What to Do When Your Kid Tells You: Mom and Dad, I'm a Witch
Experience From a Young Mom
I wanted to write this article because it's been a topic that has been requested repeatedly by my younger viewers on my Youtube channel. The question that comes to me is one of two:
- Can you do a video telling me how to tell my parents that I'm practicing witchcraft/Wicca?
- Can you do a video telling my parents that I'm practicing witchcraft/Wicca?
A video on this subject, while I'd be happy to do it, is going to be a little more difficult than simply writing an article. By writing an article, I can speak directly to you, the parent, and your teenager or young adolescent who may seemingly have lost his or her mind.
I've also gotten countless emails from the up and coming generation of thinkers, movers, and shakers. Ages ranging from 9 to 17, these insightful beings, are asking for my guidance and mentorship on their path specifically because their parents will not approve (and have threatened to disown them) of these kids practicing witchcraft or Wicca. Having been there once, I understand and I commiserate with them, but as a parent, I will not overstep my boundaries, and I will not mentor a child whose parents disapprove of their choice.
But parents, this should be a huge red flag for you. If you are not willing to listen to your children, and to hear them out, and to communicate openly with them about their religious beliefs and allow them to question and challenge the way we, as adults, view the world, then your children will seek out an adult to will fulfill that role. And not all pagans, Wiccans, or witches out there are going to be as discerning as I have been, and not all of them are going to be safe for your children to talk with. This latter part is not because those people are practicing witches, but instead because they are humans in general, and there are bad apples in every subculture, group, and bunch. So please, as a parent, I urge you to open a line of honest communication with your child and allow them to experience the world and to challenge their own experiences. The growth and maturation of a child is a brilliant and beautiful blessing, and if you don't share that with them, I guarantee you (as a former young person myself), they will seek it out elsewhere, and elsewhere is not always the best place.
At the point of writing this, I am 25 years old (26 in March 2012). I am a mother, an older sister to a 21-year-old and a 14-year-old, and I am a working adult. Now while I'll still figure out how raising a teenager will affect me in years to come (my daughter is only 3), I am still young enough to remember clearly the feelings, anxieties, fears, excitements, and experiences of being a 12-, 14-, or 16-year-old. (I just recently had a 17-year-old explain to me that "rad" means "cool," and I had to defend myself that, "I'm 25, not dead!")
So basically, the fact that I understand the care and love that goes into raising one's child, the fact that I have a younger teenage brother to whom I regularly give advice, and the fact that I also understand the struggles that young kids go through, I like to think that I am subjectively qualified to have this conversation with you and your teen.
Oh, and I forgot to mention: I'm a practicing witch.
Before You Freak Out...
While, admittedly, I still have a lot to learn as a parent (I think we all continue learning along the way--my mother is currently learning what it is to be a parent to an adult), I do have parents of my own who, only after I've grown, I've been able to understand why they've done what they've done and why they made the choices in raising me that they did. So kids and teens, try to understand that your parents have been around the block a couple times and that line they use on you all the time?--you know, the one that goes, "The universe doesn't revolve around you!"--well, it's true. So when you're all excited about practicing Wicca or starting a circle with your school friends and your parents insist that this will not happen "while you're still under my roof!", try to remember that these things are done out of love, care, and worry for you and your well-being.
That being said, most parents don't actually know what Wicca is or what it's all about. And for most parents from an Abrahamic path, the word "witchcraft" instantly inspires thoughts of flames, eternal burning, hell, and Satan.
None of that is accurate. We're going to go through a few things here today, and by the time you're done reading, parents will know a bit more about the religion that teens are beginning to follow, and teens will know a little bit more about the mistakes that all youngsters to this path make.
I was raised in a home that practiced very loose Christianity. I was baptised Lutheran, attended a Lutheran church from ages 4 to 7, later left that church to attend a free Methodist church from the ages of 9 to 12, and eventually stopped going to church all together. My mother and step-father were very devout born-agains. I loved Jesus and to this day, I still hold deep admiration for the Christ. He actually sits atop my altar, along with the Mother Mary, a photo of the Mahatma Gandhi, a photo of Mother Teresa, and a statue of the Buddha Gautama. Hopefully that explains a bit of my practice to you and where I'm coming from at an ethical point of view, and I doubt anyone equates any of those images with the practice of Satanism or evil ways.
