The symbolism of these holidays is steeped in the Mystery Teachings, and they are often viewed as the life cycle of the God, who is born at Yule, begins to court the Goddess at Imbolc, mates with the Goddess at Beltane, begins to fade at Litha, dies at Samhain, and is reborn the following Yule. The lunar holidays, called Esbats, mark the phases of the moon and are tied to the life cycle of the Goddess. She is the Maiden as the moon waxes, the Mother at the Full Moon and ages to the Crone at the New Moon.
Spell casting and divination are among the most well-known and misunderstood practices of Wiccans. For many Wiccans, magic is a form of ritualized prayer, aimed at creating changes in the world by focusing the practitioner's will. It is governed by two basic religious tenets, the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Return. The Rede can be summed up in the statement "Harm none," and the Law of Return states that any energy sent out, returns to the sender. Together, they are an ethos of self-responsibility for one's actions.
CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS IN NEO-PAGAN RELIGIONS
Until recently, Neo-pagan religions have been composed mostly of adult converts. Now, however, the number of Neo-pagan children and adolescents has skyrocketed. This increase comes from two sources. First, many Neo-pagans have begun to raise children in their religious traditions. In addition, the number of teenagers converting to Neo-paganism has been steadily on the rise in recent years. These two groups, children raised in the tradition and teenagers who have converted, must be treated as distinct cohorts when discussing the spiritual and religious development of Neo-pagan children.
Children raised in Neo-pagan traditions are often exposed to a wide variety of religious and spiritual ideas. In addition to the holidays and values of mainstream Christian culture, children are introduced to Native American, Eastern, and Caribbean religions and ideas. As a result, the god images that Neo-pagan children are raised with are very diverse. Some children are familiar with gods and goddesses from a variety of cultures and mythologies, while others know only the more general God and Goddess.
Discretion has come to be a very important skill for young Neo-pagan children to learn. Extended family, school personnel, and friends are often misinformed or even hostile to the beliefs practiced by the family. As a result, children must learn to keep their religious beliefs private. This is often very hard for children who are engaged and excited about their religion and want to share it with their friends and family.
The path is very different for adolescents who convert to Neo-pagan religions. Most of them were raised in Judeo-Christian households, and the beliefs and practices of Neo-pagan religions are very different from those of their families. Unlike children raised in the tradition, these teens often face opposition from their parents. Owing to fear of legal reprisals, few Neo-pagan groups will teach under-age seekers without express parental consent. Therefore, most teens must learn about the religion from books and the Internet, with no direct adult supervision or guidance. This results in a very different understanding from those children raised and guided on the path by their parents. Though there are many difficulties for both Neo-pagan-born and converted children and teens, the opportunities for personal exploration and spiritual growth are vast. Children and teens are encouraged to directly interact with nature and engage in spiritual practices, such as meditation, to enhance their spiritual development. The deity images they are introduced to are usually from a variety of civilizations, encouraging multicultural understanding and appreciation. Most importantly, Neo-pagan children and teens are encouraged to explore spiritual ideals for themselves, creating a personal spiritual identity that can serve as a foundation for understanding psychological, emotional, and physical development.
Neo-pagan religions offer children and adolescents a diverse religious and spiritual environment. They are encouraged to find their own path, while being schooled in respect for the earth and appreciation for life's mysteries. While being members of a misunderstood minority religion is often difficult, the avenues for religious and spiritual expression are vast.