I fall into the former category. I intend to raise my child in a Pagan household. I've come to see that this means different things to different people, and a lot of it probably has to do with our own experiences of childhood and religion. I was raised Roman Catholic — I went to church on Sunday mornings (eventually Saturday evenings) with my parents. I did the sacraments right on up through confirmation (when I was starting to feel it as all a personal charade to please my family). I experienced religious education, family pressure, and that fun little guilt that comes along with Catholicism. Somehow I emerged from it as an independent thinker, as a proponent of pluralism, as a tree-hugging Pagan.
I feel a lot of it had to do with my parents. My father is fiercely independent. Although his family was the biggest influence in my religious upbringing, he also values the American Constitution and the rights it promises us. While he initially had difficulty understanding my decision, he's come to see it as my right to practice how I believe. He also taught me much about respecting nature by planning various excursions to the Adirondacks and explaining the power of fire.
My mother is what I describe as liberal Catholic. She introduced me to polytheism and magical thinking without even realizing it. She taught me to pray to different saints with different concerns and she valued the divine feminine in Mary. To this day, she keeps an altar to Saint Theresa in her bedroom. She kisses photos of the ancestors before bed. She taught me that when you find a fuzzy seed it's from Santa Claus's beard and if you make a wish and blow it, the wish will go to him in the North Pole. She taught me to believe in unicorns and the rights of even the smallest creatures. She taught me to use the sky to divine the next day's weather. They both encouraged me to read, to write, to explore exactly what I was into — which turned out to be fairy tales, mythology, and ancient civilizations. And they wondered how I came to Paganism!
Most importantly, they showed me love no matter what, which is why I believe I have a healthy, open relationship with them and a positive perspective on raising kids in a spiritual atmosphere.
When I say "raising a child Pagan," I mean that he or she will be living their life in a largely Pagan household. As someone who lives Paganism, I know that my child will see it and wonder about it. There is no hiding my Druidic beliefs at home! I have altars throughout the house, indoors and out. I pray before dinner, before travel, before bed. I leave offerings frequently. I talk to the plants and I sing songs to the Gods. The child will have a right to know, to be included.
Ancient and modern, Druidism was and is a tribal religion. It is based on community and, although there are many solitary practitioners, the bulk of Druids come together to celebrate, even if it's once a year. My child will come with us to the High Day rites to sing, to pray, to laugh, and learn with the rest of us. The child will be living Paganism because I live Paganism. I can't just stop being who I am.
My plan is not to isolate the child from other beliefs or to scare him or her into Paganism, nor to insist on it. How could I? My agnostic husband comes to The High Days but does not keep an altar. He is respectful and supportive of my religion — and our child will also wonder about that. He or she will be exposed to my husband's way of thinking too, just as should be! And the beauty of the Pagan community is that it is so diverse. The child will be brought up in a world of varied thought and practice, seeing, I hope, that it is healthy and okay to think outside the box.
My plan for raising my child is quite simply inspired by how my parents raised me, although with more spiritual exploration and no hellfire sermons. Here's a list I've made for myself, and that I thought might be helpful to other Pagan families:
What a Pagan childhood shouldn't be:
- Isolation from other spiritual paths
- Threatening should the child show curiosity in other faiths
- Indoctrination towards only one way of thinking
- Boring or without consideration of child development
- Forceful: if a child doesn't show interest in a topic, make sure he or she understands enough to be aware but don't press. Not every person is destined to be a bard, an artisan, a historian, a warrior, a priest, etc.!
What a Pagan childhood should be:
- Full of exploration: independent and with parental support
- Inclusive: involve extended family and friends who come from different walks of life. Look at the Koran, light a menorah, visit a Buddhist temple, admire pentacles in jewelry and apples, and explore science museums. Find the connections, marvel at the beauty, and model how a mature, well-adjusted adult behaves with others, even when you don't believe the same things.
- Respectful of elders: this will extend into respect for the ancestors once the child is old enough to really understand who they are.
- Safe feeling: the child should know we will love him or her no matter what spirituality is embraced as a teen or adult
- Full of honest discussion: children should understand your path but also know that not everyone believes the same way. Children should feel safe questioning and disagreeing. Again, model how to do this with respect!
- Celebratory and respectful of nature: regardless of spiritual path, a good Druid will raise a child to be aware of the environment, the interconnections, and the seasonal changes
- Sex-positive in a way that takes into account the child's development, safety, boundaries, and own self-worth
- Fun: learning about life, nature, Druidism, and other religions should be joyful
- Artistic: self-expression is an essential part of Druidism, and carries over into other facets of life and other spiritual paths.
- Based on virtuous behavior: I will teach the child the nine Druidic virtues but, as he or she ages, we'll compare them to other systems (that of Asatru, the ten commandments, the noble truths, etc) in the hopes of finding commonalities. When paired with literature and personal experiences, children will soon develop a sense of empathy towards the world – one that can extend beyond a religious practice.
- Magical: let children revel in the magic of the world. Make wishes on dandelion seeds, plant love into the garden, stir healing into daddy's soup. Read fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology. Talk about your dreams and encourage imagination.
- Balanced: while teaching simple magic, don't ever forget to teach science. Name the plants, name the animals, look at the stars, and give magical and scientific explanations. When you don't know the answer, model how to find it.
- Patient: children aren't ready for everything right away. Learn about developmental levels, pay attention to your child's interests, and don't automatically include your child in every Pagan practice. Remember that kids sometimes just want to play on their own and may not be ready or interested in quiet meditation or involved magic.
To end with, I want to share some of my favorite websites on alternative parenting. They've been very helpful in informing my perspective:
- Ozark Pagan Mamma — This fellow ADFer has been raising Pagan kids and blogging about her experience! She shares a lot of wonderful seasonal crafts which I look forward to doing with the wee one. In addition, she sometimes shares child-friendly explanations for holidays, the Pagan Otherworld, the Three Kindreds, etc. I'm happy to have found a blog devoted to raising Pagan kids written by an ADFer.
- Pagan Dad — Written from a male Wiccan perspective, this blog is still very informative since he's had to deal with similar issues that I'm now considering – raising children Pagan, to "do" Santa or not, seasonal activities, etc.
- Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom — Although not exclusively about parenting, Mrs. B has posted several things on seasonal ideas, introducing magic, and book reviews.