Blasphemy and Paganism

Here’s one from Ye Olde Magical Mail Bagge: A reader says, “I was at a Pagan event last month, and dropped a candle – I seriously thought I was going to set my robe on fire. I said, “Oh my goddess!” and was immediately jumped on by a woman who scolded me for being blasphemous. I told her that I didn’t think my goddess really cared if I said something like that, but she told me that “taking the goddess’ name in vain” was wrong. This sounds an awful lot like Christianity, which I left recently. Am I missing something? Is there really a rule that says I can’t say “oh my goddess” if I feel like it?”

You said WHAAAAAT??? Image by Christels from CC0 via Canva

No shit, y’all, if I had a dollar for every time someone tried to make someone else Pagan A Different Way, I could legit quit my day job.

The concept of blasphemy is one that’s common to the Abrahamic faiths, but is not widely found in other religions. For many religions, certain words are never used, because it’s considered blasphemous to do so. In some orthodox branches of Judaism, one is not permitted to write the name of God – if you’re jotting down His name, you might write it as G-d, to avoid being seen as blasphemous.

The dictionary defines blasphemy as disrespect – or at the very least, irreverence – towards something sacred or holy. Much like sin and obscenity, disrespect is typically in the eye of the beholder. In the Abrahamic religions, the criteria are pretty well established as part of doctrine. For Catholics, as an example, the sin of blasphemy includes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — the questioning of whether the actions of the Holy Spirit might be attributed to some other being or entity.

Some groups take blasphemy to an even more strict level. For example, in Islam, it’s seen as disrespectful to draw a picture of the prophet Mohammad, and you could easily find yourself under a fatwa if you scribble out a cartoon with his image. Certain fundamentalist Christian groups see the celebration of any religious holiday with secular aspects as blasphemous — colored eggs at Easter, or Santa Claus during Christmas would fall under this heading.

But here’s the big thing: if you’re not part of a religion, it’s unreasonable for members of that religion to hold you to that religion’s standards. In other words, Jews don’t expect non-Jews to never write out the word “God,” because it’s a rule for them, that’s found in their holy writings. So, why would a member of one Pagan group think it’s okay to tell non-members to follow the group’s rules?

In many Pagan religions the deities are not seen as stern taskmasters, or angry old men who rule through fear rather than love. In fact, some – although certainly not all – Pagan gods and goddesses are a lot of fun — they are often viewed as having a bit of a sense of humor, and not concerning themselves overmuch with the day to day activities of their worshipers, unless we specifically address them.

 

So here’s the question for you — do you think the goddess of your tradition finds it disrespectful for you to say “oh my goddess” when you drop a candle? Do you think that it so enrages her that she’s going to stop what she’s doing and somehow make you suffer? Or do you think maybe she’s having a little giggle over the whole thing, and then going on about her business? Or maybe, just maybe, she really doesn’t notice at all, and if she does, she maybe doesn’t give a damn because she’s busy doing Goddess Things?

You’re going to encounter fundamentalists in every religion — and that includes Paganism. Don’t let a negative experience with one of them color your entire perception of Pagan spirituality. You’ll meet far more people who believe that the gods have a sense of humor, and that they don’t especially care if you blurt out “oh my goddess” when you’re about to set your ritual robe on fire. Honor your deities the way your heart calls you to do, and don’t let anyone bully you about it.

You’re Pagan, Can You Go to Church With the Fam?

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So the other day I got a message from a super nice young lady who wanted to know what to do about an upcoming situation. She’s visiting her boyfriend’s family for the weekend, and they’ve invited her to accompany them to church on Sunday morning. Apparently it’s a pretty casual and laid back church environment, non-judgmental and friendly, and she likes the boyfriend’s parents, so she is more than willing to tag along… but of course, some yahoo told her OMG A REAL PAGAN WUD NEVER SET FOOT IN A CHURCH BLAH BLAH HURR DURR DERP.

Lemme ‘splain you something, Lucy. You do you, ok?

This whole thing is entirely up to you, and to your family (or in this case, the boyfriend’s family). Many Pagans feel perfectly comfortable entering a worship setting of another religion, even though most of us do not actively participate in ceremonies. If you attend a Catholic mass, for example, you would want to skip the wafer part – because you’re not Catholic, and Catholics do not condone non-Catholics taking communion. I mean, you could go up at communion and ask for a blessing, but that’s about it.

