong generation; and raveing has nothing to do with mardigras.
i know i didn't explicitly post my opinion on the topic at hand, but i think its obvious without haveing to say much.

What's Wrong With Kids Today? I've Heard This Asked A Thousand Times... Mar 7th. at 3:58:45 am EST

Big John (South Amboy, New Jersey US) Age: 40

What's wrong with kids today? I've heard this asked a thousand times in the 40 years that I've been alive. The truth is there is nothing wrong with teenagers as a group. They are just a easy target for the media to focus on. I can assure you that we were no different 25 years ago when I was a teenager.

Most of us start to push the limits that our parents and society put on us in our teen years. We are all looking for answers in a world were the truth is often hard to find. We all make mistakes and change directions and continue to do so throughout life, but as we get older we do so more slowly. All this is just a natural part of living.

I see the media as the real problem. First, movies like "The Craft" show paganism as a fast and easy road to power and a very few teens fall for this nonsense. Second, the media focuses on them and convinces the masses that they are representative of a large number of teens. Finally, the masses discuss what they saw on the boob-tube in front of the water cooler until a lot of people believe it.

Now, not only are a small group of teens looking into paganism for all the wrong reasons, you have a large number of parents, teachers, neighbors, and co-workers who have a dark and totally incorrect image of paganism in general. This doesn't make it easy for teens looking into paganism for the right reasons - as a path to understanding yourself and the universe around you.

I can't help but feel a certain empathy for teens as a group. It can be a hard time in life, it certainly was in mine. Society puts a lot of burdens on kids these days, and they have few freedoms or say in the world around them. And we as adults often forget our teens years, or at least remember only what we want to. The truth is we did just fine 25 years ago and I'm sure todays kids will do just as well regardless of the picture the media paints.


What Is With Kids Today? I've Heard That Question Many Times Before... Mar 7th. at 3:32:02 pm EST

Steve "Crowned Fox" "Gaea's Raccoon" (Moreland Hills, Ohio US) Age: 15 - Email

What is with kids today? I've heard that question many times before. Being 15 myself, on the verge of sixteen, I'm hearing such expressions from my mother, my grandparents, and even my father from occasion, who, confidentially, was one of those "kids" that had the same thing asked about during the 60s and 70s. My life is complex as it is. From going to high school, dealing with harassment from kids in school, attempting to learning Wicca, and many other things, life can be tough and arduous, especially when people know you practice Wicca.

I know this may sound like a rant, or this may sound like I'm bitching, but I'm intentionally telling this to make my point in this opinionated posting. The few people I've told about my religious and spiritual beliefs have "accepted" this from me, though I'm not sure if it is true acceptance or just plain toleration. Today, a majority of the kids in my school are spoiled, shallow, rich kids who cheat, backstab, and treat others like shit just in order to get through school. Then again, I do live in a close area of suburbs that are inhabited by rich, snobbish people.

I, myself, along with the two other people who I know are either learning or practice, are primarily unpopular. But there I go again, I'm ranting and "plex"ing. But, I'm back....I'm back on track. I believe a lot of kids today are, as mentioned, trying out Wicca and Witchcraft (and any other Pagan religion for that matter) just to look cool. Though I have yet to see such kids within our school, there are the usual goth or two with in the school, not that there is a problem with that. But, telling people around you that you are interested in Wicca can be a problem. Truthfully, I admitted to my friend in Arizona about my interest in the Wicca, though I am originally Jewish, and I ended up being ranted about how I'm a Satan-worshipper and shit like that. And, this Christian boy who's name shall remain in my possession and NOT for your ears, is so stubborn as not to listen to my comments on what Wicca REALLY is, despite common ideals of it.

And try telling kids who hate you that you are actually a Witch, not a Jew, and that you are a NATURE loving person. You think that's going to fare well for you. I've gotten comments that I'm , and I hope I can say this on the board, "fucked up" "into that funky shit" and other things like that. While others, such as my friend Brenden, who is a true friend in EVERY sense of the word, respects my ideals and believes, encourages them, and even relates his curiousities in Wicca.

Finally, my attempts at learning while in the house of my dad's in AZ doesn't help at all. When on a camping trip this summer, I was reading Teen Witch. Yes, I know, Teen Witch is a horrible book, but it was my start and it was easy reading. I finished it off in 2 days. But I digress. My dad's fiancee, girlfriend at the time, had saw me reading the book, and freaked. My dad's Jewish, she's Gentile, and she thought I was into Satan. Well, you know how quick my alarms were up. I was scared I'd be grounded. Witchcraft/Wicca is an innocent earth-based religion, not even remotely as bad as people have been taught to look at it.

