Rendezvous at the Lily Pads: Meetings along the eclectic path.
Although the paths may differ, practitioners and those who supply services to practitioners contribute talent to make witchcraft a personalized, enriching experience. Rendezvous at the Lily Pads highlights some of these folks and invites you to learn about your comrades-in-witchery.
Jessica LaReau, Priestess and Youth Activities Director
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.
A few days ago, I dropped in an Intro to Wicca class. Seated before a semi-circle of participants, Reverend Jessica now sat in the teacher's chair. The class was smaller than last year's class, but the size seemed to boost the atmosphere of trust and intimacy. From various ages and backgrounds, participants freely asked questions and shared their experience with magick and the unseen world.
While her Saturday classes have been attended by adults, Reverend Jessica LaReau doesn't limit her experience to working with ages 20ish and above. Serving as Youth Activities Director for NorthernLakesTemple's Youth Seekers Circle for about four years, Reverend LaReau is responsible for the operations of a program designed to help children and teen harmonize with nature as well as others. Activities include camping, ecology, arts and crafts, and hiking.
Lilypads: Thinking about the history of Youth Seekers Circle, what were the up(s) and down(s) of Youth Seekers Circle's development?
Reverend Jessica: Ups would be the excitement of starting a new program aimed at the children. Downs, was just getting the word out to get people to join.
Lilypads: How have you grown since working with the Seekers Circle?
Reverend Jessica: I would say that my knowledge has increased, as well as organizational skills and just learning the best way to keep kids engaged.
Lilypads: Why work with children and teens rather than older adults?
Reverend Jessica: Children don’t have a bunch of preconceived beliefs about what paganism is and isn’t. They are full of wonder and questions and genuinely want to learn and have fun.
Lilypads: According to your website, Seekers is a non-denominational part of a pagan organization. Why did you decide Seekers should be all-inclusive rather than only pagan?
Reverend Jessica: The main reason was the belief that we should teach all the kids to respect other religions and beliefs. We feel that if you teach them from childhood about others beliefs, it breeds tolerance and acceptance. We are aware that our kids are sitting next to predominately Christian children in school, and they need to know what they believe so there aren’t bad feelings or misconceptions.
Lilypads: What is the biggest challenge of directing the Seekers Circle?
Reverend Jessica: Sometimes it is just planning the topics that will appeal to both the younger kids and the older ones. When you have ages 3-17 it is sometimes hard to make sure that you have topics and information appealing to all.
Lilypads: How can others contribute to the Seekers Circle?
Reverend Jessica: We are non-profit, so anything donated is tax deductible. We accept money as well as are always looking for crafting supplies and camping supplies. People can contact me if the wish to contribute.
Lilypads: What advice would you give any parent who was interested in finding a youth organization for their child?
Reverend Jessica: Do your homework. Research the group to make sure it is a right fit for your child. Make sure they are teaching things that you want them to learn. Find out what there philosophies are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and visit a meeting.
Lilypads: If we have not touched on the answer to this question, what are two things the general public needs to know about Youth Seekers Circle?
Reverend Jessica: The older children, when they hit 13, start in a leadership skills program. They learn life leadership skills and help with the younger children at this time to help them learn how to be a leader in the community and life. Also, we emphasize on our kids doing community service as well. We want them to learn that helping others just for the sake of doing it is a good trait to have.
A 1st degree priestess, Reverend Jessica LaReau works toward her 2nd degree. Her favorite pastimes include camping, reading, and making fairy houses. At this writing, she and other Northern Lakes Temple members are organizing a public Litha celebration in the Madison area.
To find out more about Youth Seekers Circle and Northern Lakes Temple, click on the link
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