Schools have their first-graders, universities and high schools their freshmen, armies have their new recruits - you know these people! These new to something, who are not yet quite certain on what's going on, who wonder wide-eyed (either openly or secretly) about their new surroundings and who get more or less benevolently giggled at by all those who have already gone through that phase in their personal history. Even though the "oldies" have themselves been in the same kind of situation (or perhaps because of that fact). Well, we Pagans have our Newbies.
I do tend to think that you can't really lump all newbies into the same pile, even thought they do have few things in common: being new to the path, having just scraped the surface of knowledge - excluding those who haven't done even that - and lack of experience.
They haven't had time to read, learn or listen much yet, but they are very certain about having made the right choice. Often they are filled with happy-happy-joy-joy for finding a new path (and, quite often, anger towards their old path) and like to babble about it, letting the world... well, at least Pagan forums know.
Being so new to the path and so often having read only books who claim they are telling you everything necessary, they don't as yet realize how much more there actually is to learn. Their books told them this, so if you say otherwise - boo on you. How could you know better than someone who has had his/her work published?
Depending on where I am and what kind of newbie I've encountered, I either give an closely argued answer (careful to not act like I'm looking down on them), take an "oh, come on, wake up!" -attitude or just ignore and go away.
Anyway, let's have some fun and typify, shall we? Not that we're going to have fun on the expense of poor Newbies, oh no! Here's my take on some Newbie types in the world of Pagan forums.
The InstaWitch Newbie
Motto: I am a Witch because fucking I say so
and I don't need any of you old fucking farts telling me any
do's or don'ts or trying to put me down.
I know what I need to know and what not.
Now, give me a spell.
Often quite young (and not always in years), the InstaWitch has just come into the realization -- apparently like a lightning from the clear sky -- that she/he is a witch. (Seeing The Craft or watching Charmed or Buffy the Vampire Slayer did help a little...) Along with this realization apparently came full knowledge about everything there is to know, save a few spells that those eeevul old farts try to keep all to themselves.
Obnoxious and often plain stupid, the InstaWitch Newbie doesn't usually stay long on Pagan forums (and there was much rejoicing). Some of them find their way to forums kept by other InstaWitch Newbies -- or set up their own -- so they can chat with like-minded people without having to listen to any irritating people who won't see them as the powerful witches and warlocks they are. Or having to listen to some wussy "ethics".
While some of them eventually grow up, many change to the next new fad when they grow tired of playing witches.
The Insecure Newbie
Motto: I'm just a newbie,
I don't know anything yet,
Oooh this is so hard,
Ouch, is there really that much to learn,
Boo-hoo, (etc. ad infinitum)
The Insecure Newbies come to Pagan forums with apologetic tones. They know very well how new they are and will point that out whenever they have the nerve to ask or say something. They hunger for reassurance from other Pagans and for people telling them they got it right. Furthermore, they tend to look up at practically everybody else. They are often afraid of reading the wrong books and ending up with wrong ideas. You see, books are powerful -- if you read the wrong books, you will never get the wrong ideas out of your mind -- even if you read the right books afterwards, the wrong ideas will affect and twist the right ones.
The Insecure Newbie can have a lot of potential, if only s/he would dare to really start exploring things. The Insecure Newbies can, unfortunately, easily end up in groups with strong leaders who have no trouble telling just how to do things and spoon-feeding the right information.
The Well-Learned Newbie
Motto: Let me tell you how it's done and what our faith is all about!
The Well-Learned Newbie comes to the forum like any other newbie, telling how they discovered their new path a few months ago (some can even tell the exact date they became Pagans). In a matter of weeks -- or even days (really!) -- they graduate into being well-learned old-timers, who think it's their duty to educate even those who have walked the path for years and years. After all, they possess the ability to learn and experience everything necessary in a matter of a very short time...
They tend to treat other newbies with the manner of "well meaning learned aunt/uncle", sometimes very blatantly, saying things like "with time you will also learn", "you are just starting out, we all are beginners at one point" - especially to Insecure Newbies. When getting caught for claiming more knowledge than they do have, they tend to try and side wind (or is it wing?) their way out of it, acting like it's the other newbie we're talking about (and helping him/her), that it's really only a question of different views on things/slightly differing paths... Or, that you are attacking them for some personal reasons (what, prey tell? Jealousy??).
