The time has come. Finally, it has come. And everything comes crashing down around me with the furry of a storm off the eastern sea. And yet it is not total destruction, it is simply the energy needed to shift the sands and shape the world anew. Our world. The sand beneath our feet. There is a tidal wave rising, swelling, pulsing within my chest, struggling to burst the seawall that it may wash over everything and cleanse it. Bringing with it new life, healing energy, and creation out of the destruction of the old it has laid waste to. Our old patterns, our old life, our old home, is being swept away. But it is being replaced by potential, new starts fresh out of the damp spring-sun warmed soil. It is being replaced by a new home, new plans (or shifting kaleidoscope images of old plans), new risks and new patterns, and new life.
For like the seeds stirring in the dark womb of the earth as the strength of the sun returns and the buds leap forth onto branch and limb, so to does life quicken within mine own womb. For so long I had fought it, for so long we toiled over the labor of preventing life, of keeping my dark earth barren. For so long I whispered to the dark– please, not yet. Please, not again. I made bargains and pleaded, asking for this or that to be in place first. And once the Universe finally dumped those things so unexpectedly into our laps, not a handful of days later did Universe also see fit to set life to stirring in my belly. I suppose I got what I asked for. Funny how those things go. But I am thankful. For it all. For the chaos, for the turmoil, for the sadness, for the joy, for the uncertainty, for the dreams, for life. I am grateful.
And yet, as I look around this place that I have called my home for so many years, I realize that as much as I have fought and reached for a place beyond here… I have made roots here. They have begun to reach deeper into the earth here than I realized. Seeds had even begun to be planted and sprout here. This place is home, and yet now we must say good-bye. To Place and Land and Sea and Home and Spirits and Friend and Family… we must say good-bye. Honey and oil and milk and blood have been given here, we have awoken Spirits here who know us and love us as almost kin… and we must say good-bye. My heart aches with a pain I had not expected nor prepared myself for. My belly tightens with anticipation and fear, and uncertainty. And tears of longing and grief pour from my eyes onto sand and soil. How do you say good-bye? How do you prepare to part ways from a Spirit that has loved your child and protected house and land and has seen birth and death in your family, and stood sentinel for it all. How do you say good-bye to an ocean that has baptized you into mysteries still being unraveled, that has taken your whispers and tears and whishes to its depths, that has fed you and kept you as its own for so long… I don’t know. But it is time to say good-bye.
When they ask to see your gods
your book of prayers
show them lines
drawn delicately with veins
on the underside of a bird’s wing
tell them you believe
in giant sycamores mottled
and stark against a winter sky
and in nights so frozen
stars crack open spilling streams
of molten ice to earth
and tell them how you drank
the holy wine of honeysuckle
on a warm spring day
and of the softness
of your mother
who never taught you
death was life’s reward
but who believed in the earth
and the sun
and a million, million light years
This post is long overdue, but being a parent– life often gets in the way of things like blogging. This post was spurred by a few things, namely seeing some other pagans/witches discussing whether or not prepubescent children should be involved in magic and ritual, or even exposed to it at all; and also just based on my own experiences with our toddling son.
In regards to the former, it actually stunned me quite a bit to see people discouraging others from involving children, or even exposing them, to their religious/spiritual/magical practices. But I think that this stance is based in the fact that many of us who consider ourselves pagan and/or witches were raised Christian. Many of us (I could comfortably say most of us) were raised from infancy in the faith of our parents, who in most cases vehemently pressed such beliefs upon us and forbade us (directly or indirectly) from studying and/or practicing other religions. And for many of us, the shift from Christianity (or similar monotheistic, patriarchal, majority-religion) to paganism and/or witchcraft was a rough one. Some of us were lucky and had parents who supported us in our journey (I was not one of those lucky ones, quite the opposite). But the majority of us have been imprinted with this natural tendency to shy away from the idea of ‘teaching’ (read: forcing) a religious or spiritual practice on our children. And I understand this, but I don’t agree with it.
There is a difference between raising a child surrounded by your faith(s)/practices and involving them in it and encouraging their spiritual growth– wherever that may lead them, and telling your children that they must follow these set beliefs, are required to participate in these certain practices, and are discouraged from/forbidden from learning about, studying, or practicing any other beliefs. And this doesn’t just apply to Paganism vs. Christianity. It can also apply to various Paths within Paganism… yes I am talking to those of you who may practice a “white-light, harm none” path whose children may grow up to practice Luciferian Witchcraft, or Voodoo (and vice versa). We should treat our children the way we wish our parents had treated us: raise them in a healthy, open-minded household, and encourage them to learn about other spiritual and religious practices and support them if they decide to follow some such path.
