Tag Archives: teenagers

Polish Catholics launch new exorcism magazine

Poland’s Father Aleksander Posacki with the debut issue of a new magazine devoted to exorcisms, called Egzorcysta.

This week, a brand-new magazine launched in Poland: Egzorcysta, a magazine all about exorcisms and spiritual warfare from a Catholic perspective. Poland is one of the most Catholic countries in Europe, with nearly 90% of the population belonging to the Catholic Church, and 50-60% observing the faith regularly.

But Poland has been a Catholic stronghold for a long time. Why the sudden increase in interest in exorcisms? Here’s what Father Aleksander Posacki, one of the magazine’s contributors, said:

“The rise in the number of exorcists from four to more than 120 over the course of 15 years in Poland is telling.

“It’s indirectly due to changes in the system: capitalism [which Poland adopted in 1989] creates more opportunities to do business in the area of occultism. Fortune telling has even been categorised as employment for taxation.”

Egzorcysta‘s chief editor, Artur Winiarczyk, added: “We are living in a time that is a veritable tornado of occultism, esotericism, divination, magic, energy healing and many other phenomena that suck people in.”

Unfortunately, what seems to be “sucking people in” is the exorcists themselves, who first convince people that their troubles (which could range from a bad string of luck to a serious mental illness) are the result of demonic possession — and then convince them that an exorcism will solve their problems.

This new magazine gives pro-exorcism Catholics an even wider platform to sell these claims — and to define the conversation around the practices of minority faiths and occult workers, whom Winiarczyk is suggesting could be causing people to become demonically possessed. For example, one article in the new issue calls New-Age practices “the spiritual vacuum cleaner.”

Of course, any religious organization has the right to publish what it likes, and promote ideas that are in line with its beliefs. That’s how they maintain a following. But when that comes at the expense of other, legitimate faiths and practices, that threatens Polish people’s right to freedom of religion.

It places a special burden on young people who might be questioning and exploring their faith — particularly those with more conservative, Catholic parents. If a teen is exploring paganism, the occult, or new-age ideas, and the parent believes they’re “possessed,” what then? And how does an exorcism resolve anything?

What’s behind our “teen witch” obsession?

Why do we fear the occult — and the teenage girls who dabble in it? Sady Doyle has some clues. Photo by Flickr user alicetiara.

In my research for Backward Messages, I came across more than one story about groups of teen girls who became temporarily obsessed with the film The Craft. This was before Harry Potter. Indeed, it was before Charmed, the show which brought young, attractive, savvy witches to television screens everywhere. Having a teenager suddenly enthralled by witches definitely worried some parents — but most admitted it was a phase, and it passed.

Still, truths are hidden in our scary movies (even if The Craft doesn’t really fall into that category). Sady Doyle, who writes at the blog Rookie, tackles this topic personally and gracefully in one of her latest posts, “The Season of the Witch.” In it, she writes about her own teen obsession with witchy films — as well as the cultural anxieties that are often behind horror films and our fears of them.

Before there was The Craft, there were the Salem witch trials, which started because the young girls of the town were engaging in unearthly, demonic behavior—such as “screaming” and “throwing things.” You know. The sort of thing you’d never do as a 12-year-old, especially not if you were stuck in a freezing-cold Puritan settlement where the funnest activity was churning butter.

Doyle smartly addresses the stories of cultural figures like Annelise Michel, a teenage girl who died in Germany in 1976 of neglect and starvation because her staunchly Catholic parents insisted that her adolescent behavior (and epilepsy) was the work of demons possessing her. In a more fictional account, there’s The Exorcist, which Doyle views thusly:

Once you realize that The Exorcist is, essentially, the story of a 12-year-old who starts cussing, masturbating, and disobeying her mother — in other words, going through puberty — it becomes apparent to the feminist-minded viewer why two adult men are called in to slap her around for much of the third act. People are convinced that something spooky is going on with girls; that, once they reach a certain age, they lose their adorable innocence and start tapping into something powerful and forbidden.

In our society, women’s sexuality and the occult remain two subjects many people understand less well than they should — and we fear what we don’t understand. It makes sense that these two should be combined, or serve as metaphors for one another, in our films and fiction.

The question remains: why do we fear teenage girls so much? I’ve seen this asked many times, but haven’t found a comprehensive answer. Certainly, it is a topic we revisit in horror films. What’s interesting is, some films are obviously there to allow people to explore these fears in a safe, fictional way. And other films — such as The Craft — help teenage girls come to grips with fears about how their bodies and minds are changing as they enter adolescence and, eventually, adulthood. Although it would be great to leave these fears behind, we haven’t — and this is how we’re dealing with it, for now.

