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.)
I recently came across a post on Patheos by John Beckett, talking about the Four Centers of Paganism. I really liked the model, and have been thinking about how it applies to me, or more precisely, how and where my beliefs and practice fall within the model.
Basically, the idea is that rather than an institution, Paganism is a movement, and people fall closer or further away from the center of the model. Paganism, according to Halstead, has four centers around which the individual Pagan practitioner may revolve his or her practice. The centers are:
Nature Centered Pagans find the Divine in Nature – their primary concern is the natural world and our relationship with it. You may hear terms like “Earth centered” “tree hugger” and “dirt worshipper.”
Self centered Paganism doesn’t mean it’s all about you and your ego. It means you find the Divine within yourself. It means the focus of your religious practice is to make yourself stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and more magical, so you can be of greater service to the world.
Deity centered Pagans find the Divine in the many Goddesses and Gods. Deity centered Paganism is mainly concerned with forming and maintaining relationships with the Gods, ancestors, and spirits. Much of this is done through acts of devotion: worship, offerings, sacrifices, prayers and meditation.
Community centered Pagans find the Divine within the family and the tribe – however they choose to define those groups. Ancient tribal religion was (and is, in the few places where it still exists) about maintaining harmonious relationships and preserving the way things have always been. Individuals are secondary to the family, and immortality is in the continuation of the family, not in the continuation of the individual. It usually includes some form of ancestor worship, and may include offerings to the Agathos Daimon – the “good spirit” or guardian spirit of the household. Ancestors and family spirits are generally thought to be more accessible than Goddesses and Gods – a Heathen saying goes “if you feel a tap on your shoulder, it’s probably your grandfather, not the Allfather.”
These are just the most basic ideas; I encourage you to read the article in its entirety to get a better understanding of the model, but the definitions are enough for my purposes here.
It’s interesting to me that these centers are not limited to Pagan practitioners; there are many who revere Nature, or find their concept of the Divine in serving their community. There are even elements of self in praying for blessings to be answered or to be delivered from ill health or circumstance. And many other religious traditions center on the relationship with Deity over any other model.
For my personal practice, I think I fall mostly in the Nature/Self/Community spheres. While I enjoy the ritual associated with deity-centered styles of practice, they’re not my primary focus. I have often described myself as a ‘secular pagan’; my practice is more focused on becoming a better person, in sync with the natural world, celebrating the seasons and helping my community. One feeds into the other; I cannot give to my community without learning (and sharing what I learn along the way) to become a better person. Being a better person includes helping my community and honoring the planet we take nourishment from. I tend to think of deity as archetypes or aspects of Self; guides, teachers in metaphor rather than actual beings.
I do think that all four centers can have a place in practice, and that it’s okay to either focus on one area, or a couple at a time. Regardless of where your practice falls within those four centers, there’s always room for growth.
Where does your practice fall?
I’m the first to admit it – I tend to overplan for things. I don’t think that’s an actual word, but it should be, because that’s exactly what I do. I was looking for new books on Amazon, and it occurred to me that the new almanacs should be out, so I ordered the 2015 Llewellyn’s Magical Almanac, which led to thinking about the moon cycles for the coming year, and the realization that I didn’t have them written for my Shadow Book yet. So I started browsing some of the ready-made/printable lunar calendars, and stumbled across Lucy Everitt’s AMAZING lunar calendars.
I am planning to order one for myself, but being me, I needed something *immediately*, so I sat down and started creating. This is what I came up with. Nothing too fancy, and definitely not anything remotely similar to Lucy’s incredible work, but I’ve been craving a creative outlet for a while now, and this was just the thing to satisfy that itch. I found some of he images online, and the font is from DaFont.com. I used a combination of pencil, colored pencils, fountain pen & ink (magenta & indigo), stamps and markers to decorate. I am not finished with it – I am nothing if not a doodler, so I am sure that over the course of the next week or so (and maybe longer), I will add bits and pieces to it.
One of the things I love about making my own things is that they are tailored to my specific path. In this case, the names of the moons, the deities I choose to venerate each month, and specific holidays and feast days and other things I want to remember for this coming year.
The past few months have been hectic, and as a result, the attention I’ve been in the habit of giving to walking my path has been non-existent. Other than a few nods here and there, I’ve neglected tending to myself and I recently realized just how much of a negative thing that’s been for me. Drawing and creating this calendar was a good first step towards nourishing my spirituality.
Mabon’s here, and I will be celebrating with my Circle this weekend. A little late, but better late than never! This will be our first observance in several months, and I am looking forward to it!
Because she says it better than I could, I am re-blogging Bridey’s recent post that talks about our plans for the future.
Recently Rowan & I have been talking a lot about leadership and what our roles entail. We’ve also been discussing how we’d like to expand on our knowledge as leaders and grow our circle. There are a lot of ideas being tossed around. We’re both ordained and considering what that could mean for our circle and our lives personally. While we hold the title, both of us want formal training and some guidance from other people in leadership roles. It’s one thing to call yourself a High Priestess and another to actually fill that role appropriately. I feel that we both live up to the standards of what I believe a High Priestess should be, however, it doesn’t hurt either of us to ensure that we learn how to better serve our community.
The other day we started talking about formal Pagan clergy programs. Most of them are geared entirely…
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