|A figurine from my mother and baby’s first photo on our family altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012|
I can’t remember the first time I considered raising a future child Pagan. When I started down the polytheistic path, I was still quite young and wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids. I have memories of seeing the topic on forums and noticed a divisiveness about it. People either felt strongly for or against it. Little has changed!
I fall into the former category. I intend to raise my child in a Pagan household. I’ve come to see that this means different things to different people, and a lot of it probably has to do with our own experiences of childhood and religion. As I’ve explained before, I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to church on Sunday mornings (eventually Saturday evenings) with my parents. I did the sacraments right on up through confirmation (when I was starting to feel it as all a personal charade to please my family). I experienced religious education, family pressure, and that fun little guilt that comes along with Catholicism. Somehow I emerged from it as an independent thinker, as a proponent of pluralism, as a tree-hugging Pagan.
I feel a lot of it had to do with my parents. My father is fiercely independent. Although his family was the biggest influence in my religious upbringing, he also values the American Constitution and the rights it promises us. Although he initially had difficulty understanding my decision, he’s come to see it as my right to practice how I believe. He also taught me much about respecting nature by planning various excursions to the Adirondacks and explaining the power of fire. My mother is what I describe as liberal Catholic. She introduced me to polytheism and magical thinking without even realizing it. She taught me to pray to different saints with different concerns and she valued the divine feminine in Mary. To this day, she keeps an altar to Saint Theresa in her bedroom. She kisses the ancestors’ photos before bed. She taught me that, when you find a fuzzy seed, that it’s from Santa Claus’ beard and, if you make a wish and blow it, the wish will go to him in the North Pole. She taught me to believe in unicorns and the rights of even the smallest creatures. She taught me to use the sky to divine the next day’s weather. They both encouraged me to read, to write, to explore exactly what I was into – which turned out to be fairy tales, mythology, and ancient civilizations. And they wondered how I came to Paganism! Most importantly, they showed me love no matter what, which is why I believe I have a healthy, open relationship with them and a positive perspective on raising kids in a spiritual atmosphere.
When I say “raising a child Pagan,” I mean that he or she will be living their life in a largely Pagan household. As someone who lives Paganism, I know that my child will see it and wonder about it. There is no hiding my Druidic beliefs at home! I have altars throughout the house, indoors and out. I pray before dinner, before travel, before bed. I leave offerings frequently. I talk to the plants and I sing songs to the Gods. The child will have a right to know, to be included. Ancient and modern, Druidism was/is a tribal religion. It is based on community and, although there are many solitary practitioners, the bulk of Druids come together to celebrate, even if it’s once a year. My child will come with us to the High Day rites to sing, to pray, to laugh, and learn with the rest of us. The child will be living Paganism because I live Paganism. I can’t just stop being who I am. My plan is not to isolate the child from other beliefs, to scare him or her into Paganism, nor to insist on it. How could I? My agnostic husband comes to the High Days but does not keep an altar. He is respectful and supportive of my religion – and our child will also wonder about that. He or she will be exposed to my husband’s way of thinking too, just as should be! And the beauty of the Pagan community is that it is so diverse! They child will be brought up in a world of varied thought and practice, seeing, I hope, that it is healthy and okay to think outside the box.
My plan for raising my child is quite simply inspired by how my parents raised me, although with more spiritual exploration and no hellfire sermons.
What It Shouldn’t Be :
- Isolation from other spiritual paths
- Threatening should the child show curiosity in other faiths
- Indoctrination towards only one way of thinking
- Boring or without consideration of child development
- Forceful – if a child doesn’t show interest in a topic, make sure he or she understands enough to be aware but don’t press. Not every person is destined to be a bard, an artisan, a historian, a warrior, a priest, etc!
What It Should Be:
- Full of exploration – independent and with parental support
- Inclusive – involve extended family and friends who come from different walks of life. Look at the Koran, light a menorah, visit a Buddhist temple, admire pentacles in jewelry and apples, and explore science museums. Find the connections, marvel at the beauty, and model how a mature, well-adjusted adult behaves with others, even when you don’t believe the same things.
- Respectful of elders – This will extend into respect for the ancestors once the child is old enough to really understand who they are.
- Safe feeling – the child should know we will love him or her no matter what spirituality is embraced as a teen or adult
- Full of honest discussion – children should understand your path but also know that not everyone believes the same way. Children should feel safe questioning and disagreeing. Again, model how to do this with respect!
- Celebratory and respectful of nature – regardless of spiritual path, a good Druid will raise a child to be aware of the environment, the interconnections, and the seasonal changes
- Sex-positive in a way that takes into account the child’s development, safety, boundaries, and own self-worth
- Fun – learning about life, nature, Druidism, and other religions should be joyful
- Artistic – self-expression is an essential part of Druidism, and carries over into other facets of life and other spiritual paths. Help your child find his or her voice!
- Based on virtuous behavior – I will teach the child the nine Druidic virtues but, as he or she ages, we’ll compare them to other systems (that of Asatru, the ten commandments, the noble truths, etc) in the hopes of finding commonalities. When paired with literature and personal experiences, children will soon develop a sense of empathy towards the world – one that can extend beyond a religious practice.
- Magical – let children revel in the magic of the world. Make wishes on dandelion seeds, plant love into the garden, stir healing into daddy’s soup. Read fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology. Talk about your dreams and encourage imagination.
- Balanced – while teaching simple magic, don’t ever forget to teach science. Name the plants, name the animals, look at the stars, and give magical and scientific explanations. When you don’t know the answer, model how to find it.
- Patient – children aren’t ready for everything right away. Learn about developmental levels, pay attention to your child’s interests, and don’t automatically include your child in every Pagan practice. Remember that kids sometimes just want to play on their own and may not be ready or interested in quiet meditation or involved magic.
