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!

Save

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.

Save

Save

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.

NeoWiccan Texts and Reading Material

Are you interested in some of the popular NeoWiccan texts? There are a variety of documents available to explore if you’re interested in following a NeoWiccan path, and you can read nearly all of them online via these links.

Image by Latino Life via Canva
The Gardnerian Book of Shadows

This is the text of the Book of Shadows composed and handed down by Gerald Gardner. In one sense, this is the central sacred text of the Wiccan religion. However, there is no ‘official’ Book of Shadows, and each coven usually has a hand-written copy of a Book of Shadows, sometimes in cypher or code, which reflects its own practices and knowledge.

Aradia, Gospel of the Witches

First presented to the world by folklorist Charles Leland, “Aradia” is alleged to be a collection of information passed down from an old Italian witch cult. Although some of Leland’s accuracy has been questioned by scholars, the fact remains that “Aradia” is beautiful and poetic, and a worthy read, whether you accept Leland’s history or not.

The Golden Bough

The Golden Bough is a study of legend and myth and how they are interpreted into ritual and celebration. Folklorist James Frazer’s interpretation of the cycle of life, death and rebirth has carried on to this day, and in his work he explained that ultimately, this cycle is at the core of myths from every part of the globe. For many modern Pagans, this book of folklore is a worthy thing to own, simply because it details religion and ritual from its early day, and follows the evolution of man’s belief.

The White Goddess

British author Robert Graves was long known as a war poet, folklorist, and expert on mythology. His book, “The White Goddess,” which looks at the concept of deity as sacred feminine is a classic, and one that adorns the shelves of many Pagan and Wiccan home libraries. Although some scholars believe that Graves’ ideas weren’t really his at all, but those of his mistress, Laura Riding Jackson, “The White Goddess” is still worth reading.

Charge of the Goddess

In the early 1950s, Doreen Valiente was working with Gerald Gardner on the Gardnerian Book of Shadows. Valiente took on the task of re-organizing Gardner’s work, and more importantly, putting into a practical and usable form. In addition to finishing things up, she added her poetic gifts to the process, and the end result was a collection of rituals and ceremonies which are both beautiful and workable – and the foundation for much of modern Wicca, some sixty years later. She created a poem known as the Charge of the Goddess, which has been the basis for many Wiccan rites and ceremonies.

The Spirit of the Grain Fields

Image by Unsplash via Canva

In European cultures, a corn doll was often used to represent the spirit of the harvested crops. However, Europe didn’t have a monopoly on this at all. In South American countries, some tribes took the largest portion of the crops — typically maize — and dressed it in clothing as an effigy.

In Peru, people honored different spirits of the crops. The Maize Mother was the zara mama, the spirit of quinoa (please, for the love of dog, pronounce it KEEN-wa!) was known as quinoa mama, and everything from the cocoa tree to the lowly potato had a life essence.

In North America, the native tribes grew corn, or maize, as a staple part of their diet. Some groups have stories of rebirth and regeneration, and a few have folktales that parallel the story of Demeter and Persephone. In the southwestern part of the United States, Native Americans still perform a ceremonial dance that honors the harvesting of the maize every fall.

It’s not uncommon to find spiritual connections to agriculture. The Malay people of Indonesia believe that rice plants — again, a staple crop — possess a soul or life force just as humans do. Harvesting is even done in a way that is seen as “painless” to the rice plants, so that it will not suffer. In some parts of the Malay Peninsula, there is a big ceremony at the beginning of each harvest, in which a complex ritual is performed that identifies the mother of the rice soul in the selected sheaf.

Folklorist Sir James Frazer makes mention in The Golden Bough of the global phenomenon of the honoring of the spirit of the grain. He says that the mere fact that underdeveloped, primitive cultures honor a “corn mother” archetype indicates that this has been going on for thousands of years. In other words, because these cultures are “unspoiled” by modern society, their worship of such an embodiment of the grain is probably very close to the original ritual and ceremony.

The Silly Sacred School Supply Celebration

This is a ritual that I originally posted on my About.com site, but it has vanished into the aether, after About became ThoughtCo. However, school is starting up again in just a few weeks, so I wanted to share this, because it’s ridiculously fun, and it’s a great way to transition your kids into a new year with a new teacher, and celebrate your spirituality in a goofy and irreverent way.

Image by Latino Life via Canva
The Silly Celebration of the Sacred School Supplies

In many Pagan traditions, it’s customary to consecrate your magical tools before beginning your practice. This creates a magical link between you, the tools, and the divine, and even the universe itself. In some traditions, items which have been consecrated have far more power than those which have not.If you’re getting ready to go back to school, or start new classes, consider consecrating your school supplies.

