Tales of a Southern Pagan Mom

Pagan Parenting

Herbal Allies

medicinal-herb-garden-600x450I really enjoy herbal-crafting. Making teas, tinctures, salves and other herbal concoctions is relaxing, and it makes me feel good to know that I can create things that help my family feel better. There’s something comforting and empowering about knowing exactly what it is that’s going into the medicines and cures I am using to treat myself and my family. Additionally, there’s a connectivity between Man and The Earth that I appreciate in a very visceral way when learning about herbs and choosing herbal allies to help protect my health.

If you’re new to herbal medicine, there’s a lot to be learned, and it can be overwhelming when you realize how much there is to know. But even a beginner can feel confident using herbal medicines, and just a few things can create a good foundation upon which to build. Let’s talk about a few herbal allies that almost anyone can use with ease and confidence. [STANDARD WARNING: As with all medicines, treat herbal remedies with respect. Use caution and care when using herbs as medicine. Start small, with single-herb remedies and gradually work your way towards more complex recipes as you gain knowledge, experience and confidence. Always document well so that you can pinpoint any potential issues to a particular herb in the event of an allergic reaction or emergency!] Because there are so many articles out there that focus on the more common ‘beginner’ herbs (lavender, chamomile, raspberry leaf, peppermint leaf, etc.), I’m going to focus on some of the herbal allies that are less common but still extremely easy to use.

YARROW – Yarrow is really an unsung hero. It’s something that I’ve kept in my medicine cabinet for years now, and if you’re a mom, it’s great for kids.  One of my favorite preparations is a yarrow tincture, combined with olive leaf, ginger, slippery elm and catnip. Yarrow is also helpful for relieving fevers, promoting relaxation, and can be used during your menstrual cycle to help alleviate cramps. We also have used it in salves, along with calendula, arnica, chamomile and other herbs in a beeswax base to apply to minor cuts, scrapes and mosquito bites. It can also be used with elderberry to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms. If you’re into the spiritual aspects of herbs, there’s a connection to Greek Mythology, in that it’s said that yarrow is one of the herbs used to treat wounds on the battleground of Troy, and in ancient Britain, a yarrow leaf pressed to the eye is said to bring on second sight. Traditionally, yarrow has been called a variety of names, including bloodwort, woundwort, devil’s nettle, and  knight’s milefoil, to name a few.

ELDERBERRY – Elderberry is another staple for us. I make a new tincture every year, and combine it with honey to make elderberry syrup. It’s a great preventative medicine for flu season – just a spoonful in our normal cup of tea is how we normally take it. I’ve been planning to make either elderberry and marshmallow root lozenges or gummies for a while now, and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. Maybe later this summer, I’ll finally make time to do that! Elderberry is incredibly easy to use though, especially for tinctures – just fill your vessel with dried elderberries to about an inch of the top, then fill with the highest proof vodka you can find (cheap vodka is fine). I’ve also made tinctures with Everclear, moonshine and apple cider vinegar, and all worked just fine; the vodka is my personal favorite method though. Put the vessel in  cool, dark place for a minimum of 4 weeks, but you can leave them for up to 3 months, then strain through cheesecloth and coffee filters into a clean vessel and voila! Ready to use tincture! Elderberry has some connections to the Teutonic goddess Hulda, with parallels drawn to Persephone, Frigga and Aradia.

CATNIP – Catnip is another great herb for families. In addition to helping with digestion, it also promotes relaxation and calms restlessness. It’s great for ‘growing pains’ and RLS (restless leg syndrome) when brewed in tea, and can be a really good addition to a sleepy-time tea blend or tincture. My youngest has trouble sleeping every now and again, and so we use a catnip tincture combined with honey and a smidge of valerian. Catnip is super easy to grow and if growing it isn’t your thing, it’s usually sold in the garden department of home stores if you want to keep it fresh. Obviously, as catnip is beloved of cats everywhere, there’s an obvious connection to Bast, and to Frejya and even Hecate.

HONEY – Even though honey isn’t an ‘herb’, I’m including it here because it’s SO GREAT to keep on hand as an extension of your medicine cabinet (and beauty cabinet as well). I use honey to make incense, to make herbal remedies go down a little easier, as the base for some of my herbal remedies, as an ingredient in salves, lip balms, beauty treatments (masks), and just in and of itself to go on cuts and scrapes and nicks to the skin (though of course you would not use honey on a child less than one year of age).

In addition to teas, tinctures, syrups, and salves, I also encapsulate herbs and herbal blends for specific purposes. I take a fertility/menstrual health blend that is biphasic (meaning one recipe is used during the first half of my fertility cycle, and another blend is used during the last half). I also take several amino acid supplements, and with all the media attention that commercial supplement companies are experiencing for using fillers in their capsules, it’s very comforting to know that what is going into my capsules is actually the herbs I have chosen and not fillers. It also gives me control over how much of each herb to put into my blend, making my dosages consistent and easier to keep track of their effects.