Do these films contribute to actual girl-hatred and girl-fear in our culture? Or do they simply reflect and (hopefully) exorcise the fear that already exists? I suspect it’s more the latter. What do you think?

Does this RPG make my kid look fat?

Historically, plenty of parents have forbidden their kids to play role-playing games. The usual reasons included fears that the games might attract kids to the occult — or make them lose touch with reality. One dad, a former RPGer himself, has an entirely different reason:

I hesitate to introduce my kids to role-playing games and the culture that surrounds them. This isn’t because I don’t want my kids to benefit from the creativity and imagination that flourish in role-playing games, but because I have observed that the health and fitness level of RPGers is disproportionately lower than any other peer group with which I have associated (note: I won’t deal at all with Live Action Role Playing because I know almost nothing about that community). This observation has led me to question how much I should be encouraging my kids to engage with a group/culture that places so little emphasis on activity and physical fitness.

He goes on to criticize the “RPG community” as a whole — and the parents introducing their kids to gaming in particular — for not encouraging healthy eating and exercise habits.

Parents who have experience with the kinds of toys, games, and influences their kids might be into have a special advantage in these situations: they know the culture. That can be both good and bad. In this case, the dad knows some of the benefits of gaming (“RPGs can enhance math, creativity, and problem-solving skills. … the integration of play with learning is recognized as one effective tool for teaching.”): Good. He also feels there are some downsides, but doesn’t see any way around them: Bad.

Here’s my take: I think you can go ahead and let your kids discover the world of role-playing games, and you can also encourage them to eat well, exercise every day, and so on. You can do this even if nobody else is doing it. (In fact, if you’re doing it, it might even catch on). He’s worried that the other gamers will lead by example. But he can lead by example, too. There’s certainly no harm in trying.

I know this particular connection (“RPG players tend to be unhealthy”) seems really far afield of the usual concerns parents have about kid hobbies, but it actually seems relevant for two reasons. One, parents are questioning all kinds of sedentary habits — TV, video games, computers — when it comes to their kids’ fitness levels. Two. blaming the games for kids’ poor health doesn’t make any more sense than blaming them for making kids lose touch with reality. They’re separate problems that occasionally travel together, and the perceived downside (poor fitness, psychosis) can be addressed, by parents, separately from the hobby in question. I know that takes more work than forbidding the hobby, but it’s worth it.

Parents: How do you handle it when your kid wants to play, or do, something that worries you? What’s your approach?

Listening to teens, for a change

Photo by Flickr user Mavis.

“Because teenage years are one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, having the ability to escape with the aid of music is extremely important to myself as well as many other teens,” a young writer named Alexa wrote recently at the Radical Parenting blog. “There are various genres to fit any taste and mood you are feeling and songs that can relate to nearly anything you are going through. Lyrics can often resonate with a person’s situation and even help them find their identity.”

For decades, a segment of the adult, “responsible” world has railed against heavy-metal music. This genre is one of the most suspect: some people think it’s capable of making teens commit violence against themselves or others, or of leading teens into evil. By contrast, author Jeffrey Jensen Arnett found that metal soothes some teens’ souls, particularly those with a high need for intensity. Unlike many adults, Arnett actually asked teens why they like the music so much, and then he listened to their answers.

And yet, teen metal fans still feel like their favorite music is misunderstood, so the war isn’t over yet. Alisa Boswell, a young New Mexico woman, recently wrote a piece for the Portales News-Tribune asking people to give heavy metal a chance:

There is a very distinct passion and creativity to heavy metal music that I am admiring more each time I hear it. And let’s face it, whether you like it or not, you can’t beat the instrumentals in heavy metal. You don’t get more variety than that.

If you have an appreciation for music but don’t care too much for metal, I highly recommend giving it a chance. If you appreciate music, you will appreciate heavy metal instrumentals and lyrics (if maybe not the screaming).

Another teen girl recently wrote to teen advice columnist Dr. Robert Wallace to convince him metal isn’t so bad:

Their lyrics are very deep; it’s a definite form of poetry. Such issues as conformity and human biases are explored, and the songs are sung with passion, not merely blind anger. In my friend’s valedictory speech, he actually quoted from a heavy metal song. (His speech was about thinking for yourself rather than letting others do it for you.) It was an excellent speech and the quote fit perfectly; no one would have been able to guess that his “modern poet” was, in fact, Metallica.

It’s easy to believe that teens are young and so malleable that the wrong message can lead them astray. The teens I’ve talked to are anything but; they know what they need psychologically, and they know what they can and can’t handle. And exploring those boundaries is important work. Sure, a parental guiding hand now and then doesn’t hurt. But kids know what they’re doing.

A question for readers today: Did your parents question the content of your favorite teen music? What did they say? How did you respond to that? Do you think, in hindsight, that you were right — or were they right?