Pagan parenting? For those of you trying to raise a child in witchcraft, neopaganism or as an interfaith child, it’s hard to know when, whether and how to introduce various aspects of your tradition.
People bringing up kids in more traditional religious households have not only written guides on parenting, but very often, generations of advice on how to address the simplest spiritual matters (“How to Keep Your Child Awake in Church”) as well as the most difficult (“Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”) in the context of their respective faiths.
Not so for the average neopagan parent. While there are a few sporadic guides, the Dr. Spock of Moon Worship doesn’t yet exist.
But we do have each other.
(If you like this article, check out my other Earth Mother posts.)
First, all little reality check.
“Pagan Parenting” covers a broad spectrum, and it’s important to me not to sweep everything under one tent.
Perhaps you are a kitchen or hedge witch. Maybe your practice Voudoun or Stregheria.
Whatever your path, I encourage you to respect your own spiritual freedom.
Personally, I am an interfaith witch, and this article is colored by that perspective.
Also, although I hope to inspire you to come up with creative ways to incorporate your own ideas based on your parenting style and tradition by sharing with you a few of our successes, it is not my intention to paint a rosy, unblemished impression of what it’s really like to have a toddler.
For every success, there were failures. There were also late nights with fevers, disastrous baking projects, tantrums in restaurants, explosive bodily functions, crying in the bathroom, piles of laundry and neurotic nail-biting over “milestones. ”
It is therefore with the sincerest humility that I submit to you these ideas.
I haven’t really had the chance yet to take my son to a kid-friendly public ritual.
However, I started to think about how I might teach him some accessible ways to participate when he is ready.
Music is a channel accessible by even the smallest child. Rhythm sticks or tiny hand drums make perfect instruments for toddlers to take to a circle or bonfire ritual.
Here’s a little tip: Get something that produces a nice tone and spare yourself a migraine!
I got my toddler this little djembe hand drum on Ebay for less than $10 and he loves it.
Other things toddlers can do at ritual:
*Snuff out candles with a long candles snuffer (with supervision, of course).
*Say one or two-word chants.
*Help add herbs to sachets or spell poppets.
*Sprinkle salt along the perimeter of the circle.
*Rub oil on candles.
And many other things!
Even when only in a small way, I hope that by Including my toddler in ritual when appropriate encourages him to make time and space for his spirit later in life as well.
Altars & Sacred Space
I talk a little bit about altar time in my post, A Magical Guide to Bedtime Rituals.
Around 16 months, I set up an altar in my toddler’s room. We don’t do altar time every night. Honestly, if we get in once a week or even just during the full moon, I consider it a win.
At school, he has the Catholic version of altar time where they sing little songs and read from the Bible. He loves when they do it there. At the end, they let each child snuff out a candle, which is his favorite part, so I go him a little candle snuffer and we do a pagan version at home.
Since I’m interfaith, I also use it as a teaching altar so he learns different spiritual imagery (can you say “Buuuu-daaaah”?
But for the most part, I just want to create a quiet, peaceful place for us to sit and contemplate together a little once in a while.
I like to let him bring things in from our nature walks to place on it, or even a favorite toy so he knows it’s his.
If ever there were a crossroads of human experience, food certain occupies a major intersection.
Almost all pagan (and monotheistic) traditions address the sacredness of food at meal times in some way.
Perhaps you say a blessing over the meal, and you can include your toddler in a practical way. Try it! He may surprise you with his ability to repeat short blessings or imitate hand gestures.
This year, I mostly wanted to instill in my son the sacredness of his body. For me, this meant helping him make a direct connection to source of his food as often as possible. We visited a peach farm last summer, and this year, I’d like to take him to a berry farm to eat the fruit right off the vine.
There’s an opportunity cost to making lots of meals from scratch, and it’s not always practical for everyone, so I never want to pressure parents into devoting their lives to the kitchen.
But if you enjoy kitchen witchery, food or cooking magic, this is the season in your child’s life to try it all!
We tried a lot of different herbs, spices and dishes from different parts of the world.
I was surprised to discover he loved spicy Asian foods from the very first and downright stunned when he went through a phase of enjoying biting into lemon.
Yeah, lemon. Like straight out of the rind.
Then, a European grocery store opened down the street. It may sound kind of bougie, but it’s actually a discount grocery store where everything is much cheaper than the regional store—especially the good stuff, like wine, cheese and produce.
So I started bringing home authentic French cheese and German candy for him to try.
Wait, what does this have to do with the Craft?
I think learning the way things taste and how they make you feel is the foundation of kitchen magic.
As we move forward into his next year and his verbal skills start to really come in, I plan to teach him all about food and the folk magic it’s used in around the world.
(By the way, did you know Native American history is rich with folklore about the esteemed blueberry?!)
Natural Living & Potty Training
Of course, towards the end of 24 months and until the age of 3, the big thing becomes potty training.
I would not dare tell you how to potty train your child. Every child and family approaches it differently, and what works for one family might be disastrous for another.
For my child, I was really interested in cloth diapering, which seemed to me like the ultimate orangic-granola-crunch of crunchy pagan parenting.
But my husband and mother really preferred not to, and given how involved they were, I deferred to their objections.
So I compromised with cloth training pants. I love them.
That’s not to say they’re for everyone, and you shouldn’t feel any pressure to use them if you don’t want to.
My husband and mother still refuse to use them, and so whenever he or my mom watches my son, they use disposable instead with my blessing.
But to the extent that it keeps disposable diapers out of landfills, and that it seems to help him be more aware of himself, I like using them whenever possible as part of our natural living lifestyle.