I hope you’ve found some information here useful, and inspiring! Please comment and let me know what your ‘unsung’ herbal allies are!
Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small

 

 

 


St. Patrick’s Day for Pagans?

2SpringMoonBlossoms_15002I can’t reblog this, but please do go and read it. PaganCentric wrote a fantastic piece about the history of St. Patrick’s Day. A couple of passages that author Claire Mulkieran wrote that are both informative and heartbreaking.

If most people know anything about Saint Patrick, it’s that his one claim to fame is that he drove the snakes from Ireland. What most people don’t realize is that the snake is a Pagan symbol, and that the snakes referred to in the Saint Patrick mythos are not meant in the literal sense, but refer to Pagans; i.e., Saint Patrick drove the Pagans (specifically, the Celts) out of Ireland (although it could be said, and has been argued, that much has been done in Saint Patrick’s name, but that the man himself was relatively unimportant). So what is celebrated on Saint Patrick’s Day with drinking and much cavorting is, ironically, the spread of Christianity throughout Ireland and the subjugation and conversion of the Celts.

This, in particular, spoke to me. The rise of Christianity is a long and bloody one; with most indigenous religions and practitioners paying the price. My ancestors are (among others) Irish, but I have no way of knowing if they were affected by the Christianization of Ireland.

By way of remembrance, she shares a bit of her personal family lore and tradition; that of wearing a oak leaf pin passed down to her:tumblr_n2kuq7FGtI1to0vxao1_1280

The significance of the oak leaf should be obvious to most Pagans. Greeks worshipped [sic] the oak as it was sacred to Zeus. It was a crime to fell an oak tree in Pagan Ireland. The ancient Celts wouldn’t meet unless an oak tree was present. The old expression “knock on wood” comes from the Celts, who believed in tree spirits. Both the Greeks and the Celts believed touching sacred trees would bring good fortune. They would knock on the oak tree to say hello to the tree spirit. And my family tradition holds that an oak leaf worn at the breast, touching the heart, will protect the wearer from all deception and the world’s false glamour. Oaks are protectors, and to me they represent strength and renewal; that spark of the old ways that can never be fully stamped out by Christianity, and which keep popping up in the least expected places.

Why not wear a shamrock? Simple. Legend credits Saint Patrick with teaching the Irish about the concept of the Christian Trinity by showing people the shamrock, using it to highlight the Christian belief of “three divine persons in the one God”. Wearing a shamrock to me is tantamount to wearing a Christian cross. I don’t begrudge those who do, but I know the meaning behind it, and I can’t follow you there. You might as well ask a Jew to wear a swastika.

is another perspective I hadn’t considered before, and it’s quite jarring to think about such a ‘fun’ holiday in this context. I do particularly appreciate the importance of family lore, and recognize the importance it has in shaping our identities.

But… is this a factual representation of the ‘truth’ of St. Patrick’s Day?

st pats bullshitMaybe. But maybe not. Patheos also has a great article about the myths that surround St. Patrick’s Day, worth reading, especially if you’re swayed by the impassioned assertions of those who would ‘reclaim’ St. Patrick’s Day. Particularly this:

It seems the “snakes = Druids” metaphor is a relatively recent invention, as was the idea that Patrick “drove them out.” … P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, a Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan (and scholar) who has extensively studied Irish myth and folklore, had this to say on the subject.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t true, and the hagiographies of St. Patrick did not include this particular “miracle” until quite late, relatively speaking (his earliest hagiographies are from the 7th century, whereas this incident doesn’t turn up in any of them until the 11th century). St. Patrick’s reputation as the one who Christianized Ireland is seriously over-rated and overstated, as there were others that came before him (and after him), and the process seemed to be well on its way at least a century before the “traditional” date given as his arrival, 432 CE, because Irish colonists (yes, you read that right!) in southern Wales, Cornwall, and elsewhere in Roman and sub-Roman Britain had already come into contact with Christians and carried the religion back with them when visiting home.”

The simple fact is that paganism thrived in Ireland for generations after Patrick lived and died, and, as Lupus puts it, ” the ‘final’ Christianization of the culture didn’t take place until the fourteenth century CE.” There was no Irish pagan genocide, no proof of any great violent Druid purge in Ireland, it simply doesn’t exist outside hagiography.

I’m not a historian, by any means, so I defer to those who make such matters their life’s work. With credible historians backing this point of view, and a decided lack of factual evidence for the former claim, I tend to lean in this direction – that St. Patrick’s mark was negligible; though he may have played a prominent role in proselytizing and has been canonized for those efforts, he wasn’t the hammer that drove the first, or final, nail in the coffin of Paganism in Ireland.