Like many young people in my generation and the generation below me, I heard of Wicca through the media. The first film being The Craft, which is a darker movie that does not properly outline the ethical path of Wicca, though includes legitmate rituals used in witchcraft. It more so portrays a symbolic theme of what will inevitably come to those who use power for evil, selfishness, or greed and is a better example of how to not use the craft. The second movie I saw relating to witchcraft was Practical Magic, which is more closely aligned with my practice (minus, obviously, the Hollywood dramatization of bringing someone back from the dead).
As my interest grew, I found Wicca. Through the years, my personal practice has been broadened beyond the boundaries of one set faith system and I simply consider myself eclectic pagan, pulling from Shinto, Buddhism, Native American traditions, Taoism, Wicca, and witchcraft. I also consider myself a Unitarian Universalist and a religious humanist.
What is Wicca?
Wicca is a modern earth religion and its actual definition varies from practitioner to practitioner, specifically depending upon the tradition of the practitioner as well as whether that practitioner is a solitary practitioner or a member of a coven.
In 1921, Egyptologist and anthropologist Margaret Murray wrote Witch-Cult in Western Europe and outlined and popularized the idea that witchcraft was a surviving, pre-Christian universal religion. Her works have been discredited, but she was one major player who was responsible early on for bringing this to the forefront. For it was because of her writings that Gerald B. Gardner, known to some as the "Father of Wicca," was inspired to come out to the public that he was a practicing witch.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Gerald B. Gardner wrote several books on witchcraft and from there, Wicca was born, popularized in the '50s and '60s. Some Wiccans, specifically those initiated into a coven that links directly back to Gardner (Gardnerian and Alexandrian Wicca are considered British Traditional), will still defend that Wicca predates Christianity, but that is simply not true. Elements of witchcraft itself and obviously many pagan practices do predate Christianity, but Wicca specifically is a very, very modern religion.
This doesn't make it any less credible, however. When it comes to philosophy and religion, whoever stated "the older the better?" As humans, our reasoning, logic, and general way of thinking is evolving (or at least, I hope it is) and I'm sure we've changed our personal ideas much since the time of the Christ.
Gardnerian Wicca is the original tradition of Wicca and is based on Gardner's writings and coven workings. However, there are so many traditions of Wicca whose beliefs vary from tradition to tradition (in Wicca, "tradition" can be compared to "denomination" in Christianity). Just like Christians or Jews or white people or black people, one cannot categorize a pagan or a witch or a Wiccan simply by their religious affiliations. There are witches and pagans who consider technology to be a blessing, while others believe that technology should be used sparingly. Some witches and Wiccans like to work in elaborate ritual circles, while others practice kitchen craft and work with all-natural remedies that include the work with herbs. Some are extremely political and some are apolitical and some are indifferent.
One thing is for certain: Wicca and Neopaganism in general are two of the most rapidly-growing religions of our time.
Many Wiccans will cite the Wiccan Rede as their source of ethics. The Rede makes up so, so much more than those new to the craft realize. The Rede talks about magical timing, it discusses the uses of herbs, it addresses the growth process of life itself. Still, its most famous words are found in the final lines of the Rede: "An ye harm none, do what ye will."
The ethics of Wicca itself simply state: Do what you will, as long as it doesn't harm anyone, including oneself. There is also the Threefold Law, which essentially states that what you put out into the universe will return to you. It's interpreted many different ways that include the act (good or bad) coming back thrice as positive or negative as one sends it out, the act that it will come back as many times as it takes for the practitioner to understand the repercussions, and others believe the act will span for a specific time such as in generations of the family.
If your child tells you that "Wicca is whatever I want it to be," that is simply a falsehood. Wicca has a specific purpose, just like all religions. And kids, if you think that Wicca is simply spells and magic, that is certainly a misconception. Wicca fulfills so much more than that, and the spell craft is simply the very tip of the iceberg (or the analogy I often use: the tiniest crumb of a very large cake).
