Parenting Pagan Children – A Personal View
Parenting Pagan Children can be a tricky job unless you have prepared yourself for the job. The first lesson they teach you is that no two ever have identical beliefs. If you look at it carefully and analyse their experience of life though you can see why that would be. In the same way Adults are shaped by their experience so too are children even though they have a lot shorter experience.
How would I know I hear some of you asking?
Well first a bit about me to explain. I am 38 this year. My spiritual path is one I have walked since I was very young. It just keeps evolving all the time. I am a mum to 5 kids and step mum to 2. I am Wayfinder’s partner. I am the eldest Sister to my sister and brother and yes! My parents are still married.
Being Pagan to me is just an everyday part of my very existence. It is as simple as recognising the weather outside and stopping to smell the roses and as complicated as organising Yule for a vast extended family. As such it became something my children were exposed to in some way every day. It was never pushed on them in any way.
I got a lot of flack in the beginning because people thought I was shoving my own beliefs down my children’s throats. My response to this now is that if that were indeed the case then surely their beliefs would be the same as mine or even the same as each other but this is not the case. I have a polytheistic (more deities the better!) daughter, a animistic druid son and a moon goddess worshiping son and now, more recently my darling feral faerie. My littlest is still too young to have expressed any thoughts or ideas.
So when do you start the teachings?
Ultimately, a child’s spiritual education begins the day they are born. They enter a world full of experiences that impact on what they believe to be true. They are the centre of the universe and the mother is their entire world. Until the day we die this is a strong and enduring bond. It survives separation, hurt and heartache.
Family is an extension of this relationship and in their exposure to social events and family functions especially those of major family events like births deaths and marriages they build their own ideas about the world as well as learning what others believe.
How do we teach them?
Every day of their lives our children are exposed to spiritual lessons. What is right and wrong are moral lessons they experience everywhere from Day care to the workplace, from television to the books they read. They need to know that we welcome open honest and frank discussion. It is also important though to expose them to our own culture. Children learn by being in a circle and experiencing ritual. They learn very important lessons from preparing and eating a seasonal feast. Mostly though they learn from being immersed in the elements. Who doesn’t feel at one with the earth when they plant seeds or a tree? What about swimming in the ocean or standing our on a chilly frosty night and looking up at a beautiful full moon? And what about the childish joy of splashing in rain puddles or scrunching through the piles of autumn leaves? In some areas of the world you even have the additional joy of snow.
Why do we teach them?
If not us then who? Do you really want a stranger influencing your child? I believe it is very important for children to have spiritual instruction from an early age but the key is to always give them the freedom to explore other ideas knowing they can discuss them with you and always embrace them no matter what path they themselves choose to walk.
For example I will use my 15 year old daughter as an example. I was raised Catholic and journeyed through mysticism on my way to Paganism. My parents are still practicing Catholics. The children all know this and as such I have always made sure they understand the underlying reasons for celebrations. My daughter currently attends a Catholic High School and is exposed to Catholic and Anglican teachings at school especially during Religious Education. I was a bit concerned this may provide her with a bit of confusion or conflict however I have found she has a firm enough understanding of what she believes that she can negotiate her way through most spiritual conversations intelligently and articulately.
Somehow she can find a way to balance her own beliefs in Reincarnation ( she holds with a Buddhists view of this topic) and also her Polytheism with the more restrictive view of the world held by her friends and teachers. She has negotiated this by never being afraid to ask a question no matter how basic. Her experiences are unique to her and the tools she uses to adapt to that which happens to her come from the lessons she has learnt through her short life so far.
What things can you teach them?
In the beginning I found it is as simple as showing them the sun and moon and the differences. Gendering them if you wish helps them attribute personality. As they begin walking and talking there are many books you can read to them that have myths and legends from Many pantheons. Next you start to teach them about the cycles of nature starting with the seasons. We have a feast in every season whether that be celebrated with the extended family or just a small number of kids. Samhain this year was just a simple feast with the little ones but I think the key elements of the festival were on display on our table.
Research television programs that support your ethics and beliefs. You will find the oddest collection of shows have songs or stories or practices that can be described as Pagan friendly. An example of this is “The Fairies” (Australian TV Show). One of their songs basically and simply explains the laws of Karma to little ones. “Good things go round and round” “ be kind to everyone , it will come right back to you” as well as teaching environmentally friendly messages and of course it is about Fairies!
If you have pets they will learn about the cycles of life and death. The birth of kittens or baby mice or even puppies and larger pets is a valuable experience for Pagan children. Just as the simple burial of a beloved pet is something that should never be hidden from them.
And gardens… all kids need to get their hands dirty and plant seeds. Growing a garden, harvesting the product of that garden, eating it and finally tilling it back into the ground cement the cycle of life in true and real terms to children.
These days though books are not the only source of mythology for them. There is a proliferation of computer games that address some form of mythology or another. Add to this some of the fantastic movies that have been made recently that deal with mythological themes. And then there is the vast array of information and misinformation that exists on the internet. I have one rule for my children about the internet and it is this… Check your sources! This is sound advice for anyone. People write rubbish on the internet and others believe it. They then take this misinformation and write something further. Someone else finds this and believes it wholeheartedly and posts it through a group. Do you believe everything you read on the internet? I hope not and they should be taught not to as well.
I believe there is a great danger in leaving our children to wander through the world with no spiritual instruction or guidance. I know of many Pagan parents who do not want to influence their children and so fail to provide any kind of teaching. Whether this comes from a fear of Departmental interference and public opinion or because they do not know where to start I think they let their children down. It is vitally important to a child’s growth and development that they understand what their parents believe and also are provided with some tools to negotiate the big wide world outside their front door. I hope this article shows you how simple and basic that instruction and guidance can be and how if it is just a part of every day existence and children are given the freedom to explore further then they will grow into mature, stable, functioning and interesting young people.
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Dragonfly’s Recipe Corner
Samhain – Autumn/Winter
The fastest way to make a lesson mean something to a child especially a small one is to feed them the lesson…. I find they learn about the seasons faster if you keep the meal seasonal. This Samhain I dressed the table with beautiful Autumn leaves. This is one advantage of living in the hills in Adelaide… Beautiful Autumn colour. The tree above is in the yard next door to us. We also have very seasonal produce available in the supermarkets here.
On the table:
A feast for under $20
To me Soup is the easiest meal on earth to make… You just dump everything in a pot of water and cook!
Dragonfly’s Pumpkin Soup
Cut,Peel and remove seeds of half a Japanese Pumpkin
*Cut 2 carrots, 3 potatoes, a mid size sweet potato and pumpkin into 1
inch size rough cubes.
Serve hot with Wholemeal Rolls