Pagan Practices and Youth Culture To Be the Topic of FIU Program, Sept. 30

Neo-paganism, a spiritual movement popularized in the late 1960s, is growing rapidly among teens and young adults. While employing centuries-old rites and magic in its practice, it also is very much on trend, stressing ecology and the environment, gender equality and personal freedom.

Yet, paganism is not without its critics. As long ago as the infamous Salem witch trials in the 17th century, young adults who practiced pagan rituals were considered evil and branded as devil worshippers. Fast-forward to today and the popularity of neo-pagan gatherings, including Coachella and the Burning Man festival, provoke similar warnings of Satanism and witchcraft.

Still, “such stereotypes are much less likely to be taken seriously” by the media, says Sarah M. Pike, and in recent years, there has been a “significant shift” in how this spiritual movement has been portrayed.

Pike should know. A religion professor whose specialties include modern paganism and youth culture, she will discuss this spiritual phenomenon at a program Sept. 30 at Florida International University. The talk will be held at 7 p.m. in the Greene Library, Room 220 on FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique campus, 11200 SW 8th St. in west Miami-Dade County. The program is open to the public and free of charge.

Pike, who has authored books and articles about the subject, has spent years attending neo-pagan festivals, interviewing participants and sometimes joining in their ceremonies to better understand this compelling – and some would say, frequently misunderstood – religious movement popular with youth.

Her talk, titled “Dark Teens and Dangerous Nature,” will look at how young followers adopt notions of nature, gender and spirituality as emblems of identity and self-empowerment in their spiritual practice.

A professor of comparative religion and director of the Humanities Center at California State University, Chico, Pike has authored the books Earthly Bodies, Magical Selves: Contemporary Pagans and the Search for Community and New Age and Neopagan Religions in America. She currently is writing a book about spirituality, youth culture, and radical environmental and animal rights activism.

The program is sponsored by FIU’s Program in the Study of Spirituality, Department of Religious Studies, Center for the Humanities in an Urban Environment, and Center for Women’s and Gender Studies.

For more information, call 305-348-2186.