Children have an insatiable natural curiosity about the world and its mysteries. Many want to know particularly about those things which adults forbid them. In the cases of children from families who have adopted restrictive religions this natural curiosity is amplified by a wish to rebel and there are those who may delight in using the conflict as a lever to get back at their parents for wrongdoings, imagined or otherwise. All genuine pagans want to counter the constant stream of evil disinformation by the Establishment and are glad to answer any sensible questions from anyone about Pagan beliefs but should we feel compelled to respond to everyone; even children? The constant diet of fantasy cartoons and teenage witch programmes broadcast by the media will naturally create an interest and familiarity with magical things in the minds of children. At the moment under-age excursions into the genuine world of the occult are limited by our traditional laws but as more Neo-Pagans bring up their own kids w ithin a pagan framework the interface with other children will grow. Contact with any children, Pagan or no, without their parents' permission is fraught with problems which may far outweigh any PR benefits to Paganism from overcoming the historical lies set against us. It may always look to critics as though we are somehow attempting to convert them. So should we respond to inquiries and interest from children? S.A.F.F. experience says emphatically that we should NOT but there is a current trend in Paganism, most spearheaded by short-sighted people in the Pagan Federation, to pander to children. The SAFF see this as unnecessary and dangerous for the rest of the pagan community. The classic example of this is the Minor Arcana teenage pagan contact organisation which was begun with the misplaced blessing of organisers in the Pagan Federation. It is the latest ill-conceived move by dim-wits who bring their old-aeon Christo-pagan baggage into paganism. Who ignore the tennets of the Pagan religion against proselytisation and seek to justify their own beliefs by 'selling' paganism to everyone and his brother.
Editors of pagan magazines can give entirely the wrong impression of the issues because there is no distinction drawn between a person's individual belief (which can develop and be held at any age) and the activities of the communal religion which is built around that belief. Worship in a religion is controlled by consenting adults and membership is only open to children of consenting parents. Most importantly membership of a coven is not available to everyone simply because they want it. They ideally have to have certain qualities which are not easily achieved and they are required to bring something advantageous to the group so it becomes greater than the sum of its parts. The 'queen for a day' mentality is not acceptable within paganism; anyone wanting to join our religion should be absolutely sure of their motivations and the traditional '13 moons wait' rule is essential to protecting individuals from making a committment which may be incorrect for their nature or cha ning circumstances. Similarly It is a breach of the religious rights of parents for anyone to proselytise to their children without their permission. Such contact and the activities resulting therefrom may also be seen as coming within the legal definition of 'significant harm' and invoke the powers of social services and police involvement because there are plenty of teenagers who defy their parents and do self-destructive or provocational things. Although the intention of Minor Arcana magazine appears to be to act as a forum for the children of parents who are already pagans this is not stated categorically and there is no subscription form which requires countersigning by parents. To the authorities there is absolutely no indication at all of any form of responsible care exercised by the organisers on behalf of the children who may get involved. Within the craft it is clear that the people who run Minor Arcana mean well, but on this issue a good intent is insuf ficient and to cope with any interest from children which does ensue there has to be clear cut rules which the PF and MA are failing to put in place.
I don't know of any pagan groups which are willing to train under age children in Paganism/Witchcraft and if there are any then the majority of pagans will want them shunned.
As occultists and pagans we rely upon trust. It is part of our natures and it is part of our beliefs (perfect love, perfect trust). We KNOW that the magazine's informal approach is done in good faith and we tend to exercise a more trusting approach to the spiritual and mental development of young individuals in our own care. That libertarian approach cuts absolutely NO ice with the authorities because it does not take account of the exceptional situations which are not provided for and which may cause tragedy. It is up to the adults in Paganism to put their own house in order and make sure that young people who are given the opportunity to network between themselves are responsible enough to take sufficient care and, if not, to enlighten them and put safeguards in place. This was the PF's job and they failed yet again to do what is expected of them. This subject is FAR too sensitive for the casualness with which the PF have treated it. This attempt could back-fire and s eriously damage the growth of genuine paganism.
