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 VoxPath:   Home / wren / w_editorials / Community Thoughts on Tempest Smith Created: 3/26/2001   Views:
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Thoughts on Tempest Smith
- by the Pagan Community


"I feel a great sorrow for the death of the young Tempest and can relate to the childish torture that peers can subject others to when they do not understand, are afraid or are just plain ignorant. Most of my life was spent in a cyclone of ridicule because of my size, having for the majority of my life been overweight. At the end of the tunnel, when the light seemed to be casting away the teen shadows that my peers shed upon me, I began suffering involuntary twitches and spasms. Medication that my doctors prescribed to alleviate my neurological trauma only made me gain more weight, lose consciousness without warning and cause massive bouts of fatigue and incoherence.

"So it was that the path of Wicca was opened to me by a local Occult bookstore that I found homage in. I reveled in the idea that there was a duality to the Great-one, that it bore identities of both sexes... I thrived in the study of every Pagan and Wiccan scripture and text I could get my hands on. But as I stand here now, looking back to the past nine years, I see that the incessant chiding and debasing continued even through my spiritual evolution, having taken on the form of religious turmoil. The Christian community around me seemed to protract its claws and hone in for an attack. Even having gone so far as to make the attempt to turn my mother, whom I share a very close bond with, against me. It was hard, and throughout my life I have even contemplated and upon one occasion attempted to end my life. It is with that, that I can relate with the ordeal that Tempest was plagued by, and I pray to the god and goddess eternal that she finds solace in their warm embrace." - TE

"I'm really sorry that this isn't news, but I had to say that your story about Tempest Smith really got to me. I have experienced this intolerance before and I'm so sorry that it got to someone as young as her. It's such a waste. I just had to let you know that I loved your piece and I wanted to wish you blessings and know that if there is anything that I can do to help in any way, I will. Just let me know. Once again, I'm sorry this isn't news, but I had to say something." - N.

"I am not sure how to reply to the tragic passing of the child Tempest. I am new to learning about Paganism and Witchcraft. For years I have wondered what else other than traditional religion could best describe the way I feel. I am finding that communing with the natural world makes more sense than anything else that I have read or felt forever. But once again, the hatred and vileness of those who preach tolerance and love of our fellow man only mean it when we think their way. Sounds like propaganda to me. It's not that I don't believe in God, but the people that preach the Gospel do not preach tolerance enough and that is why we get a Tempest to take her life. May the Goddess show more tolerance to those who hate those of us who are different than those who fall into step and hate those of us who are of a different mind. Blessed Be and prayers for Tempest and her family." - LV

"I am not a Pagan, nor am I a Christian. I was raised in a Catholic family growing up, but have totally segregated myself from the "flock". Everything I did while growing up, I was reminded if it was a sin, or if it was "evil" or wrong. My head was so filled with a ridiculous belief, that it stopped me from believing in what was the most important; me! The Christians who have responded to the suicide, seem pretty sure that it was because the young girls head was filled with "crap". I'm sorry, the only crap my head was filled with, while I was younger -and naive- was the rubbish spoken to me from an envious man, who sat and listened to my "sins". Religion lead to the break up of my family, on many levels. I am not a christian, because I know better.The Pagan beliefs of being responsible to the wellbeing of the earth, is totally understandable. Quite frankly, aren't we all Pagans at heart, when in comes to recycling day or clean up day? Myself, I would sooner praise a blue box, rather than a wooden cross." - DK

"On the day that it is safe to be what we are, I will leave my closet behind. But until that day, when stereotypes are forgotten, when you are seen as a person, not as an automatic threat, I am staying put. And that is a shame because it is a beautiful world. But even in my closet, I'm still working magick behind the scenes, hoping that one day, it will be safe for all of us." - Ice

"I can't tell you the number of shivers I went through upon reading the comments from hateful people and the websites of similar folks. As a gay man, I am kind of used to this drivel, but as a Pagan, I'm not. Thanks for being a bright light during the dark moments." - G.

