The last few months have been pretty chaotic and upsetting, but things feel like they’re finally settling down into some semblance of normal again. Tonight was the first full moon esbast I’ve really been able to sit down and devote some time to since Yule. My mother got sick towards the end of last year, and died in January. Through the last couple of weeks of her life, we knew she was going to die, but we didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. In any case, that has been the source of a lot of rumination, contemplation, questioning and general introspective inquiry for me over the last few months.
It’s also been an interesting time for talking to my children. They’re not little anymore, so discussions about in-dept spiritual concepts have a much different flavor to them now than they used to. It’s interesting to see how their ideas about death, dying, the after;life and spirituality are unfolding and what they think about those concepts. It’s also interesting to me how very different they are from each other with regard to their thought processes and general spiritual ideas.
I have been working on creating a little outdoor space in my yard lately; I repainted some old patio furniture and bought a lovely bright umbrella for the table. It’s been nice to have diner outside, and gives me a pretty, dedicated space to meditate and/or commune with nature, especially when I feel like going outside at night. This evening was one such occasion; I brought my esbat journal and affirmation cards, incense and tea to my little spot and just bathed in the moonlight. Then I took a walk around my yard and mentally mapped out some future plans I’d like to implement for outdoor living spaces. The moon was so pretty and bright – I love walking around outside under the full moon!
I have been meaning to re-plant an herb garden, but haven’t followed through with it for various reasons. After my mom crossed over, it seemed like a good time to make those plans blossom. As part of my grief self-care and healing process, I have been buying plants and herbs. I love green growing things; I’m not super great at keeping them alive past a certain point, but I really love them. It’s been healing, because my mom had quite the green thumb and also loved her plants, so it’s almost like sharing this with her. In addition to garden basics like basil, thyme, oregano, lavender and catnip, I added several variations of common varieties, like lime basil and purple basil; hot & spicy oregano; several varieties of mint (spearmint, sweet mint, peppermint and chocolate mint); and other staples like lemon balm and be balm, succulents, bell and jalapeno peppers, and quite a few greenery plants and flowers as well.
When my mom died, my aunt brought me a cabinet that belonged to my grandmother. She had been keeping it for my mom (who inherited it when my grandmother died). My grandmother collected all kinds of dolls, and the cabinet is where they lived. I re-purposed it into my herbal and apothecary cabinet, with the top housing my living room altar. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a full altar in a public space in my house; my main altar is in my bedroom. Right now, it’s just a generic altar, but I’m planing for it to become more of a family space. I’m sure that with time, it will take on a life of its own as we add to it.
I spent some time the other day making honey incense. It’s been a long time since I’ve made incense; I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the process. It’s really easy, and can basically be customized with either what you have on hand, or for specific purposes. I made a prosperity and protection blend for Beltane. This has a lovely sweet scent, and doesn’t smoke a lot; it just kinda smolders, which is nice if you have allergies.
Homemade Springtime Prosperity & Protection honey incense
1 tsp comfrey leaf
1.5 tsp lavender flowers
1 tsp orange peel
.5 tsp fenugreek seed
2 white sage leaves
.75 tsp. frankincense powder
1 tsp copal tears
honey (aprox 1.5 tsp)
Grind all dry ingredients. I put everything in a mortar and grind with a pestle until the larger bits are about evenly sized, then move to an electric finder and give everything a spin – just enough to get a rough sand-like texture. Then pour into a small bowl and add honey, sparingly. You inky need enough honey to bind the ingredients together so they’ll hold the ball shape. Roll and place on parchment paper to dry in a cool, dark place. You can use them immediately, but the are better when dried and aged. Burn by placing a ball onto a lot charcoal disc.
I’ve also been spending time with my cards. I read with the Medieval Scapini Tarot, and have been experimenting with different ways to read. This was a year forecast reading, which I’ve never attempted before. It will be interesting to see what unfolds in the coming months.
I 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:
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?
Maybe. 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!
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.)
Probably every person who admits to being Pagan gets this question at least once. I’ve never addressed it here, so I thought it might be a fun way to kick off the new year. The question of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is a hard one to answer, in my opinion. Not because what I do or don’t do in my practice is questionable, but because of the very nature of black and white thinking. Categorizing something as either/or leaves out a vast canvas of grey, which I think most things could be said to be. There are a lot of factors that go into determining whether something is good or bad, not the least of which are intention and perspective.
Morticia Addams said it best, ‘What is normal to the spider is chaos to the fly.’
