One of the things I particularly like about the Internet is that it provides a wealth of resources for young witches. Unfortunately, the laws of the United States frequently prohibit what could be perceived as ‘dangerous’ contacts between adults and minors. The reaction to that has been a fairly consistent agreement within the online Pagan community to not teach anyone under the age of 18 (and in some cases, 21). It can be disheartening to feel the call of the Lord and Lady and yet be denied learning because of a fleeting stage like age.
If you are under 21, or are in contact with someone who is, this article is for you.
Teen cyber covens can provide support and learning during this time. Although there are many such covens, many do not last more than a year because of the transient nature of adolescence and its distractions. So, if you can not find a coven you feel comfortable with or live in an environment that does not encourage spiritual exploration, then I encourage you to wait. Yes, wait. It is always easier to be led by a group, but a solitary working can be a test of one’s dedication to a chosen path. For centuries, people in the Craft had to work in secret and keep their faith silent in order to worship the Old Gods.
To wait, however, does not mean that you can not do anything to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the Mysteries. In fact, I have some specific suggestions about how to prepare for formal Craft training.
1. School and Study. As long as you are in school, it will pay off for you to become the best possible student. Right now in modern Paganism, there are few paid clergy. So preparing for a good job with adequate monetary compensation is a way of ensuring that you are supported by a livelihood you enjoy. Use the time *before* you have to work (i.e., while you are still in school) to research career paths. The research, organizational skills and habits of concentration that develop also will be useful for Craft study and work. As well, being able to support yourself gives you a great deal of strength, power, and self-confidence. All of which are hallmarks of a great Witch!
2. Read. If you can safely obtain and read such basic primers as Starhawk’s Spiral Dance, Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, any of the numerous Farrar books, or Wicca, the Old Religion in the New Millennium by Vivienne Crowley, then do so. You may wish to seek out deeper meanings within your families’ religion. There are many valuable lessons found within different religious systems, not just Paganism. The Craft is a difficult Path to follow, and if you do not have to leave the religion of your birth, perhaps you should not.
I encourage you to learn about the many sister paths of Paganism as well. Research the history, mythos and practices of different ethnic cultures. Visit museums to see the relics from those cultures, listen to relevant music from days gone by (i.e., Celtic pieces, bardic folk songs, etc.). Take every opportunity to experience all kinds of pagan cultures, seek them out. This study should take you into accessible and relevant anthropological, historical, theological and psychological works rather than the specific occult books, which are often repetitious and full of superficial drivel.
3. Meditate. This is the single most important skill you can learn and practice. It should be a daily exercise, giving you the benefits of concentration and serenity. Meditation will also help you understand your studies and/or develop all of your talents. It will also help you to exercise the willed imagination, which is basic to Wiccan ritual work. It requires no props or tools that may give you away to suspicious or snoopy parents. If there is little peace at home, you can meditate in a quiet corner of the library!
Keep a personal journal that covers your reading, meditation experience, dreams, and anything else of interest. The basic theme of the journal should be: “What does all of this mean for me?” Writing things down will help you to notice and understand how different ideas and experiences are related, both to each other and to your personal needs and growth. Should your parents have no respect for their privacy, you may want to leave the journal in a locker at school, or another secure place
4. Artistic Expression. I strongly encourage you to work hard at developing your own particular art or talent. Artistic expression will help you open channels of the creative and imaginative self within, which is the first and easiest way to encounter the Gods that live in and through us. Many Pagans use their artistic skills for tool-making or ritual performance.
5. Nature. Our Mysteries are about the sacredness of life here on Earth, right now. We are “nature worshipers” so nature is a sacred duty. Watch the moon wax and wane, plant a garden of herbs of flowers, and attune to the cycles of our Mother. Volunteer for a community project to clean up an environmentally affected area. I invite you to spend as much time as possible outside and off the pavements, and to keep your heart open and senses alert.
Please note that none of these suggestions call for activities that would raise suspicion with parental units. Nor will following any of these ideas do you harm to you in any way, but will help you feel more grounded and connected. Having a focused mind, a means of creative expression, a job that is fulfilling, and a greater understanding of nature will improve you, regardless of where you use them! Above all, you will know what it is like to pursue a goal independently, becoming more self-directed and balanced adult.
