"Life as a Witch"
The Journey of Children through Paganism
I am often asked by kids how you know if you're a witch and I always find it hard to answer. My answer often depends on their age and understanding and cultural background. But when I went looking for information on Paganism and children I find there is a vast lack of information. There are a few books on being a teenage witch but there is nothing around about raising Pagan children or their experiences of paganism as they grow. So I thought I would attempt to write my thoughts down and see if it made it any clearer to me.
The fascinating thing I have found is that only recently has there been a seen place for teenagers and children within Paganism. Previously it was seen as a religious choice made by Adults that was kept away from children except in a low percentage of family groups.
The truth is my children were born Pagan. They see the world in a way that doesn't fit within other parameters. From very young they connected with the moon, nature and people in a way that struck me as fascinating. My first real brush with the abilities of babies came with my first daughter. Her name was Sarah and she was what is often termed an "Old Soul". She understood long before she could really grasp the concept of words. She would visit me in my dreams at night. When she was about 7 months old she got very ill. She was diagnosed with Leukaemia. She battled the disease bravely and in a way, she "knew" what was happening. At 11 months she got very ill and it didn't look like the prospects were very high at all.
Over the next three weeks her health deteriorated but she still always lit up when anyone she knew walked in. She would stroke my face when I was sad and crawl to me to comfort me. The day before she died, in the evening, one of her little friends, a baby girl about the same age, popped in to say hello. She was going home for the evening. As her mother was about to leave with her she screamed and leant towards the cot Sarah was in. The chatted and touched and then she proceeded to scream as her mother left. She cried all the way home. Her sleep that night was very unsettled and they brought her back to the hospital earlier than usual in the morning. On the drive back in she calmed down for the first time.
When they got back she was happier and reached for Sarah's door as they walked past. The connection between them was incredible. There were no blood ties, no long-term friendship, no time spent together outside of the hospital. Yet somehow these babies "knew". Perhaps their shared suffering gave them a bond. Perhaps Babies just "know" things through senses that as adults we have switched off.
Sarah died the next night. Within seconds of her passing this little girl began to cry. It made me think long and hard about just what is possible in this world. Could babies read the world at a totally different level? It made me question the "freaky" things I had always been able to do and see them as possibly more than just Odd but as a part of me that was important and that I had never lost. It made me appreciate my parents and the way they had raised me. I was raised in a Catholic family and raised to ask questions. We always had conversations at the dinner table. The ones you are always meant to avoid like sex politics and religion. Had this openness been why I had retained the acceptance of my abilities?
And it did make me raise my other children in a different way. I never shut down their creativity. A child's imagination becomes in a way a coping mechanism for reality. The important thing as parents is to teach our children how to find a balance. A balance in everything. They need to learn the boundaries and the rules of interaction as part pf the human race. They need to be given information that is unbiased about political situations and also hear you opinion but labelled as your opinion. They need to learn that everyone has their own point of view and no one can possibly have the exact same one because everyone sees the world from a slightly different angle. It is not physically possible for two beings to inhabit the exact same space therefore we all have a different view. They need to learn that although this is the case this does not make everyone right or wrong they are all just Opinions. And as Human beings on this planet EVERYONE has a right to hold his or her own opinions.
This is a very hard path for parents to walk. There is always the fear within society that giving children freedoms will lead them astray. But I think that freedom of thought and belief while powerful tools in shaping small people does not translate automatically into freedom of action. The right to behave in a particular way should be earnt in my opinion. Kids need to prove their ability to act responsibly and appropriately before this particular freedom is handed over. They need to have an understanding of the Laws of the Land and a respect for their existence. The need to be able to respect the Laws of the Family unit and show they can live within these laws. There is always the pressure to rebel against these laws but the Family is never a static unit and there should be the openness to negotiate the Laws within the Family structure.
Here the lecture endeth!
Following are my thoughts on what kids want to know.
How do you know you are a witch/ Pagan???
