This article is actually inspired by a WordPress article I just read the other day. So first I want to link you to that post. Mine is going to be similar, but I felt there were a few things missing or that needed some clarification. Here’s the original article: Raising Pagan Children
As I said, I found this post, which is a posting of an article while I was looking for some unrelated information. We all want what’s best for our children right? Well, for me that means teaching Freya about her options, including my own path, so that she can make an informed decision. I know that ours isn’t always the easiest path and its definitely not the path of least resistance.
We live in a Judeo-Christian desktop themed world. I have no problem with that in and of itself. I still value the message Christ taught in my own perspective. It is a great message and I think, when not taken into left field, it is a valuable one for our children to understand. Love and peace are always great and I have met many wonderful individuals who identify with that path.
My problem lies with some of the other people who aren’t so great at walking their own walk. In our world there is a pressure (sometimes a bludgeoning force), from some sources, to conform to the church. This is one of the many reasons there are those who still practice in the closet. In some places you can still loose your job if your boss finds out you’re pagan….despite laws to the contrary.
It’s hard enough raising a child without having to worry about them being teased for their religion on top of all the other reasons children are mean. There are still a lot of misconceptions floating around out there. That’s actually the goal of my other blog, Lessons of the Goddess. But that small, shameless promotion aside, the point is, both kids and adults can be mean when they don’t understand something.
In addition, we know that our children don’t come with a manual. It would be nice if I could go to page three thousand something and learn the best ways to protect my child from these issues, but that’s not how life works. Life isn’t that organized and honestly, the chaos is part of the fun (well not always fun). All the decisions we make with our first child are based on the information of others, our own personal experiences and beliefs, and finally, a hope and a prayer to (insert deity here). As the article mentions, the key to overcoming these obstacles is being prepared. So, today I’m going to look at some of the issues the article suggest that we as parents prepare for, as well as some others that I think of along the way.
One, Two Three Strikes You’re Out
We already have two strikes against us. Modern paganism is a bit of the old, some new, and several other things in between. It should be a simple revival of the celebration of the Earth, life, and all of its intricate cycles. It should be a renewal of the Goddess to her rightful place in our lives. While this should be the case, there are a few issues that tend to muddy the whole equation. So the first of our two strikes is that we’re still trying to get back on board with the cycles of nature as a whole group instead of as individuals. We’re still rebuilding the foundation so that we can dispel some of the rumors and misconceptions.
The second relates to these other issues that muddy the water. They do affect the perception of our religion and a few bad apples, or what I call playgans, sometimes help disseminate some of the rumors and lies that the rest of us work so hard to dispel. By the way, my definition of a playgan: people saying they’re pagan who really know nothing about being pagan or who do so just to look cool. There are those driven to some variation of this path in an attempt to rebel without really diving into what it means. There are others trying to create content to market to us without understanding the path. And finally, there are those here for political reasons, or the power trip.
All of these do affect perceptions from those who are not on this path. The second strike against us are those who don’t find the right teacher, mentor, or resources to pursue this path. This is something we all need to work towards rectifying by sharing our knowledge with others when possible.
Faith in the Balance
The second issue we face as pagan parents relates to youthful exploration of the craft. I have known several people who explored some form of paganism for their spiritual path. Some stayed and others didn’t, which is perfectly fine. The goal is to find a faith you feel at home in, one that speaks to you personally. Still, those who left would later call it a phase, others a mistake. Once again, that’s fine for them.
However, as parents we tend to want our children to end up on a path similar to ours. We’ll be happy for them and accept them regardless, or at least we should so long as they are happy and healthy. In the end, we want to know that we impacted their lives spiritually. For example, my parents as Christians can accept my path because they know that I still carry many of the ethics and values that they taught me through Christianity. We may not always agree, but we didn’t always agree when I was Christian either.
We have to understand this to grasp the next issue. It’s more of a question. How do we kindle a fire in our children to at least explore our religion when there is pressure from other paths? It’s a daunting question. One that I hadn’t thought of until reading that article. We are the ones who shape the next generation regardless of what our individual paths may be. Our examples could dictate whether or not they promote or at least support and respect our traditions and paths as adults.
