Very, very mad. Someone at school told her she was going to Hell. Megan asked Sarah if she believed in God.
Sarah replied that she believed in a God (which was true).
Megan, a Christian, then asked if Sarah believed in the One-and-only-god-whose-son-died-for-her-sins.
Sarah thought about saying that she did believe in that God, but she realized that saying that would be a lie. Instead Sarah replied that she did not.
That was when Megan said Sarah was going to Hell forever.
Sarah went straight home after school and cried on her Mommy's shoulder. She asked Mommy why Megan would say such mean things to her.
Her Mommy replied that many people are afraid of things they do not understand, or people that are different.
Sarah said that was stupid. She would never think of hating someone just because of that they believe or what they look like.
Mommy was sympathetic, and said that many people were dumb. "I know that it hurt you, but I know that you have a good heart. I hope you will not become hateful because of the hatred of others."
Sarah didn't know how to react. She was upset and angry, but she still wanted to like Megan. Sarah's heart wanted to like everyone, even if they didn't like her.
Sarah went to school the next day, but many people were ignoring her. Joe, her best friend, came to her and told her kids were saying mean things about her.
He said that the worst one that she was a witch. It was because of the pentagram necklace she always wore. They said she was a devil worshiper.
Sarah asked Joe how she could possibly worship the Devil is she didn't believe he existed.
Joe had to go away and think about that one for a while.
Then Tommy, another kid, came up and asked her to her face if she was a witch.
Sarah didn't know how to respond without lying. Instead she walked away without answering.
Once again, when Sarah got home, she cried on her Mommy's shoulder. Mommy tried to comfort Sarah, but the best that could be done was to let Sarah cry herself to sleep.
While Sarah slept, she dreamed about the Lady.
Once again, they were together under a tree outside. Rhiannon was looking at her and seated against the trunk of the tree.
"Hi Rhiannon," Sarah said sadly, "I'm glad you are here. I had a very bad time today and yesterday."
"Yes, I saw. If it matters, I think you did a very good job. I am proud of you."
"That does help a little," Sarah said sniffing. "Why do people have to be so mean?"
"It's because some souls are very young. The person that is a young soul becomes when they come to Earth is also very young. Just like a baby, they think they are the most important things on Earth.
"Like any baby, the unknown frightens them. It is a survival instinct to be afraid of something new, because a new thing could be dangerous."
Sarah looked confused. "Is everyone who is like that a young soul?"
"Unfortunately, no. If they were, it would be easy to be patient with them until they grew up, to help them mature. But, it is human nature that each person must learn in his or her own way. Parents, other people, teachers and Gods cannot make someone learn something they will not. We can help, and give advice, but we can't force anyone to learn."
"I wish you could."
"No you don't Sarah. Of all the things that all the Gods and Goddesses gave to Man, the best gift, in my opinion, was the ability to choose. It has been called freedom of choice and I call it free will. With it you can make decisions about your own life, without anyone having a say-so in your decisions, unless you personally let them."
"Hun-uh," Sarah shook her head. "Mommy and Daddy make decisions about my life all the time."
"Sarah, your mother and father can't really make you do something that you don't want to do. They can help you do something, but you are the only one who makes the choices. Because of that, you are also the one who gets punished when you mess up. Those are consequences. If you are willing to pay the price, or consequence, of something you do in order to have fun, then do it. But do not be upset when it is time to pay those consequences."
"I wish Megan wasn't willing to pay her consequences."
"But she is paying them. Sometimes a consequence can be a good thing, like a reward. Like the price you pay for cleaning your room is time to play games. She spreads lies and rumors about you, consequently, Megan is getting attention from the kids around her."
"Why did she do it? I never did anything to her."
"There are many reasons. Maybe she was dared. Maybe she wanted to embarrass you. Maybe she really believes what she says. I don't know. I don't look into people's hearts and minds very often. Everyone has a right to privacy."
"What should I do?"
"Ignore her and her friends. The more attention you give to a bully, someone who is picking on you, the more they will pick on you. If you ignore them, eventually they will get bored and give up. If the situation gets bad, tell your teachers or principal, and they can help you. It is an unfortunate fact of life that you can't please everyone. You shouldn't try. Concentrate your efforts on people you like, whose good opinion you want and you will be happier. I am always her for you when things get too bad."
"How long do you think it will go on?"
"Probably, in one form or another, for the rest of your life. Let me tell you a story.
"Once upon a time, there was a forest of trees. These trees had children and those saplings grew. Most of the saplings grew in the forest with the other trees, but one was growing on the hill where he was the only tree.
"Years passed. There were storms, snowfalls, and blistering heat from the sun. All the saplings grew and became small trees. Eventually, people came into the forest and took out all the old, big trees, leaving only the saplings. The small trees were sad and frightened because their shelter was taken away, but the tree on the hill didn't notice because he had never known any other way of life.
