The REAL Pagan Pride: Our Children
Maidens and Mother photo, copyright Thanksgiving 2007, Destin, FLorida.
That’s right: the real pagan pride is our children, whether they’re the children of our bodies or of our hearts. They are the next generation, the young ones who’ll take up our spiritual torches when we are enjoying our crone-age. This next generation that we are teaching and nurturing–whether physically our children or not–are the inheritors of our Earth, and truly our legacies.
My daughters are the product of an atheist father and a devout-Southern-Baptist-turned-Wiccan-High-Priestess mother, with the-church-doors-don’t-open-without-us grandparents. Religion was definitely a well-gnawed bone of contention between their dad and me, but I didn’t insist that they believe as I believed and I encouraged them to attend various types of religious services and figure out their own path, regardless of what it might be.
My elder daughter recently “came out” regarding her spirituality…a few days after her 18th birthday. It was really not something I expected. Though she’d been standing in Circle with me since she was 12 and her beliefs were most closely aligned with Wicca, she refused to call herself pagan and wasn’t interested in Initiation (she’d seen the hell I went through in my Second Degree, after all). She didn’t want to label her belief system or define it just because someone else needed it defined. She simply believed what she believed and it was a personal matter.
In mid-March, a local newspaper article came out in which I was interviewed. It wasn’t negative toward me, and the reporter had tried to get the pagan perspective and I was the only one willing to talk to her at that time. The particular situation involved an Adopt-a-Highway clean-up effort by a small group of pagans, the project leader of which moved away soon after and the effort fell by the wayside. Other local pagans kept up the clean-up unofficially but there were no official records to support the roadsign proclaiming the the highway was kept clean by the group, whose name erroneously symbolized all pagans in the county. Unfortunately, no one who knew anything came forward at that point, the editor rewrote the lead sentence to call pagans “shadowy” because they couldn’t be found, and the article ended up on the front page. Not a good day for local pagans.
When Shannon read the newspaper, she was incensed and immediately fired off a letter to the editor. I didn’t ask her to; I didn’t ask her not to. She’s 18 now, I thought. If she’s that insistent about putting her name on her opinion and making it public, so mote it be.
I was a little nervous for her. I wasn’t sure how the local community here in the Bible Belt would react, let alone her dad’s family. Instead, her letter to the editor stirred discussion and positive conversation rather than controversy. It caused otherwise judgmental people to ask her, in earnest, what she believed and why. It provoked thought and appreciation. And this week, the newspaper ran a second story–well-placed–about the local pagans who are reclaiming the Adopt-a-Highway program, a much more positive story.
Here’s Shannon’s letter…courtesy of the next generation of pagans:
I was very uncomfortable with the article in last week’s [newspaper] patronizingly titled, “Pagan Group Is Scarce in Road Cleanup.” While I commend the reporter’s attempt at a two-sided story, the majority of the piece merely perpetuates negative stereotypes of pagans. I completely agree that the group should abide by their promise to participate in the Adopt-a-Highway program, but it implies that this small group is representing the pagan community as a whole. I am a local pagan, and I’d never even heard of this “Okaloosa Pagan Community” and its highway cleanup (or lack thereof) until this article came out. The handful of people who signed the agreement should be the ones under-fire, instead of every pagan in Okaloosa County. As a straight ‘A’ student who volunteers weekly at a local preschool, I am disappointed that a front page story propagates connotations that pagans are irresponsible. This “Okaloosa Pagan Community” should think twice before they try to represent the Okaloosa pagan community.