"Although I did not know her, it deeply saddens me to here the news of Tempest Smith's death. What sickens me the most, is the hate mail I read on your website. I read how Christians and non-Christians take advantage of belittling Wiccans and Pagans at the expense of Tempest's death. (I don't want to put the blame on all Christians however.) Today I saw the news and they a placing a anti-bully law in my home town. I thought to myself its too late. I know what I have said might be a bit harsh, however I just feel this way. I just sickens me to know that People who are so against what you, me and Tempest believed in, who go so far as harass us to the point of suicide -and yet still blame us for Tempest's pain." - BH

"I was teased, taunted and even threatened when I was in the same age group as Tempest - by "Christians", not because I was Pagan or Wiccan, but because I was Catholic. I feel that, in my experience, what her actual beliefs were had less relevance than the fact that she was different, she was an individual, she did not fit into their status quo. There again is the fear and hatred of what is unknown or strange to us. I know that she did NOT take her own life simply "because classmates at her school were singing Christian hymns" , but perhaps that was the catalyst, the proverbial "last straw". I have experienced the exact same thing - I even tried to fit in, but it didn't work. Sometimes it is hard to be one alone amongst/against the crowd." - DR.

"I realise that there is nothing as dead as yesterdays news, however I thought that you may be interested to learn that in New South Wales, Australia, a recent anti bullying program has been undertaken by the NSW Department of Education. Although I am unaware of what results have come from this action. I read your article on Miss Smith on the Witchvox.com website. Well written and lucid it enunciates a problem that is world wide, I call it the "White Wolf Syndrome": To be different is to be victimised." - QJS.

"I received a personal reply from Tempest's mother to my card. I don't know if she wishes this to be public knowledge {Wren notes, 'She does'.}, but she shared with me that she had donated Tempests organs. she said that 50 different people had benefited from this gift, and Tempest lives on in their lives. Just a nice thought to add to a sad story." - C.

"I read that article and I do think it's a little biased kids will be kids,they could have just as easily been teasing her about being jewish, black, different hair color, birthmarks.. etc. I think the whole point of that article is that kids can be mean, (as innocent as they are). Peer pressure is tremendous. It's not about pagan vs. christian. It's really about kids vs. kids." - JDS.

"Teenagers can be cruel, especially to someone from whom they can get a painful, tormented reaction. Following the Columbine High School massacre, a writer for Time Magazine -- explaining the anger of the two young gunmen; ridiculed, picked on outcasts themselves -- wrote that "being cruel to someone who is different from you is practically the definition of a teenager." I'm almost 35 and I see it hasn't changed from when I was a teen. The solution is to find a way to stop making people feel so empowered by causing pain to others. The glee and empowerment that some people feel in tormenting each other has sickened me all my life, but you just can't tell people "EVOLVE!!" and expect it to happen. If we could do that we could probably put an end to war. Best of luck to us all in that endeavor. Most of all my most heartfelt sympathies to Tempest's family, particularly her mother. It is difficult to read the account of her death and the letters of consolation and sympathy. It brings back so much of my own pain." - BD.

"The coverage on Tempest has been touching, and I hope her family and everyone involves recovers. I can only imagine what her parents are feeling now and my heart goes out to them. Reading all of this has taken me back to when I was 14 and first discovered the Craft and began practicing. It felt so right and natural. At the same time it also turned the most important aspects in my life into a secret that I've only rarely been able to share with my friends and family. I'm starting to feel that the hardest battles we fight are within ourselves. When we meet someone who is easy to classify and have a negative experience it is easy to label the entire group. Removing the filters of judgement we learn is a daunting process, learning to accept people for who and what they are is compounded by the fact that anymore people rarely seem to know themselves.-A.M.

"I will do what I can to fight against intolerance and prejudice in my small part of the world. My powers are very limited, but I figure if everybody does a little bit, it will all add up to a big thing." - CdM.