Often, the Well-Learned Newbie has a great respect for published authors (including web pages) and is looking at the basics, believing that you are indeed a ready and full Witch once you learn them. The real old-timers do well realize, that the Well-Learned Newbie hasn't actually learned even the basics yet (which explains the great respect for those listing them in their articles).
Once they realize that there may not be such a thing as ready and full Witches/Wiccans/Pagans, but there always will be more to learn, they either start actually walking the path of learning with the goal further than just getting the basics. Or they team up with Insecure Newbies and form a forum of their own...
The Secretive Newbie
Motto: I'm a hereditary Witch!
(and you are not)
In reality, the Secretive Newbies are just like any other newbie in their level of experience and knowledge. However, for some strange reason, they feel the need of shouting about belonging to a long family line of a secret tradition no-one has thus far ever heard about. They tell of possessing a secret ancient BOS dating back to times when -- in reality, but who gives a damn about reality anyway -- only the nobility (if even them) and priests could read and write.
When questioned, they use the "I can't tell you, it's secret - and you are not initiated to our family tradition anyway"-line. They love to hint about the great secrets and absolutely huge magickal powers available to those selected few in their famtrad -- which the Secretive Newbie of course claims to possess. They are sometimes known to threaten people who refuse to believe their credentials with magickal attacks and if someone gets tired of their rantings and leaves -- they claim they caused it. Also, if someone they despise tells about an accident or illness -- they claim they caused it. If they happen to actually tell what they do know, it's usually from very, very beginner type of web sites (who reads books nowadays, anyway).
I don't know if there's any hope with this type... Their only friends seem to be others of the same category -- and some Insecure Newbies, who say things like "How do you know s/he isn't what s/he claims to be? You are sooo cruel that I tend to believe him/her..."
The Eager Newbie
Motto: Tell me, tell me, tell me!
Oh, too complex, I'll go elsewhere.
The Eager Newbies have great plans for their future as Elders of The Path and can't wait to get there. They want to know everything there is to know about everything. They tend to fly around like nervous butterflies, landing on different forums on different paths and yearning for knowledge. Unfortunately, many of them lack concentration, so they won't stay for a long time. After all, everything beneath the surface will require actual work and reading -- not just having someone tell them their knowledge.
If they manage to learn patience and concentration, they may grow up to be levelheaded Pagans with (at least some) knowledge on other paths than the one they finally settle with -- or eclectics with a working religious practice. If not, they can go on finding an "Eclectic Way"-tradition of their own with all the superficial knowledge they gathered and be the Wise Elders of at least that path.
The Fluffy Bunny Newbie
Motto: All is bright and beautiful
- except you evil people who tell me it isn't.
Oh, the Fluffy Bunny Newbies... Everybody knows and "loves" them, so there isn't that much to say. You know the type, innocent, bright-eyed things who believe that Wicca is at least 10.000 years old and was practiced pretty much the same way as today in caveman times, that the Goddess is nice -- mind you only nice -- and beautiful, just like in all those great fantasy art pictures, that the Rede is The Law which all Good Pagans follow along with following (yes, following - not believing in) the Three Fold Law, that all you need is love, jewelry, crystals and of course all those expensive tools sold over the internet... If you try and tell them otherwise, they'll shut their eyes, cover their ears and start singing in a loud voice, hoping that it makes you and your unenlightened views disappear.
Some grow up to face the real world, some flippety-flip happily all through their lives. Their favorite people to talk with are other Fluffy Bunnies, especially all those innocent FB Newbies, in a FB forum. If a non-FB Pagan stumbles in, s/he will quickly learn how evil s/he is and will get shouted off.
Then there are the kind of newbies -- or actually newcomers -- who go easily unnoticed and who don't even want to get attention the ones who are serious with learning their chosen path / learning enough to know what path to choose. They read, learn and listen, ask intelligent questions and are not attracted to making boisterous claims.
In time they grow up to be respected, learned and level headed Elders of the path with no desire for power-trips or doe-eyed worshipping newcomers adoring them. We need more of them, don't you think?!
Disclaimer: The events and characters depicted in this article are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Names have been changed to protect the innocent. (yeah, right)