Even if the SAFF had not charted these VERY REAL dangers to the well-being of Pagans, There are MANY similar examples of persecutions which have occurred and which are still occurring to Pagans and occultists today. It is mute testimony to their ignorance of their own history that many young pagans are more aware of breaches of human rights in Chile and China.
I have the right to speak out on these issues for my own victimisation was also linked to the irresponsible attitude to children of many who profess occultism. When I opened the Sorcerer's Apprentice in 1974 I realised that I would be the target of criticism from bigots. Part of my preparation was to refuse to sell goods to people under the age of 18 right from the start. My early advertisements made this absolutely clear and my order forms have always done so. For 14 consecutive years prior to the media promoting the fundies' lies concerning Satanic Ritual Child Abuse , I had voluntarily chosen not to supply minors unless their parents gave written permission. In the event applications by under-18s were very infrequent but over the years we did collect a file of letters from parents who had happily given their permission, and a handful from irate parents whose offspring had attempted to bypass our rules. We cooperated instantly with the wishes of those irate parents. We vol untarily chose to behave responsibly even if it meant a loss of trade. We did so not because there is anything inherently harmful in occultism/paganism but because we knew that supplying children against their parents wishes would damage the future of Paganism/Occultism and play into the hands of the fundamentalists. The point is this - We CHOSE to stop every minor we detected from buying unless they obtained their parents permission AND we recognised parents' religious and legal rights and cooperated with them sensibly and responsibly. On this evidence no one could ever accuse us of not caring, or of inculcating children. Unfortunately The S.A. was just about the ONLY occult shop in the U.K. which was visionary enough to adopt this policy. Ironically, when the fundies began their anti-occult campaign in 1988 our consistent 14 year record of being socially responsible counted for nothing because the bigots had proof of other occult shops selling indiscriminately to minors and sim ply would not listen to reason in our case. The trial by TV which followed in the Cook Report was a total fraud on many counts, as time has shown, but when the media had stopped their carping we were completely exonerated because the EVIDENCE was clear. This is why the Cook Report were admonished by the Broadcasting Complaints Commission for their wicked programme and why the onslaught against occultism (which intended to usher in new laws to restrict the freedom of Pagans and occultists to worship) failed. Now this is a VERY important point. The historical attacks upon witches and pagans and the blood-libels throughout the centuries which state that we, kill, abuse, melt, cannibalise and otherwise harm children because of what we are is COMPLETELY REPUDIATED by The long term experience of The Sorcerer's Appentice precisely because we can prove that for 25 years we have dealt with under-age interest responsibly and correctly and that during that time we have supplied over sixty thousa nd clients on a regular basis and no child or adult has been harmed because of it. This is actual proof that the fundie claims that children will be harmed by contact with occultists and pagans is absolute rubbish. THAT is the main reason why they wanted to put me out of business. So that they could continue the lies without impediment and remove the obstacles of historical fact which we had created simply by being here. This 'destruction through discreditation' is a device which has perpetually been used by the Establishment throughout history to silence those Masters and Adepts who became well known enough to affect the status quo. One only has to look at the examples of Paracelsus, Mesmer, Blavatsky, Crowley, and many more to see repetitive evidence of the Establishment crushing individuals seekers after truth with lies, disinformation and evil propaganda. Hence adopting a sensible, rational and caring approach to our responsibilites towards parents and their children in the face of this provocation has paid GREAT dividends for the future of Paganism and Occultism. Unfortunately it now appears that the PF want to throw away 25 years work because of their misplaced enthusiasm for pushing Neo-Paganism as a mass religion.
The Pagan Federation has given its blessing to the idea of interfacing with children! What more proof do the fundies need? The lack of foresight of the people who are taking part in Minor Arcana is legion and so very typical of the current leadership of the Pagan Federation. Not only do we have the appearance of the PF grant aiding Minor Arcana but some air-heads in the PF recently presented a motion to reduce the age limit on membership from 18 to 16! Happily a vote of all members proved that the old tenets remain fast. That motion was rejected by those within the PF who are a little more responsible but no doubt the Crypto-Christians in the PF will try again. All these 'co-incidences' will be seen clearly by the fundamentalist Christian lobby as a clear attempt by Pagans to missionise Christian children away from their parents' beliefs. Yes, yes, I know that proselytisation is not the intention, but that is what they will say and if methods are not put in place to prot ect ALL parents' religious rights it is a recipe for controversy and persecution of our beliefs.
