It was never my intention to raise my daughter as Pagan. My spirituality has always been very personal and having grown up Christian has made me completely averse to any kind of pushing or coercing of religious belief. Besides which, Pagans as a group embrace the lack of dogma and hierarchy in our philosophy.
But things are different now. I, like countless others have found myself (with my partner), trying to homeschool our child while also keep our jobs going. Our daughter is five so we also spend each day being bombarded with questions that run the gamut of “how did the bird in the garden die?” to “Do mermaids have vaginas?” Add to this cocktail the fact that she is spending more time with me, her mother, who finds solace in witchy activities such as art making, gardening, altar building and the like to maintain her sanity and there is really no getting away from the influence of the earthbound craft of Paganism. It came home to me for some reason on the day she saw me methodically ripping paper into a tub and she said “I know what you’re doing! You’re going to put that in the compost!” Why it was this statement that resonated with me so I don’t know, she had been talking about “mother earth” and “having powers” for weeks. I suppose it was the realization that she was soaking up all that we were doing.
From that point I just let it all happen naturally, honoring the moon, celebrating the solstice, saying a few words for the dead animals we found in the garden (“Goodbye bird, we are sorry you are dead. Mother Earth, please take this bird back to the earth.”). What we found was that these practices have been of great support and help not just in our daughter’s spiritual development but also her broader education and all-round mental health. Here’s how:
Ritual and Ceremony are Part of Human Nature
Everyone has traditions and rituals regardless of whether one is atheist or follows a religious path. We need them. Doing this mindfully is helping us pause and feel gratitude and assess our lives.
We Have Things to Look Forward To Again
Pagans are lucky that we have so many festivals or opportunities to celebrate! Full moons, sabbats, it’s pretty great. So many kids have lost their structure, contact with their friends, and teachers. My little loves people and parties and it makes her so sad not to see her friends. So we can at least develop some special occasions as a family. Whether it’s just letting her stay up late to see the full moon or a fire for a sabbat, anything that can seem a bit special has been important to us.
She is Learning Important Life Skills
We bake together, and I already mentioned that she’s learning about compost. She loves the garden and working in it with us. I think these are really important skills that will serve her throughout her life.
We Are Serving Our Community
As part of making her aware of the sacredness of our planet and everything and everyone that lives on it, we are trying to make sure we walk the talk. This includes trash pick-ups in our neighborhood, volunteering at our local peace garden, and checking in on neighbors who are struggling. When it was Beltaine we made May Baskets for our neighbors and friends and our daughter found this very rewarding.
She is Doing Really Fun Stuff!
We have had little celebrations for the sabbats and full moons, seasonal crafts like “making potions”, building altars etc. She loves all this and it’s fun for all of us during a time that is often sad.
She is Learning in a New Context
When there is a sabbat or full moon coming up, we count off the days on the calendar. At the summer solstice we talked about why the sun was going down later because of the earth's tilt. In the garden she is learning a lot about life sciences and math (counting out seeds, figuring out when they sprout, etc.). All of these are very age appropriate for a child about to enter (theoretically) kindergarten. Not mention the crafts, so many crafts!
A Note on Belief
You may notice that much of this is about doing stuff, developing a practice rather than giving her a belief system. Honestly, I think it is up to her to figure out her beliefs as she gets older and who knows if she ever will? When I think back on my own upbringing it was what I experienced and did with my family that shaped my values not what was preached to me. We don’t really talk about mythologies or specific Pagan theology, though she is showing interest in legends. This is because her brain at this stage is just too literal and I do believe that many of the folk lore or religious stories we encounter shouldn’t be taken literally. However, when I developed an interest in Paganism and Wicca as a teenager, there were no groups to turn to and I had to fumble around for answers. I think we need to move on from this and provide young people opportunities to explore their path if they desire it. My daughter’s five and if later on she doesn’t want to run around a fire at solstice or make flower crowns, that’s fine. But for as long as I am able, I want our lives to be infused with magic and wonder.
In the coming weeks I hope to share with you some resources for parents who mare be interested in incorporating these ideas into their own families.