Teaching young seekers

When the young pagans are you own, or the children of folk who come to your gatherings, then the issue of teaching is fairly straight forwards. It comes down to the parents to decide.

However, what happens when a seeker comes to you, who is not of an age to legally make their own decisions, and whose parents you have no contact with?

There is a great deal of fear around working with young folk as it is. If you are faced with a pagan teenager, whose parents are not supportive, you may be opening yourself to all kinds of problems and accusations. Teenagers are also adept at lying about their age – they do it all the time to buy alcohol, cigarettes, get into pubs, it’s part of being a teenager, so there’s always the possibility that a young person who comes to you, may be younger than you thought.

Here’s a few things to consider.

Are they genuine? If your seeker is a child who thinks they’re going to be just like Harry Potter or Sabrina the teenage witch, then gently send them away, because they aren’t ready. Recommend them some books and tell them to come back when they’ve read those. If they’ve read a bit and can talk with some intelligence about personal experience, if they are having strange things happen to them and need support, then take them seriously.

Sending them away is the easy option. I know there are working groups who set the age barrier high – I’ve heard of over thirty even, because they want matured and settled folk. However, what happens to the young seeker? Will they stop seeking because you said no? There are (and I have met some) unscrupulous people out there, both in the pagan community, and masquerading as pagan. Saying no to a young seeker means you take the risk that they will find someone far less suitable. If things are happening to them – premonitions, poltergeist, empathy… they may be desperately in need to reassurance and turning them away may result in them seeking medical intervention instead. I don’t personally think that refusing to teach teens is reliably a moral choice, although there are most definitely risks.

Seek parental contact and consent. If you can get it, this is a great asset. Some years ago I took on a student who was fifteen when we started. I talked to her mother, (who is pagan, which helped!) and there were no problems. Said student worked with me for a few years, and is now at college and involved in (possibly running) a moot. If you can’t get parental consent and the young seeker is at odds with their family, tread very carefully. Make sure you do not leave yourself open to any unpleasant accusations.

Avoid any kind of private meeting – teaching online is viable for the kind of material it’s appropriate to offer younger seekers, or meet up in public places, and make sure your student learns to take appropriate precautions.

What to teach? Whatever path you are on, encourage your young seeker to get a good grounding in myths and legends. This is unlikely to trouble parents/guardians, it is risk free learning. Beyond that, I would recommend focusing on ethics, philosophy, green living, nature study and meditation. Teaching a young seeker meditation skills will open the way if they want to go further. It encourages imagination, self possession and mental discipline. You can teach protective visualisations as well. Showing a young seeker how to hold firm mentally, how to be calm and psychically protected makes good sense. These are good skills, there’s little scope for doing anything daft with them. They make a good grounding and enable the young person to feel like they are being taken seriously, without taking them into inappropriate kinds of experience.

3 thoughts on “Teaching young seekers”

  1. My niece fell in love with Charmed. I hated that show lol..not because I thought it was bad for Pagans, just because it didn’t seem entertaining to me. Anyway, my niece went nuts over it, and wanted to discover Wicca. This was before she started Kindergarten. Her mother thought it was a faze, but sent her to me (the Pagan Aunt). I really didn’t go into the fantasy verses reality with my niece. Why? Because whether or not I liked Charmed, it drew her interest. So instead of killing her interest and imagination, I bought her kid-written books, even drew up a few books of my own for her concerning elements, the pentagram, simple spells, the Wiccan Creed (even though I am not Wiccan), and things on herbs and crystals. Every year for her birthday, I would buy her new stuff on Wicca, and so forth. That was years and years ago. Even though she started off thinking all things in Charmed was true, now, years later (she is in middle school) she is a very serious witch. So while children who believe in Charmed, Harry Potter, and so forth maybe aggravating to some, I think their wondrous things because they tickle the imaginations that children have to begin with, that we adult sometimes stomp out and destroy believe it or not. And whose to say what is possible in the minds of a child? After all, how many of them are 100 percent in tune with their gifts when we old adults are not? So I have to thank so many of those authors or creators of shows for embracing a part of our world, even if its not complete fact, and giving children something to dream on. I know I owe Charmed for my niece who now walks a path similar to mine. I have something special with all my nieces, even though their mom took them far, far away…but with Cassie, I think it will always be everlasting…despite our separation because she is kind of in-tuned to things like I am.

    As always Bryn, excellent post!

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  2. With younger folk it is a different issue – ones that young you can’t teach without parental support, and they are bound to relate to the fantasy side differently. Teens who haven’t grasped the difference between fantasy and paganism are a whole other kettle of tentacles…

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