"That summer, a tremendous storm came through the area. It howled, and blew, and destroyed many things. When the storm was over, most of the saplings in the forest were gone. They had been torn up by the storm. But, the tree on the hill was still there. He had grown strong and steady. He had learned that you need to bend in the wind, not fight it.
"This story applies to you. Can you think of how?"
Sarah thought for a long time. Finally she said, "I think that if you are alone, you learn things that you wouldn't if you were protected?"
"Good! That's very close. When shelter is removed, you have a better chance of living if you haven't been sheltered in the first place. The grown-up world is like that storm. School is like the forest. By learning to handle things while you are young, you are better able to deal with them when you grow up.
"But, Sarah, your mother and father are always there for you. If you get really mad or upset, and you don't think you can do it on your own anymore, talk to them. They will help you out. It is not their job to teach you things by being mean to you. They love you, and because they love you they are not going to protect you from every skinned knee, but they will protect you from things like other children beating you up."
Sarah looked at the Lady, "Should I tell Joe about being Wiccan?"
"That's up to you. If you feel that he can accept this, and still like you, then you may want to share this part of your life with him. But I would ask you to think about the possible consequences of your decision."
"Like what?" Sarah asked.
"What if he can't understand? What might happen if he told his parents, and they don't understand? Would they forbid you to see or speak to Joe? They might force you to loose your best friend. It is a very hard choice to make and can cause much hurt for you."
"But what should I do?"
"Love Joe. Help him to understand that you are not a bad person. Always be true to what you believe in your heart. Never deny what and who you are. You may choose to act as you did earlier today by not responding. Don't lie. That sort of lie is the worst kind. And I will be very sad."
Sarah hugged and kissed her. She told Rhiannon that she loved her. Rhiannon told Sarah, "I always love you and I am always with you."
Sarah woke up in her room feeling better. She went down to dinner and told her Mommy and Daddy everything that happened to her. Even her talk with Rhiannon.
They stayed up late and talked about what she should do. Mommy and Daddy also told her things she had never heard before about the Old Days.
She was taught how to anoint herself for a blessing of protection. It made her feel much better.
The next school day, the kids were being just as mean, but following Rhiannon's advice, she ignored them. It wasn't always the easiest thing to do, and many days Sarah went home and cried. When it got really hard she would think about that tree that stood alone, or she would anoint herself, and that seemed to help.
Eventually, the children stopped.
In this chapter, I attempted to write about the persecution we can receive from others. I was trying to convey a sense of frustration and anger that Sarah has toward Megan.
It is up to you to tell me if I have done a good job.
There is not a lot that can be done about bigotry, so we must concentrate our efforts on helping our children cope with it. It is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, but what we do and how we cope is important for the child.
You may not choose to read this story to your child until they have already encountered this witch-fear. If you do this, skip to the next story.
There are many things that can be talked about with your child. Some of them are:
1) What would you do if you were Sarah? If you were Megan?
2) Would you tell Joe about being Wiccan?
3) What do you think the story about the lonely tree is saying?
4) Has this ever happened to you?
5) Do you think free will is a good thing?
6) Would you like to never have to make decisions?
7) What is a consequence?
8) Should you try to make everyone happy?
9) Do you think Megan is right? Do you think Sarah is right?
While many of these questions may seem counterproductive to our hopes that your child becomes Wiccan eventually, they are necessary to help your child grow.
Some tools to help your child deal with persecution are:
* Teach your child a blessing. The blessing that Sarah used in the story is a simple one. Mix some water and salt in a jar. Have the child wet their finger with the mixture and draw a horned moon on their forehead. They should touch each wrist, mouth and throat with their still wet finger. Then they should say a sort prayer to the Lord and Lady. What they say is up to them. It is a blessing for the day.
* This may be the hardest activity for you and your child. Teach them about the Burning Times. The Inquisition, the Scottish Witch Trials, Salem Witch Trials and any other examples you can think of. Teach them about the conditions leading to mob hysteria, if you haven't already.
* Show them that the witch hysteria is still ingrained into our society through television shows an movies. Talk to them about the misconceptions of the public about what we can and cannot do. (A popular TV show from the 60's featuring a 'witch' and her mortal husband springs to mind, as does a really bad movie that brought too many "gothic witches" out of the broom closet.) Get some of the worse books featuring witchcraft from the library talking about witches. While this is going on, talk to them. Tell them what is really happening and ask them if we really can light an entire room-full of candles with a thought. Ask their opinions of what they are seeing and what is real and what is false.
* Talk to your child about who, in their opinion, they can and cannot trust.
While all of this may seem to be designed to make your child paranoid, the reality we live in dictates that our children not be sheltered from this. It is better for them to deal with it now, when they are more resilient, than when they grow older and are rejected by the entire High School. They also need to be aware of the prejudices of others. The information can be presented in such a way that it does not traumatize them too much.
It is my sincere hope that you never have to read this chapter to your child.