"While I am not a hateful man, I would like to say something to the author of one of the negative comments, namely "No Return Email". How can you (you being the author of the email, not the members of WitchVox who have no affiliation with this individual) begin to understand the plight of pagankind? George W. Bush does not consider us a religion because we are not organized. We do not have a hierarchical structure and that is the ONLY reason. We will never have the structure that other religions have, based solely on our need for individuality and I personally don't care if Mr. Bush believes in me or not. I don't believe in his God, does that make his God exist any less in his mind? I would love it if you posted this on your site, but I will understand if you do not. If you do however, please include my email address as I am not afraid of confrontation and would love some intelligent banter. Blessed Be and again, my deepest sympathies to the family of Tempest Smith." - DravenRanger (DravenRanger@excite.com).

"I just wanted to drop you a line on the article regarding Tempest. It was a terrible thing to have happened and I'm glad that you and Fritz are keeping the Pagan community informed of such incidents. It's difficult for some Pagans and non-Pagans to understand the discrimination that some face everyday. To have you bring forth such articles is a wonderful wakeup call for some.

"So, again... thank you for all your efforts in informing the public at large about what we believe. Perhaps, because of the efforts of your website, the barriers will fall and I can one day email you back with a picture of my son proudly wearing a "I am a Witch" t-shirt at school." - Hopeful Mom

"When I read your editorial, I was brought to tears since I had never seen my feelings about this topic in words from someone else before. I wanted to thank you for caring about this story, and I hope that you will continue to post stories like this. I don't want to hear that there are more suicides, but I do want people to be aware how cruel children are, and I want everyone to teach their children to be kind and compassionate towards others. I hope that if stories like this, albeit less drastic, show up again, you will share your viewpoint with everyone. Thank you so much for reading all this. I intend to send a message to Denessa Smith as soon as I can figure out what to say." - Di.

"I know what it's like to be in Tempests' shoes, I went trough a time of extreme suicidal attempts a couple of years ago. I was raised another religion, and currently am undergoing a excommunication, so I also get crap from some peoples in that sect of religion. We as Pagans, and even HUMANS have a responsibility to take that to extremes so that we may celebrate all diversities, even the ones who are mean to us. Learn from Jesus, the Dalai Lama, & Buddha, some of the great men of time....."Love thy neighbor as thy self, & judge not least ye be judged", "love thy friends, and love thy enemies even more"! Learn from the Goddess her self, "Do as thou wilt, long as ye harm none!" - NW.

"It is where we find meaning and value that determines where we will put our focus. Do we find it within the preservation of life or the need to understand others? Or is it the need to belong to a larger community and be accepted for who we think we are? Will we follow all the tenets and rules of that community just to belong, including the spewing of hate and misguided thought at others that we simply don't understand? This all becomes very complicated when one is involved in the cultural pressures of school, work, media, and... simply living. Sometimes it is hard for myself to discern where I belong. I believe we all struggle with that conflict everyday of our lives. What amazing creatures we are.

"But we are the dictators of culture. And with that comes the responsibility, not the right, to seek out that 'truth' and educate ourselves in spite of our ideological, political or societal biases." - R.F.

"I'm 20 years old and high school was the worst four years of my life. I read the article about Tempest and I cried. I still tear up and have to brush and escaped tear away every now and then. I went through similar tough times in high school. I seriously considered suicide. ..Also, a friend of mine committed suicide by hanging himself in December of 1999. I guess Tempest just really hit home. I feel guilty because if I or one of us on this vast internet could have talked to her and told her, it'll be OK, there are people like her out there.... I know there's nothing to be done now, but I still wish I could have saved her. I'm going to write her mother and give my condolences. I want her mother to know Tempest's death has inspired me to really buckle down and study Wicca with a coven to become a High Priestess. I want to help kids that go through this horrific teasing in junior high and high school. I want to make a difference. Goddess bless and keep us all safe." - S.

