NextGen Pagan: Paganism for the Next Generation

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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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.

"Being able to be part of a loving community and informing others what Paganism is."
-S

"I love the acceptance I get and the help. I'm solitary but I still ask a ton of questions. Its challenging but i love the freedom it gives me."
-L

"Wicca teaches me how to be responsible for myself and to make myself better. It pushes me to do better things with my life."
-A, age 16

"Being a Wiccan has been so helpful because it has helped me to become one with myself and the nature around me. My mind has been set wide open and everything is shed in a new light, which is shattering and beautiful. It has brought me back to who I am and has saved me in more ways than one."
-LP

"I love knowing that the gods are there for me to talk to when I have no one else to talk to. I'm never truly alone."
-K, age 15

"My favorite is that it has helped me be me in almost every aspect of my life. That I see myself, others and nature in a different way than I used to."
-C

"Knowing that no matter what, you can relay on the strength that nature has to support you when you are feeling weak."
-G

"When I meet people who believe the same, I have an instant bond with someone I can connect with in the community."
-L, age 17

"The best part for me about being Wiccan is the amazing feeling of joy I get from helping people. It gives me drive and focus. When I found Wicca I found myself."
-K

"I love that I can connect with other people to share something special about me. I like meeting people who feel drawn to this path like I do."
-B, age 16

This is just a small sampling of the dozens of responses I got through both social media and email and encompasses a pretty visible range of the answers I received. 

Can you guess my first observation? No spells! A terrible assumption by some older Pagans is that young Pagans are only interested in magickal paths for the instant glory that a spell can promise. Though out of all the responses, I honestly did not see a single one that mentioned "being able to cast spells." This to me is proof that the young generation of Witches and Pagans is a lot deeper than many like to believe. This isn't a new thing either. Starting as a teen myself, I can tell you that spells and magick was certainly something I thought was "cool" but was not the main attraction to me and those I practiced with. I'm tickled to know that this sentiment extends beyond my own experience.

My other observation was the huge number of responses focused on finding and engaging with a community. This isn't surprising considering that a formative trait of growing up is learning how to interact with different communities and finding what you consider to be your place within them. This is especially important for young Pagans who may feel ostracized for being of a minority religion, where social acceptance could be a little harder to come by.

Stay tuned to this series for more insights into the minds of young Witches and Pagans today. I feel it is important to pay attention to what our young think and to actively listen when they decide to share those thoughts. Hearing the voices of young Pagans is a gift for the future of our community and is something I hope we can all take a greater interest in.

Photo: Moon Church, Brooklyn 2013
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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).

Comments

  • Betsy D. Sauther
    Betsy D. Sauther Sunday, 02 February 2014

    Thank you for your insights. I am really glad to hear that you are getting the opinions of this very interesting generation. Having a teenage daughter myself, I am finding much respect for the worldview that these people are exhibiting. I know that when I was first attracted to Wicca it was spells that were fascinating, but as the years went on I have found that what I enjoy most is connecting with the gods, being invoked upon, and the sense of community I find in my spiritual pursuits. I do think that the young generation is finding that community is important to them as well, good to hear it validated here. Blessings!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus Monday, 03 February 2014

    Interesting, David! Thanks for discussing this and doing such exemplary work in this area!

    Any chance you'll be at PantheaCon in a few weeks? I'm holding a "Youth Blessing Ritual" with the Ekklesia Antinoou on the final day, and it would be interesting to have you there for it...

  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury Monday, 03 February 2014

    Hey thanks very much for the feedback! I was at Pcon last year and will be next year but sadly must miss this current year. I LOVE that you're doing that ritual though and would be very interested to hear all about it. I hope you will write about it, and possibly get feedback from those being blessed.
    Thank you for your work with our youth!

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus Monday, 03 February 2014

    I will certainly do a write-up of it afterwards on my blog.

