|Teens and Paganism – By Marilyn R. Pukkila
Why won’t EarthTides members teach minors without their parent’s consent?
The simple answer is, because it’s illegal. Maine state law says that the religious upbringing of a child is a parental right and responsibility (19-A MRSA 1501); it also specifies that a person may become a member of a parish or religious society when they are age 18 or older (13 MRSA 2865). This means that, without the written consent of your custodial parent or legal guardian, a well-intentioned Pagan could be sued for offering you instruction or including you in a ritual if you are under age 18. If a parent or guardian refuses permission and someone teaches you anyway, the situation is even worse. This is true for all religions, and more mainstream groups are recognizing this, requiring written permission for children to attend religious instruction classes or summer camps. Given that the law holds parents responsible, in many instances, for the behavior of their children, it makes sense that the law would grant the right of religious upbringing to the parents. EPN Pagans are proud of our religious practices; we also respect the right of parents to make choices for their children until they come of age. We would resent anyone offering spiritual teaching to our children without our permission; for this reason alone, we would not do so to others’ children.This does not mean we cannot offer information about our religion (such as this leaflet) to others (including minors) in order to correct misunderstandings and encourage religious tolerance (374 U.S. 203). What we cannot do is to teach or preach (which we don’t do anyway) to minors.
So what’s a teen Pagan to do?
Plenty! There are hundreds of books, dozens of magazines, and an ever-changing number of Web sites out there for you to investigate and evaluate (we’ve listed a few resources at the end of this pamphlet). Since ours is a nature-based religion, start exploring nature. Learn all you can about the seasons, the cycles of the sun and moon, the interconnections of plants and animals (including humans) and soil and weather and all that makes up your ecosystem. Start to observe your own behavior: do your actions reflect your beliefs? When you give your word, do you keep it? Are you able to face all aspects of yourself, even the ones that make you squirm? All of these things will help you build a good foundation for a Pagan life – or indeed for any religious or spiritual path. We Pagans don’t believe that ours it the one true and only way; we also believe that nolearning is ever wasted.
How do I tell my parents about my interest in Paganism?
Again, the simple answer is: with respect and love. Remember that their only notions of Paganism may come from sensational media stories; you can give them the chance to learn more if you don’t put their backs up. Be patient if they don’t fall in with the idea right away, particularly if their objections come from their own religious beliefs. They are much less likely to question your readiness to make such a choice if you discuss it with them in a calm and honest way – in fact, like a mature person. If you are denied permission to go to an event or work with a teacher, the worst thing you could do is to do it anyway: you will only confirm your parents’ worst misconceptions about evil Pagans corrupting innocent children, and you will have proven yourself to be untrustworthy, something offensive to parents and Pagans alike. If Paganism is truly the path of your heart, waiting until you are 18 to study and worship with others won’t change that. Most of us began by teaching ourselves, so you’ll be in good company!
|Making Good Choices for Yourself By Jane Raeburn
You don’t have to be a certain magical age to be able to choose a religion for yourself. But to live your choice, you need enough maturity to keep yourself safe and remove yourself from situations that aren’t right for you. Some people have this maturity before they leave high school. Others live their whole lives without it. To help you in navigating your way in the Pagan community, we offer some suggestions for what to consider when making decisions about people and events.
It is both your right and your responsibility to use your intelligence in choosing the people with whom you want to associate. Someone you like as a person may be wrong for you as a teacher. A group that is right for your friend may not be right for you.
You have the right to choose differently from others, to walk away from any situation in which you don’t feel comfortable and to act according to your own ethics. If you can do this, then you are mature indeed.
|Suggested Resources On the World Wide Web:
Covenant of the Goddess: http://www.cog.org/
The Witches Voice: http://www.witchvox.com/
Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generationby Silver Ravenwolf
Spell Craft: A Primer for the Young Magicianby Lillith McLelland
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practionerby Scott Cunningham
Spiral Dance by Starhawk
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