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.
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.
When I met Reverend Jessica LaReau in an Intro to Wicca class taught by Reverend Peter Hertzberg of Northern Lakes Temple, I was struck by her kindness and generosity. In a comfortable room above Mimosa Bookstore in downtown Madison, the class worked from a text containing basic information found in witchcraft. As a newcomer, I hadn't received the book. Without prompting, Reverend Jessica, also of Northern Lakes Temple, offered her book to me. Later, the text "A Dedicant's Guide to 1st Degree Priesthood" would become a resource for any tree magick I decided to try. A few weeks later, the class hit on the topic of familiars. Being an Aries, I immediately decided that if others had familiars – and seemed rather content about having them – then I might as well have one, too. Not exactly an expert on the subject, I aimed question after question at Reverend Peter, who seemed to grow tight-lipped after a while. I liked Peter tremendously, and if there was an opportunity to banter with him, I'd pounce on it tout de suite. This afternoon, though, Peter seemed to dig in his heels, much as a spectacled mountain goat that would not be coaxed or pushed from his terrain. Patiently, Reverend Jessica explained that maybe my familiar would or had come with a specific purpose such as protection. Any preconceived notions I formed – and perhaps those notions would be shaped by Peter's answers – would possibly interfere with the reason behind the familiar's arrival.
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.
Our 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.