After all, if a magical tool is powerful when consecrated, then why not consider consecrating the tools of education? Much like the ridiculously goofy Chocolate Rabbit ceremony, this is a simple ritual that is a bit silly, but can be adapted for anyone from kindergartners to middle-school students to college kids.

Have fun with it, and make it a celebration of education and learning. Invite everyone in the family to participate — the more the merrier.

You’ll need:
  • All of your school supplies – pencils, pens, notebooks, calculators, crayons, highlighters, and your backpack
  • An apple
  • A glass of milk
  • Your favorite summer baked goods, such as cookies

Place all the school supplies in a pile in the center of your altar or workspace. If your tradition requires you to cast a circle, do so now.

Raise the apple up to the sky, and say:

O mighty apple! Symbol of the teacher behind the desk,
Symbol of those who would judge me when I show up tardy,
I offer you to the educators who will frown upon me if I forget my homework!
O mighty apple! Bright and red and sweet,
Symbol of my hopes and dreams that the teacher will really really like me,
I offer you to the universe, a grand sacrifice to the gods of education!

Take a bite of the apple, and pass it around to everyone else. After everyone has chomped on the apple, set it aside. You’ll need it later. Hold the milk in one hand, and the plate of cookies in the other. Say:

O mighty milk and cookies! Glorious snack, symbol of education and treats,
I use your power to consecrate these tools of learning and wisdom!

Place the milk and cookies on the altar. Pass each of your school supplies over them, describing the item and what it is for, such as:

I consecrate this pencil, so I can write proper sentences and spell correctly,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

I consecrate this calculator, so I can solve math problems and pass my algebra tests,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

I consecrate this assignment book, so I can get all my work done and avoid detention,
In the name of the milk and cookies!

Continue until all of your school supplies are consecrated by the great power of the milk and cookies. It’s even more fun if everyone participating shouts “In the name of the milk and cookies!” together.

Finally, when all of your school supplies have been consecrated by the power of the milk and cookies, place them all in the backpack. Pass what’s left of the apple, the glass of milk and the plate of cookies over them. Say:

School begins once more this year,
Supplies are packed with lots of cheer!
Pencils and pens are tucked away,
An awesome year will come my way!
Hail mighty apple!
Hail mighty milk!
Hail mighty cookies!

Pass the milk around for everyone to share, and eat all the cookies. Congratulate yourself on being prepared for another year of learning and success.

Saturday Spellwork: Stop Casting These Spells Because They’re Crap

I know, I know, at least ten of y’all are going to see that headline up above and comment with DON’T U TELL ME HOW 2 MAGICK, but I really need you to hear me out on this. If you Google “Wiccan spells,” you’re going to get a metric fuckton of garbage from a lot of different websites, and nearly all of them are literal and total crap.

Stop Googling these spells. Image by Yuganov Konstantin via Canva.

They’re crap because they don’t work, and they’re crap because they encourage people to do spellwork for stuff that spellwork can’t do, and thus set you up for automatic failure. And then you’re going to email me or one of the other people out there who write about magic and Paganism and you’re going to ask why it didn’t work, and I’m going to tell you “because it’s crap,” and you’re going to get your panties in a twist and tell me U DON’T NO MAGICK U PROLLY NOT EVEN A REAL WITCH!

So I’m going to save you the hassle of going down that road, and tell you the four crappiest of the crap spells that you’re going to find on the Interwebz, and I’m going to use basic logic and no small degree of metaphysical knowledge to tell you WHY they’re crap. But never fear, I’m not going to just leave you peeing into the wind here – I’ll offer you some better alternatives, k?

If you still want to do them after that, have at it.

Change Your Eye Color:

No, you can’t change your eye color. Image by Bergadder from CC0 via Canva

This one seems to surface a lot – the fact is that while magic is useful to change the way people perceive you, it’s not going to work against the laws of physics and science. You can’t change your eye color, no matter how many episodes of Charmed tell you otherwise. Don’t like the color of your eyes? Not everyone does, but you’re stuck with them. However, what you can do is try some mundane tricks like using cosmetics to alter the way people perceive your eye color, and then doing a bit of magic to change other things about yourself that you may not like. If your self-esteem is low, do a working to boost your confidence. If you feel anxious in social situations, do some meditative exercises to help keep you calm when you’re meeting new people.

Lose Weight:

Magic is not going to make you lose weight, period. It’s just not. And the reason for that is because you can cast spells all day until the cows come home, but if you want to lose weight, you have to take mundane steps to make it happen. Eat less, and mostly green things. Move more, working on cardio to burn fat and build muscle. Want to cast a spell to help you along? Do one to push yourself to feel motivated to get to the gym, or to help you focus on healthy eating.

