The youth of today's Paganism have more to offer than ever before. Gain a unique perspective on Pagan leadership, advocacy, and spirituality from the next generation.

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David Salisbury

David Salisbury

David Salisbury is a queer, vegan, Witch and author experiencing life in our nations capital. David is Wiccan clergy within the Firefly Tradition and is High Priest of Coven of the Spiral Moon, a Firefly coven based in DC. The focal point of his spiritual practice is one of service, activism and respect. To fulfill this vocation, he is a full time employee with the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization. He is the author of The Deep Heart of Witchcraft (Moon Books, 2013) and Teen Spirit Wicca (Soul Rocks, 2014).
Challenges for Pagan Youth, In Their Own Words

The results are in! You may have seen my last post discussing a survey question I sent out to my youth network asking what their favorite part about being a young Witch or Pagan is. The results were surprising to most but I can’t say I was very surprised. However, the results of this survey question did surprise me a little.

To a network of thousands of young people on social media and email, I asked “what is the biggest challenge for you, being a young Witch or Pagan?” I received over sixty responses within 48 hours. Here is a small sampling of the responses:

For me it's age-hate from older pagans. 'you're too young to have an opinion!...you can't know more than me, I'm 30 years older than you!....quit trying to argue your beliefs you're a little kid!' I think it's horrid and ridiculous to think age = knowledge and the right to an opinion. Everyone has opinions and their own beliefs. And who knows, maybe that 21 year old witch has been studying since they were 15...that's 6 years. Whereas that 45 year old Witch could have only just been shown the path of Witchcraft. I also find a lack of resources horrid...most teen-focused books are 'spells for teenage witches who want to smite their bullies with magic' etc.

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  • Lily Taylor
    Lily Taylor says #
    I think one explanation for at least some of the people saying that lack of resources is something they are having a problem with
  • Ruth Pace
    Ruth Pace says #
    my thoughts and advice: age-hate - the only times I've ever put anyone younger than me down, was BECAUSE someone who was 21 years
  • Steven Metlak
    Steven Metlak says #
    The tradition that I belong too was founded to be an inclusive, educational church. When we conducted the main ritual at the loca

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
What Young Pagans Like

Writing and marketing my new book, Teen Spirit Wicca, has been a very interesting process. Most people know that my prime work in the community is based on advocacy and youth outreach/support. Advocating for young Witches and Pagans means constantly engaging with this demographic and being open to their interests, likes, and dislikes. I learned so much while interviewing teens during the initial writing of TSW, but I continue to learn as I pose new questions to the community that has built up around it. So for the next few months I'm asking the young Pagan community about their thoughts on a number of topics that I'll report on here. Some of them will be deeper and more intellectual, and some will be based on simple feelings. I ask these questions through a number of outlets including Facebook pages, groups, and via email to the youth I know.

Last week I started with a simple question: What in your opinion is the best part of being a young Wiccan, Witch, or Pagan? How is it helpful for you? What are you most proud of?

Here's a recap of a small number of the many responses I received along with some observations on what I noticed about them. I've only shared initials to protect privacy, although I also share age when it was given.

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  • Nova
    Nova says #
    I think most people take younger people for granted sometimes forgetting who they were and how they thought when they were younger
  • Julie Chedzo
    Julie Chedzo says #
    I am new to Paganism. I love Nature and i love the freedom Paganism gives you. I don't like rules and being free is great. I like
  • Julisa
    Julisa says #
    I am also a younger Pagan and I chose this religion (coming from a firm Christian family) because I feel a strong connection to na

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
The Grain of My Life

Lughnassadh is to me a celebration of legacy. The grain falls and we remember what is important; life, love, survival, and memory. The grain is the blessing of the gods to their people, a chance for the future. On this day, I look at my impact and my legacy. What is the grain of my life? Will my actions sustain my generation and future generations to come?

