(Note from Daven: Please note, once again, this is not my article. I include it because it is one of the best articles of this type I have ever seen or read, and it is important for it to stay on the Internet. So, don’t credit me with this, even though it is on my site.)
by Astraea Crowe
also printed at http://www.geocities.com/astraeaaradia/home.html
If you are a teenager (or any age, for that matter), chances are, you are worried about opening up to your parents about your interests in paganism or magick. How the heck do you even begin to explain to them why you are interested? There is a good chance that you will be leery about telling your friends as well. I was worried about my friends suddenly changing their minds about me being cool and “normal.” A lot of people deal with that situation.
I decided to begin with my “rant” about pagan oppression, so if you want a little advice on how to speak to your parents about your spirituality, you’ll have to either read through or scroll down.
The “Oppressed Pagan”
This subject may upset some people, but if you read the actual message, you will see that there is no reason for anyone to be offended by my feelings.
I’m always asked how I maintained my “normal” image after becoming a Wiccan – as if people could read my mind and know I was Wiccan and had changed my spiritual beliefs. I think something that kept me from being seen as “strange and different” or seen as not “normal” was the fact that I didn’t change anything about myself EXCEPT for my spirituality. After finding Wicca, I didn’t adopt a new attitude or try to change my image, I still dressed in the same “normal” clothes I’d always worn, kept my long, blonde hair, didn’t want to change the way people perceived me or change my appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being or appearing different – I have total respect for it if that is what you are truly drawn to. Different is good, as long as you really are different, and not just trying to be. I’m just saying that many pagans tend to change their appearance and attitude along with their spiritual paths. Why? I get e-mails from so many teens and adults alike who say that they have been rejected because of their new beliefs. My first question to them is, “Have you changed your appearance or attitude since considering yourself a Wiccan?” The answer is almost always “Yes.” Well, no wonder! Honestly, what the hell do you expect? Being a teenager, especially, is tough enough without trying to look and act different, without becoming reclusive and adopting the “nobody understands me” attitude. If you are already reclusive and seen as “different,” dress different than most, etc…GREAT! There is nothing wrong with that if that is your natural personality. But, your natural personality does not change with your spiritual path (at least not for most). So, why try to change it? I mean, knock yourself out if that’s what you think you want. Just don’t e-mail me wondering why people think you’re a freak if you have suddenly decided to change who you are simply because you are now a pagan.
If you suddenly decide that you are into black clothes, “Wiccan” jewelry, dying your hair, acting “dark and mysterious,” and thinking you are now a poor, oppressed pagan “victim,” don’t you think that, YES people are going to see you as a freak? Why would you adopt a new attitude and change your appearance and use that as a reason to whine about, “poor, misunderstood me?” The poor, oppressed, pagan “victim” attitude is pathetic and there are people in this world with much more serious problems than, “Boo-hoo, nobody understands my religion or the way I am.” Get over it. If you don’t think you will be able to handle being rejected because of your religion, then keep your mouth shut about it!
That is an option, you know. Should we just accept all the hatred in the world? Of course not. But we should be prepared to deal with the hateful reactions and use our brains to understand that sharing spiritual beliefs of ANY kind will reap negative feedback from many people. Suck it up, it happens to EVERYBODY.
Something to keep in mind is that all people of all religions will endure criticism and hatred from those with different beliefs. If you were at work and a co-worker, wearing a big cross necklace, told everyone in the workplace how happy he was about his prayer meeting and how he can’t wait until communion on Sunday, don’t you think you would have negative thoughts? Many non-Christians would. And many would even have negative comments and reactions. Pagans just seem to act as if the “persecution” they endure is on such a different level than any others’. Here’s a shock – IT ISN’T! And to those who think that Christians have it so easy and Christianity is still so widely accepted in the world – what “world” are you living in? Can you not see how incredibly liberal the world has become, and even though the IDEA of Christianity is still accepted, Christianity in it’s true form really is not? Christians are seen as close-minded, old-fashioned, idiotic fools by many, many people. The idea of Christianity might be accepted, but Christianity is seen by so many as a joke.
Don’t cry to me about pagan oppression or pagan persecution. Everyone of every belief system goes through it at some point. The misunderstanding of paganism may seem more extreme, but we have no right to feel sorry for ourselves- especially considering that there are people in this world with problems far worse than ours. More power to those pagan “soldiers” who are trying to “spread the truth.” But shame on everyone who thinks we have reason to feel like oppressed victims.
How do I approach my parents about my Pagan path?
My suggestion here would be NOT to approach them at all. Wait for them to come to you. A great thing you might try is leaving clues here and there about your interests. Are there books you have been reading? Leave them out on your dresser or someplace else visible to your parents. Print out pages of your favorite pagan websites and don’t go out of your way to hide them. Your parents are bound to wonder what on earth your are doing reading about witchcraft or magick, or paganism. If they approach you, tell them you are researching and are very interested in it. At this point, if you already consider yourself a pagan, I wouldn’t necessarily be blunt about it. Say you are interested and reading up. There is no reason to say, “I decided to become a witch,” just don’t hide what you are doing. They will approach you with questions and open the door of communication for you.
So, what do I say when they finally approach me?
This is entirely up to you of course. All parents are different and have different levels of tolerance and open-mindedness. You are the best judge in this situation. I’ll tell you what I said when my parents approached me. I was 19 and living on my own. They stopped by my apartment to see my new furniture and noticed I had quite a few books with Pagan themes on my shelf. Naturally, they asked what was up with the books. I told them of my interests and said I had been studying Wicca and other forms of Paganism for almost four years. I didn’t tell them that I was actually a Wiccan, just expressed my deep interest. They had advice, I didn’t like it, but I dealt with it. They are fundamentalist Christians and believe anyone who is not a born-again Christian will go to hell. I respect that, but of course don’t agree. They also said they new I had interests in witchcraft already and had seen a couple books I read in high school. I will say, my parents were unhappy about me having such a deep interest in Wicca, but they knew I had a mind of my own and was free to learn whatever I wanted to learn. My advice to you is to take a similar approach with your parents. Just express your deep interest first.
That’s over, how do I tell them I’m not just interested, but I AM a Pagan?
Again, up to you. You don’t have to do this at all- your spirituality is personal. I just flat out said it. I waited several months after expressing my interests to my parents. I just said it while I was at their house – as my mom was cooking supper and my dad and I were joking around about stuff – “I’m not just interested in Wicca, I AM a Wiccan.” My dad almost had a heart attack. Or he might have lost consciousness.
Either way, he wasn’t prepared for it. My mom just kind of looked at me and said, “I would think you know better than that.” Meaning I should know Paganism is wrong. I decided to explain the actual belief system to them. It didn’t really help, they are pretty set in their ways.
But at least they knew then why I wasn’t interested in attending church.
They were also able to see that I was happy with my spirituality and that helped them to back off a bit. But just a note – I wasn’t outing myself because I needed attention. If that was the case, I would have blurted out my spiritual preference at our Christmas dinner and threw all my family members into convulsions. I just needed peace. I was sick of pretending to agree with all the subjects my parents spoke to me about that involved the Christian faith (my father is a youth pastor, so I was faced with many conversations concerning Christianity). My spirituality is personal, but hiding the gist of it from my parents was just too much for me.
Don’t be put off by my opinions. You don’t have to agree with them. But as for telling your parents about your spirituality, I’ve offered my suggestions and hope they will be helpful to you. I know it’s not easy to know if you should open up to your parents or just stay quiet. Bottom line, your spirituality is nobody’s business but your own- unless you want to make it someone else’s business. I hope you can choose what is best for you!