So what’s a modern Pagan to do? Which point of view is correct? What should we believe?

Ultimately, that’s up to the individual Pagan. There is no right answer for ‘all’ Pagans. With most things, how you choose to celebrate (or not) is entirely up to what you feel is right for your path. Obviously, the Christian movement has a long and bloody history to atone for, and it is an undeniable fact that most indigenous Pagan religions were stamped out by aggressive Christian proselytizing and all-out war. The mindset is so pervasive that even today, to be an out-of-the-broom-closet Pagan can be dangerous in many areas of the world, including the United States, my own included. Considering that, on some levels, it seems ‘right’ to rally behind the idea that celebrating the rise of Christianity in a Pagan country is wrong, and that re-framing it in the context of ‘cultural genocide’ instead of ‘fun secular holiday’ is a more respectful way to approach it. On the other hand, for those of us with Irish roots (however deep they may be), without a concrete connection to our cultural identity as Irish descendants, St. Patrick’s Day in modern context (that is, more or less devoid of the religious context that it may have once held) is an important touchstone.

Like most holidays, irrespective of their origin or modern connotations, I approach it from several angles with my kids. From a ‘world religions history’ perspective, we take the factual (as much as possible) account of St. Patrick and his deeds, and the context (from world history) of the region of the time. From a spiritual perspective, which is admittedly biased by my personal beliefs, we discuss the possible effects that the Christianization of Ireland had on both the people, and religion of the country. And finally, from a secular perspective, we take what’s fun about it, and what might be connected to our family history, and celebrate where we feel moved to do so.

Sláinte, and Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!
Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small


Pagan Parenting Part II: Beliefs

Introductionpaganparentingseries -2017

This is Part I of the Pagan Parenting Series. Raising children is hard enough, but when you factor in being part of a religion or spiritual belief system that falls outside the mainstream, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In addition to criticism by the mainstream, there is also a decided lack of resources for Pagan parents that deals specifically with the particulars of raising children in an Earth-based belief system. In the interests of full disclosure, I developed this series based on a discussion centering on the book, Circle Round: Elements of Spiritual Parenting, but you may find the self-assessment questions relevant even without the book. I looked for the original discussion, but could not find it to link. If this sounds familiar, and you have a source, please let me know and I will update the introduction with a link. However flavored by the original discussion, I have put my own spin on it for publishing here. In this series, I invite you to explore some of the topics and issues of concern centered on raising children as a Pagan parent.

Part II: Beliefs

All children eventually ask hard questions about the natural and supernatural world. What do we say when they ask about heaven or hell? Reincarnation? Deity? Do we pass our beliefs on to our children as ‘truth’, or do we want them to come to their own conclusions? Asking yourself these questions and others along these lines can make the difference between being prepared to answer or being blindsided when you’re not expecting them! As parents, it can be hard enough to answer those kinds of questions when you’re part of a mainstream religion, but when you fall outside of the norm, how do you answer? It can be very difficult to decide how much information is age-appropriate, or how much is ‘too much’. It can also be hard to find ‘traditional’ information to pass on to your kids.

Over the years, we’ve relied on literature, mythology, philosophy and religious studies to round out the kids’ knowledge base. Most Pagans I know personally don’t indoctrinate their kids into their path in the same way that other religions tend to assert you should. That presents problems for some; how do you teach them without forcing it on them? I think that has a lot to do with just exposure, and how you present things. My kids have always been welcome to attend Circle events and Ritual with me, and we’ve also taken them to other church services and allowed them the choice to attend, participate or opt out. We’ve always been open about XYZ being ‘one way to think about things’, or ‘this is what Mommy believes; this is what Daddy (or Auntie or whoever) believes’ with the approach that belief is a personal thing, neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’. Your approach may differ based on what your goals are.

One thing I know about my own beliefs is that they’re ever-evolving. There are ideas and concepts that I ‘like’, but don’t necessarily ‘believe’ and figuring out how to explain some of those things to my children has been challenging. Fortunately, if you’re interested in sharing your beliefs as a Pagan, or person on a more Nature/Earth-based spiritual path, there are some things online that can help to explain, or at least give you a starting point to start teaching your children. I have found it helpful to have a starting point, and for us, that was defining what it is that I believe in; what goals I am trying to attain as a person. Since we are somewhat secular, I was drawn to the 15 Guiding Principles of Secular Paganism as a teaching tool. I also appreciate the Nine Noble Virtues of Asatru, and the Golden Rule as it is explained in other various religions. If you’re more traditionally Pagan or Wiccan, then The Witches Creed, The Wiccan Rede, or 13 Goals of a Witch might be more fitting, or have attributes that you want to include in your children’s education. As an eclectic practitioner, all of these have value for me.