I am sure that missionary activity is not the intention, but that is what it looks like because no-one is paying attention to the downside. That is not what the bulk of pagans want; it is not what the goddess wants, and it is HIGHLY dangerous for the future of paganism and occultism. It will lead to demands from the fundamentalists that laws are enacted to make it illegal for under 18s to attend pagan/occult ceremonies. This nearly happened in 1990 when Witch-Hunter Geoffrey Dickens MP presented just such an amendment in the Criminal Justice Bill. The S.A.F.F. fought and won on that occasion. Had Dickens been able to produce a copy of Minor Arcana I seriously doubt whether we would have been able to stop that law from going through, such was the hysteria of the time. Dickens said that he and his friends would try again - are YOU going to give them the ammunition to do it? How long are the true Pagans of this country going to sit quiet whilst inventive fools with more enthusiasm than wit are let loose to misrepresent our beliefs? When I first realised that some people in paganism might appear to be encouraging the proselytising of children I opened this debate and the first response from those I criticised was that I was advocating censorship!
But this is not a matter of censorship and my activism is clearly a matter of public record. The purpose of the Occult is to harmonise the planet, perpetuate and distribute the Ancient Wisdoms and gain the freedom to link ourselves individually with the Creative spiritual force. We do this by continuously exercising our spiritual and human rights as individuals; by atoning with Gaia by publishing right knowledge and by promoting the benefits of Paganism by personal example. If we throw away our freedoms and work against our own best interests by extending unlimited rights of expression to fools whose inarticulateness and lack of wisdom do themselves and us a disfavour we are likewise FOOLS. Avoiding censorship does not mean allowing people an utterly undiscerning free-for-all. That just leads to the boiling pot of confusion which we have at present amongst the plastic pagans, where there is absolutely no yardstick at all and foolishness often passes for wisdom, unobserved. What is that but the most subtle kind of censorship possible? During times of persecution the best place to hide Words of Wisdom has always been within the Sound of Silence. No, my argument is to get Right Knowledge out. Avoiding censorship means ensuring that whatever is published or expressed can be trusted to further our ideals by avoiding giving the enemy a chance to suppress them. By criticising foolishness I am encouraging the exercising of DISCERNING rights to self-expression; not stifling self-expression. Nobody is going to put our house in order for us. We must do it ourselves. Some of the same PF clumsies who tried to promote the idea of Interfaithing with Christians are also involved in supporting this new 'outreach' to Children! You might have guessed it. Now that the media has discovered the attraction which occultism holds for imaginative children it is plundering occultism for all it is worth and presenting yesodic images to kids on a regular basis. The result is that Paga nism has, through no fault of ours, become attractive to precocious children seeking to become Sabrina The Teenage Witch Clones for reasons which have little if anything to do with the religion of paganism. Any attempt to popularise paganism with children is directly provocative and anyone from within our own ranks who advocates it without safeguards must be brought up sharp. The PF should recognise its moral and legal responsibilities and produce a definitive statement on the involvement of children in Paganism so that their membership is educated and made aware. If there is a need for such a development by pagan youngsters FOR pagan youngsters and systems are put in place to ensure that parents are in the know then fine, more power to them, but it is essential to make the pitfalls clear and to be aware of the repercussions. If it is their intention to missionise children into paganism ad hoc then they should be shunned for what they are. Crypto Christians who seek to impose their Xist mi nd-sets upon us in a weak pastiche of the mass religions on the mistaken assumption that more is better. There is one of the Goddess's Runes which is regularly overlooked but which makes this matter VERY clear. Witchcraft is NOT for everyone. We do not want 'everyone' and we do not need 'every one'. The relentless open-house mentality, which has spawned so much of what is poor in paganism today, dilutes the genuine current of Witchcraft. Genuine Occultism is more than a Disneyesque Fantasy tableau for inept people who cannot get a life. We should resist at all times attempts by Xist society to project their astral dross on to us whether that pressure comes from within or without. Ends: Leeds, February, 1999ev.
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