This may mean that we will be forced to consider our path critically when it comes to raising our children, so that we provide the best example to them. I want to give you a personal example. My former mentor and teacher fell ill at the end of my time as her student. Due to her health issues, she was forced to allow students to have a greater role in the community rituals. Before that point, we would only write the ritual as a requirement of the class and then she and the High Priest would perform them. Of course, when she became unable to walk the circle or project her speech, the responsibilities fell to her students to perform the majority of the ritual in her stead. Well, unless you’re me and you go into labor (early) the morning your ritual is supposed to be performed.
I was upset when I found out that there were members of the community who shunned this idea. Not because I wanted to be in the limelight. Quite the opposite. I don’t like speaking in front of people. I was upset due to the disrespect those people were displaying to the woman who had put all this together and who was still keeping it together even though she was gravely ill.
Still, I will always remember her response when I discussed this with her. She told me that she didn’t care. She had built the community to teach us and anyone who wanted to learn. She had built the community to create a safe haven for those who wanted to explore any form of spirituality. Moreover, she pointed out that there was no way that our generation would learn how to teach others if someone didn’t provide an example. And that was what she lived for. Not for her shop, but for her students and the knowledge she could share with them.
I also want to quote a particularly evocative quote from the original article that really jived with my own personal view of the issue.
Like a language, a religion, or in our case an entire category of religions, only has a lifespan as long as its youngest living believer. We must approach this issue thoughtfully and with great attention, because in a very real way the future of our faith hangs in the balance.
Elephant in the Closet
We all know that we live in a world built on a foundation of monotheism and Judeo-Christian theology. History tells us that Christianity took the world by storm, helping to shape many of the Western cultures we know today. It has had a profound impact, which makes it an issue for pagan parents. It is nearly impossible to not have our children’s views of spirituality be affected by these concepts. Monotheism is going to be the expectation and going to be considered the norm. It doesn’t matter where they go. They will see it in books, when talking to their friends, tv, and even the internet.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just another fact of life. I only know from personal experience that it can be confusing to a child trying to fit in with their peers. I am sure that many of you have faced this in some form or another as well. There will be some people who attempt to convert them and others who bully them. It is what it is, but what can we as parents do about it? We have to accept it, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways we can combat the issue. Education being the primary idea that comes to mind.
Now the original article talked about governments where being pagan is illegal and potentially punishable by death. While I agree that those people should get the heck out of Dodge, and fast, death isn’t the only problem we face from the government.
Here in the USA it is legal to be pagan, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t complications. While many states and the federal government recognize Wicca as a religion, there are some states and organizations that get a little nit picky on the topic. We saw this a few years ago when families of deceased military personnel were fighting to allow their family members to be buried with pagan insignia on their graves. I know that in some places, you have announce that you are Wiccan (no matter what you actually call your path) if you wish to be allowed to have pagan clergy visit you in the hospital, jail, or prison. My father ran into this issues working as a counselor at a state prison. While attempting to help some pagan followers get access to pagan materials, he had to advise them to call themselves Wiccan in they eyes of the law.
I ran into a similar problem in high school and all over wearing a pentagram no less. I’ll attempt to make a long story short here. I went to a county school. One day I bumped into one of the Vice Principals on my way to my locker to put away some pagan stuff a friend had returned to me. My tarot deck and my pentagram fell out of my shirt and he decided that was cause to write me up.
The reason? My religion wasn’t a real religion recognized by the state or the federal government. Of course, I tried to get him to let me show him the state website proving him wrong. I had already told him I was Wiccan (even though I don’t necessarily consider that my path) having learned from my father’s work experience. We still had issues and I had to get the other Vice Principal, the Principal, and my parents involved before it was all resolved and I was allowed to wear my pentagram at school, provided it stayed under my shirt as much as possible.
I wouldn’t call this the biggest issue we face as pagan parents, but it can be a frustrating one. At least it was for my parents who were trying to protect my first amendment rights.
Tomorrow’s post will continue where this one left off.