Also, it’s important to realize when we go to church with family that often, we’re invited along because it’s a social thing. In many communities, church is the foundation of networking and socializing – people who work hard all week long might only see their friends and extended family on Sunday mornings at church. They’ve invited you to be part of it, and if it’s a low-pressure kind of invite – which it sounds like it is – they’re inviting you to not just attend church, but to be welcomed into their community as a whole.

Plus, look at it this way. If it’s a church that’s different from the one you grew up in – if you did indeed attend church previously – it’s a good way to learn about different spiritual perspectives. If you don’t mind going, then forget about those people who are all OMG A REAL PAGAN WUD NEVER. Seriously, who needs that? If you want to go and no one else minds, what do you have to lose?

Saturday Spellwork: Water Magic

So a couple of weeks ago we talked about solar eclipse magic, and one of the things I did during the August 21 eclipse was put a few jars of water outside to charge with magical energy. I keep different kinds of water on hand, for a variety of magical purposes, and I thought this would be a good time to share some of the types I have handy.

First, it’s important to keep in mind that water in general, as an element, has some pretty specific connotations – it’s associated with healing, cleansing, and purification, just for starters. In most traditions, it also corresponds to goddess magic, and to the direction of West when you start looking at the four classical elements and their related directions.

All of that said, you can use different types of water for different things. For me, I’m a bit obsessive about collecting water from different places, all of which can be used for some pretty specific spellwork.

Storm Water

Gather water during a storm to use in spells associated with increasing personal power, energy, big changes, and even causing a bit of chaos. You get bonus points if there’s a lot of thunder and lightning going on!

Standing Water

Standing water is vile and stagnant… so if you want to do a bit of magical binding, use water that ain’t going anywhere any time soon. You can bind someone by immersing a photo or poppet in stagnant water.

Use ocean water for purification and cleansing. Image by Hasloo Group via Canva
Ocean Water

Ocean water has a lot of energy and power – gather up a bottle or jar, and use it for cleansing and purification. You can even use it to protect against negative energies – after all, it’s full of salt, which is often used as a protective item. However, because of this, don’t use ocean water in rituals in which you actually want to work with spirits, such as ancestor workings.

War Water

War water is one of my favorite magical items to make, and I’m sometimes a little sad that I don’t have more call to use it. War water is water in which you’ve soaked rusty nails and added a bit of graveyard dirt or salt. There are about a zillion different methods for making this, so find the one that works best for you.

Spring or Well Water
Well water is often tied to localized spirits. Image by benibeny from CC0 via Canva

If you’re fortunate enough to live near a natural spring, or a sacred well, gather up some water. In general, sacred well or spring water is associated with localized deities or land spirits, and can be used in healing magic. If you’re collecting water from a spring or well that doesn’t have a particular spiritual connection, don’t worry, you can still use it for blessing rituals and spells.

The Value of Our Pagan Elders

Spend any time at all in the Pagan community, and you’re bound to hear someone referred to as an Elder. Typically used as a term of respect and honor, Elder is a status that is generally given to someone by other people, rather than claimed for oneself. It is usually considered bad form to announce that you are a Pagan Elder – let someone else grant you the designation, if you have indeed earned the status.

Who are the elders in your community? Image by Hasloo Group via Canva

You may often find that someone who is a Pagan Elder is a little uncomfortable with the title – not because they haven’t earned it, but because often they do their work for the community out of love, rather than because they’re out collecting titles. They are individuals who have taught, shared, blazed new trails, spoken out for those who could not speak, and who have, in general, tried to make the world a better place.

Community Leaders

Sometimes, someone has been active in the Pagan community for so long that other people begin referring to them as an Elder. This is not necessarily indicative of age so much as it is a matter of time spent serving the community.

Someone who is only forty, but has been active in planning and organization of public events since the age of fifteen has a good two and a half decades in as a Pagan community servant. It would not be unreasonable to refer to this person as an Elder, despite the fact that he or she is only forty.

Clergy

In many traditions of modern Paganism, there is a lengthy training process involved before someone can be considered clergy.