In my practice, gratitude and mindfulness are two concepts that I am deeply attached to and so I try to incorporate those ideas and ideals into my life on a daily basis. While this doesn’t involve ‘giving thanks’ to a deity figure,  it does involve being mindful of the good things in my life and focusing on the positive. Depending on your feelings about and/or interpretation of Deity, you may include prayers, devotions or other ‘little rituals’ that are meaningful for you and your child(ren). We have Goddess and God and Sabbat candles in the kitchen that are lit almost daily, and directional/elemental candles that are lit for various reasons. Other things, ‘traditions’ that are rooted in belief and practice have their place as well: decorations (besom, Witch Balls, altars, ritual sweeping, smudging, etc.)… those things are just part of ‘our house’ and are normal for my kids. Other facets of your belief system will depend on your personal interpretation of your path and what religion and belief means to you. I like the Four Centers of Paganism as a model for understanding, and teaching as well. Defining where you stand, and how you interpret your path can make it easier to articulate and demonstrate to your kids.

In conclusion, I think the important thing is to prepare yourself for those hard questions, and not to leave your children out of the process of discovery. Whatever your approach, and whatever their path, the journey towards a personal style of spirituality and belief is interesting and full of self-discovery. Whether they agree with you, or take off on a completely different spiritual path, they’ll make it their own just like you have.

Here are some books and other resources that I’ve found both interesting and helpful at various times over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am not affiliated with the authors, publishers of distributors; the links are just for ease of locating them if you think they may be of use to you. Please feel free to comment with other books and resources you’ve found helpful, especially if they’re specific path relevant (i.e.: Druidry, Asatru, etc.)

Paganism For Kiddos: A Kids and Parents’ Guide to Pagan and Wiccan Practice by Jessica M. Hauptmann

Raising Witches: Teaching The Wiccan Faith To Children and Family Wicca by Ashleen O’Gaea

Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk, Diane Baker, Anne Hill, & Sara Ceres Boore 

Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children by Cait Johnson & Maura D. Shaw 

The Pagan Family: Handing the Old Ways Down by Ceisiwr Serith

D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths & D’Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri d’Aulaire & Edgar Parin d’Aulaire

Be sure to check out the other parts in this series:
Part I: Values
Part III
Part IV

What are your thoughts on sharing your beliefs with your children?

Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small


Pagan Parenting Part I: Values

paganparentingseries - 2016Introduction

This is Part I of the Pagan Parenting Series. Raising children is hard enough, but when you factor in being part of a religion or spiritual belief system that falls outside the mainstream, there’s an added layer of difficulty. In addition to criticism by the mainstream, there is also a decided lack of resources for Pagan parents that deals specifically with the particulars of raising children in an Earth-based belief system. In the interests of full disclosure, I developed this series based on a discussion centering on the book, Circle Round: Elements of Spiritual Parenting, but you may find the self-assessment questions relevant even without the book. I looked for the original discussion, but could not find it to link. If this sounds familiar, and you have a source, please let me know and I will update the introduction with a link. However flavored by the original discussion, I have put my own spin on it for publishing here. In this series, I invite you to explore some of the topics and issues of concern centered on raising children as a Pagan parent.

Part I: Values

In the first part of this series, we’ll start with some introspection. All of us, as parents, have core values that we want to instill into our children, and help them develop as they grow. As a Pagan, I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, ‘Where do your values come from’. It’s a question usually inspired by the belief that values are strictly a Christian commodity, and that the Bible is the source and guardian of all the Good Things, including behaviour and motivation, and that without them, you’re incapable of having a meaningful system of values. Obviously, that’s not so, but the idea and assumption that because you are Pagan you’re incapable of having a moral compass persists.

As a parent, this issue is compounded. Not only are you considered ‘less than’, but (clutches pearls) ‘think of the children’!! We parents have a great responsibility in raising the next generation to be productive adults. It’s worth it to take some time to consider what things in your spiritual history are worthwhile, what things you’ve abandoned, and what you’ve learned that you hope to pass on.

Some of the questions for this discussion are:

How were you raised spiritually?
What do you reject of your spiritual upbringing?
What do you still value?
What parts of your current spiritual path are new to you?
What are the essential qualities you want to give your children as they grow?

How were you raised spiritually?

No matter what religion or spiritual beliefs you were raised with, it left a mark on you – on how you think, on how your spiritual beliefs and practices evolved and grew. Whether you continued in a similar path, or found something that fit better, or forged your own path, your foundations matter. It’s common for the birth of a child to shake you a bit. It’s a huge change in life-roles, and it’s normal for every aspect of your world to be rocked to the core. It’s fairly common for new parents to revisit the beliefs or religions of their childhood, especially if those memories were happy ones. One advantage that most established religions have is community. The lure of a ready-made community is strong. As a new parent, your network of support may be fragile, or non-existent, and a religious community fills that void in a big way (at least it does in the US South – not sure if it’s the same in other places). If you live near family, then there may be great pressure and/or temptation to return to your foundations by family or friends.

