I remember the first time I admitted – out loud, publicly – that I was witchy. I was in my 10th grade English class during a discussion about differing beliefs, and I realized I was the only person in the classroom who didn’t ascribe to the Christian belief system. Thinking it would be very poignant and informational, I pointed out that other belief systems do exist and that mine was of the pagan variety. Poignant indeed. The president of the debate club spun around in his seat and mocked me as the rest of the class side-eyed me. He spent several irritating moments proselytizing Christianity at me before the teacher intervened and shushed us both. I never had a chance to defend myself. I mean, that was hardly an unexpected reaction here in the Deep South in a high school classroom, but public humiliation really cuts deep when you’re a teenager, whether you should have expected it or not.
The second time I admitted that I was interested in the Craft was in the company of someone I felt much safer with. I arrived at this conclusion erroneously, as I’m sure you’ll be unsurprised to find. I confided my interest to my abuelita, and showed her a book about Wicca I’d been hiding in my backpack. In hindsight, I’m not sure what made me think my Catholic Latina grandmother was a safe choice for sharing witchy confidences, but there you have it. She promptly exposed me to my mother, who later raided my bedroom, found the book, and threw it in the garbage. (That book was borrowed, oh the humanity!)
I think back then I was motivated, as most teens are, by a desire to be seen. I wanted to share who I was with other people and have them express an interest in knowing more. Of course I knew rejection was a possibility, but I hoped with the sort of stubborn naivete of a teenage heart that I would find acceptance if I were at least sincere enough. If I could just prove that it wasn’t so bad, if I could just shed a little light on my topic of interest… I felt that I should be allowed to be radically myself. Alas, I was told, without the slightest hesitation, that I was not allowed to be that and would not find acceptance, and there would be no further discussion on the matter, ever. That hurt, and it did create a big rift between me and pretty much everyone around me.
Fast forward a decade and a half. I’ve navigated the waters of becoming openly and unapologetically atheist, taking a keen interest in psychology, and realizing that magick is the earliest and most primal form of common exercises given to folks in therapy (grounding, affirmations, meditation, soothing herbal baths and calming teas…c’mon y’all). Here I am, come full circle and feeling pretty vindicated and 100% stronger. The best part of all is that I now have a teen daughter of my own, and around her neck she wears a tiny protection jar filled with pink Himilayan salt and sealed with wax, all of which I bought for her.
Here’s what I’ve learned in the last decade and a half:
1. No religion in the world is more important than making your child, especially a teen, feel seen, heard, and accepted. Parents of teens will invariably have to say no to a lot of things, but exploration of peaceful spiritual and philosophical beliefs is absolutely not one of those things. As a parent, I’m going to want the details before I make any kind of declaration about what I will or won’t tolerate. I will give my children the chance to make their case, and I will listen to them and consider their viewpoint.
2. Magick is just self-actualization with style. I don’t care what other people say, I will embrace it because I love it. The end.
Oh, and for what it’s worth, my own internal growth has led me back around to a place where I’m happy and comfortable pursuing relationships with my mother and abuelita, and I enjoy interacting with them. I’m able to be myself and not feel threatened by them being themselves, and it works.
And so, in the end, all is well.
Stay witchy, icons! All my love.