    It will be interesting from my perspective, because the "blessing" bit that I do will be short and sweet and at the beginning; and then, the remainder of the session will be focused on the youths present then devising blessings for everyone else in the room based on some parameters I'll be giving them. So, it's not just "Here's some blessings from some older people for you," it will be, "And also, how would you like to bless everyone else?" It could be fantastic, or it could be a colossal failure, but I'm going to lean in the direction of "interesting, potentially fantastic" until proven otherwise in the midst of it! ;)

  • Megan Gibbs
    Megan Gibbs Monday, 03 February 2014

    I like the idea, but sometimes people's spontaneous blessings result because of a detected, but undisclosed need that the other individual has. I am speaking from personal experience on this matter. One of my friends gave me a blessing for clarity at the time when I was practicing with her, and only now am I beginning to see why I needed that blessing so much.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
    P. Sufenas Virius Lupus Monday, 03 February 2014

    If that is what results, I'm okay with that...Even if a particular blessing is especially in response to one person, it can potentially benefit everyone.

    Though, given that there will be about 6-8 groups of people all working on blessings together, and then each group will give theirs to everyone, I suspect there will be enough of a "generalizing" spirit to the whole thing (within the specific parameters of the ritual and setting) that most of the purely personal responses will be moderated considerably as a result.

    (I have also had experiences in ritual when people have come up to me afterwards and said "I think that was meant for me" but it wasn't necessarily...and then three or four people say that same thing about the same part of the ritual or blessing or what-have-you!)

  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury Monday, 03 February 2014

    That. Is. Amazing. Seriously, I love that idea. All too often older Pagans think the best way to help youth is by "saving them from their inevitable failures" rather than just giving some guidance and letting them do their own thing. It stifles creativity, and thus religious maturity.
    I'm excited to hear how that goes and if it works out for you maybe its something that can be mirrored at other events by other people. Big events certainly need more youth programming that goes beyond a talking head lecturing.

  • Megan Gibbs
    Megan Gibbs Monday, 03 February 2014

    I am a younger Pagan and to me the greatest attraction was being able to truly experience being a part of the universe, to be connected to nature and the divine. I love every aspect of this and in addition to rituals, I often meditate and incorporate other spiritual practices.

  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury Monday, 03 February 2014

    That's great, Megan! What other practices do you incorporate? Meditation is so helpful, particularly for Witchcraft. Learning to meditate early is so helpful for magickal development.

  • Megan Gibbs
    Megan Gibbs Monday, 03 February 2014

    I like to practice visualization techniques. I like focuses like mandalas, and other geometric structures. I am also learning about the Law of Attraction which sounds to me more like practicing intention in your thoughts, words, and actions. Through these intentions, like spells, we can impact our lives in a positive or negative manner, depending on how we use the power we have. I think that is why the Wiccan Rede is so important. It also reminds me of spiritual practices from other cultures, like the idea of enlightenment (connectedness) and the idea of Karma (the reaction of the Universe to both positive and negative thoughts).

  • Julisa
    Julisa Monday, 03 February 2014

    I am also a younger Pagan and I chose this religion (coming from a firm Christian family) because I feel a strong connection to nature and it caused me to start researching different religions and this one seemed perfect for my outlook. Plus, I'm an indigo child so I knew there was more to life than what other churches were offering

  • David Salisbury
    David Salisbury Monday, 03 February 2014

    Julisa- thanks for sharing! Isn't it cool how nature can call out to us and poke us to learn more about it's mysteries?

  • Julisa
    Julisa Tuesday, 04 February 2014

    Yes David, it is amazing. It also made me look back up the trunk of my family tree as well. Come to find out, I come from a long line of celtic pagans. I have never been so entirely comfortable to be myself. I finally feel like I'm on the right path :) thank you for this blog...I truly enjoyed it.

  • Julie Chedzo
    Julie Chedzo Tuesday, 04 February 2014

    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 meditation and being in with nature. It gives me a free mind, a place to escape and a wonderful feeling.

  • Nova
    Nova Tuesday, 04 February 2014

    I think most people take younger people for granted sometimes forgetting who they were and how they thought when they were younger. They will always be those who start out for the wrong reason and turn away or those who learn and evolve. I see it sometimes in a chat room or a group how the tone they use to speak to the younger generation. Some know they're doing it some don't. It even happens to me sometimes and I'm not even that young. I think this article was very insightful. I wish some of those older people would read this article and actually take in what the article about.

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