We are raising our son to have a healthy respect and deep reverence for the earth and its inhabitants, to be aware of and connected to the cycles of the world around us and our part in the web of life, to know that magic and spirits are real and encourage his own psychic abilities, etc. We involve him in ritual and magical practice whenever we can– and he is only going on three. He loves to help, and even if he doesn’t quite understand why we’re doing something, or what something means, he can understand some things to an extent, and is being exposed from an early age. When he talks to something that is ‘invisible’ to mama or daddy, or points at things flying about while daddy is meditating with the Owl spirit, we pay attention and listen and encourage him. We don’t tell him nothing is there, or he is making it up. When the dark scares him, we ask why. We don’t say there’s nothing there, just because we can’t see it. When I smudge new items, or give offerings to the Spirits, he helps me. There are so many ways to involve small children in ritual and daily practice. Especially if you yourself can blend the mundane and the sacred, your children are already programmed to be this way. The possibilities are endless. Children can help with their own altar, can learn meditation at a very young age, they can help with smudging (being careful of embers of course) and offerings, they can be taught old folk tales and rhymes (this is common in Waldorf-style education) for everything from greeting the sun to baking bread to talking about the moon or Autumn. You can teach them about the seasons and where their food comes from– and to give thanks for it– from a very small age. Pray over your food with your children, in your own way. Mealtime prayers aren’t just for Christians, and praying over food and water blesses it for your consumption and can be a chance to give thanks. Take your children outside every chance you get, let them touch trees and put their toes in the ocean. If they suddenly want to say hi to a tree in a parkinglot, encourage them. They can sense that spirit, and want to connect with it. Learn from your children, follow their lead.
This Patheos blogpost has some good information on ‘planning’ (or rather, the lack thereof) of ritual with small children, of following their lead, and ritualizing everyday activities. As children get older, of course they can be actively involved even more. And I feel like this should be normal, and their curiosity and skills cultivated. Children are always learning, and learn by example. Try and surround yourself with other pagan families, and celebrate together! Take your kids on forest-walks together, teach them about mushrooms and trees and meditation. Do pagan-y crafts and child-friendly rituals. Older children can be given roles in ritual. And as they get older, they will grow more curious, and you can teach them about other religions past and present, different, spiritual practices, etc. Take your children to events and gatherings! We just took our son with us to the Central NC Pagan Pride and he did wonderfully, and there were other small children there as well. (However if we go next year to vend and teach, he might stay home with grandma.) There are tons of resources out there and stories/blogs about pagan families and involving children in practice, and don’t be afraid to share yours!
We’d love to hear about how you involve your children in your magical practice, leave a comment below or send us an e-mail. We’re also looking for contributions to the Pagan Parenting column of our newsletter [provide us your e-mail to be added to the mailing list!], and have an on-going blog post compiling pagan homeschooling and pagan parenting resources, here.
This is going to be an on-going post updated as I find new information, resources, and websites to add to it. This is partly for my own records, but also for sharing with others. Our son is only 2.5 but it is never too soon to start “education”. We are keen to the “un-schooling” movement, and I am also a fan of Waldorf education, and being homeschooled myself for a time, I have a fondness for it. We will probably be doing a blend of styles, potentially enrolling him in a Waldorf school or group, etc. when the time comes, but we as an eclectic pagan family want to raise him in a nature-honoring, animistic and spiritual way while also teaching about other religions and cultures, science and mathematics, philosophy and astronomy, arts and bardcraft, writing and storytelling, etc. etc. If you have any resources to contribute, or experiences with any groups/sites etc. please leave us a comment!
“Books such as The Well-Trained Mind (which is my main resource for curricula and homeschooling) and The Latin-Centered Curriculum are both unabashedly Christian. However, this method originates with the Pagan writer, Martianus Capella, who developed the system of the seven liberal arts that comprised early medieval education.” (Quote from http://witchesandpagans.com/EasyBlog/curricula-for-pagan-homeschoolers.html).
The ritual I am describing is something that in actuality took several days. It is condensed into what sounds like an hour or so here for the sake of ease of reading, and if truth be told, ease of writing.
The coals are ready. I dust them with a handful of lavendar and anise, with rose petals and orange peel, with cedar and acorns and lemon grass. Smoke billows up in eddies and mad spirals. It billows and writes out the words of the wind.
I pass my clay through the smoke, I touch it lightly, dabbing it with oil.
I set it down, across the fire, so that I can see it through the smoke and flame. Then I begin.
I fill my pipe with Damiana and breath in the smoke.
A deep calm settles on me and I straddle the veil between worlds.
I look through the fire and flame and see the potential of what sits across the fire there.
I weigh it against what I have in mind, against what I need, and I nod. It will do.
I breath in and gather my need, I hold it close and tight and then I breath it out into the air,
“I need a force to keep the peace in my home,
I need a reminder to find joy in the every day.
I need something to balance my family and bring us closer.”
Again I taste from my pipe and look again at the clay through the fire.
I gaze past this world and see into the other.
There I see the shadow, a vague silhouette of what I have done. This will be the mold, the bones from which I build my spell.
I gather my clay up and hold it in my hands. I knead it and I speak.
“First He took the stuff of fire, and threaded it through. He spun it hard and strong and set it deep, and from it built a skeleton of light. Next he drew the stuff of living earth, this he set about the bones and molded into flesh. He set water to flowing and made it its blood and then he bestirred it all with air and gave it life.”
I take a moment and look at what I have done so far. What I have molded, both with my hands and with my words.
Satisfied that the vessel would suffice I set it aside and set about refining the spirit.
Oberon I name it, and that gives it identity, a personality for itself and in my mind.
I take my molded clay, the physical link from him to us and I hide it. I am tempted to bury it, to give it to the earth but I need him to be for us, not deeded to the land.
Instead I find it a place in our home. Where it will not be seen. Where it will not be moved or touched. Not yet. First I will let it watch and learn us. First it will need to understand us then I will bring it out and let it take what place and role it may.