Life has been kind enough to afford me a a series of adventures and pathways that have both served to educate and challenge me throughout the years. I felt content to read books, perform rituals, and I even fancied myself a bit of a Chaos magician. I would openly tell folks that I preferred Chaos to Order and I had a lot of ideas about the way life should be. I was unaware of the challenge that was about to unravel before me when I first became pregnant. While I had grown up in an abusive household, I was determined not to allow the lives of my children play out like my own. That brave new world sprawled out before me September 23, 2013 with the birth of my first set of twins, Phoebe and Miranda.
Now there is a multitude of Pagan parenting books out there on the market. Some of them are better than others. I’ve thumbed through a few of them and couldn’t really connect with what was being written. I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I’m one of those folks that don’t like to read the instruction manual and learn as I go. The way I approached my parenting was no different. Having experienced a dark past, I knew exactly what not to do although I had a difficult time trying to figure out how to provide a connection between my children and myself. Legacy plays a huge role in Paganism. It is not only our lives that matter in the blink of an eye, but it’s also the larger mosaic of our family tree that plays out in the children that we leave behind.
Paganism isn’t about numbers. It’s not about how many people we can convert over to our side or indoctrinating our children to think and see the world exactly like us. I want my children to make a decision about their spiritual lives and I accept the reality that their choice may be the lack of participation in a spiritual Path. That’s alright. What matters to me isn’t forcing them to become Pagans it’s sharing my legacy with my children so they can pass those ideas on to others it may benefit.
I want to build memories with my kids. I found my Gods in a very sacred, and personal manner and just because someone doesn’t devote themselves to a deity doesn’t invalidate their lives. As wrapped up as I am about working with my Gods, I realize that Paganism is so much more than just an abstract spiritual idea. It has a philosophy that speaks in a language everyone can understand. Here’s how I get to connect with my kids and rediscover the world around me. Please feel free to use any of these ideas with your own kids!
As a few of my close friends know, I really love having an altar or ten around the house. Having a place to focus on my intent and honor my Gods is one of the most anxiety-reducing exercises that I know! My five little girls are very observant little children and noticed that Mommy had this really cool table with lots of toys all over it. They watched with excitement as I lit candles and incense and danced to Loreena McKennit on a full moon eve. I had a very hard time trying to keep my little ones from my altar. Not only was it in an effort to protect the items that were sacred to me, it was also the act of trying to teach my little girls about respecting personal space.
Then an idea occurred to me one night while eating dinner and staring at the large bay window in my trailer where I kept my shrine to the God, Ganesha. Build them an altar! Give them a place to learn and grow in a way they understand. Now my children range in ages from 2 to 5 as of the writing of this article. They are tactile and not very understanding of “be gentle” when it comes to items. I let them have a variety of rocks and shells, as well as chalices, bells, a maraca, and a few crystals. We placed two sturdy little offerings bowls in front of two statues together and made offerings to the deities, faeries, and nature spirits.
I chose Ganesha for His easy going nature and delight in children’s innocence and also the Goddess Gaia (which was the first Goddess statue I purchased when I became a witch at age 15) to teach the children about the natural world and role of a mother. Even if my children don’t became parents to human babies, they can use those skills to nurture themselves and others later on in life. I didn’t force my kids to talk to the Gods. I walked up to the Gods and began talking to them as if they were my mom and dad. My children asked me about what I was doing. I told them, “Mommy is interacting with her Gods. If you want to talk to them, you can. If not, that’s okay too!” I allowed free dialogue and let them explore the items and statues. After a while, I wanted to teach the kids about animal spirits and the importance of animal signs in nature. I added deer bones, plastic animal toys, and some fur. I let the kids play with the items on the altar so they became at ease with the energies.
Pagan Cartoons and Shows
If you’re looking for Pagan cartoons, get ready for a reality check. Some cartoons are better than others. My personal favorites are the Mocomi Kids stories from India. They are available in English and go over a multitude of deities from the Hindu pantheon. There’s also a lot of cool Pagan cartoons from the 90’s. Captain Planet was never billed as a “spiritual show” yet for those of you in the mid-thirties age bracket, we remember the Earth venerating spirit of the show. Malcolm Jamal Warner also hosted a show on Greek mythology that can be found in syndication. Nature documentaries are also another great way to connect with kids during rainy days when you can’t explore outside. Go to YouTube, do some searching of phrases like “Pagan Kid Cartoon” or “Greek Mythology” and depending on the age of your kids, BBC documentaries can also be powerhouses of knowledge.
After a while, one of my girls developed a fondness for the Ganesha and Gaia altar. I watched my normally shy and introverted daughter Ava come out of her shell when I did daily devotions at the altar. Ava became the “Envoy of Ganesha” (which she pronounces, “Voy of Nesha!”) and is the only child allowed to take offerings from the altar. I taught my kids about sharing by explaining to them that since Ganesha was the God of abundance, He always had more than He needed! He shared with others because that’s what creates true abundance in our lives. Ava was part of a story with the God Ganesha! She would proudly hand out the treats to her sisters!