A note of caution: there is no “patent” on the word ‘witch’ and there are many out there who claim to be competent and ethical — who in no way adhere to either of those attributes. The group may be sexually dysfunctional or use drugs or alcohol irresponsibly, to their advantage. Some live up to the image of “cult” using mind control and exploitation, or use baneful magicks, causing inevitable psychological and karmic rebounds.
It seems to me that many Teen covens have fallen into a trap of believing that they are ready to form a coven after reading a few books, lighting a few candles, and making a vow to the God/dess. I am so sorry to tell you this, but it just does not work in that fashion. Witchcraft is something that takes commitment, work, and dedication before you can form a working coven. Instead, three things happen:
1. No real Magick will have been worked throughout the course of the coven’s existence;
2. There can be all sorts of nasty magickal backlashes for messing with something you have no control over;
3. The coven will crumble within a year of existence.
If you can not wait to join a coven of adults, and my suggestions are not enough, then I have an alternate solution: form a study-group instead of a coven.
You will still have to work hard and be honest with yourself, but most of the negative side effects can be avoided. In addition to the books I mentioned earlier, here is a list of books to start with:
Wicca: A Guide For The Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham, Llewellyn Publications
To Ride A Silver Broomstick by Silver RavenWolf, Llewellyn Publications
What Witches Do by Stewart Farrar, Phoenix Publications
The Witches’ Bible by Janet and Stewart Farrar, Phoenix Publications
Calling The Circle by Christina Baldwin, Bantam New Age
Each book has a bibliography, use that to choose your next readings. Enjoy your travels!
While the study-group is devouring fifteen or more books, with each individual also branching out to read another five or six more, you will want to talk about what you read. Discuss what made sense, or did not. Talk about your impressions, thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes. Strive to understand all you can read. Do NOT do ritual. Do the exercises. Meditate. Visualize.
If you have really worked through all of the readings, and you all feel comfortable with what you know, and at least a year has passed… Then you may want to do a formal “mass” Initiation. This can be a group ritual in which you all dedicate yourselves and the study-coven, or have the founder Initiate him/herself, and then the rest of the group.
If you are doing well, someone will want to join. Allow the newcomer to pick a member of the study-coven to be a mentor. It would be good to only have those who feel confident in their teaching abilities act as mentors. You may wish to think about creating a reading list for newcomers and guidelines for discussion.
If your group has an adult advisor, it may be a very good idea if everyone agrees to the ‘rules’ of their involvement. I suggest the following for the adult:
1. Do not try to “lead” — your job is to advise and support. People learn leadership and independence only through practice as leaders and as independent members. Allow them as much freedom in self-direction as possible and serve as a teacher and friend. Instead of dictating, the advisor should provide information and let the teens stay in control.
2. Avoid personal involvement. An advisor who maintains total objectivity will be trusted and listened to. A teen coven should be a peer-directed group that has the support of a “wise” adult who is always available but never intrusive.
These next two are so obvious they need not be said, but just in case…
3. Absolutely no sexual involvement or improper touching. The Rede requires that we harm none, and the potential for harm when an older person is physically involved with a younger one is always present. There is also the legal prohibition. Violating this law can be costly not only to the advisor, but also to the coven and to the Craft as a whole.
4. Do not provide or condone the use of drugs. Again, this is a legal issue. “Contributing to the delinquency of a minor” is a serious charge, and with laws, an advisor who allows teen drug use in her/his home or car faces severe penalties if discovered. There is also the consideration that there is convincing evidence that the use of drugs, even marijuana, by adolescents can disrupt the emotional maturation process – another violation of the Rede.
The entire issue of Green Egg for November/December 1999, is dedicated to the situation with underage kids desiring training in the Craft. It includes articles from both adults who have to deal with it, kids who have grown up in Pagan Circles, and those who have managed to actually FIND teachers while still underage. One thing that was given was a list of resources:
The Witches Voice – Teen Witches
The teen section of one of the biggest web sites on Witchcraft out there. It has many articles of concern to Pagan teens, many actually written by teen Pagans! You can also follow the links back to the main Witches Voice site.
Fellowship of the Earth: Teen Resources
A lot of suggestions for teens who are still in the broom closet at home
As well, there is a list of Teen covens and resources available elsewhere on this site.
(A version of this article became “Dos and Don’ts for the Younger Witch” published in The Blessed Bee, Issue #20, Spring 2004)