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Pagan Parenting (Not!)

by Brook

What is Pagan Parenting? It almost makes me cringe from visions of enforced religious education. My first guiding light (though I can't always hold to this ideal) is honoring the Will and the Path of each individual as she finds and follows it.

So how does one honor one's child's Will and Path (so much as that is possible) and still parent in a Pagan way? I really don't know. But I can tell you what I've done and how I practice. My practice most definitely intersects with my parenting, though perhaps not in completely obvious ways.

I am a Witch. I practice the Craft on a daily basis. I need to move the Wheel of the Year at the major sabbats, and I make seasonal altars in their time. I have done these practices throughout my child's life. I was a Witch before she was born, and I expect I will be a Witch (marked for life?) until I die. I'm a second generation Pagan, gone too far off the deep end to get back even if I wanted to, which I don't.

The Craft is ever present in my life, and so, ever present in hers. When I make oatmeal, I work my oatmeal spell. My garden and my compost are part of my magical workings. My jewelry is a piece of my daily Craft practice. I use my clothing choices as a Working.

And yet, despite the constant presence of the Craft in my life, I have never believed that it was my job to "bring my child up as a Pagan." She finds her own religious and spiritual directions. Sometimes those have intersected with mine, and sometimes they haven't. I believe that my job is to show respect for whatever religious journeys my daughter chooses to take. I most certainly explain what I believe, sometimes emphatically. But I try really hard not to tell her what she should believe.

Throughout my daughter's life I have attended the major sabbats. Since her care is entrusted to me, that has usually (but not always) meant that she had to go too. But once there, I've tried to make it clear that she is welcome to participate but that her participation was not mandatory.

In her earlier years, she loved anything sensory or tactile — a spiral dance has rarely been missed. But we say that "kids and dogs" can move in and out of the circle without leaking the energy. And Allison has made excellent use of this maxim. She's played on the beach, hung out around the fire, climbed the sand dunes, made noise in the balcony or in the bathroom, run with packs of other kids, and generally treated rituals as an opportunity to play with the other kids within a safe and supportive container. Very occasionally, I've asked her to be a little bit quieter. Other than that, beyond the usual parental safety concerns, I've let her enjoy the rituals in her own way, and I've hoped that she would find something to amuse her. That's a lot easier for me than having my kid pulling on my arm during a trance telling me that she's tired or bored and wants to go home. I have left rituals early because she needed to go. And when she was younger she slept through a few, too.

At home when we make our food blessings, I've kept quiet most of the time, letting Allison find her own words of thanks and blessing. "I'm happy that I have my kitten," or whatever she chooses to say at that time. If I feel the need to directly thank the Goddess aloud, I will. But mostly I leave open space to allow anything to come out.
When she's interested, I've told her the stories from the Wheel of the Year. She sometimes helps to make the seasonal altar. Her altar objects are always welcome.

Some friends used to have a kids' Solstice cookie party every year and we planned our lives around that event. One of the biggest challenges that Allison has given herself is trying to vigil all night on Winter Solstice. Last year, she did it.

These friends found a way for the kids to work the magic in a very child-centered way. We've done a few rituals like this, where there was something for the kids to do. Those have mostly been successful. And, we've tried a few activities at home like this — for instance, coloring eggs for the Eostar altar. But I think, as a parent, I could have mined this area a lot more than I have. Childhood fascination with fire makes candles an excellent tool. A Winter Solstice candle set into a bowl of water is not only a wonderful way for a child to vigil and sleep, but it's also something kids love.

We have many magical workings in our house. We make offerings to the Fey ones. We gather rosemary from the garden to place under beds and over the entrances for protection and cleansing. Allison's participation in all of these is her choosing.

As Allison has grown, she has asked interesting questions about the nature of the Universe and about deity. I always try to answer what I believe, but try to leave room for other possibilities. She decided at some fairly early age that she loved the Goddess. But she's also been intrigued with the Jewish faith (we have some Jewish ancestry), and at one point was really looking at what Christianity had to offer. Since I can be pretty hard on the Christian faith, she told me point blank at that time that I was not leaving her enough space to be a Christian, if she so chose. These were important lessons for both of us in respecting her spiritual path.

Now, Allison is defining herself primarily as a Pagan and a Witch. She went to the Tejas Web's Village Witch Camp, which included children, in March of this year. There, she took an adult path including rites of passage and dream work. She's doing a lot of tarot reading and magic with her friends, and attends rituals because she wants to, when she wants to.

This may be the hardest time for me because I'm delighted that she's chosen this path. But being that she's a teenager, I think it's really important for me not to set this choice in stone. She must still be free to choose, free to explore, free to make up her own mind. That's my bottom line — it's not about my religious choices, it's about hers.

So is what I do Pagan parenting? Perhaps not in the way that I've read about in some books — offering religious education in the hopes of educating the child into one's faith. I don't believe in that. My religion demands of me the honoring of each path, because the Goddess is in each, as Her "love is poured upon the earth."

I do very little in the way of offering religious indoctrination, though my beliefs are deeply held. I cringe when I hear any parent tell a child that the parent's beliefs are Truth, and must be believed. I think that this is a good way to ensure that the child will find another path, any other path.

Instead, I like to offer myself as a model, and trust that my daughter will consider all sides and make choices that are the best for her. Then she will be connecting to deity in whatever manner deity speaks to her. Blessed Be!

Brook is a kitchen Witch who finds magic in the daily tasks of living. Besides writing for the Reclaiming Quarterly, he makes regular contributions to his compost pile.