Pregnancy brings many practical safety concerns. Those nice open outlets that were always so convenient need capping. Cabinets with easily accessible cleaning supplies suddenly seem like death traps at worse or, at least, mess factories. Coffee table corners become menacing obstacles. Most expecting parents who choose to have a registry will add various safety doodads to the list. Weretoad and I have been talking here and there about childproofing our abode, and that started me thinking about my altar space.
I’ve enjoyed several years of relative carefree altar maintenance. Of course – I don’t leave candles unattended. Sure – I can’t leave tempting objects like feathers on the altar or the cats will destroy it all. I’m used to the occasional tipped over carving or the cats sipping from my well. Those can be annoying but I’ve learned to live with them. Nothing dangerous or even all that offensive in my eyes.
Enter a child. If that child is anything like me, he or she will be extremely curious and creative. He or she will want to emulate mommy and light candles*. This can (hopefully) be remedied by keeping matches out of reach and teaching the little one to respect the power of fire. I don’t use a lot of blades in my spiritual work, but when I do they are put away on shelves. I think I’ll move them to higher shelves… I am considering altar cloths too. They are easy to grab and pull. I can’t imagine a pile of harps, bowls, and sacred images feels good on top of a tiny body… That could be easily addressed by simply not using an altar cloth most of the time. Of course I’ll miss the beauty of them, but it’s temporary until the little one knows better.
My altar is likely to move again. This is because I’m likely to move again. We’re hoping to get into a larger apartment. We feel we need more room for the baby and for a family member who is going to move in to help us with childcare. This means my altars will probably be condensed. I’m thinking that I will combine my seasonal and main altars. Perhaps it will be in one of the main rooms again. Nothing is set in stone yet, but it seems that simply closing a door will not solve any problems. The child will have to learn how to exist with an altar, and I, as an altar-using Pagan, with a child. It will require learning and flexibility on both ends.
Actually, my greatest concern has been my herb collection. For the longest time, it was housed in two separate containers – a storage drawer and a basket below my altar. Very low to the ground, not locked, and very accessible to curious little hands. And, once more, if baby wants to emulate mommy, either by making offerings when I’m not looking or trying to make tea… There are several herbs there that aren’t for baby. Like mistletoe, for one.
So tonight I started to do a childproofing and spring cleaning. My goal was to combine all of my non-tea herbs into one container (tea is elsewhere in the home – up in a high kitchen cupboard) and move it to the top of a shelf for safer storage.
I decided to use the little treasure chest I’ve had since my wedding. I had been using it to store and display art plushies at craft fairs, but I recently decided to suspend business to better focus on everything else going on. The chest was the perfect size!
Now the chest of herbs is high on a shelf! It should be safe from curious little hands for the first few years, until I can really make sure the child understands to respect the power of plants.
For my readers who have children, how have you had to adjust your practices for your children? Is there anything I haven’t thought of?
* I went through a phase where I insisted I was a witch. I was 7 or 8, pulled out all my favorite Halloween decor and costume accessories, covered my dresser with what seemed to be witchy objects, and generally made my father uncomfortable. Now imagine a similar child but with an actual Pagan parent who has real magical tools. Then again, the Gods could find it amusing to inspire my child to play Catholic priest or nun… That would be ironic…