If that happens, it’s okay! Consider it a learning experience. Go – enjoy what you can from the experience. You may find that it fits now in a way that it didn’t before. But if your beliefs are dramatically different and/or incompatible with how you were raised, then don’t be surprised if those temptations are fleeting, or you feel out-of-place relatively quickly. That’s okay, too. Considering the possibility that this may happen to you once you have a child is, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.

What do you reject of your spiritual upbringing? What do you still value?

This is a multi-faceted question, and interesting to explore. By getting a good idea of what you reject and what you still value,  you can form better ideas of what you want to pass on to your child. In the context of religion and spirituality, if a Creator story is important to you, then finding resources that embody your current values may be something you want to look into. If the idea of serving the community is important to you, then finding stories and histories that illustrate that idea would be important. If celebrating special events and Holy Days as a family are important to you, then you’ll want to figure out how to incorporate that into your family routine.
What parts of your current spiritual path are new to you?

I firmly believe that one of the best things that parents can do is ensure that their children know that they’re still learning. Life is made up of one learning experience to the next, and even as adults, we learns new things, make adjustments to our worldview and keep on growing as people. It’s completely okay not to have all the answers, and letting your kids know that you’re willing to study and learn something new with them creates bonds of communication and trust that last a lifetime. That doesn’t mean that you can’t be an authority in their lives; your life experience and book knowledge absolutely give you a broader perspective, but it’s totally okay not to know everything, especially when it comes to spiritual matters.

One thing I have noticed about Pagans is that many have a set of core-beliefs but that they also tend to be fluid with what aspects of their spirituality and practice are most important to them at various times. They’re also eager to learn about new ideas, concepts, methods of practice and mythology and willing to put those things into their own practice when they feel something strongly. As you learn new things, don’t be afraid to introduce them to your children. There are many Pagans who adopt a ‘family friendly’ approach after they have children, and even festivals, gatherings and some circles consider themselves ‘family friendly’.

What are the essential qualities you want to give your children as they grow?

Part of being a parent is guiding by example. Whatever your children see you doing – good or bad – they’ll imitate. Many of those things will become patterns of thinking and action. I think one of the best ways to teach is to show them. Whatever you want your children to do, start now. As a family, get involved in activities, or routines that instill something in your children that you want to see grow in them.

Feel free to explore these questions on your blog, and comment with a link so I can read it!

Part II: Beliefs
Part III
Part IV

Brightest Blessings,
RH_med small

 


A Relaxed Approach to Raising Witchlings

When my children were born, I was somewhere in the midst of a philosophical crisis of sorts. I was of an age where I knew what I wanted, but lacked the confidence to go after it. I found it really difficult to decide what the ‘right’ thing to do was, regarding teaching my children about religion:

  • Should I bring them up in my parents’ religion (I turned out ‘fine’, right??)? Even though it wasn’t my belief, most of my family is in the church, and there’s a rich history that comes with it. Is it ‘right’ to deprive them of that culture, even though I personally disagree with it?
  • Should I raise them to follow my personal belief system, even though I recognize that my personal belief system is ever-evolving? I think it’s okay to not be ‘sure’ and to adopt new ideas and attitudes, but do children need more stability (even if it might be wrong)?
  • Should I not tell them anything and let them figure it out on their own? Are they capable of making that kind of decision?
  • Should I give them a wealth of information on all religions and hope they choose wisely? What happens if I don’t do a good job of making other beliefs available to them; what happens if they’re swayed by one religion before gaining an appreciation for all and/or less structured belief systems?
  • Something in between all that? And what happens if I choose wrong, or change my mind mid-stride?

Being a parent is exhausting, and trying to figure out some of the more obscure and complicated aspects of producing a functional member of society can be extremely taxing! Even knowing that you don’t have to have it all figured out today does nothing to alleviate the looming responsibility of raising your children ‘Right’.

Obviously, I can only share my own experiences, and I am far from anything resembling an expert. But as my kids get older, I do feel like the choices that we made with regard to bringing them up have been good ones. That is to say, they’re no more screwed up than any one else (and a great deal less so than many others). I’d also like to preface this article with the understanding that my viewpoint is a rather conservative view, both because I prefer my privacy (while not ‘in the closet’, I don’t advertise my spirituality overtly), and to protect my children’s privacy until they’re of age.