Whether this is a degree system, or a series of classes and continuing education, within each tradition there may be guidelines on what confers the status of clergy. After someone has attained the role of clergy, and spent time doing pastoral counseling or other leadership work, members of the tradition may consider the individual an Elder.

Other Role Models

It’s entirely possible that someone can be considered a Pagan Elder who is not a community organizer or licensed clergy. Often, someone who has been involved in the Pagan community for a long time, and has shown that they have a significant amount of knowledge and wisdom to share, can be considered an Elder.

People who are teachers, counselors, authors, and other leaders can all be designated as Elders, if others feel they have earned it.

How to Honor Our Elders

As the Pagan community grows, our Elders are – quite obviously – getting older. It’s important that we, as a community, support those people in as many ways as we can. In addition to treating them with the respect they have earned, we can pay back their service to our community.

If you have a Pagan Elder who is attending your event or ritual, make sure they have everything they need – a comfortable chair, plenty to eat and drink, and assistance if they require it. If they’re an Elder who’s actually a senior citizen or who has medical issues or disabilities, offer help with things like transportation and housework when it’s needed.

Most of all, show by your actions, not just your words, that you’re thankful to these folks for taking the time to share their lives with the Pagan community.

Saturday Spellwork: Mirror Magic

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Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the most magical of them all?

Well, YOU ARE, if you incorporate mirrors into your magical practice. From scrying to repelling spells to beauty rituals, mirrors can come in handy in a number of ways. Here are a few of my favorite magical uses for mirrors:

Make a Scrying Mirror

Scrying is one of the best known forms of divination, and can be done in a variety of ways. Basically, it’s the practice of looking into some sort of reflective surface — such as water, fire, glass, dark stones, etc. — to see what messages, symbols, or visions may appear. A scrying mirror is a simple black-backed mirror, and it’s easy to make one yourself.

Beauty Magic

Get your favorite color of lipstick (for me, it’s Urban Decay’s Mrs. Mia Wallace or MAC’s Ruby Woo), and a bowl of rose petals. Stand in front of your bathroom mirror, or use a handheld one, and place the lipstick in the bowl of rose petals. Say Beauty within and outside of me, beauty I feel and what others now see. Luscious color to last a while, on my spirit and on my smile. Apply the lipstick, blow yourself a kiss in the mirror, and admire how awesome you are. Keep your lipstick handy for touch-up applications as it wears off during the day. When you go to bed at night, keep the lipstick in the bowl of rose petals beside your mirror.

Spell for Self-Love

This is a great one to do around Valentine’s Day because candy hearts are everywhere, but you can do it any time you need a little boost to your self-esteem. Pour a bag of candy hearts into a bowl, and then close your eyes and pick one at random. Open your eyes, look into a mirror, and read yourself the message on the heart. Does it say You’re Awesome or Hot Stuff or Kiss Me on it? Repeat the message to yourself in the mirror three times, and say it like you mean it! After you’ve done this, eat the candy heart – and then do it again, until you’ve read yourself nine different messages and eaten the candies. Spend the rest of the day thinking about how fantastic you are, and how you’re worthy of love from yourself and others.

Repel Negativity

There are several methods of creating a magic mirror. The first, and simplest, is to use a single mirror. First, consecrate the mirror like you would any other of your magical tools. Place the mirror, standing up, in a bowl of black salt, which is used in many hoodoo traditions to provide protection and repel negativity.

In the bowl, facing the mirror, place something that represents your target – the person who is cursing you. This can be a photo, a business card, a small doll, an item that they own, or even their name written on a piece of paper. This will reflect that individual’s negative energy back to them.

You can also create a mirror box. It works on the same principle as a single mirror, but uses several mirrors to line the inside of a box. Just hot-glue them in place so they don’t move around. Once you’ve done so, place a magical link to the person inside the box, and then seal the box. You may use black salt if you wish to add a little more magical oomph.

One of my favorite methods of making a mirror box is to incorporate the shards of a mirror you’ve smashed with a hammer while chanting the person’s name. This is a LOT of fun – and smashing anything with a hammer is pretty therapeutic – but be careful not to cut yourself. Wear gloves and safety glasses if you opt for this approach.

