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.
Challenges for Pagan Youth, In Their Own Words
The results are in! You may have seen my last post discussing a survey question I sent out to my youth network asking what their favorite part about being a young Witch or Pagan is. The results were surprising to most but I can’t say I was very surprised. However, the results of this survey question did surprise me a little.
To a network of thousands of young people on social media and email, I asked “what is the biggest challenge for you, being a young Witch or Pagan?” I received over sixty responses within 48 hours. Here is a small sampling of the responses:
For me it's age-hate from older pagans. 'you're too young to have an opinion!...you can't know more than me, I'm 30 years older than you!....quit trying to argue your beliefs you're a little kid!' I think it's horrid and ridiculous to think age = knowledge and the right to an opinion. Everyone has opinions and their own beliefs. And who knows, maybe that 21 year old witch has been studying since they were 15...that's 6 years. Whereas that 45 year old Witch could have only just been shown the path of Witchcraft. I also find a lack of resources horrid...most teen-focused books are 'spells for teenage witches who want to smite their bullies with magic' etc.
-V, age 17
Lack of resources, time, and confidence
-E, age 15
The hardest part was resources, support, keeping it a secret because of judgmental peers and fear of them.
-S, age 19
The most difficult part of being a young witch for me was dealing with the lack of teachers willing to teach. but I have overcome that by buying books.
-T, age 19
I get bullied because everyone thinks that I'm going to Hex them…
I've always had a difficult time actually being able to join a group for regular circles because they are mostly adults who have been doing it for a long time and if i do join i don't feel that welcome.
Unsupportive family. In my home everyone is a catholic. When I said to my aunt I'm a 'atheist' she ordered me go to the church and confess. It hurts.
Lack of resources mainly. I don't have a job to pay for the things I need yet. Also the lack of knowing any other witches in the area to possibly help me and guide me. I'm also afraid that when I tell my mother she won't be too supportive of the idea. Also since I'm extremely new I still need to learn most of the basics and with only online resources (some of which are helpful) I'm not too sure of what I would be doing right or wrong plus I'm more of a hands on person and learn as I go.
-L, age 15
Not having the space, money, or resources to practice. My family don't even know I'm Pagan.
-R, age 17
Unsupportive family,and lack of resources
Dont know any other wiccans, people often dont recognise it as a religion and think it's funny and don't think my parents would like it / understand.
H, age 17
Finding the privacy and space is difficult. Avoiding judgement. And then I'm a college student balancing lots of work and projects so its also hard to just find time to chill out.
The hardest part for me is finding anyone who can teach me and finding resources. Its even harder because my mom doesn't approve.
Hmm, well it's mostly a lack of resources, to be honest. Though explaining my practices is very difficult.
Of the over sixty responses I received, an overwhelming majority of youth cited “lack of resources” as their number one challenge. This was surprising to me. I think we often assume that young people today have unlimited resources because of the current state of technology today. But these responses helped to remind me that young people can have critical thinking skills just as developed as any adult. This could mean that although they know that they have the power of Google and Wikipedia behind them, they realize that the internet is still a minefield of misinformation and confusing contradictions when it comes to Witchcraft and other areas within our big Pagan umbrella.
The answers regarding unsupportive family are probably not going to be a surprise to most people. Even though adults are certainly more exposed to Paganism than they ever have been before, that doesn't always mean much for a teen in rural Arkansas, or a college student in the Houston suburbs with a preacher father. Geographic location, the religious culture of the family, and the family’s interest (or disinterest) in parenting with a “hands-off” approach all need to be taken into consideration. The default answer to this in the 80’s and 90’s seemed to have been “wait until you’re 18 and move out to practice.” In an age where young people are often left to their own devices to find their own resources, this answer is simply no longer acceptable. For a young person who is bullied and abused to find an empowering path like spiritual Witchcraft, you can’t tell them to stop the thing that’s giving them confidence and spiritual solace. They are going to do it anyway, although probably with a greater lack of direction since their ability to discuss it with others is burdened. And honestly, even if they seek it out to “rebel”, I would rather them rebel with religion than drugs, alcohol, and gang violence.
I don’t think there is a catch-all solution for providing youth with more resources. Everyone has a different need, style of communication, and a learning pace that we just can’t issue a panacea for. I think the first step is acknowledging that young people are still coming to Paganism and polytheism in droves and that it’s up to us to help meet that demand in whatever ways we can. Sometimes it just means being a supportive ear when a young person needs to vent. Sometimes it means actively pointing them in the direction of what you know to be a solid. trustworthy resource. I also think it’s important that we remain honest and transparent when we don’t have an answer for someone. Showing that age doesn't automatically mean we have an answer for everything encourages a generation of critical thinkers, active learners, and daring wisdom-seekers.
If I could say one thing to the entire adult Pagan communities about our youth, it is this: They are out there and there are more than you think. They are hungry for knowledge, thirsting for wisdom, and craving connection. Recognizing their challenges and helping them find solutions is the only certain, concrete way to encourage a healthy future for Paganism as a whole.
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