Although many celebrate the First Harvest as the darkening time of looking back and giving thanks, I like to keep the focus on the work that must still be done. Gratitude is something I weave into my daily practice every day of the year so what is seen as "harvest" is more about looking forward than back, in my work. In western Europe, this is quite a busy time for farmers rushing to get as much done as possible to stretch the crop as long as possible. It is a mad dash to create a legacy of abundance that will last through the truly dark winter months. Nothing "stops."

As a Pagan and spiritual activist, it's important to me that I make an impact with the precious time I have while blessed with this physical body. Lughnassadh reminds me of this. Time is slipping away, but there is still enough to do something, to change something. The average age of death for the majority of men in the United States is currently 75 years old. I just turned 26 which means that if I am to be a statistic, I would be past one-third of my life already! I believe that the work I do right now matters just as much as the work I will do when I am 50 years old or 74 and a half years old. And who knows, I could walk out my door for lunch and get hit by a bus. A witch bows to no one, including time itself. But with that power comes the responsibility of knowing that the time we do have echoes forever onward.

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Songs for the Feri Gods: Dian Y Glas

For this next edition in my series of devotional playlists for the gods of the Feri tradition of Witchcraft, we take a look at Dian Y Glas (and boy does he liked to be looked at). Dian Y Glas, also called simply "Blue God", Is the youngest [mostly]male emanation of the Star Goddess in the pantheon of Feri deities. Dian Y Glas is often seen as young, lustful, and androgynous. He represents the love and passion held deep within the heart of the Star Goddess, where all things emerge. 

Blue God to me represents the power of the ecstatic Craft that celebrates all things free and wild. His energy is chaotic but seems to make sense on a deep and cellular level. He is filled with pride, confidence, and attraction, which are all things that awaken within us when we follow the tune of his call. My playlist for Dian Y Glas consists of songs that make me jump up and down and scream "I am ME and I am completely and utterly awesome in every sense of the word."

Look at Me - Geri Halliwell
"I'm the drama queen if that's your thing, baby."

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Songs for the Feri Gods: Star Goddess

I was a kid when making mix-tapes turned into making mix-CD's. I would make compilations for my friends that reminded me of them and give them out as gifts. In fact I still do this! CD's have turned into playlists that I have for all sorts of situations and ideas. I probably have more playlists on my mp3 player than I do songs. So in honor of my anniversary of starting to train in the Anderson Feri tradition of the Craft (mid-July) I'm making some play lists of my own.

Of all the concepts in Feri, the gods are probably what fascinate me the most. They are as abstract as they are embodied, as compassionate as they are fierce. For the next week I'm going to let you in on my playlists that I have for each of the Feri gods. Many of the Feri gods share similarities with other more popular Pagan deities so once you learn a bit about each one, you can see why I might have chose a certain song. They'll cover the whole spectrum of silly and sad and strange and sensible, just like the gods themselves. Oh, and they won't be "Pagan" either.

To start out, today's playlist features the Star Goddess. In the Feri tradition, Star Goddess is the original point of all creation. She is the nexus point from which all things emerge and return. All other gods extend outwards as manifestations of her limitless spectrum. The songs of Star Goddess focus on (obviously) the stars themselves, the expansion of space, and the lovely chaos of time outside of time.

Marry the Night - Lady Gaga
"...Gonna make love to this dark"

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  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury says #
    NOTE about the Owl City song: YES, I realize he wrote this with the intention of it being a Christian song and the lyrics "He is t

Posted by on in Studies Blogs
Equal Light, Equal Rights

Yes, this is partly a political post so if you don't agree with things like civil rights, marriage equality, and progress for LGBTQ individuals, this might not be the post for you. But you know what I really love about contemporary Paganism? One would be hard pressed to find someone who isn't on board with these issues in our movement. That is another post entirely though.

This sabbat week of Ostara is a very significant one for me. As a Wiccan, it has been part of my religious culture for most of my life to reflect on the balance of light and dark at this time. To reach towards the expanding light as I examine and honor my own dark qualities within and without. But this Ostara feels so much more tangible and Earthly than usual. The world is on the edge of so much change and I think others are sensing that more and more every day. The timing is incredible, and I'll explain way.