 

Finding Pagan Role Models

Look for role models in your own community. Image by Andrew Poplavsky via Canva

A reader writes, “I’ve recently begun following a Pagan path, and I’m meeting some resistance from my friends and family. They keep pointing out that there aren’t any Pagan role models to look up to in today’s society. Christianity has a number of famous people who set an example for others with their spirituality and good works. There are a lot of Jewish people who can be held up as an example of their faith. But everyone keeps asking me where all the famous Pagans are. I don’t know what to tell them, but I’m wondering if this is something I should even worry about.”

Well, your friends and family do make a valid point – there aren’t a ton of famous Pagans in today’s mainstream society. And honestly, that’s partly because there’s still some degree of secrecy about following a Pagan path, although that’s certainly changing. People may be concerned about losing jobs, kids, housing, or whatever if they reveal their Pagan beliefs. Despite the fact that modern Paganism has come a long way in the past few decades, it’s still something that people tend to keep private. And while we’ve talked about “celebrity Pagans” being few and far between, there are certainly Pagans out there who are part of mainstream pop culture.

Singer Sully Erna of the band Godsmack is an initiated member of the Cabot tradition, and actress Fairuza Balk owned an occult store for a while, and has said she became Pagan after starring in the movie The Craft. A number of popular authors, including Laurell K. Hamilton, are Wiccan.

Those are all people who would probably be known to mainstream – i.e. Not Pagan – society. However, there are countless numbers of people in the Pagan community who are openly practicing.

Take any of the published Pagan authors, musicians like Wendy Rule and S.J. Tucker, or outspoken educators and activists like Selena Fox or Starhawk – all of these people are unapologetically and openly Pagan. Feel free to point to any of them as a role model if your family feels you need to offer one up.

Finally, and this is the most important part – there are people in the Pagan community who are just average folks who have done some pretty awesome things, and they certainly qualify as role models too, even if your friends have never heard of them. Take, for instance, Roberta Stewart, the widow of fallen Wiccan soldier Patrick Stewart.

Roberta worked tirelessly to make sure that other Pagan soldiers killed in action could get a pentacle on their headstones. Or what about teen Pagan Jerica Haynes, whose school presentation on diversity got cancelled? Even in the face of opposition, Jerica still stood up for her beliefs and managed to work together with school administrators to present a thoughtful program on her Wiccan faith.

How about the countless covens and groves that organize food drives each fall, or who gather up ritual materials and books to send to soldiers overseas? The priestesses and priests who offer their time and energy to counsel others in times of need? The solitary practitioner who anonymously shovels his elderly neighbor’s driveway in the middle of the night? Sometimes, you find role models not on the cover of a magazine, but right in your own back yard.

It’s also important to note that in many Pagan pantheons, there are legends about gods, demigods and mortals who perform actions worthy of emulating. Perhaps you could cite some of these to your friends and family members as examples of role models. You could also point out some non-Pagans you admire, if their work or ideas have influenced your life – the Dalai Lama isn’t Wiccan, but many non-Buddhists honor him for his wisdom as a spiritual leader.

So, while I wouldn’t worry over much (or really, at ALL) about whether or not there are public Wiccans or Pagans in pop culture, there’s certainly no shortage of people whose work and efforts are worthy of honor and respect. If you feel that offering your friends and family a list of role models (even if they’re people typically only known to the Pagan community) helps, then go for it. Meanwhile, continue learning and growing yourself, and who knows – maybe someday you’ll be a role model for others!

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Are You Ready to Be a Pagan Teacher?

Image by Latino Life via Canva

At some point in your spiritual journey, you may feel that you’ve learned enough to share your knowledge with others. Perhaps other people have approached you and asked you to teach a class or lead a group. It’s indeed possible that your life experience and studying has put you in a position where you can take on this responsibility. Perhaps you’re even thinking about forming your own coven. However, before you commit to such a big undertaking, you may need to take a few things into consideration.

First, think about whether the knowledge you have is enough to teach a class or lead a group. Do you understand basic ritual format and spell construction? More importantly, are you capable of teaching this information to others in a way that is understandable, without dumbing it down? Can you demonstrate the things you teach, or do you have to rely on just reading from a book?