"Ignorance is a big problem in this country, from racism to homophobia to religion and I want to propose this idea to whomever is reading this: free will is something you received when you were brought in this world, it is YOUR choice to nice or mean, YOUR choice to accept people or to be ignorant to life around you, YOUR choice to live by the law or break it. In the end, you will have to deal with yourself. I believe no one can just whisk all your problems away with a confession, a spell, or going to church every Sunday. The Wiccan Rede states, "An it harm none, do what thou will" and the Bible's Ten Commandments read, "Do unto others as you would have done to you". Hmmm, seems pretty similar to me. We have something in common after all and it's called peace." - SH

"Let the hate end here; give Wiccans the right to practice their religion in peace! We have worked hard to earn our rights and we expect some changes to occur. Thank you and Blessed Be!" - WE


Not Everyone Is Happy With TWV:

"I am a wiccan of a few years, when I started out I was the same age as Tempest. I have suffered name calling too. However I believe that we shouldn't be so quick to make a martyr out of Tempest. There were many reasons why she took her own life. Her teasing over her interest in wicca being only a small part of the big picture. I'm apealing to all wiccans. PLEASE DONT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS CASE. PLEASE DONT MAKE A MARTYR OUT OF TEMPEST. It wont us any good or her family any good either." - GB.

"Christianity is not to blame for what happened to Tempest. The cruelty of her classmates is.

"As someone exploring a religion outside the mainstream, Tempest's interest in Wicca was the easiest target for those who were bullying her. If she had been a Christian but still worn black, that would have been their focus instead. Had she not worn black, but still been identifiably Other than her classmates, they would have focused on whatever trait set her apart. And so it would go.

"Christianity was the symptom here, not the cause. Blaming it for her death gets us equally as far as blaming the fever while ignoring the disease which caused it." - P.

"Attached is a letter of rebuke to the Witches Voice for failing to condemn the act of suicide, on principle and as an example to others, in the Witches' Voice recent coverage of the suicide of Tempest Smith and the issues surrounding it.

"Please note that I make this rebuke respectfully and without criticizing what the Witches' Voice did say; rather, I criticize what the Witches' Voice did not say, which I conclude is sufficiently important to warrant characterizing my criticism as a rebuke."

"If you review the attached letter and concur with its contents, I ask that one of two things to occur: either condemning suicide equally as forcefully as the persecution which can lead to suicide in your next editorial or to post the attached letter at your website. However you decide, I thank you for your time and consideration." - JG. (Wren Notes: I proposed a third option-ever the Celt!-and we have added the question of the societal/moral implications of suicide raised by JG to our Pagan Perspectives question this week. And, btw, no offense was taken.)


And Some Good Ideas To Build Upon:

"I have written you before about the Tempest Smith tragedy. I am in the process of creating an organization dedicated to violence, hate crimes and other forms of oppression in our schools. My goal is to send a message not only to students, but also to teachers faculty and staff as well as parents. I am hoping to do speeches and many other appearances in hopes that I may be able to get this message to those out there who would like to do something about it. I am a pagan who wishes to send a positive message, and realize that we are all working toward the same goal." - KH

"I was deeply touched and saddened by the story of Tempest Smith and I started considering all the pressures our youth go through on a day-to-day basis that most adults aren't aware of. I am turning 22 shortly, and have it very clear in my mind the trials of youth and the way in which children can be so cruel, and I feel as though my experiences could help some other young Pagans facing situations similar to the ones I did. In many other religions/social groups, there are big brother/big sister support networks to which teens/young adults can turn to in times of crisis- whether it be for a friendly email or a shoulder to cry on. Although our Pagan community is quite diverse, I know that each of us can step up to support our young people- the future of America as well as that of the Craft and other Pagan paths. I suppose I am writing to ask if you know of, or would be willing to give advice on how to start, a Pagan Youth Support Network. It could be as simple as having potential mentors offer their email addresses- not for teaching the Craft, but for offering support in times of need. If you would be willing to post this to the VOX for other Pagans' consideration, or just offer advice on where I could go to start such a program into motion, I would be extremely grateful." Brightest Blessings, Ariadne (MrcnBty@aol.com)


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