Living in the South, there were/are often a number of additional factors that go into your decision-making progress. I live in an area where Paganism and its associated terms and beliefs are stigmatized negatively. In my town, for example, there are probably as many Christian churches as there are gas stations (and we live in the petroleum refining capital of the world… so that’s saying something). We’re deep in the Bible Belt, and it’s generally assumed that you’re Christian until you say or do something that casts that assumption into speculation. Everyone here has a ‘church’, and you’re absolutely judged by which one you attend. As far as ‘progress’ goes, there’s a growing Atheist/Secular Humanist movement, which is helping to bring round the idea that one doesn’t have to be religious to be a good person, but it’s ever-so-slow, and does absolutely nothing to help the stigma attached to Pagan Life (and often creates yet another source of friction due to the ‘woo’ factor).

The children, themselves, are another problematic issue. The little blabbermouths darlings tend to have no filter, so openly talking about your beliefs in easily-recognizable terms can be problematic should they say something unexpected at a playdate or party. Even mostly benign subjects like meditation, mentioning the full moon, and herbal medicine can get the side-eye from the conservative set. Having people in your home is another source of worry. If your altar is in public view, it can create tensions with people who visit – even if they don’t know exactly what they’re looking at, they know it’s ‘Something’ and that that Thing is different from their Thing. Even hosting a family ritual in the back yard can cause problems with neighbors.

I use the term ‘relaxed approach’ because that’s my parenting style in general – at least, I feel like it’s relaxed in relationship to how I was raised (which was extremely authoritarian). I’m sure some would look at my approach and say that I am authoritarian as well, but I am okay with that. What I mean by ‘relaxed’ is that we didn’t start out with a framework that we tried to fit our lives and our kids into. Rather, we let our growing relationship with our kids help shape the framework that our lives became based on. We didn’t necessarily start out with the idea that they should be brought up with XYZ ‘beliefs’; we took a more broad/general approach. We shared stories and read myths and tales with origins in many religions. As an American, our entire culture is shaped by Christianity, so I feel like my kids need to have a basic knowledge of what that means. As they get older, we’ve taken a more ‘religious studies’ approach, which seems to have been a good choice for us/them.

As for the ‘how’, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when or how we went about teaching them. As parents, you’re always teaching your kids – whether intentionally or not. They pick up on everything you say and do, and in many ways, the habits and routines you set just become part of their life effortlessly. If you pray or do spellwork openly, then so will your kids. If you honor the moon, or pay homage to deity, then your kids will, too. You can certainly call attention to it with explanations and rote, but as long as your path is fascinating and tended with love, then your children will grow up with those values and traditions and habits. I took a more conservative approach – while not doing such things ‘openly’, I didn’t hide it, either. That created a safe space for me to settle into life as a confident adult, while still exposing my kids to my belief system without overwhelming them. As they have gotten older, I’ve found it to be easier to talk to them about what I feel or think and why.

Some of the more important things to me, we’ve covered a little more in-depth, and certainly where interest is shown, I am more than happy to delve into. I do feel like it’s good for the children to know what my beliefs are, and to participate in group activities with other kids who are in non-traditional/non-Christian households, not necessarily because they’re ‘Pagan’, but because such people tend to have a more open and accepting worldview. That is the kind of attitude that I want to foster in my kids, and that is the community that values it. That doesn’t limit their fellowship, but it does segment it to a certain degree. Pagan families are hard to find, I think partially because of the stigma attached to Pagan religious misconceptions. Groups like Spiral Scouts have made it a little more mainstream, but the minute people read that it’s based on Wiccan philosophy, people immediately shun it.

I was fortunate in that by the time I decided to be more open with my kids about what I believe, they were a bit older. The only thing that ‘changed’ really was talking about it. They were already familiar with Mommy’s altar (very, very simple when they were little – but the same rules apply about touching), and meditation practice and herb crafting. Many of the things we did at the turn of the seasons became more celebratory, but they were still the same things we’d always done. Books like Circle Round, and Honoring the Great Mother, and Pagan Homeschooling were great resources, too. Even though they seem to have gone dormant, back issues of newsletter like Pagan Moonbeams and Pooka Pages have tons of great kid-centered information.

Autonomy is important to me, and as a parent, it’s important to me that my children have the autonomy to choose their own paths. We emphasize communication and the idea that you should try things before deciding that they’re not for you (most things; some things we can look at objectively and make a decision based on those observations). We’ve invited the kids to participate in ritual and Teaching Circle classes, and also taken them to visit local churches and facilitated discussions about religion with peers and family members. My youngest has a personal altar set up in his room, but my oldest doesn’t feel the need for it. Neither have chosen a set path, but I feel like they have the opportunity to learn and choose as they will, and I’m okay with that. My point in writing this is to emphasize that you really DON’T have to have it all figured out. It’s perfectly fine to take it day by day, or situation by situation, and address things as they come up.

What’s your approach to raising witchlings look like?