Wicca For the Wrong Reasons
Parents and teens, let's face it: It's in a teenager's nature to want to rebel a bit and challenge the authority. If it's not in a blatant, in-your-face sort of way, then it's in another way that is more subtle, such as a good student refusing to attend her father's alma mater and instead, wanting to spread her wings far from home. Either way we spin it, it's completely healthy and natural for a teen wanting to break free from her parents' nest and find herself independently of her family.
That being said, there are still "wrong" reasons for wanting to study and practice Wicca or witchcraft. Look at this list together (kids, you're going to have to search deep down and be brutally honest with yourself). These are reasons that might be signs that you're looking at this path for the wrong reasons:
- The desire to stand out or be different or rebel
- The desire to get back at your parents
- The desire to learn magic so you can have whatever you want (by the way, magic doesn't work that way)
- The desire to show off
- The desire to fit in or be cool or edgy
These are not the only "wrong" reasons. Basically, when I hear of kids changing their complete look and going for a goth look when they used to be preppy, and when I hear that change as a result of turning to Wicca or witchcraft, a little red flag pops up. Wicca does not ask one to change their appearance or their personality. Witchcraft does not require one to dress in black, wear chains, or dye one's hair. Wicca and witchcraft, like most loving religions, accept one the way one is, but inspire positive change in one's attitude, ethics, and perspective of life.
The Great Compromise
Parents, when your kid comes to you and says, "Mom and Dad, I'm a witch," don't freak out. Don't disown them or threaten to kick them out of the house. Instead, engage in a discussion with them. Ask them what they believe and why they want to identify as Wiccan or as a witch. If reasons like, "I want to do whatever I want," or "I want to be different" or "I want to learn spells to get whatever I want and get back at my enemies," pop up, then chances are, your kid hasn't researched Wicca very much and doesn't really know the path all that well. That's an opportunity for you to explore your spirituality together. Share your own beliefs and the reasons you chose your particular religion. But stay open-minded to the fact that everyone is entitled to celebrate one's soul and spirit in their own way, and for some people, that is celebrated through paganism.
And kids, if your parents are uncomfortable with you practicing witchcraft in their home, then respect their wishes. They're the adults, they pay the bills, you just happen to live there. When you move out, you are free to express your spirituality however you see fit, but out of respect for those who gave you life, don't do anything that would make them feel uncomfortable.
To point out to parents: There is nothing scary about witchcraft or Wicca. Practicing will not result in "demons" in your home (unless your child believes in demons and believes they will manifest through your child's magical work--in which case, Wicca may not be a path for your child, period). In Wicca and in most forms of paganism, we do not believe in Satan or hell.
If you (parents and children) are coming from a Christian path and are opening to practicing witchcraft but do not want to abandon your Christian roots, there is a tradition of Wicca known as ChristoWicca or ChristoPaganism, and it blends elements of both Wicca/Paganism and Christianity.
And in closing, I would like to point out a piece that I talk about on my YouTube channel a lot: Do not try to fit your beliefs to a specific path. If you are currently involved in a religion that does not suit you, write down the things that you do believe and how you feel the world works and what you feel the world should be like. Search deep within your soul to find out what exactly it is that you, as a Soul having a Human experience, believe. What do you know deep down, intuitively, in your bones? Then, take those beliefs and research different religions. Research, research, research! Don't stop searching until you find a religion or path that matches your current beliefs. Don't change your beliefs to fit to a specific religion. That doesn't make sense. You already know what you believe. Don't try to fit a square peg in a round hole.
If you're interested in knowing more about your kid's ideas and beliefs (and kids, if you're serious about this path, I suggest reading these books as well), here I've compiled a list of recommended reading:
- Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler (a study of paganism in America spanning over 30 years)
- Positive Magic by Marion Weinstein
- Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
- Spiral Dance by Starhawk
- World Religions: Beliefs and Traditions from Around the Globe by Robert Pollock