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Title: Taking the Initiative and Raising Pagan Children
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From: USA
Registered: 11/21/2008

(Date Posted:02/17/2009 07:53 AM)
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Taking the Initiative and Raising Pagan Children

Author: Seichimat

Who is that crying man on the swing with the long hair mom? A yellow skinned Jesus, depicted on a popular Fox network TV show, sighs and kicks the gravel under his swing -- dejected, Michael Jackson-esque, scarred for all eternity by the scary, scary humans.

Wow. My sons first real live questions about another faith. Inspired by popular culture. Hmmm. Well, son. There are these people and they are called Christians.

This is about the point when I had to stop and think. Obviously slandering another faith isnt something Id like to pass on to my kids as a predominant trait of my faith. They believe that God is a man in the sky and he has a son called Jesus.

My son (clever boy that he is) says, Is he crying because he misses his mommy?

Tempting as it may be at this point to plant clever anti-dogma in his sponge-like little brain, I resist. I fall back to the mommy script because, after all, he is five. And my head is really starting to hurt.

Nah, sweetie, hes crying because the other kids didn't play nice. Fortunately little Mr. inquisitive lets the matter drop.

So why is it that we often hesitate to teach our paths to our children? So often there seems to be an attitude that we will allow our child to find their own faith. Often in the background these same would-be Pagan children are riding along with Grammy or the neighbors to the local Awana or Bible camp and inadvertently receiving the message that this is the norm and their parents are in some way defecting from it.

I wonder if in some ways this comes from unwillingness on the parents part to take the responsibility for making the lifestyle decision for their children that a non J/C/I path involves. We question whether we can prove to the people who will matter in our childrens lives that Paganism is really just another religion. Maybe in some ways, we question our ability to persuade our own inner critics of the validity of our experiences.

When we relegate our Pagan-ness to a dusty corner of our lives, or worse satirize it as moms witchy stuff or Dad and those swords again, we un-name and take power away from our own beliefs.

At the opposite extreme, we have Mary-Jo and Billy-Bob Pagan whove named their daughter Morrigan and send her to daycare in a ritual robe. Don't worry, mommy and daddy have taught her not to use her Athame on play dough.

Unfortunately, they havent taken the steps to assure the teacher that she need not fear the athame (-whatever THAT might be) coming to class anymore than she would expect an altar boy to bring wine.

Lesson here: If your childs life is the stage on which your Pagan lifestyle is played upon, slow down and ask yourself, Is my childs religion his/her most important feature?

Remember, they are little people in and unto themselves. Not ritual tools. They serve a very important role in the Pagan community though. They will carry their beliefs where we cant go. The future.

There is no greater test of your belief than in evaluating whether it will serve your children, and even their children. To lean too much in one direction is to jeopardize their faith in consistent consensual reality. But to lean in the other is to take away the joy of belief and their ability to trust their intuition about things unseen.

You want your kids to feel surrounded by the pleasant memories of departed relatives, scents of oak leaves and campfires at Samhain. Not run screaming into the night for fear of the dead guys outside.

Now wouldn't that would be delightful to have to explain to the kindergarten teacher at the Halloween parade?

So how do you go about introducing pagan or Wiccan structured belief systems to children? Bible verses and sticker books still hold the knee jerk Brainwashing! response. High intellectual debate is a little unreasonable at this point.

How do you decide which aspects of your faith contain the keys to the morals and ethics you would like your children to learn? What are the increments on the ruler you will give them to measure their experiences against?

This doesn't need to be a fully developed rule. You don't have to address the morality of a 35-year-old man in your five year old. Over time, this ruler changes and grows. As we mature, we make our own marks against it. Many of us are no longer of the faith that we were born into.

Most of us do have a common element though. We did receive some religious instruction. Fleeting or shallow as it may seem in retrospect, belief is something you experience from a young age. Fictional characters who arrive under cloak of darkness to hide treats under your couch, a pillow, or a tree reinforce belief.

Its a good thing to believe. Then this joy in belief is transferred onto an event that happens reliably. Anticipation plays a big role in validating belief as well. Being told something good is going to happen, and then seeing it happen, makes us all the more excited about the next time it will happen. (You mean, I get to feel this way again?)

Experiencing pleasant emotion generated internally rather than in response to external stimulus isnt just natural, its necessary. All the better when it can be repeated regularly. This is one of the building blocks of our coping mechanisms. Learning to self soothe. Its surprising how many adults in the world still cant do this.

Children between 3 and seven already have one foot set in sacred space at all times. They havent quite learned the rules of shared reality yet and are still unsure whether the things that live inside their heads might show up under the bed or in the closet. At 2 a.m., the strength of a childs belief can be trying. At best. On the up side, while your child is experiencing deep fear related to a belief, this also shows they have a great capacity for love and joy to emerge from belief as well.

Without giving our kids a system in which belief is pleasurable and rewarding, any faith they later pursue is going to lack substance and satisfaction. If we dont direct their natural desires to believe in something, then by default media and routine will teach a loose version of Christianity through holidays demarcated on a school lunchroom calendar. I feel my children deserve a more diverse background in religious tolerance than the sanitized Winter Assembly can offer.

This spring, my oldest son, creatively dubbed Bubba shortly after birth for non-legal purposes, attended his first ritual. It was Imbolg and a daytime ritual. The timing was right, and the group hosting the months circle was made up of mixed adults.

Bubba will be six in November, but is not unfamiliar with the concepts of Paganism. Hes come shopping with mommy to buy ritual supplies, looked at pictures in endless books while mommy was busy looking at the boring black squiggly stuff, and both fortunately and unfortunately at times, has listened in on mommy waxing philosophic and impassioned on some topic or other. He is rather partial to Z. Budapests depiction of Aphrodite.

He can also pay attention for a short period of time. He can sit, stay and take instruction from another adult or myself from across the circle. Until he was capable of doing these things reliably, he was, in my opinion, not ready to take part in circle in a meaningful way. Im not into the children as scenery and fairy robe models in ritual. In this aspect they distract, and the belief they are learning is that they will be complimented for what they look like rather than what they do.

Bubba did well. The circle was cast from heart to heart by all participating and he was able to repeat the small incantation by which the casting was passed as well as a gesture.

Discussions about what he believes deity to be have been small and simplified. The role it seems to play in his life is that of bigger parents. Eventually as his needs change, I have a feeling this will as well.

If for now, the gods speak to him in the same voice that we read Goodnight Moon in, then I am satisfied.

I believe They just may.
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