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Article Specs

Article ID: 10860

VoxAcct: 292493

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 3,882

Times Read: 5,634

RSS Views: 67,800
Educating Non-Pagans

Author: Diana Lightwolf
Posted: August 13th. 2006
Times Viewed: 5,634

This year I wrote a research paper on the medicinal uses of traditional herbs that covered their use in the old ways and in modern medicine. While writing this paper, I consulted some of the Scott Cunningham and D.J. Conway books I have collected. A very open Witch, I brought these books with me to my class. The first day or so no non-Pagans said anything to me; my friend who happens to be studying to be a Druid and I looked over the books, his topic being Witchcraft today. But the second day and on I ran into some problems: some Christian students decided to inquire why my books said “Wicca” in big letters.

Of course, I wasn't lucky enough to have the most intelligent students inquire, but instead the students, two boys, who were lagging behind in the class and had decided to put off their papers. Like I said, I am an open Witch, so I explained what Wicca was and how it related to my topic. I told them that experienced Witches could heal quite well by using the herbs I was studying. This information highly interested them, since at points in all my explanations I had let slip the word “magic,” and they were curious why I used the word “Pagan” to describe myself. They asked more questions, and I continued to elaborate. For some reason I considered this experience good practice, since I figured if I could repeat what I had learned I must have been doing something right.

These students seemed to comprehend what I was saying until they asked me what church I go to on Sunday. This question actually frustrated me a little, yet I answered it calmly, telling them that Witches don't have churches but covens and that I was a solitary. Suddenly, the two students became distressed, asking me what kind of Christian did not go to church. An amusing question, at least I thought, and I had a good laugh at this point especially since there are many people who call themselves “Christians” yet fail to attend church. For a moment I considered joking a little and telling them something laughable like “Eagle Heights Baptist Church.” That idea was dismissed because it could make matters worse, and I tried to be as serious as I could.

Still giggling a bit, I told them I was not Christian, and in fact the very definition of “Pagan” includes the words “not a follower of Christianity.” They accepted this definition until they found it necessary to ask, “But you believe in God, right?”

When I said, not a supreme god but one accompanied by a goddess, the boys flipped out. I tried to calm them down by saying my Goddess is the moon and my God the sun; it was comically to actually think that would help. Rants of “you're going to hell” and “burn” came my way over the next couple days.

On maybe the fourth day the class had moved on from research to typing, and now in rows in the computer lab I was “lucky” enough to sit next to the more annoying of the two boys. That day he randomly chanted in a whisper “Witch “ and “You're going to hell” and giggled ironically. I tried the old “I don't believe in hell,” but he continued. At some point he decided making fun of my love of fairies would be a nice secondary topic although this was something he had tried previously to annoy me with. My teacher soon became aware of a problem and told the boy to stop or he would be sent to the School Resource Officer on the basis of harassment. He stopped for the day, but used the same technique to annoy me when class went back to normal.

I share this story to illustrate the point that many people do not understand what Paganism or Wicca or any other branch of Paganism is about. These boys were about sixteen years old and still in World History courses or even Current Event classes. Do you think any Neo-Pagan topics were discussed in these classrooms? They were not. These boys knew all about Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism—even Buddhism and some branches of these religions, yet nothing of the other religions of the world.

Children need to be exposed to more of the diversity in the world. I love to learn about other religions; it is how I made my transition into Wicca: by learning about a new avenue I could go down in life. I am open in telling people I'm a Witch because silence is devastatingly hard and because I very rarely find people like these boys. Non-Pagans need to have Paganism presented to them in a positive way, the same why they learn about the major religions.

It would also help if old textbooks were replaced. For instance, my eighth grade English book defined “Pagan” as “an uncivilized, murderous heathen” while my tenth grade history book said it was “someone who is not a follower of Christianity, Hinduism, or Judaism.” The second definition is the more currently accurate and informative. This essay may sound like a plea for political correctness, but if that were my plea I would be complaining about the definition of “Witch,” a definition that always will have negativity mixed in. Or perhaps I would attack the commercialization of Samhain as Halloween.

My experience was an unfortunate one, but the majority of teen Pagans have heard the same words. Parents, family, friends, and acquaintances have said them. There are even other essays on the Witchvox about this very topic. What these people say is all based on the fact that they have no knowledge nor understanding of what Pagans are or what we believe. I am blessed to have one parent, my mother, who understands, but my father sees all Pagans as people who run around naked, sacrificing animals and bathing in their blood. Beginning to promote an understanding by educating the new generation could not only help today's Pagans, but also their children.


Diana Lightwolf

Location: New York City, New York

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