But, my time is up here on the computer, and I need to get home from school. But I'd like/love feedback. *tosses his $99.98 into the collection plate and walks up smiling*

I Used To Be A Wannabe. I Watched A Few Movies And... Mar 7th. at 4:58:53 pm EST

Emily (Ozone park, New York US) Age: 15 - Email

I used to be a wannabe. I watched a few movies and got some incredibly stupid
ideas in my head: I wanted to be a "witch". Of course, I thought this meant I
would cast cool spells and get revenge on everyone I disliked. Sooner or later, I realized that being a witch was way different than that. Now, 4 years later, I am learning about different pagan religions for what they really are.

Well, I didn't mean to give my life story here, but what I'm trying to say is that many teens today have been given the wrong message about pagans. However, many of us also come to the realization that calling oneself a witch does not make a witch. This is a message for the wannabes (not too preachy I hope).

As for teens in general, it's simple: we act how we are treated. This is evident everywhere - school, home, etc. If all kids continue being treated like delinquents, then yes, we are going to act like them. This is so easy to recognize, yet no one seems to believe it.

Thank The Many And Varied Gods For Fresh Perspective! And It Is... Mar 7th. at 6:55:27 pm EST

Zelda (S.F. Bay Area, California US) Age: 25

Thank the many and varied gods for fresh perspective! And it is delightful how many people, young and old agree with each other. I think that our society is VERY age-segregated and to whoever asked if ageism is a word, it is! Paganism is one of the few arenas in which adults and young people work side by side habitually - so the generation gap is constantly bringing up issues.

I work with a lot of teenagers and their parents through a youth organization, and since I am a 20-something with no kids yet - I do a lot of bridgemaking. How us-and-them we can be. i think the neo-pagan community is in a state of transformation and great growth - only through a multi-generation, continuing conversation can we grow.

and I like this quote:

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.
- Cicero, 106 - 43 BCE

The Question Isn't What's The Matter With Kids Today, It's What's The... Mar 7th. at 7:11:30 pm EST

Enid Muse (Cleveland, Ohio US) Age: 42 - Email

The question isn't what's the matter with kids today, it's what's the matter with all of us today. The kids today are a product of previous generations. And in many cases, I've seen friends learn from the past and give their kids good tools to live in the world. And that is amazing. Unfortunately, there are also kids, who have not been taught that life is of any value, and they learned that the hard way, by learning that the adults in their young lives, didn't value them. A person can't value and respect the lives of others if they are unable to value the life force that is them. So those of us who have some "tools" need to start passing them along to all kids. Because until we can convince them that they have value, they will notbe able to see value in anyone else.

Well, If "today's Kids" Are Shallow Thrill Seekers, And Maybe They Are... Mar 7th. at 9:19:37 pm EST

Anna M. Meadows (New Bern, North Carolina US) Age: 39 - Email

Well, if "today's kids" are shallow thrill seekers, and maybe they are where religious dedication is involved, then the adults who raised them and created the culture in which they were raised are responsible for that. Can we talk about the Law of Threefold Return??

Personally, I've got nothing but good things to say about "kids today, " Pagan or not. I'm 39, and I work with people aged 15 through 22 in a t-shirt/sticker/button company. I see kids who are WAY more intellectually sophisticated than I was until just a few years ago; and socially sophisticated, too (more later). I see far too many kids, also, who have been the victims of narcissistic & unstable parents over the past 20 years.

Two weeks ago I sat in our fulfillment room and overheard two boys counsel a 15 year old girl extensively as to why she should go the police and report her stepfather's abuse (he beat her; when I saw her, she had a black eye; her mother blames her)(I also tried to get her to the local battered women's shelter but she wouldn't go). These young men were articulate, emotionally engaged in the situation, and really dedicated to helping her. I see this all the time. These kids are radically honest with each other; they are a TRIBE, and that (I think) makes them more sophisticated than my gang was 20 years ago.

They're the victims of bad schooling, too. One young man is absolutely brilliant: too brilliant for public school, apparently, since he only made it to the 8th grade. He's not "ADD, " but too many flickering images from cathode ray tubes have done a number on his attention span. Another very sweet young man dropped out in the 10th grade for getting into trouble. If anyone had bothered to uncover the fact that he has a royal bitch of a mother who emotionally abused and blamed him for every misery in her life, perhaps they would not have pinned him with the label "bad kid."

As far as Paganism, yes, a lot are "Goth/Baby Pagans, " but one young woman I know is really a "born-again" Pagan. She is not a bit interested in magic; she just wants to worship the Goddess. Her parents stole her pentagram and flushed it down the trash disposal. Another young woman, 15, has started building a small library of books and tapes on Wicca and metaphysical subjects, as her finance permit. There are others who are quietly going about developing their Pagan spirituality in the face of intense opposition from their parents and the Dominant Paradigm in this small Southern town.

What is most appealing about "teens today" is their tribal spirit, the loyalty they display toward each other. The ones I know don't care if you're gay, straight, bi, uncertain; Pagan, goth, Christian, nothing, or some mixture of everything. They demand honesty from each other & they demand honesty from me and my colleague.