Brightest Blessings,
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Little Rituals Every Day

little ritualsAs Pagans, it’s fairly safe to say that most of us are somewhat familiar with rituals. Those of us who are heavily involved in the local Pagan community either attend, take part in, or lead at least eight Sabbat rituals, and often many Esbat rituals as well. Even if you’re a solitary practitioner, you likely celebrate the Sabbats, Esbats and other marks of the passing year with some sort ceremony. Even in other religions, there are rituals. I’ve been watching The Borgias on TV, which showcases many of the rituals associated with the Catholic Papacy (many of which are oddly reminiscent of Pagan rituals, as many know and recognize), and have always been fascinated and drawn to the ritualistic aspects of ancient religions.

Most would say that it is these rituals define the practitioner, and indeed, you can usually identify a person’s beliefs often by the rituals that one takes part in. A priest wears ritual garb, a teacher leads the class in the Pledge of Allegiance, a nurse checks your vital signs… all of these rituals tell you something about the person who leads or initiates them, or takes part in performing them.

Wikipedia says that:

A ritual may be performed on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community; in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for it; either in public, in private, or before specific people. A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states.

Ritual is defined as a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. In a religious sense, for both Pagans and Catholics (and some other forms of Christianity as well), the rituals of bread and wine have heavy significance for us because of the meaning behind them – the body and blood of Christ; the union of the Lord and Lady.

As moving and meaningful as these rituals are, I thought I would discuss some of the small rituals that I perform daily that identify me as a Pagan practitioner, and some of the little rituals that I’ve helped my kids develop as they’ve grown and taken on more of a personally active role in their spirituality.

 

4594485-bowl-of-pure-water-and-lavender-petals-on-the-old-wooden-surface-spa-treatments-compositionLike many Pagans, I keep a bowl of water on my altar. Sometimes it is moon-blessed water, sometimes it is sun-charged water, sometimes it is salt water, sometimes it’s Holy Water made during a Sabbat or Esbat observance. I usually press the tips of my fingers into the water, then to my forehead every time I pass it, but I often start my day standing before my altar, taking a few moments to connect with the quiet inside before going about the start of my day. I will go back again to my altar when I need to think, or chill out or meditate, sometimes with incense or chakra music or meditation music, as needed. I’ve mentioned before that we made meditation jars to help the kids learn how to focus and find their inner calm. They keep their jars in their rooms now, to use when they feel the need.

In addition to the water, incense also plays a big part in my persona practice. I make my own, but am not adverse to buying it; my particular favorites are from sandalrose and bergamot from ElvenKeep and the Hari incense from RamaKrishnaNandaStore.com. I love the way that the scents of incense permeate my house, and how the scent lingers long after the ember is gone. The I often use incense for meditation, and just to have that subtle scent that is ‘other’ to keep me grounded and focused.

My youngest child has found quite a desire for incense in his room. A year or so ago, we deemed him old enough to have access to incense, a burner and lighter in his room. He’s 11 now, and that was a responsibility that he’s taken well to. When we go shopping for incense, he’s always on the lookout for something that calls to him now.

Tea time is another big ritual for me, and for the kids. We started having ‘tea time’ when we started homeschooling – a time to relax and connect between lunch and dinner. We have the chance to talk and re-connect in the middle of the afternoon over a nice hot cuppa. This isn’t a ‘pagan’ ritual per se, but it certainly can be depending on the discussion.

Tea time can also tie into tasseography, or the art of fortune-telling through tea leaf reading. It’s a practice that I am not terribly experienced in, but enjoy immensely. I’ve been learning more and more about it over the past couple of years, and it’s been a fun journey.

Candle magic is another ritual that I engage in almost daily. From lighting my altar candles, my devotional candles (even if for only a few minutes), to lighting spell candles (what some might view as ‘prayers’), candles play a central role in my daily practice. Fire in my element, so connecting with primal elementals helps me keep my focus, even when things are hectic and life gets chaotic. Oddly, this is one of the first things that I tend to stop doing when things get busy, and one of the things I most enjoy picking back up when I realize how much I am neglecting my spiritual path.

One of the amazing things about rituals is the calm and comfort that comes from the performing of them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stressed or scattered, and been able to fall back on established habits and rituals to find myself again. Whether big or small, rituals help me be the best that I can be as a practitioner.

I was poking around WitchVox the other day and came across an article called ‘Living Your Religion Every Day‘ by James Bulls. In it, he writes about moderation:

 As it concerns living your religion everyday, the loud dramatists advocate set rules and habits for life: meditate for an hour every day; read cards every day; exercise every day; never eat this; never drink that; always perform the quarter, cross-quarter, full-Moon, and dark-Moon rituals; and so on. And so the misguided accept one absolute after another into their spiritual devotions until all their time and energy is devoted to planning for the next event.