Take healing spells, for example. Most people would say that the intent of a healing spell is to help someone who is ill or feeling poorly. Few would argue that the intent of a healing spell would be classed as ‘good’. But if the person you worked a spell for feels that anything to do with Pagan practices is ‘evil’, and you knowingly violated that person’s belief/preference, would that still be classed as ‘good’?
There are those would would argue that all witches are evil. Quoting the bible, Exodus 22:18 says, ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.’ That’s pretty damning, most would say. But surely all witches aren’t evil? I don’t consider myself to be evil, or even mostly bad. Short of swearing and a little social drinking and smoking every now and then, that’s about the worst of my vile habits. Even in my spiritual practice, I am cautious when it comes to affecting change in a way that might be destructive.
Many people who have an inkling of familiarity with Pagans may think that all Pagans are Wiccan, and as such, follow the Wiccan Rede, which states, ‘An it harm none, do as ye will.’ That’s not so; while Wiccans are Pagan, not all Pagans are Wiccan. Wicca is a specific style/belief/practice set within Paganism, and even though it has different ‘flavors’, that’s only a small part of the larger Pagan community. I’m not actually Wiccan, so I wouldn’t follow Wiccan dictates any more than I would follow Catholic ones (though those two particular religions have practices and ‘rules’ that are remarkably similar to one another, but I digress). That doesn’t mean that I take the idea behind the Rede, or even the Christian sentiment of the Golden Rule, any less seriously. Most cultures and religious or philosophical maxims have some version of it; I think it’s because at their core, most people strive to be good – to do good and be well thought of by others in their community. Even the concept of karma, and ‘the rule of three’ emphasis that what you put out there is what comes back to you.
For myself, I choose to strive to be good. My version of ‘good’ may vary slightly from yours; for example, I enjoy firearms as a sport, and other weaponry. While my interest in them does fall towards ‘sport’ and less towards ‘protection’, if pressed, I wouldn’t have an issue protecting myself or my children with force. I believe that doing so, even should it result in injury or death, would still be ‘good’. That’s more pragmatic than many ‘fluffy goodness and light’ Pagans might like, but I believe that there is more than just black and white; good and bad.
In light of recent world goings-on, I have had many discussions with my children about how ‘good’ and ‘evil’ develop, particularly within the political realm. While current politics don’t hold my interest the way that history does, I can see alarming correlations between some of the American Presidential candidates’ positions and policies that historical figures that we almost universally categorize as ‘evil’ once held. But to truly avoid repeating those same mistakes, we can’t dehumanize the villains in those accounts. They were men; not monsters from a fictional story. They were men who, through charismatic, enigmatic and persuasive arguments and speech, appealed to fear, a need for safety and an idealized (but unattainable) ‘better’. And people flocked to them. They came running, willing to set aside their personal values and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in order to work towards a goal that someone else imposed upon them. And there are those who would unequivocally say that those leaders were ‘good’ men. Chaos for the fly, indeed.
On the flip side, we have examples of non-violent lifestyles taken to extremes. Some might say that inaction in the fact of injustice is ‘bad’, but who could argue that refusing to harm or kill another living being is anything but ‘good’. But if my child were harmed or killed through someone else’s deliberate inaction on their behalf, I’d probably fail to see how they rationalize being a ‘good’ person after that.
My point is that black and white thinking is a form of cognitive distortion (another subject that interests me greatly). When you categorize something, and more importantly, someone as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, you box them, and yourself, into a corner. You tend to put ‘good’ people up on a pedestal, unable or unwilling to see their faults, and have the potential to grossly wrong someone by judging them as ‘bad’ simply because their perspective or worldview is different from yours. We all do it to some degree; it’s natural. But being aware of it is the first step towards questioning our snap judgement and perceptions and getting to the grey.
Then again, according to the quiz, maybe I am just here to tempt you to the Dark Side of the Force.
So, are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
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?
As 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.
Like 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!
“When celebrating the Wheel of the Year, you can interpret it many ways. You can see it as symbolic, agricultural, astrological, etc. You could even do a combination. How do you find significance of each holiday in the modern world we live in? For example, during the fall season, the holidays relate strongly to the harvest. In this day and age, most of us don’t live on a farm harvesting grain and ensuring the following year’s crops. How do you stay in touch with the roots of the holy days we observe when some times we are so far placed from them?
How do you interpret the Sabbats of the Wheel of the Year and make it fit the modern world around us?”
Litha is also when my local Circle celebrates our anniversary. We formed in 2011, and Litha was our first Ritual as a group, so each turn of the Wheel to Litha is another year that I celebrate in fellowship with the members of my Circle. We celebrate 3 full years in 2014.