I could talk further about their disgust and cynicism about our current culture, "America-Mart, Inc." but this isn't the forum for that. What these kids crave is honesty, integrity, authority, stability, and someone they can trust (many haven't had a lot of that). If you provide that, there will be a few who stop, listen, and stick around to learn seriously.

Teens Are Just Looking For A New Way To Stand Out, And... Mar 7th. at 9:36:36 pm EST

Blake (Albany, Oregon US) Age: 16

Teens are just looking for a new way to stand out, and in a very christian world belonging to a religion that is somtimes thought of as evil as is persicuted is very atractive. Also teens naturally struggle for independence and power, magick as the media shows will give them this. Unnfortunnatly paganism and Wicca in particular have become a "phase" that lots of teens go through. As a teen myself I think its horrible that the phrase "teen witch" envokes a slight rolling of my eyes, I mean, I"M A TEEN WITCH! and I'm nothing special. There are plenty of real witchs and pagans that are young, so until pagan religions are understood and repsected be society ant the media I guess I'll just have to live with every once and a while having someone I know come up to my and tell me they want to "learn real magic/curses/hexes/love spells from a warlock" (shudder). oh well, teaching one person what witchcraft and wicca is and isn't is one step in the right direction.

Well There's the pessimists voice.

As A Pagan Teen That Has Been Practicing Since The Age Of... Mar 7th. at 10:21:28 pm EST

Espera Pax (St. Pete, Florida US) Age: 16

As a pagan teen that has been practicing since the age of twelve, I think that I can safely say that there are teens who are "able to delve into the deeper mysteries." That said, there are also those who are investigating this religion for shock value or quick spells to solve all their problems. Teens, just like adults, have different levels of intellectual and emotional maturity, and this is really the determining factor in whether they take this or any other religion seriously. Neither teens nor adults are perfect.

I Can Think Of Many Occasions Where I Have Been Stereotyped Because... Mar 8th. at 7:24:52 am EST

Erin Clemens (Morgantown, West Virginia US) Age: 20

I can think of many occasions where I have been stereotyped because of my youth. It is a sad fact that age is often directly linked with knowledge in the Pagan community. Perhaps this is a byproduct of the (oftentimes)heavy focus on length of practice as an indicator of "validity". While I can see how these factors are correlated (practice can make pretty much near perfect, and more is learned as each day goes by), I think it is very shortsighted and shallow to look to these alone. I don't understand why more Pagans aren't looking at what a person is saying and doing instead of how long they've been doing it.

In a perfect world, knowledge and insight would be accepted no matter what the PHYSICAL appearance of the bearer. However, in our less than utopic world, things like age do make a difference.

Let me share a story of my own:

I have recently started a group in Morgantown. I wanted it to be a connecting place for people interested in an earth-bonded outlook that hadn't found a comfortable "home" yet. I have been practicing alone for an extended amount of time now and am feeling the absence of a magickal community heavily. I had only found 2 or 3 like-minded individuals in my area, so I placed a poster in a privately-owned bookstore I respect. The poster outlined what I wanted for the group, and gave a reference to the philosophy that I follow personally, which I hoped to be the cornerstone of our group. I included no personal information, only my e-mail address. A few weeks went by and we had some responses, one of which was from a "forty-year old eclectic" who was "really interested in what you guys are doing". I wrote back and included my age, in passing. (I'm in college and the other members are around that age, as well.) Needless to say, once the respondent found out how old I was, his interest suddenly evaporated. I wonder, would it have made a difference if I had told him I have been practicing for 8 years? Or would the fact that I'm "only twenty" still have been such an incredible deterrent?

"I can't wait till I turn 30 so I can be given the gift of insight. It's been a real pain stumbling around in the dark for the last 3 decades."

I have been talked down to at various gatherings and have had comments and suggestions patronizingly "tolerated" during group discussions. Perhaps most insulting of all, and most common, I have had older seekers offer unsolicited advice on "a few good books to get you started." I appreciate that they are willing to share what they know, but I feel insulted. Is anybody really listening or are we all only looking?

A Great Diversity Of Well Thought Out Posts On This Subject - As... Mar 8th. at 7:46:17 am EST

Skye Cat (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 27 - Email

A great diversity of well thought out posts on this subject - as usual.

Two points to add:

Firstly, that I believe the Internet to be a great leveller. I know I respond to people according to the level of thought and communication within a response, not according to the age I see on the profile. Profiles can also allow a person to be judged on what they say, not on who they are, what they look like, or how old they are.

Secondly I agree with a sentiment in one of the posts below. There does seem to be a great emphasis put on the number of years behind you as a pagan, rather than on the level of experience and insight. One of the basic insults seems to be to question the age of the person you disagree with. I remember when flamed on this board a few weeks ago - the first thing the attacker did was question my true age.

I've met people on the Net who have claimed to have more than 30 years experience, yet have had very shallow views. I've met people new to paganism with real insight.

A few months actively questioning and experiencing the world can mean far more than many years of comfortable dogma.

P.S. Loved the Cicero quote, whoever it was!

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