As mentioned earlier this week, I spent an hour and a half on Friday talking to the Diversity Club at the school I work at. (Both lunches, so it was different sets of kids, except for a couple who have a free period over lunch.) We had 23 students by the diversity director’s count (plus him, plus the other diversity director, who is not normally based on that campus.) Two boys, the rest girls, and mostly upperclassmen rather than freshmen.
I’d prepared a handout (densely, on both sides of the page). I also brought down a bunch of books the library owns on related topics (including Gus di Zerega’s Pagans and Christians – incidentally, I decided to order *none* of those books – they were all on lists from my boss, mostly before he knew my path. I’m very amused – obviously, we tend toward the comparative religion and academic side.)
I did the handout because I was pretty sure we were going to end up going off on endless side questions (plus having kids coming in and out regularly) and I wasn’t going to cover everything. I was right on with this, so it turned out to be a very good choice. (Also, it’s a good way to make sure they have the spelling of words to Google if they wish.)
I did end up outing myself – as I’d promised myself I would if someone asked directly. That said, I was both delighted and amused by how careful everyone was to avoid offense. (I work with some really amazing kids.) They’d start asking something, realise it was going somewhere that I might find offensive, and then ask carefully.
As I’d expected, we had quite a few questions about movies – how was what we do similar to The Craft or Practical Magic. (Nope, and here’s why. I did not mention the number of witches I know who approve highly of the marguerita scene, because, hey, minors.) Did I think Harry Potter is offensive, and is what they’re doing in there like what modern witches do? (Nope, and nope.)
But far more than that, I had questions about celebrations, what was it like to be in ritual. There were questions about what it’s like to work in a group (and a very interesting one about whether we’d actually turned someone away.) I talked about why traditional Wicca is a priesthood path, designed for adults only, and about how all initiates are considered their own priests or priestesses and able to handle their own personal ritual needs. We went through Sabbats, and a little of how they fit together. (I got a laugh on my comment that around here – Minnesota – Imbolc is sometimes referred to as “Maybe it will stop being winter eventually”)
I got asked about whether there’s black magic, and about how Satanism fits into the whole thing. (Another one of the topics I wasn’t going to bring up unless someone asked) – and explained that there’s people who have destructive beliefs, but that Satanists are actually a different way of seeing their relation to the universe, and focus on developing the self and the will. But by and large, everyone seemed very aware that witches were not scary things, and that it’s a functional religious path. They were also fascinated by the idea that we’ve got an unusually large and active Pagan community for our size.
All in all, a very good experience – it remains to be seen if there’s any other fall-out from it, but I have volunteered to go and talk to our comparative religions class right before Thanksgiving. (That one’s going to be a more structured conversation, probably about 45 minutes.) And afterward, I went back to doing other good things at work, and then came home, went food shopping, and did all of my cooking for our Year’s End ritual tonight. (For which I’m about to go pack and head out to L’s home.)
It’s going to be an interesting evening – Samhain in the group we trained in is the one ritual that rarely changes, and for practical reasons, we’ve had to change some things this year. (There are a couple of things that make *no* sense with two people.) But we’ve kept the core pieces, and we’re looking forward to it. I’m planning to spend the night there afterwards, and if we’re up to it, we’ll be spending tomorrow having a lovely time together. (And if not, I’ll come home after breakfast and fall over and nap and lounge about and recover. It’s all good.)