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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: 20,000,287  

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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 

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!

Hey Now, I'm 19 And Occasionally Still Consider Myself Part Of The... Mar 8th. at 9:51:56 am EST

Sarah Koz (Chicago, Illinois US) Age: 19 - Email

Hey now, I'm 19 and occasionally still consider myself part of the youth. But it's really about maturity here. There are probably plenty of adults with the spooky-witchy mentality of thirteen-year-olds, and there may be many thirteen-year-olds who find Paganism to be a deep, soothing practice. I think the crazy media hype of Paganism is bound to attract tons of immature folk who just think it's cool to brag about casting spells. Hell, I've seen dumb little books out there, aimed at common working adults, that list spells for finding parking spots or paying the bills on time. Now come on. I know, some people see trash like that as cute and fun, but it's trivial and I think it downplays what Paganism's really about. It's not always the youth here. They just get the most coverage. Like I said, I'm 19 and I sometimes consider myself mature. I have an email buddy that I found through WitchVox, and he's in his 30's and we talk and joke like good friends. It's not always about age here, it's your mindset and everyone else's generalizations. I think it's shallow for older Pagans to turn from the youth.

There Is Nothing Wrong With Kids Today, However There Is Much Wrong... Mar 8th. at 10:06:05 am EST

link nerhkorn (phoenix, Arizona US) Age: 30 - Email

there is nothing wrong with kids today, however there is much wrong with the parents. There is an appalling lack of parental responsibilty in this country in all aspects of child rearing. When it comes to points of faith why ask if todays young people are "spell hungry" or looking for a "quick fix"?Why not be overjoyed that the youth of today are taking an active role in their spiritual lives and considering the wiccan path? While many of us in the wiccan religion had to stumble about in the dark for most of our lives, it is wrong to force our youths to suffer the same. The young have ALWAYS been more able to see the deeper mysteries and it is only by keeping a young mind that we adults are able to. This is relevent even in the christ based religions, where a well used quote "...and a child shall lead them..." is contained. If you see a young person who is trying to "walk the harder path" instead of shaking your head and mentally laughing at all they are mixing up and doing wrong, why not help then along and bring then into the light?

I'm 19, And From My Somewhat Recent Experiences, I Think There Are... Mar 8th. at 10:49:44 am EST

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

I'm 19, and from my somewhat recent experiences, I think there are problems with today's youth, because they are expected to handle the world like a mature adult without having been raised to any standards of maturity. Its a pervasive problem, but I haven't seen very much of it in the pagan community, I think for the very reason that most of us have realized that society's ills have no place in our spiritual community. Teenage Pagans don't worry me or bother me, they excite my optimism about the future, they give me reason to think that Colombine and this most recent tragedy in California, and all the copycats, may not be a glimpse into a far worse future for our nation's youth. I became a pagan when I was seventeen myself, and it delights me to see young people in The Craft, I mean, after all, in any more primal a society people begin their spiritual training at a young age. Let's embrace the pagan youth: encourage them, invite them to ritual, train them, lend them advice (especially those who have to remain in the 'broom closet'), lend them spare materials to get them started. We can help our nation's youth choose the right path, and we can start within our own community. We are the fastest growing religion on Earth, so what we do now to lay the moral groundwork has an exponential impact on the future, there may never again come a time when one solitary pagan can have such an impact on the entire movement. Let's shake things up, and let's start with our children.

As Most Of Us Know And Have Experienced, The Teen Years Are... Mar 8th. at 3:52:33 pm EST

Greg (Mesa, Arizona US) Age: 24 - Email

As most of us know and have experienced, the teen years are all about planting seeds for the years to come: relationships, career, education, and yes, religion. Teens should experience, learn, delve into new areas; hell, "adults" should do that, too. If a teen wants to get into the Craft because he/she is a spell hungry monster, then so be it. Either this person will learn some things along the way or find it unfulfilling and drop it altogether. That's part of the journey.

I would like to see a dialogue between the generations to develop, so that we could learn from each other. Instead of "Oh, he/she is too young, " or "I can't talk to that person. She's too old and will spurn me", we need to open the communication doors in order to create a greater level of understanding about the Craft and its practitioners.

Love and light to all!

Whenever Someone Mentions The "troubled" Youth Of Today, I'm Reminded Of A... Mar 8th. at 8:18:05 pm EST

Jade Woulf (Columbia, South Carolina US) Age: 20 - Email

Whenever someone mentions the "troubled" youth of today, I'm reminded of a quote Socrates made in the fifth century B.C.: "Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room;they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their
food and tyrannize their teachers."

The more things change....

I remember when I first started learning about Pagan religions. I was watching an episode of Ricki Lake (Yes, I know what you are thinking, but give me a chance) when I first heard the word "Wicca." I immediately got online and hit the search engines. I was shocked at the loads of information I found. Of course what I found ranged from odd to interesting to downright frightening. I used good judgement to try and find the more "credible" websites. I downloaded tons of information and read and read. After reading for a bit, I found a chat room.