Next, think about whether or not you’re someone people will respect as a teacher. Are you living a magical life each day? Are you just talking the talk, or are you walking the walk? Often, in the Pagan community, we see people who claim to have vast acres of esoteric knowledge, and yet they’re unhappy, living in squalor, and unable to cast their way out of a paper sack — would you take lessons from someone like this? I sure wouldn’t.

What can you possibly learn from someone who can’t get their own act together? Make sure that you are able to be someone students look up to.

Do you have enough patience to teach? For some people, teaching may mean having to explain the same concept seven different ways to the same person. Can you do this, without screaming, “You’re an idiot!” at someone who asks a question over and over again? Are you capable of being selective in taking on students, or will you teach anyone who asks you to do so?

One of the most important things to keep in mind is the question of why you want to teach. Really, what will you get out of it? Are you interested in teaching because you’d like to have people following you around and hanging on your every word? Do you want to lead classes because you have a need for validation and back-patting from others? Or is it simply the case that there is a need in your community, and you feel called to get involved? Do you believe that you can do some good by helping others on their spiritual journey?

Finally, remember that there is an investment of your time and energy in teaching and leading.

Selene K., a Wiccan High Priestess from Maine says, “For each hour-long ritual I lead, I spend about five hours in preparation. If I’m teaching a class, I might put in anywhere from ten to fifteen hours of prep time — and that’s for a two-hour lesson!”

Ultimately, not everyone is capable of teaching — and that’s okay. The important thing to remember is that just because you’ve begun teaching doesn’t mean it’s time to stop learning. Share what you know, help others on their path, and most importantly, never stop growing yourself. It’s this last bit that will help you become a teacher truly worthy of the name.

Saturday Spellwork: Solar Eclipse Magic

The sun has long been a source of myth and legend throughout various cultures, and one of the most significant solar events that can take place is that of an eclipse. Although an eclipse itself is just another scientific event, there are a number of superstitions that surround the phenomenon. You can incorporate solar eclipse magic into your rituals and practice. Let’s take a look at some of the stories surrounding the eclipse of the sun.

Image by Pete Linforth from CC0 via Canva

Remember, just like with a full moon, the eclipse doesn’t have to be visible for you to take advantage of it magically.

Safety tip: For the love of Pete, don’t look directly at the sun during an eclipse. Wear protective glasses – and this means more than just your regular sunglasses – to view this event, or you could risk retinal burns and permanent eye damage. For more on this, read up on Safely Viewing Solar Eclipses.

A number of ancient cultures have legends and folklore that explain a solar eclipse with an animal or other being trying to physically consume the sun. In Korean mythology, an eclipse happens because giant dogs are trying to steal the sun and run off with it.

The Vietnamese associated eclipses with a similar story involving an enormous frog, and in China, it’s a dragon that wants to eat the sun. Some societies used science to explain eclipses – the Mayans, the Mesopotamians and the Egyptians used astronomy and dates of past eclipses to predict future ones. According to Plutarch, the Egyptians understood that a solar eclipse was the result of the moon passing between the sun and the earth.

However, knowledge of science and astronomy didn’t preclude the existence of myths and legends that attributed eclipses to the behavior of the gods.

In some areas, an eclipse was considered an omen of destruction or devastation. Although many people have associated solar eclipses with earthquake activity, it’s important to remember that earthquakes happen all the time, every day, around the globe, and scientists have not been able to prove that seismic events are the direct result of a solar eclipse – correlation is not causation.

For Muslims, an eclipse is a time to recognize the power and majesty of Allah. About.com’s former Islam Expert, Huda, explains why Muslims are humbled before Allah during an eclipse event.

In many belief systems, a solar eclipse is considered a sort of magical bonus round – this means that any workings you do during this period will have a lot of extra energy behind them. If there’s a working you’d like to do that seems like a bit of a challenge, try it during an eclipse, and see if it gives you the boost you need. There are a few magical traditions that believe only a very experienced magical practitioner should attempt a working during an eclipse, because of the levels of power and energy. In general, if you’re not part of one of these traditions, it’s safe to use your own best judgment.

Some people associate the eclipse not only with destruction but with rebirth – there are some legends that seeds planted during a solar eclipse will blossom sooner and healthier than their counterparts planted at other times.

If you’re someone who follows astrology, there’s a theory that a solar eclipse that takes place during a new moon phase is a good time to perform workings related to love magic.

