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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 12,716,256  

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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 

This Is One That I've Been Waiting For Without Even Knowing It... Mar 6th. at 9:40:05 am EST

Jaiyla- Jessyka Boyle (North Port, Florida US) Age: 19 - Email

This is one that I've been waiting for without even knowing it. Subconciously I've been ashamed to put down my age on the pagan perspective column because I've been afraid I won't be taken seriously and have been desperately awaiting the big 2-0 to lend credibility to my name. I found Wicca when I was 15, and have been practicing and studying since. It has never been about the spells and magick for me, but the ritual setup is something I immediately felt comfortable with. But I've noticed that's not true of many of my peers. Sometimes they're seeking a way to feel powerful because in all else they feel they have none (those are usually but not always the ones with a terrible family life who have suffered abuse ranging from verbal to physical). Sometimes there are those who are sick and tired of their religion, and they go off trying on every alternative until they find something that fits (I often, but again not always, note a very strict upbringing in these folks, and I was one of these myself, having looked at Hinduism and Taoism without feeling quite comfortable with either). Sometimes they want the mystique and to complete their "gothy" image, when really all they've done is confuse it with satanic worship... these people simply annoy me, I've had some of them call me a "poser". But the "problem" is one that originates elsewhere in their lives I've found.

Mm... First Of All, I Object To The Phrasing Of The Question... Mar 6th. at 5:47:31 am EST

Raindancer (Christchurch, New Zealand) Age: 52 - Email

MM... First of all, I object to the phrasing of the question. We cannot speak of "Pagan Youth" as if its some kind of monolithic movement. Just as is the Pagan Community in general, there is just as much diversity, as much wisdom and foolery among younger pagans as among older ones.

The only difference between a "Teen Witch" and an elder, is experience and perspective. Thinking in terms of stereotypes is just plain lazy thinking, lumping together a diverse people into some kind of lable or pidgeonhole.

I was involved in a message board discussion awhile ago on Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch kit. There was a great deal of panic and hysteria about handing such a dangerous thing to erratic unstable teenagers. Knowing that she had published the Teen Witch Book ( which I have since bought for my nine year old daughter) I thought that I would try to get a feel for what the audience (for which it was intended) had to say about it.

I went to Amazon, which sells the book, and where people who have bought and read the book can review it. I read maybe 80-90 reviews by a teenagers who had bought the book, and found as wide a response as you might find among adults on any other book. Some responses were rather simplistic and shallow, and others were very insightful and intelligent.

I think that we would be spending our time better if we avoid lumping all young people into the same boat, and take time to learn about someone who comes to you looking for guidance. Sure they may be a Fairuza Balk wannabe, but they may also be someone deep who is truly looking for answers and meaning in their life.

I don't think that anyone of us would prefer to be treated as a stereotype rather than for who we are. What is there that might make anyone think otherwise? To do otherwise is patronizing, insulting, and as I said lazy thinking.

If some young person comes to you seeking, find out what they really want, then act accordingly. Remember too, as others have already said, people can grow and change, its part of the magick of life. Personally, I hope that I never stop growing and changing in this life or those to come. But as a lady wrote in a book that I read once, I think it was Susan Faludi: "What good does it do to learn how to fly, if you don't teach someone else?" Or as my first teacher told me once: "Be prepared to follow, be prepared to lead."

Don't be hard or judgmental with that fresh, eager young face in front of you, for they are us.
Blessed Be

As A Young Pagan (i Am Fifteen) I Definetly Feel Stereotyped; By... Mar 6th. at 1:27:12 am EST

Asta (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii US) Age: 15

As a young Pagan (I am fifteen) I definetly feel stereotyped; by everything. I hate rap, hiphop, pop, parties, drugs, alcohol, and I respect everyone. Not your typical high schooler, you think. But the majority of teenagers I know are polite, respectful, and deep. Its just the few bad apples that make it bad for the rest of us. And on the case or religion, I have more friends that go to church willingly that friends that hate church or just don't go. My Pagan friends are serious and secretive of our religion and do less magick than you would expect.
Unfortunatly, I have also met Pagans who are act like you would expect teenagers to act. Curses, dark magick, etc. But most of us aren't like that. We are trying to keep up with our lives and make a difference in the world, just like you tall people. Give us a chance.

I Suppose I'm Somewhere In The Middle On This Issue. At 23... Mar 6th. at 12:32:20 am EST

Maythen Apple (Redding, California US) Age: 23 - Email

I suppose I'm somewhere in the middle on this issue. At 23 I can still remember what it felt like to search for others who shared my faith, only to be told they wouldn't even talk to me untill I was "old enough". But I've also run into the thrill seekers and people that just want a "quick fix".
When I first began to practice, I was 14. I worked with a coven of other teens for about 6 years. We had our problems. (what coven doesn't?) I had angry parents "confiscate" my borrowed books. Power mongers, unstable individuals, and those that thought paganism was an easy way to pick up a one night stand floated through my life with an alarming frequency.
But I also had the opportunity to meet some intelligent, dedicated, and wonderful people. Some of those power mongers, sex hounds, and unstable kids managed to get over themselves and become incredible individuals. They became some of my closest and dearest friends.
There are going to be bad apples in every bunch and they come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. I can understand why some older pagans are afraid to communicate with under age pagans. I can also empathize with the young pagans who don't understand why older ones can't seem to see beyond their youth. Each one of us has to make the decision for themselves.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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!

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.

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