I work for the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization working for LGBTQ equality in the United States. In my work here in Washington DC, I get to see first-hand some of the most amazing legislative and culture-based changes. These are changed that many of my older friends thought they would never see in their lifetimes. Workplaces are increasing benefits for same-sex couples all over the country. Schools are implementing anti-bullying programs to help queer youth and their families. Currently, nine states plus the District of Columbia allow same-same marriage and there are several more possible states that could be added to that before the year is out. To say that we are on the precipice of a huge cultural shift would be an understatement. Recent polling shows that for the first time ever, the majority of Americans support marriage equality for all citizens.

Why does this make me think of the current Spring Equinox observances? Sure the timing is great, but there is so much more going on. As we move forward into spring, the expansion of light in the northern hemisphere is more noticeable than ever. The Earth is waking up from its slumber because of its gentle turning. It is moving towards the light. We can measure it, predict it, and and see it with our own eyes. This what I am seeing with the equality movement. No longer is my country evenly divided on the topic, its gone into the majority. The equality movement feels like the day after Ostara to me- reaching for that light with a renewed sense of hope and excitement. Our culture is examining its own fears and reservations around these topics, bringing them to light, and discovering that letting everyone have an equal opportunity isn't so scary after all. 

On March 26th and 27th, two of the most historic cases to ever be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States will begin. One case would overturn Proposition 8, which years ago banned marriage equality for all same-sex California citizens. The second trial would overturn DOMA (the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act"). Depending on how the SCOTUS rules, both of these trials could have major nation-wide effects that would change the course of our movement forever. People from all over the country will be arriving here in the District to rally at the trial on Tuesday. A crew of people (including me) will be sleeping outside on the sidewalk of the Supreme Court on Monday night before the rally on Tuesday. That night I will facilitate a ritual calling upon the guardian Goddess of DC and of the United States, Columbia. We will ask Columbia to bring the sword of victory to our work, leading us in the march to freedom and justice. Before the Tuesday rally, I'll attend an interfaith service with some of my of my coreligionists and people of other faiths. Rev. Selena Fox of Circle Sanctuary will be speaking at the service to give a voice from the Pagan perspective. This is all a very big deal.

I now call upon all equality-supportive Pagans from around the nation to lend energetic and physical support to this work. On Monday at 6:45pm eastern time, send power and prayers to our ritual for justice. Then, see if there is a rally in your own city and attend if you can.

Together we can play a big role in moving towards the light of freedom and justice. This week of equal night and day will transform our nation into a place that is one step closer to equality for all.

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  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Yes, Pagan societies have also supported slavery, war, and lots of other things. Like, say, pedastry, patriarchy, and the subjugat
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    Yes, Anne, every historical and pre-historical pagan society has supported real blood marriage, families, and children. That supp
  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven says #
    Greybeard: with all due respect, if marriage is primarily about "blood children" then logically no couples intending to be childle

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I Wear My Crown

There are a lot of things I want to write about on my recent adventure to Pantheacon. There was so much learning, connection, and transformation that I almost didn't know where to begin. That was until I realized that I should just begin where I always try to begin - at the Great Work of transforming the soul. 

My intention of going to the Con was not deep spiritual transformation. But that's what happened regardless thanks to one ritual in particular. On Saturday night I attended Rite of 1,000 Crowns, a joint ritual facilitated by CAYA Coven and The Living Temple of Diana. The intention of the rite was to invoke sovereignty by claiming the crown of the Goddess.

One by one we filed into the ballroom past a line of ringing bells and singing bowls that shaped an atmosphere of enchantment and anticipation. I knew the rite would be special as the quarters began being called, which was done by the beating of drums, the swaying of hips, and the singing of an absolutely delicious chant. Frankly, I was already in tears by that point. Looking back on that process of constructing the space I think "damn, now that's how you call some quarters!" But of course that was just the first part. I don't want to break down every single detail of the rite as i know there are plans for others to perform it in the future. But essentially, each person was crowned with a golden, starry circlet by each of the presiding priestesses and priests. We were also guided to the thrones of the seated gods where we showered flower petals upon them, all in ecstatic song and dance.