My Favorite Resources:
To end with, I want to share some of my favorite websites on alternative parenting. They’ve been very helpful in informing my perspective!
Offbeat Families – I was a huge, huge fan of Offbeat Bride when I was getting married, so it was only natural for me to turn to her other blog featuring families! This site is great. There are so many resources on different kinds of families, different styles of parenting and, you guessed it, religious pluralism! It’s very inspiring and worth checking every few days.
Ozark Pagan Mamma – This fellow ADFer has been raising Pagan kids and blogging about her experience! She shares a lot of wonderful seasonal crafts which I look forward to doing with the wee one. In addition, she sometimes shares child-friendly explanations for holidays, the Pagan Otherworld, the Three Kindreds, etc. I’m happy to have found a blog devoted to raising Pagan kids written by an ADFer.
Pagan Dad – Written from a male Wiccan perspective, this blog is still very informative since he’s had to deal with similar issues that I’m now considering – raising children Pagan, to “do” Santa or not, seasonal activities, etc.
Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom – Although not exclusively about parenting, Mrs. B has posted several things on seasonal ideas, introducing magic, and book reviews.
15 thoughts on “Pregnant Pagan: The Question of Raising Children in a Pagan Home”
I love that you posted this. This is the way it should be. Incidentally… I have that same mother/baby sculpture. A student gave it to me one time with a letter saying how I probably didn’t even realize how many of them consider me their second mother. ^__^
Oh that is just beautiful, Willow!
This sounds like how my fiance and I would like to raise future children. However, we are looking into the Unitarian Universalist Church’s religious education programs. They encourage children to form their own beliefs from a very young age and expose them to many religious traditions, while fostering in them a sense of UU identity (which is not a bad thing, by any means).
I can see my fiance and I having all these plans to raise children, yet never putting those plans into action. It’s great to say, “We’re going to do such-and-such to teach our children about religion X,” but if it doesn’t actually happen, the plan was worthless. So this is why we are looking into the UU programs. We could try all we wanted to give our children a sense of religious pluralism, but the UU church specifically trains people to teach both children and adults about belief formation.
Oh yeah, the UU Church does indeed have a great program! We aren’t members of the UU up here and going just doesn’t fit into our schedule. Maybe one day! I feel comfortable making these plans because I already have a wealth of literature on the matter and my day job involves diversity. Not to mention my circle of friends is very diverse so exposure will be relatively easy! We’ll see how it goes once we’re in the thick of it, though!
I wish your family many blessings! 🙂
You will make a great parent. Lucky child.
Aw, thank you! I will try my best!
i love that your ‘should be’ list is waaaay longer than your ‘shouldn’t be’ list 🙂
I was trying to think of more examples but I really couldn’t… I think focusing on the positives is much healthier, though! Thanks for the reply!
On the note of that, I don’t mean to pry overmuch into your personal life, but does your grove make allowances for family? I know some of the larger groups are pretty family open. But I’ve also seen some that ask parents to leave their children at home because they interfere with the rituals and all.
Muin Mound in Syracuse is VERY family-friendly. The founders, Skip and Sharon Ellison, have always had their daughters involved. Now that they’re grown, one has a daughter who is also very involved. They have several families who bring children as young as infants. I’m doing the same for the Druid group in the North Country. When we become a protogrove, I don’t plan on that changing. Our High Day rites are meant to be open, and that means open to all! We only ask that children are accompanied by a guardian and that they behave during rituals (stay back from the fire, leave the altar alone). It can be difficult since some children are more fidgety or talkative than others, but most of the time it’s fine. Kids get into it and love when we pour whiskey on the fire. The more they come, the more likely they’ll get to take parts if they like – little parts, but it gives them a sense of belonging and ownership. If they are noisy or rambunctious, Druid circles do not require doors to be cut. Parents may simply bring their children in. Our High Day rites are more for praise than anything else. We do light meditation and simple magic, but nothing TOO heavy. And when we do energy work in those settings, I usually use toning which gives kids an excuse to scream! LOL
There are a few instances where I would politely ask that children not come – any time we plan to do private ceremonies that involve heavy trance or deep magic. Young children, at least, are rarely developmentally prepared for that. Initiations tend to be adult-only because children aren’t old enough or experienced enough to be initiated. Otherwise, we aim to be family-friendly.
It’s a good question! No worries on prying. 😀
That’s good to know! The grove I was once a part of was not exactly child friendly. Mention of course, that we only had one couple with children, but still it limited the potential for more families to become involved. My wife and I always discuss what we would do as far as faith goes if we do have children. So it’s interesting to hear what your plans are!
I love this. I tried to express this before but you did a much better job of it! I am raising my daughter in a house where she sees me as I am and she is free to pick her path. It is a pagan house in that mom is and I make sure we celebrate the Moons and the Seasons. I teach her to ask and thank plants for what they give us etc but I am not telling her she must be this or think that. This was beautifully put. As an aside I really love the waldorf nature tables for kids. Oh and I nominated your for an award because I always love reading what you have to write. http://bookofshadowsandblessings.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/liebster-award/
Why thank you – both for the positive feedback and the award! That is very kind of you!
Oh my goodness – I know someone who used to make Waldorf nature tables and they were adorable! I think it’s a great way to introduce kiddos to altars. Thanks for reminding me of them!
Great post, thanks you for sharing. Raising children isn’t easy, but trusting your instincts and having a common set of values is key. My wife and I just read a great book I’d like to share with other parents called “Teaching Kids to Be Good People” by Annie Fox, M.Ed. You can check her and the book out on the website http://www.anniefox.com/. It’s a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to anyone. Thanks again for the post.
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