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.
Our Time Has Come
The first time I gave a formal talk on anything relating to Paganism was for a workshop I lead in 2004 at a Pagan Pride Day in North Carolina. I was 16 years old and it was this PPD's first "Teen Talk", designed to engage young Pagans in the community. I had no idea what to expect as I gathered my notes and sat under a big oak tree, waiting for one - maybe two - participants. To my surprise, over a dozen people aged 14 to 25 came over. I was so nervous. I looked down at my notes and prepared to speak from my obsessive virgo-inspired outline. I planned to speak about how to be a Witch in the public school system, explaining the Craft to your parents, and developing a deep spirituality. As I looked around at the eager faces around me, I came to the sudden realization that I needed to ditch my outline entirely. So I put it aside, smiled, and sat in the circle with the others.
I began with a question- "why are you here?" The first girl around 16 spoke; "I want to gain a better understanding of my path, but I feel limited in the information available to me." Then a guy around 20; "I've been doing this since I was 14 but older Pagans still won't take me seriously. They think its some fad. Is there a place for me within the Pagan community before 30?" The answers continued, all speaking of the deep desire to better their lives through a sincere commitment to their various paths. These weren't youth worried so much about harassment from cowan-folk, or how to talk to their parents. For the most part, they were individuals who had already established a religious practice and either wanted to take that further, or had some unique ideas they were excited to share with others. Although I'm known for having a terrible memory, I will never forget my conversation with those young people that day. They were my peers, sharing fascinating stories of connecting with the gods and performing highly-effective magick. They were pre-teens, teens, and young adults trying to find their place at the table of an emerging religious tradition making its claim in an increasingly-informed world.
The youth of Paganism today have more to offer our traditions than Pagan youth ever have before. In an age where many Pagan elders are seeing their grandchildren grow up, we find a generation of Witches and Pagans that is well informed, engaged in community, and excited to participate. At this point, many of us in our 20's (including myself) have grown up Pagan and have integrated this path into our lives since before we can easily remember. The Millennial Generation is probably the first generation where being a heredity Pagan isn't the only way one can come into Paganism at an early age. Kids can hear a reference to modern Paganism on TV and do a quick Wikipedia search and learn a great deal with just a few minutes of reading. We're growing up in a culture that truly values religious liberty and the advancement of personal freedoms.
As a young urban Witch, I know that I enjoy an incredible privilege that was not easily attained. Although I've had my share of struggles, I've never had to secretly mail-order an Occult book and pray that my family wouldn't find out. I get to wear my pentacle pendant outside my shirt and even display a small statue of the Goddess in my office cubicle. And I never had to fight for any of that. This privilege charges me with the an incredible responsibility. As a member of what we might call the "next generation", I'm charged to not settle on the rights I enjoy now. We still have a long way to go in terms of religious liberty. Forces still exists that would love nothing more than to push Paganism back into the recesses of history. As an employee of a large civil rights organization, I see the oppression that still moves through our culture every day. There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done.
Celebrating Pagan youth doesn't mean we have to shun our elders. Instead, we can recognize the value of both ends of the age spectrum and what each has to offer. There's still a strange view in some Pagan communities that our youth are temporary expendables. That we're only interested in the surface fad of an "alternative lifestyle" or are coming from a shallow, uninformed space. Looking at blogs about the recent news that MTV would like to profile occultists 25 or younger reveals a pessimistic view of young Pagans. "The under-25 age limit ensures this will be a disaster" is a frequent comment going around. My young coreligionists frustrated with this type of dialog have a wish for our communities. We want to let the Pagan world know that we'd like an equal seat at the table. If you give us a chance, you might be surprised by what we can accomplish.
I hope to use this blog as a platform to display the unique views of Pagans from the next generation. In my work as a priest for an emerging Craft tradition, I'm constantly inspired by what the youth of today are contributing to my local spiritual community. We're not just the leaders of tomorrow, we're leaders for today. We are students, teachers, organizers, writers, activists, and everything in between. We carry the torch of progress for our paths. I hope you'll join us in creating a future that's even brighter for those who come next.
Please login first in order for you to submit comments