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Percentages of Practice

On the last episode of the radio show I co-host with my partner, the popular topic of labels within Paganism came up and we spent a few minutes talking about what we thought of it all. Although neither of us seemed to care much about using singular labels for our path, it did prompt us to think about labels in terms of percentages. What started as a funny way to talk about self-identification turned into some pretty deep introspection for me.

The thing is, human beings are very complex. Although we might resonate with one philosophy or practice, I don't know of very many people who follow just that one thing and only that one thing. This fact can bring about a good sense of personal satisfaction, knowing that we don't have to strive to fit into the boxes set before us. But it also challenges us to look deeper at what we believe and why we believe it. Even if we feel we fit within one system entirely, there are still aspects of culture and upbringing that shape us into very unique individuals.

I'll use myself as an example. Growing up Wiccan for most of my life, I've always been pretty comfortable with that term. In the areas I've lived its always been a fairly friendly term socially. I never received that much persecution because of it. It described my belief system as well as my personal practice quite nicely.

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  • Michael Brazell
    Michael Brazell says #
    I think that too often we not only get caught in labels, but we get bound to how others are defining those labels. Identifying al
  • Elizabeth McNally
    Elizabeth McNally says #
    This is a very good topic. The more I have become involved in interfaith community, labels are something I have become increasing

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Taking Time to Look Back

Today is my 13 year "Wiccaniversary." In other words, the anniversary of the day I was initiated into Wicca in 1999. To the Craft colleagues I share my life with, 13 years may seem like a mere blimp compared to 30, 40, and even 50 years of practice. Wicca is getting old enough now where some of our practitioners have half a century of experience under their belts. This to me is quite exciting, something that I hope my coreligionists are aware of and celebrate. We are fortunate enough to be in an age where some people are discovering Wicca (and other neopagan religions) or were raised in it from a very early age and are now fully grown adults. I have much gratitude for the privilege I have in being able to count myself among them.

When I started practicing Wicca, there were a lot of community discussions going on around how and when to teach it to children. Some believed it was ok at a very early age as long as it was your own family teaching you. Other on the opposite side believed it should never be taught to youngsters because of the difficult spiritual lessons that experiencing "the Mysteries" bring. I found myself somewhere in the middle. My original teaching coven believed it was fine to teach pre-teen and teens from non-Pagan families as long as we had permission from our guardians. Needless to say, a lot has changed in 13 years both for me and my tradition's community (more on that in a later post).

Since that early time, I've kept extensive journals regarding my spiritual practice and about life in general. Its a project I was given by early teachers that at the time I really hated (the journaling, not my teachers). But over the years I've grown to love my practice journals for all the great things they've held for me. They contain everything from results to spells I've worked, experiences with visioning and dream-work, and my long list of goals that I create each year around Yule. This time of week every year I look back to those journals. I ask myself a series of questions:

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Crafting Traditions

As we move into the time of the year that we call "the holidays", I've been thinking a lot about traditions. No, not Pagan Traditions with a capital "T". The traditions I'm talking about are more like rituals when you think about it. Its those little or big things you do with your family or on your own that mark a special time. You do them consistently and probably look forward to doing them. You might even feel like you absolutely have to do them. None of us are strangers to family obligations.

My family has a lot of  little traditions that most people probably could identify since they don't seem that out of the ordinary. But as I get older and start making my own traditions, I'm realizing just how special the traditions I grew up with were. Thanksgiving is a great example. My mother didn't often host it at her house. It was common knowledge that my aunt had Thanksgiving. We had hosted Christmas Eve. And Christmas day? No one does anything on Christmas day other than exchange gifts and eat Christmas eve leftovers. The first snow of the season meant I got a ride on Papa's snowmobile (pictured). Its those little things unique to my family that make this time of year special and powerful.