Fortunately for me, my questions were answered with patience, kindness, and most of all understanding. I found out later, that I had one thing in my favor: I asked questions appropriately (well, that and the fact I left Ricki Lake out of it). I did not go into a room and say, "Is Wicca/Paganism a real religion?" or "Do you guys believe in anything?" I asked specific questions related to Paganism regarding the gods, religious symbols, etc. I also let it be known that I had been reading about Wicca and wondered if anyone could reccommend any good books. I wanted to make it clear that I was not just some "angst ridden teen" looking to turn her ex into a toad. I was given great advice and opinions. I was led to books by Scott Cunningham and Silver Ravenwolfe (I later stuck with Cunningham because I felt more comfortable with him).

Even though it was still another year and a half before I decided that Wicca was the path for me, I will be forever grateful to those that helped me out when my spiritual journey started. I understand how easy it is for Pagans in general to get annoyed with the youth who come into chat rooms or online discussions and ask uninformed questions. These are the ones that get labled "wannabes" and are spurned. I agree with one girl who said we should embrace all those curious about the path. If they are in it just for revenge or whatever, they will be sorely disappointed. However, those that are genuinely curious will find out a multitude of information and knowledge.

Not all teens are bad and we should not pass judgement on all teens based on the actions of a small fraction of the population. Well, that's my two cents.

This Is A Fantastic Topic! I'm 53 And Feel That Young People... Mar 9th. at 2:53:58 am EST

Maggie (Montreal, Quebec CA) Age: 53 - Email

This is a fantastic topic! I'm 53 and feel that young people are heavily stereotyped and generally spoon-fed an education in most "developed" countries. I've read half a dozen responses so far and hope that more older folk read what you brilliant young people have written.

I used to work at a local library in Montreal that had maybe a dozen dog-eared copies of books about paganism and "magick". These books were quite old and yet they were ALWAYS sought after by local youth. I suggested that the library get some newer titles and I was told that the youth were always messing up the books so they didn't want to get more! What a terrible excuse. I think the library bosses were displaying their own fears about what Wicca and Paganism really are about, and also stereotyping the young people who were exploring their spirituality ouside of the dominant and "acceptable" world religions. I was there the other day & glad to see that they have a new copy of Wicca for Teens (not sure of exact title), which is a little commercial, but better than some of the other books. (I'm inspired by this message board to go back soon & add some more titles to the Request binder.)

"Spell-hungry monsters" could easlily be used to describe newcomers to Wicca of any age. Besides, we probably come into our current incarnation with various degrees of past experience and conditioning. So age, and even years of "practice", don't automatically mean someone is more or less wise. Becoming our true selves is the main thing, and young people certainly need the support of adults around them to do that. I only have to think back to my enforced Catholic childhood to imagine some of the difficulties of Wiccan & Pagan youth today. I am so happy to see the numerous webpages on the net, and to read about youth being out of the broom closet, especially in the atmosphere of fundamentalism in the world today.

There may very well be an overly commercialized aspect in some areas of our religion, i.e., shops that sell books and then get into too much pariphanalia to pay the overhead. But it's all more complex than that. Being on the "fringe" of society often leaves people financially poorer than the mainstream, and we do have basic needs to meet. Since my own awakening to my Wiccan identity (although I have memories of drawing ancient goddess symbols on my desk in grade 5) ten years ago, I now place more importance on living a green life than I used to on spells. I would still rather read on a message board that teens are exploring earth-based spirituality and doing spells for prosperity, than hear about fundamentalist youth whose goals are to follow the farcical "American Dream", blindly damaging the earth's biosystems, and often hatefully opposing the lovely diversity of people and life here.

If I would like to see anything grow in the future Wiccan community (through its' youth) it would be the exploration and practical application of ways to live economically & cooperatively in a world that is increasingly globalized for profit, not people and the earth. I would also like to see more of a mingling of different age groups in our culture. Popular culture is ageist to the max. What's wierd is that youth is portrayed as desirable, but young people are not given enough support they need as human beings. I would love to share my mistakes and my crone wisdom with more young people. It's not always that easy to get past the cultural divide though. If anyone wants to discuss further, eamil me.

I Just Posted A Long Comment, But Have A Nagging Thought That... Mar 9th. at 3:24:37 am EST

Maggie (Montreal, Quebec CA) Age: 53 - Email

I just posted a long comment, but have a nagging thought that grew after I read more of the posts. Because so many young adults are exploring Wicca while their parents & caregivers are members of the dominant religions, where does that leave them? If an adult outside of the family circle wants to be supportive for them, it could cause resentment, and worse, from the parents. I don't have any answers to this, but think it's worth discussing. At an age when youth are studying frantically to make up for years of conditioning in religions they may have no interest in, they are left to fend for themselves (and each other if they're lucky). I would imagine that there are plenty of adults who would like to be supportive, but may fear the wrath of the parents. Any thoughts on this?

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