Story telling is a fine way to build a connection with your kids. It doesn’t matter if the story is from your childhood, your mind, or from a book. Passing down stories from grandparents to small children is a great way to talk about ancestors and connect with family. Stories that you can make up about Thor, Tyr, or the Goddess Kwan Yin that are in line with their character are great ways to talk about your personal code of honor. Children love stories and telling stories is one way how we Pagans remember what’s important to us.
Rituals and Spellcrafting
Now a few of you out there might not associate spells and rituals with working with children. I disagree completely! There are some Magickal actions that children should never engage in. There is also a whole Universe of kid’s Magick out there that works not only for the children involved, it also strengthens the parents!
One of the projects I’m involved in is building a Children’s Circle at Deeply Rooted Church which is situated by our faerie shrine. It is my intent this year to go out with my own kids and teach them about how to work in ritual space. Since I do a lot of devotional style rituals at home, my kids always want to help! Here are some tips on working in a Circle with kids.
Start out slow. Let the kids get familiar with the Circle. If they are old enough to build things, let them help you in the construction and dedication of the altar. Make this fun for them. Make a big deal out of them picking up a rock or crystal and encourage them to explore while you carry on with your work. If you’ve worked mostly with adults, the transition can be difficult at first. What matters is every day, working that same Magickal force together. While your little child is singing about his favorite rock, CALL IN THE EARTH!!!! Let the child sometimes run the ritual yet gently instruct them about respect within the Circle. As they get older, they’ll have an idea of what is expected of them.
Little, tiny, rituals make a huge impact! I’ve been following the Wheel of the Year with my kids. I tell them stories about the Goddess Brigid at Imbolc as we feed the winter birds, and I make them giggle as I tell them about Ostara in the early spring. If you’re Norse and there’s a thunderstorm, maybe it’s time to honor Thor! Being a Pagan and being a kid can be exploring the world together in an effort to understand all that we think we know.
It’s about the time together, folks. I’d love it if all of my girls grew up and decided to be Priestesses just like mommy. That’s a very personal decision and all of my children are different people than their mother. For right now, they want to explore rituals, Magick, and Gods and I relish that time with them. It didn’t happen overnight. It made me a better Pagan to practice my rituals even when kids were yelling and screaming.
Every single public Pagan gathering has a different way of conducting themselves where children are concerned. Make sure that when you go to a new community or event, that you find out ahead of time what is available for children, especially the small ones. I am the kind of Clergy that usually enjoys the presence of children in my sabbat rites. I think the laughter and questions of children are important because they are the seeds of the future. Not all rituals are appropriate for young children. Finding out if the folks conducting allow children beforehand is proper etiquette in Circles. If an individual or Clergy does not want the presence of children inside their Circle, they do have reasons for such things and is not indicative of a “hate for children.”
I say this because some energies are not compatible with children. If I know ahead of time that I’m doing a healing ritual for folks that are suffering from past trauma, I don’t want to invite small children in who may become scared or confused by our actions. Thinking of all age groups involved, I want my participants focused on the healing and not a child jumping up and down and breaking concentration on a working. I want Paganism to be a good experience for the child, not something that gave them nightmares. Even the choices of deities must be considered beforehand so make sure that if you plan on taking your children to an adult ritual, that you understand what exactly the intent of the rite is before allowing your child inside that space. I am comfortable with working with the Goddess Kali, for example, and my children have all been raised with Her image around my home. Some kids might find Her scary or mean looking, and that’s okay. Keep that in mind when scouting out public devotionals.
If you’re fortunate enough to have a Pagan Homeland like Deeply Rooted, take your kids around the property. Give them a mini tour of the land. Connect in nature and show them the trees, birds, and insects that are going about their daily business. Talk about animism or physics. Help them see how you pieced the world together and ask them what they think. My kids know about Grandmother Apple, Hard Wrench the Gnome, and a variety of other Fae Folk characters that are part of my belief structure at Deeply Rooted. We tell stories about these spirits at home.
Make sure kids have activities at gatherings like books, crayons, maybe some puppets. Don’t leave their sides too much in the beginning because they are even more overwhelmed than you are at an event. New sounds, smells, and people all talking to them can be an overload and kids can tire out easily. Also, scout out the property to look for potential dangers because some of the Homelands are not as manicured as others. Deeply Rooted is “nature in the buff.” She is full of sinkholes, wasps nests,mud, thorns, and weeds. While the community makes every effort to protect our kids, it’s impossible to predict nature. As a parent, it’s my responsibility to watch my children or they don’t come to the event. Older kids should be told what areas are safe to play in and what areas are off limits. This is the responsibility of the parent as well as the Community to look at the reality of the situation and make good decisions regarding the safety of young ones. Little ones will need constant supervision to ensure a safe experience, so make sure you actively meditate on this before coming out to an event to alleviate any anxiety.
And there you have it. A few ideas to think about when working with your children and involving them in the glory of your spiritual Path! I certainly didn’t learn any of this without a slew of failed experiments and a paper trail of notes about my experiences. Feeling overwhelmed and confused is normal in parenthood and a good sign that your instincts are guiding you to a better way. If you have some ideas you’d like to share with us on the subject, feel free to comment here, PM me on FaceBook, or e-mail Deeply Rooted! Thank you for reading along! )0( – Shining Quill