Swipe Left! Why New Members Can Jinx Your Group’s Dynamics

So you’re part of a Pagan group that already has a really good feel to it – maybe it’s a small group of only a few people, or perhaps there are dozens of you. Anyway, at some point, you open up your membership to new folks, and as you’re vetting potential candidates… well. That’s when it hits. You’ve got concerns about one of the individuals who wants to join up and be part of the group, because you know them and they’re chronically negative and needy. You find yourself asking if you should talk to the other members about your concerns, but don’t want to cause unnecessary drama. What do you do?
If your group is working well, how will a new person affect that? Image by Latino Life via Canva

Hoo boy, lemme tell you, I can relate. About ten years ago I met a woman via work, and we really seemed to have a lot in common on the surface. We hung out a few times, and my initial thought was, Wow, I like this person, and it’s always nice to have a new friend. It didn’t take long, though, before I realized she was a total disaster – and worse, she was making noises about joining my coven.

She constantly angry and negative, but on top of that, she wanted me to be angry and negative along with her. Because of jobs and family obligations, I didn’t have the sort of availability she wanted in a friend, even though she wanted to get together and just do stuff all the time. Finally, after a day where she called me six times in half an hour, and I didn’t answer because I was in my gynecologist’s office, she sent me a lengthy diatribe via email telling me what an awful person I was, and she never wanted to talk to me again.

I admit it: I was relieved.

I thought I’d heard the last of her, until a few months later, when someone in my local Pagan community asked me if I knew her… because she had expressed interest in joining their Pagan meetup group.

I wanted to scream RUN AWAY FAST, and I’ll tell you, it was really hard not to. However, I decided to try to be a decent person, and went with my better judgment. I felt it was important to be honest with the person asking about her, but I didn’t want to come off like a total asshole, either, so I crafted a simply and diplomatic answer:

“This person has some very good qualities, such as X, Y, and Z. However, in the course of my interactions with her, I discovered that she is very specific about her needs in terms of her relationships with others. She clearly had expectations in our friendship that were different than mine, and I was unable to dedicate the excessive amounts of time and energy that she so obviously needed. I wish you the best in making your decision about this individual.”

That was it. There was nothing more l I could do. I don’t know if she ever joined that particular meetup or not, and frankly, I don’t care. I had been as honest as I could, without being nasty about it.

The big question here is, do you trust other people to keep your input confidential and not mention your name if a they discuss your concerns with a potential trainwreck who’s applying to your group? Will your priestess or priest decide that your concerns aren’t important, and invite this person in anyway? Is this something that will be decided by a consensus among the other members? Does your group automatically take anyone who is interested in joining, or is there a selection process?

Something equally important to consider is that it’s entirely possible that the person has changed since you last interacted. They could have been able to put aside whatever it was in their life that made them negative or emotionally needy. Perhaps they”ll surprise you, and turn out to be a positive addition to the group you’re currently part of.

It’s a tricky situation, either way, and it’s important to try your best to be truthful about this person, while not sounding too negative. While you can’t control what other members of your group do, you do have control over what you say and do. Be honest but not mean, and hopefully things will work out for the best.

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Teen Pagans and Bullying

It’s no secret that teenagers are often the victims of bullying, and those who are outside the mainstream — those who look different, act different, etc. — can often be targets for malicious behavior. Unfortunately, that can put teen Pagans in a direct path for many bullies, and because school administrators are not typically educated about modern Pagan religions, they may not have a clue about what to do.

If you’re a teen Pagan, or the parent of one, and you’ve been the victim of bullying behavior, here are some tips on what to do.

Know Your Rights

It’s important that you educate yourself about what rights you have as a Pagan or Wiccan student at school. The bottom line is that you have the same rights as anyone else – regardless of religion — and that means that no one is allowed to harass you and disrupt your learning experience. If someone is verbally or physically bullying you because of your religious beliefs, you’re entitled to protection.

Get Your Parents Involved

Despite the fact that you might not always see eye to eye with them, your parents are there to help you and protect you when you need it.

If you’re being bullied, your parents are going to be your strongest advocates and allies. Make sure they are aware of what is happening — and they won’t know unless you tell them. You’ll have far better luck talking to school administrators and teachers if you’ve got parents standing beside you.