When I started practicing Wicca at a young age, my family was fortunately very welcoming and accommodating. The first year (when I was 12) I tried to get my presents a few days early in time for Yule, although that part didn't go over so well. Instead, I gave everyone else their little handmade gifts on the solstice. It probably meant more to me than it did them, but it made me feel like I had an original part to play in the family process. An activity I could call my own. I had made my own tradition!

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  • Carol Frierson
    Carol Frierson says #
    Thank you David! I was just commenting last month on how wonderful it is that my children are now old enough to really get into ou

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When the young leave us

Last night, like so many others, I tuned into the stillness and silence of the chilling autumn to honor those who have passed into the Otherworld. Every year my coven hosts an intimate dumb supper at my home. This year we had seventeen people crammed into my small urban duplex. The potluck dishes were everywhere; the counters, all the tables, and even on the piano. It struck me as interesting that so many people took the time to come out to something that did not feature a flashy ritual or a raging social party. Many came with a sincere interest in giving thinks to the Mighty Dead. Others probably came with a secret desire to chance a whisper from a deceased loved one during the time of silence the supper brings. In any case, the reverence at the event was permeable.

Dumb SupperOur dumb supper altar to the dead

I originally intended to connect with my grandpa who passed over the summer. But when the silence came and we began to eat our meals, a different presence came over me. Instead of feeling the many beautiful elderly people I've had in my life, I felt the memory of those youth we've lost recently and not so recently. As strange as it sounds, the candles on the ancestor altar in front of these people's photos seemed to glow bright than the others. Intrigued, I dropped down into a deep stillness and listened.

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The first time I gave a formal talk on anything relating to Paganism was for a workshop I lead in 2004 at a Pagan Pride Day in North Carolina. I was 16 years old and it was this PPD's first "Teen Talk", designed to engage young Pagans in the community. I had no idea what to expect as I gathered my notes and sat under a big oak tree, waiting for one - maybe two - participants. To my surprise, over a dozen people aged 14 to 25 came over. I was so nervous. I looked down at my notes and prepared to speak from my obsessive virgo-inspired outline. I planned to speak about how to be a Witch in the public school system, explaining the Craft to your parents, and developing a deep spirituality. As I looked around at the eager faces around me, I came to the sudden realization that I needed to ditch my outline entirely. So I put it aside, smiled, and sat in the circle with the others.

I began with a question- "why are you here?" The first girl around 16 spoke; "I want to gain a better understanding of my path, but I feel limited in the information available to me." Then a guy around 20; "I've been doing this since I was 14 but older Pagans still won't take me seriously. They think its some fad. Is there a place for me within the Pagan community before 30?" The answers continued, all speaking of the deep desire to better their lives through a sincere commitment to their various paths. These weren't youth worried so much about harassment from cowan-folk, or how to talk to their parents. For the most part, they were individuals who had already established a religious practice and either wanted to take that further, or had some unique ideas they were excited to share with others. Although I'm known for having a terrible memory, I will never forget my conversation with those young people that day. They were my peers, sharing fascinating stories of connecting with the gods and performing highly-effective magick. They were pre-teens, teens, and young adults trying to find their place at the table of an emerging religious tradition making its claim in an increasingly-informed world.

The youth of Paganism today have more to offer our traditions than Pagan youth ever have before. In an age where many Pagan elders are seeing their grandchildren grow up, we find a generation of Witches and Pagans that is well informed, engaged in community, and excited to participate. At this point, many of us in our 20's (including myself) have grown up Pagan and have integrated this path into our lives since before we can easily remember. The Millennial Generation is probably the first generation where being a heredity Pagan isn't the only way one can come into Paganism at an early age. Kids can hear a reference to modern Paganism on TV and do a quick Wikipedia search and learn a great deal with just a few minutes of reading. We're growing up in a culture that truly values religious liberty and the advancement of personal freedoms.

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