Win the Lottery:

Magic isn’t going to help you win the lottery. Keep in mind that successful magic is dependent upon two things – the possibility of it working, and the probability of it working. Your odds of winning the lottery, whether you use magic or you don’t, are the same as that of everyone else who’s playing. Also, let’s say half a million Pagans cast spells to win the lottery – what makes you think the Universe is going to favor you over the other 499,999 people working magic? Instead, do small workings for gradual, attainable, realistic prosperity. Do a working to get a better job, get an improved return on your investments, or pay off some of the bills that suck down your checking account every month.

Turn You Into a Unicorn/Dragon/Mermaid/Whatever:

And you can’t turn yourself into a dragon, either. Image by maria-anne from CC0 via Canva.

Remember that whole possibility/probability thing I mentioned above? You’re not going to turn yourself into some sort of mythical creature, because they’re mythical. If you’re really unhappy being a person – and some people are – do a working to make yourself into a person you like being. Spellwork for courage, self confidence, and generally being charming goes a long way towards changing the way you view yourself, and with a little bit of effort, you can be so awesome of a person that you won’t want to be anything but human.

Religion in Public and Private Schools

Every so often I get messages from students who have questions about what sort of religious expression is permitted in school. For instance, who can speak about religion, and in what context? Can your school prohibit you from wearing a shirt with a pentacle on it, or a piece of Pagan jewelry?

The answer is going to depend on two things – first, which country you live in, and secondly, whether you attend a private or public school.

For the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on schools in the United States, simply because I don’t have the knowledge needed to speak with any semblance of authority on other countries and their laws.

Image by Latino Life via Canva
Public School Guidelines

If you’re a student at an American public school, that information is standard across the board, because there are federal guidelines on religious expression in public schools.

Why is this a thing? Well, public schools are funded by public money, which means that the federal government can take a stance on the issue. Your tax dollars pay for schools, so this means that public schools fall under the umbrella of federal legislation and guidelines.

In 1995, then-US Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley sent every school superintendent in America a set of guidelines to follow, and those rules still stand today. In general, they are as follows:

Student Prayer and Religious Discussion: Prayer and discussion of religion by students is permitted, and they are welcome to engage in these activities as long as they do so in a way that’s non-disruptive. They can even attempt to persuade other students about their beliefs, but they can’t harass members of another group in the name of religious free speech. So, you can say, “I really love being Pagan and here’s why I think you might like being Pagan too.” What you CAN’T say is, “Well, Becky, I’m Pagan and your Christian belief is STUPID and you should be Pagan like me because I’m right and you’re wrong.”

Teaching About Religion: Public schools aren’t allowed to teach religious courses, but they are allowed to teach about religion. For example, the Bible and the Koran can be included as part of a literature class, or as part of a comparative religions class.

Student Clothing: When it comes to clothing, local school districts get a some leeway from the government as far as setting dress code. Ideally, no articles of student clothing should be disruptive. You can wear a shirt that says “I <3 the Goddess,” but not one that says “Jesus sucks.”

Administrative Neutrality: Teachers and other school officials are considered representatives of the state, so the establishment clause prohibits them from being involved with student religious activity in a public school. They can’t participate in or encourage any sort of religious activity with the students.

However, if you’re a student at a private or parochial school, these guidelines may not apply to you.

Religion in Private Schools

In private schools, all bets are off, and the reason is a simple one: private schools are privately funded, and don’t receive federal or state dollars. This means they can set their own rules for student and staff conduct.

If you attend a private school that is church-affiliated, you could be required to attend religious classes, prayer sessions, or Bible study. This too is legal. If you are a student at Our Holy Father of the Chia Pet High School, and Sister Mary Margaret tells you it’s time for prayer, there’s nothing against the law there.

A private school may have a specific dress code that all students are expected to adhere to. You could be prohibited from wearing shirts, jewelry, or clothing that have Pagan messages or symbols on them.

Despite the fact that they don’t get federal tax dollars, no private school may discriminate against students on the basis of race, but pretty much any other issue (like religion, or sexual orientation) is something that gets really slippery in the courts. For instance, a Christian school might refuse to admit a gay or lesbian student because it goes against the philosophy of their church. They also might say “We only want Christian students here.” As long as they are not receiving federal tax dollars, this has been allowed by the courts in the past.

The bottom line? If you’re attending a public school in the US, you’ve got some legal standing when it comes to religious matters, but if you’re a student at a private institution, you are probably going to be required to follow their rules.

 

Save