The trouble with living your religion in terms of absolutes is that each of us is fallible and will fail to satisfy an artificial schedule and arbitrary definition of “spiritual perfection.” Absolutes invite failure, failure invites discouragement, discouragement invites dissatisfaction, and dissatisfaction invites mediocrity. This “mediocrity” of which I speak is the ball-and-chain, which prohibits daily expression of one’s religion…

The article is wonderful, and I highly recommend reading all of it, but I especially agree with the last big. Holding unrealistic precepts for yourself is a sure way to burn out. Instead, I choose to focus on what I am able to do, and enjoy each thing fully. The more I appreciate and find joy in what I can do, the more I want to do. The more I want to do, the more I make time for. And when I start expecting too much of myself, then I find joy in re-establishing  communion with my deities in more simple ways.

I’d love to see how you make and re-make those connections if you’d like to share!

Brightest Blessings,

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Shielding and Protection Magic For Kids

shielding

When it comes to protection magic, there are a lot of different methods and ways to go about doing it. There are also many aspects to protection magic – protection for yourself, another person, your possessions, other objects, warding against harm or evil by ‘chance’ or by ‘intent’, and myriad other applications. So how do you know what the best methods are? How do you learn them? And if you’re eclectic and don’t follow a specific path, or are totally new, how do you create protection magics, spells and rituals that carry enough power to do the job? And once you figure all that out, how do you teach kids?

There are several things to consider before you start working on major protection mojo. For any energy work, the basis of all of that is control. By that, I mean connectivity with the spiritual energy within, and ‘able to access and manipulate it as needed’. So right off the bat, if your control isn’t very good, then it is well worth it to practice. A lot. A good way to do that is through meditation and visualization. Having good control within yourself is also what will allow you to raise energy in Ritual or in a group more effectively. That connectivity with your spirit and energy is what allows you to shield effectively, and shielding is the very core of protection magic.

As a mom, teaching my children to connect with and access their personal energy has been challenging. Since I wasn’t raised in a pagan household, and pagan parenting books are few and far between, it’s been a lot of trial and error on my part to find ways to help my kids learn about various practices and views without ‘indoctrinating’ them. I think that meditation is useful, pagan or not. It’s fairly easy to learn how to do, and the benefits of mindful practice go far beyond religious usage.

When the boys were smaller, we made ‘mind jars’ – basically, glass jars with a mixture of water, water-based hair gel (to thicken the water), glitter and food coloring, sealed with gorilla glue and a lid – to help them settle down. They’d shake the jar up, stirring the glitter throughout the jar, then sit quietly and watch the glitter settle back to the bottom. About a 5-6 minute process, that was a great way to help them find quiet places inside of them and just BE there for a bit. We’ve gotten out of the habit, but are working on getting it back into the routine.

For small kids, or kids with attention issues, weight can help keep them grounded. I made lap blankets for my boys – 12″ x 18″ mini-quilts weighted with poly-pellet doll fillers and sewn in a grid. They are the perfect size for their lap, and work in SO many situations! For an older child (or if you don’t have access to a lap blanket or weighted materials for sensory kids), having them hold large, smooth river stones can work. A lap blanket or rice sock distributes the weight over more area and keeps them from feeling like they are floating away. As an adult, if you find meditation difficult, that technique can help you as well.

Never under-estimate the power of music! When my children were very small, I would play a certain collection of classical music at naptime. For years, that CD was sleep-zone-inducing, even if it wasn’t time for a nap! We even managed to sleep through a couple of hurricanes, thanks to the awesome power of association.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of meditation and visualization, it’s time to work on shielding. Shielding, in my mind, is another form of meditation, and visualization plays a key role. But rather than a ‘normal’ meditation session, where you actively meditate, shielding involves learning to maintain that focus unconsciously, or subconsciously. Whereas some feel the need to shield continuously, I tend to feel like there’s a lot you miss out on when you’re so shut down, so I reserve shielding for when I feel it’s needed. One of the benefits of practice is that you learn to quickly bring up your shields when necessary.

With my kids, we started with personal shielding, and used visualization in the beginning. I started with typical imagery – that of walls, or a bubble, or light. I personally generally prefer the vision of a shimmery barrier or bubble that begins in my solar plexus area, and expands outward to encompass my body. It keeps things I don’t want out, but allows things I do want in. I also use imagery for a ‘harder’ version of my personal shield, reserved for emergency situations. My kids have, at various times, used different images or visualization to invoke their own shielding. I encourage them to use imagery and visualization that works for them.

Once you (or they) have gotten the hang of that, you can move on to more complicated shielding work, like creating wards to protect places or objects. We use witch balls often around our house, both inside and outside. The kids have helped make them – we use the fill-your-own Christmas ornaments – and hang them in windows, on tree branches and in other places around the house. I sometimes use stones and crystals to anchor warding magic, and symbols, like mandalas, Dutch hex signs, sigils and other graphics can anchor protection magic as well.

Have you worked with your children on shielding and protection magic? How did you teach them? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Brightest Blessings,

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