Keep in mind that it’s important to understand what constitutes bullying. Someone telling you “I hate you” isn’t bullying.

However, a constant stream of targeted harassment does. Studies show that while boys often enact bullying behavior physically, girls tend to engage in social bullying. Obviously there are exceptions to both of these, but it’s important to recognize the signs of either. As more and more kids have access to social media, bullying can often take on a life of its own, via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Talk to Teachers

If bullying is taking place at school, in a particular classroom, you need to let teachers know what’s happening (here’s where parents come in handy). In overcrowded classrooms, it’s entirely possible that your teacher has no idea what’s being said or done.

Bring the situation to his or her attention, and specifically ask for help. It’s okay to say, “I know you’re busy, but Todd has been really verbally abusive towards me. I need you to keep an eye on things and help me out when it starts up.” If your teacher isn’t receptive, or turns a blind eye, move up the chain of command to administrators.

Talking to Administrators

Most school districts these days claim to have a zero-tolerance policy against bullying. Get a copy of your school’s student code of conduct, and use it when you talk to administrators. It’s okay to say, “You know, Todd verbally and physically harasses me every day, and according to Section 5 of our school handbook, that’s grounds for suspension. What can you do to protect me from being a victim?”

Another thing you may wish to keep in mind is that using “I” and “me” statements may get you further. Instead of saying, “Todd picks on me,” try saying, “I’m afraid for my own safety” or “I feel victimized.” This sends the message that you are a real person with very real concerns, because you, and not the bully, are the subject of the sentence.

If you’re being targeted because of your religious beliefs, it’s important to remind administrators that Pagans are entitled to equal protection under the law, just like students of every other religion. If your principal or other administrator doesn’t really understand what Pagans and Wiccans believe, now’s your chance to help educate them (again, parents can come in handy here, to show that they support you and your religious choices).

If You’re a Parent

If your child is being bullied, it’s important for you to be your kid’s advocate. Don’t assume your child is being victimized because of something he or she may have done (“Well, what did you do to provoke Todd?”). Encourage your child to tell you about what has happened, and stand by her when she meets with principals or teachers.

Education.com recommends that you teach your child safety strategies even if you don’t agree with his or her belief system. If you’re not sure what he or she believes, ask about it. Your child will probably be happy to explain to you what his or her spirituality entails, and educating yourself about these beliefs will help you when you go in to talk to teachers and administrators.

If you don’t feel like you’re making progress by working with school officials — or if a teacher or other staff member is part of the problem — work your way up the ladder. Go up as far as the superintendent of your school district if necessary. You may even wish to contact an attorney if you feel child is in danger and that the school is not doing what they should to protect him.

A Few Other Things to Keep In Mind

Document everything. If you receive threatening or harassing text messages, emails, and so forth, keep copies and give them to your parents and teachers. If you receive abusive phone calls, be sure to document the date and time, as well as what was said. This can be as simple as keeping a journal and writing, “Monday, June 4, 4:52 pm: Todd called and said [whatever].” If threats or other bullying behavior are coming in via social media, screen cap everything. Don’t know how to take screen shots? Ask your kid – they know.

Remember that non-physical bullying is still bullying. While boys are more likely to use physical aggression, girls tend to bully socially. Ostracizing (“we’re having a party, and you’re totally not invited”), the spreading of rumors (“we heard all about you and the football team”), and name-calling (“slut/whore/skank/bitch”) are the weapons of choice for the Mean Girls group. Just because they’re not hitting or punching doesn’t make them any less bullies.

Tamra, a Wiccan high school senior, says, “I got picked on a lot when I was a freshman, because I was fat and had acne and I was really shy. Finally, I figured out that for me, the best defense was to let people know I wasn’t going to take their abuse. I said, “I’m a person with feelings, and you are NOT going to make me feel bad about myself.” Eventually they lost interest and left me alone.”

Many people recommend ignoring people who bully you, but in a real-world scenario that’s not always possible. Some people will continue to harass you, no matter what you do — which is why you need to get adults involved.

Significant amounts of bullying take place because bystanders refuse to get involved. If you’re aware of someone else being bullied, step in. If you’re afraid for your own safety, help by making school officials aware of the situation.