That is such a huge question it can be daunting to face it from a little person. I found the only way to tackle it is to break it into little bits.
What do witches/Pagans believe?
I found that children respond to a discussion on the spirit with in objects in nature. I found they are very open to the Dreaming Stories and also to mythology. These stories can easily be used to convey a message. I find that an explanation on reincarnation when kept simple can make sense to children even when they walk a Christian path.
What about God?
God is where we tread carefully however if you have set the groundwork that they understand when you say "Pagans believe" in many gods and goddesses or in the Lord and Lady and give them an idea of your own special deity and tell them the story about that deity they can understand. "Christians believe" in the God of the bible who had a son Jesus and he saved mankind with his love. If carefully presented you can show children, who are naturally inquisitive and open minded, that all these ideas and beliefs fit into one world
What about spells??
The most common questions that people who are openly witches get asked are about spells. I just explain that spells are all just wishes and prayers wrapped in pretty poetry. I then quickly touch on Karma especially if the spell requested was about End of the world destruction or Death. I also say that the problem with spells is that you can never quite predict how the universe will enact your wish. As the old saying goes " be careful what you wish for you just might get it"
This is the easiest one to answer and the hardest. The simple answer is you just are one. There are no tests or qualifications needed you just state this is what you are. Then again the complicated answer is that every witch lives his or her own path differently. You live true to yourself. Some live by the Wiccan Rede and go through initiation and others just live their lives as they wish. The key is you have to "walk the walk and talk the talk" and live by your beliefs true to your heart.
There are so many sites online and so many books out there. There are places that offer classes but you will find most groups wont take on minors. Any group that does will require permission from parents. The easiest way to help out a young person after information is to tell them what books they will enjoy and send them a few reputable and accurate links. There are also online groups where they can chat with other young people about being teen witches or ask questions. This is very useful especially if the group is mentored.
Simple answer what spell? And then no. Then draw them out about why they feel they need to use such a spell and try and point out to them how they do not need a spell in this case as the end they wish is there anyway. The number of times the question is asked, " can you show me how to turn my boyfriend into a frog?" I ask them why and find some element of dissatisfaction in the relationship. The regularity with which I can respond " you don't need to it sounds like he already is one" amazes me sometimes.
Does magic really work?
The question about magic is usually accompanied by a wide-eyed wistful look. I found showing them the wonders of nature is the most effective answer. The little seedling poking through the soil. The birds singing. A butterfly. All magic and all open up their souls to the joy, the wonder of magic.
What happens when you die?
This is a tricky question that to be dealt with tact needs to be thrown back at them." What do you think?" what have they been told? Then Launch into the discussion remembering to state "Some pagans believe". It is important to remember that paganism is full of diverse beliefs and all need to be respected.
Are you really evil?
This question seems to scare many witches. Really though it is easy to answer if you have a firm idea of what you believe in. Magic can be used for both positive and negative reasons. Neither make a person evil. In general though Pagans and witches do not believe in the Devil, the follow their own path guided by their own set of ethics and as such they are not evil.
Is it like the movies????
Oh thank you to the makers of Charmed and The Craft and all those movies that draw youth in to the path. And the disappointment they encounter when they cannot turn the best boy at school into Romeo with a simple poem. That it requires dedication and education and diligence and time. The path is no quick fix.
Do you ride a broom??? Wear a hat???
This usually has me standing there with one eyebrow raised and my hands on my hips saying "Do you know how expensive brooms are to run these days?" and the other one is " do you know how hard it is to find a hat that goes with everything?" the truth is when you are asked this by a teenager they are ribbing you. They know the difference between fact and fiction. The line between reality and fantasy is usually clear. With children the line is still to be discovered.
This is easy. You show them. And your
altar and your broom or robes or whatever they want to see if it is
appropriate. You teach them as you do so to respect people's things,
as you never know the importance of any item. I tell them off when they
place things on my altar. It isn't just another piece of furniture.
You allow them access to your books and even a feel of your tarot if
this is acceptable.