7 Ways to survive being a young pagan
There are so many obstacles to deciding to become pagan, even today… from telling (or not telling) your parents to explaining to annoying people that no, you don’t actually believe you can fly. Roswell Ivory suggests some pitfalls that young pagans might fall into – and offers solutions on how to climb back out again.
Ever since the days when the Christians took over, pagans have had a hard time. First their land got taken when the Romans invaded, then they were burned at the stake for their beliefs. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the pagan religion (and yes, it is a religion) has since had to cope with the ‘evil’ label, not to mention the infamous witch-hunt at Salem in 1692!
Even nowadays, the term ‘teenage witch’ attaches itself to ‘disturbed youngster’ or ‘freaky’ (or Sabrina and Hermione if you’re being kind). As for the sensationalist tabloid term ‘dabbling in the occult’ – the very word ‘dabbling’ implies that you have no idea what you are doing. And isn’t it funny how you never hear of ‘dabbling’ in Sikhism, Catholicism, or any other religion in the multitude out there!
Even today, the witch-hunt continues…
If you’re a pagan, I’m afraid you’re usually in for a hard time, but most of the problem is showing people you aren’t about to turn them into a frog or ride off on a broomstick, and this should make life a little easier.
Seven ways to survive being a young pagan.
(I know that there are differences between types of Wicca and Paganism etc, but so that I don’t have to list them all now and get repetitive strain injury, for now I will refer to them all as Paganism.)
1) The W word
For the love of god, goddess or whatever is out there; stop calling yourself a witch! There are so many other words you can use – pagan, wiccan, new-age, nature-worshipper… why give yourself a label that just invites trouble?
To you, the word ‘witch’ may conjure pictures of light, healing and herbalism, but others usually think of a pointed hat and a broomstick.
The same goes for the word ‘spells’ – if you are a person who casts magic, use the word ‘charms’ instead – it just sounds happier.
And while we’re at it, let’s look at the word ‘coven’ as well! If you belong to a local coven, just say call it a group to people who aren’t in it and may not understand – there are fewer syllables.
2) If it harm none…
The first law of paganism – “If it harm none, do as you will” is exactly the same as “love thy neighbour” and the principle of karma. Pagans believe that whatever you give out, you will get back threefold, so it’s a good idea to be nice to people!
Imagine the scene – you’re sitting at the dinner table and you ask for some quiet. You stand up and nervously announce that you have something to say: “Mum, Dad, I’m a witch.” Spot any problems here?
If your parents do not follow the same beliefs as you, and you feel you need to tell them (you don’t have to!), try talking to the relative you feel closest to when they’re on their own. Steer the conversation toward religion and say, “OK, I’m not sure that’s what I believe”, and then outline your beliefs. You don’t even have to give yourself a label. That’s far easier than blurting out the W word at the dinner table then having to endure the Spanish Inquisition for two hours afterwards!
It’s good to tell the truth, but sometimes it’s better to be sparing with it. If someone asks you a genuine question, snapping “It’s private – leave me alone” is never good no matter how frustrated you are. BUT… if you get asked something like “Do you have a cauldron?” then happily saying “Yes, I got one the other day!” is not clever. Instead, explain that a cauldron is more of a ritual possession – symbolic rather than practical (a bit like the Sikh bracelet or the Catholic rosary) and no, you don’t have one. Some people will have already made their minds up and no amount of fact or reasoning will change it, so don’t give them ammunition by admitting you have a cauldron (or even worse- a broomstick). It will only cause you problems and won’t their minds.
Sorry about the dodgy Harry Potter title, but this is what we are dealing with here – Potterites!
Definition of a Potterite: The people who believe everything they read in books or see in films. They honestly think that films like The Craft are an accurate representation of paganism. These folk are usually either desperate for directions to Hogwarts or about to go and personally fight the devil right now.
Can be found: Walking into various walls at Kings Cross Station looking for platform 9 3/4, or outside cinemas handing out religious leaflets, or at work/college/school… pretty much anywhere I’m afraid!
Most likely to say: (in awe) “So can you really disappear?” or (in a really foreboding tone) “You may not believe in the Devil, but he believes in you…”
How to survive them: If they are the Hogwarts type, tell them calmly that this is not the case and gently suggest they stop being ridiculous. If they are the other Crafty sort, just ignore them – they are the misguided individuals, not you!
Unfortunately, Potterites are more common than you’d think so be patient with them – they’re lovely people who want a bit of fun, and it’s just ignorance.
Sometimes it can get lonely following a minority religion, especially if you want to ask for advice or debate whether you love or hate Harry Potter from a pagan point of view. Have a look in your local incense-aroma-ed, hippy-clothing, crystal-selling new-age shop and there will usually be some kind of noticeboard. Among the fortune tellers and rune-stockists, you should find the contact details of the pagan groups in your area. If not, ask the shop owner and if all else fails, type your religion and your area into the internet – there will always be something. (There are definitely pagan/shaman/wicca groups on myspace.)
Forget the town you live in – the Earth itself is generally nice to you: it provides yummy food, pretty flowers, interesting creatures (duckbilled platypus, anyone?), occasional sunshine and your pet if you have one. Give something back – if you worship nature, that’s even more important and you probably knew this one already, didn’t you!
Take it from me – life as a young pagan isn’t always easy, but if you have support and know how to deal with the Potterites and ignorant people out there, it gets a lot more fun!
This piece was written a long time ago but this is the first time it has left my head. I dedicate it to all victims of the witch-hunts, and their children’s children, who should be here today.