Allow me to introduce myself. Call me Garnet, please. That name has become such a part of who I am today that I would answer to it if someone called me that on the street. I'm the mother of three incredible children. Though my interests and talents are varied, I can honestly say that being a parent is the most important aspect of my life. I'm not really Wiccan, and Pagan seems a little generic to me, so for those who need labels, I call myself "kitchen witch". I place no priority upon fancy tools or ingredients for spells. If it can't be grown or found in my backyard or cabinets, then I don't need it.
While I believe in the God and Goddess, witchcraft, for me, is not a religion, but a way of life. It's brewing teas out of ingredients from my own gardens, sewing poppets by the fireside with my daughter, reading Tarot or Runes for friends and neighbours in exchange for eggs or goat's milk or fresh veggies. It's tending the family altar everyday, and leaving milk and honey out for the faeries. I hope the following exercises and tidbits will be helpful to you as you raise your own witchlets. We should keep in our minds at all times that children are a gift of the Goddess, and a privilege and an honour to be entrusted with.
Let's face it. Raising children is not easy. I'm convinced that if anyone really ever completely understood the awesome responsibility we are handed when we decide to bring a new person into this world there would be fewer babies born. Forget about the monetary demands - the sleepless nights, the childproofing of a once glamorous home and the guilt every time Junior takes a nosedive. Consider that you are now completely and totally responsible for not only the physical safety and well being of this child, but his/her emotional and spiritual well being too. This is a tiny, fragile, completely dependent little bit of a dry sponge, waiting to soak up every nuance of your personality. I fully believe children are born with personalities and characteristics and tendencies ingrained but that doesn't lessen the effect that parents or caregivers have on their development.
Being a Pagan parent just adds to the confusion, now doesn't it? How do we raise our children to honor our beliefs, value the beliefs of others and yet remain true to themselves? Granted this isn't just a Pagan concern but the concern of parents the world over. Parents everywhere try to instill their children with their own spiritual beliefs.
How do we raise our children in a world where the dominant culture considers Pagans and Witches to be a blight upon humanity? Do we teach them in secrecy, keeping our family altars under lock and key? Or do we send them to school with Beltane cookies and show up on Career Day with our pointy hats and broomsticks? In a perfect world, our spirituality would be ours. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. It all boils down to personal decisions. I would never presume to encourage people to step forward if they're not ready to. Neither would I encourage them to hide away like a criminal. I can only tell you what works for me and hopefully, you'll be able to reach a happy medium for yourself.
Who is the Goddess?
Goddess is the personification of the feminine aspects of Nature. She takes different forms for different people. As a matter of fact, she assumes different guises for me, as well, depending upon the work I am doing. The easiest and best way for your child to honour Her is to respect Nature. I teach my children about Mother Earth, explaining that is why we recycle, compost, do not litter, and attempt to live as gently as possible on the land. If you're not certain about recycling in your area, you should be able to contact your local department of Solid Waste and they can direct you from there.
For Further Information: http://www.cleanup.org/Default.asp
Taking our cues from the Seasons, it's fairly simple to explain Maiden/Mother/Crone to children. Spring to Mid-Summer is the time of the maiden. Explain to your child that the Goddess is young and lovely at that time. I've found it much easier if children have a visual and so used my baby sister as an example. I explained that she was young and unmarried, like the Goddess in Spring. Mid-Summer to late Autumn is the time of the Mother. I used pictures of me when I was pregnant with each of them, and told them all about how the Earth provides for us with the Harvest.
Having a garden is a great way to teach about the Harvest and the bounty of Mother. If you don't have room for a full-blown garden, you can always grow tomato plants in 5-gallon buckets on your patio. Children love growing things and the cycle of the tomato plant coincides beautifully with the lessons of the seasons. Winter is the time of the Crone. My Grandmother is the perfect example. She's a white-haired, gentle beauty who can be stern and taciturn and also wise and loving.
We often sit and have discussions about how each perceives the Goddess. It's important that children be allowed to express their views, without fear of ridicule. Sometimes, though, it's impossible not to laugh. Once, we were sitting in an impromptu circle in a bean field and I asked them to close their eyes, put their hands to the Earth and feel the vibrations. Scout whispered that she could feel the power tingling in her hands. Spike, never to be outdone, whispered back reverently "Momma, I can feel it in my butt!"
Who is the God?
Unfortunately, the image of a majestic, horned man of the forest is enough to inspire terror in the hearts of most children these days. Christianity has certainly done its level best to turn our Horned God into the sum total of evil. As I've explained to my kids, in order to create life, there must be male as well as female energies. Much like the Goddess, visualization of the God is just as personal. He is the god of the hunt, of wild animals, of the forest. Because the Sun is his domain, he is also the Father of Time. I am always reminded of that lovely song from Charlotte's Web that goes:
"He turns the seasons around
And so She changes Her gown
Part of Life's eternal rhyme
How very lucky are we,
To have on our family tree,
Mother Earth and Father Time"
Thanks to a love of Greek mythology, my kids accepted a horned man as a perfectly wonderful image of God, though we also like the image of the Green Man.
Getting Back to Nature
Easier said than done, right? Try spending weekends at the local parks and growing an assortment of herbs and flowers in pots on the patio and windowsills. Usually, the kids had their own pots and always chose which seeds they wanted to grow on their own. I've never seen such content children! I was very impressed at how responsible they are when it comes to caring for their plant friends.
There are endless varieties of herbs that can be grown in containers and even herb kits especially for windowsills. Tomato seedlings thrive in 5-gallon buckets. This year, we turned over the gardens together and planted a variety of seedlings as well as seeds. I never stop thrilling to walk outside and see the fruits of our labour grow and blossom and the children make full reports to me every day when I get home from work.
Hiking is another way to marvel at Nature. If you take the same path often, you can watch the effects of the changing seasons on the local plant and wildlife. Young kids are naturally noisy and so I devised a game of seeing who can slip more silently through the woods. Sibling rivalry guarantees that we have a blessedly silent hike! We see much more wildlife this way and we're all lulled by the soothing sounds of Mother Nature. One of our greatest joys is wading into the creeks and streams and hunting crawdads or just sitting with our feet dangling in the water. We always take backpacks with us and will pick up any litter we see.
I don't mean to sound like a broken record but recycling is a wonderful way to teach children respect for the Earth, our natural resources, and for wildlife. City dwellers don't have an excuse for not recycling, as they make it very easy with bins and curbside pick-up.
Feeding the local birds, squirrels, and wildlife can provide lots of satisfaction to children. We keep our birdfeeders filled, as well as leave tidbits, like apple slices covered in peanut butter, on tree branches. The peanut butter helps it stick to the tree long enough for a hungry critter to find it.
Visualization for Children
Children have an amazing ability to visualize. I think it's easier for a younger child to master meditation and astral travel than it is for an adult. Remember the world of imaginary friends, faery castles, and make-believe? To help your child learn to master this extraordinary ability is the first step towards teaching them effective meditation.
I learned one of my favourite visualization techniques in an acting class. I've found it works extremely well with children. Sit in a circle and pretend you are holding an object. Describe the object, the weight, the length. Is it heavy? Is it hot to the touch? Pass the object to your child and have them react as if it were real. If it's a ball, they might bounce it in the air. Next, they should transform the object into something else, react to it, and then pass it on. We've even played this game at birthday parties and school holiday parties. It's usually a big hit.
Another exercise I learned from an acting class that the kids seem to enjoy is visualizing a safe place. Everyone should lie down on their backs and close their eyes. Ask the child to think of a favourite place. Ask leading questions to get him/her to describe this place. Is it warm, hot, cold? In the woods, at the beach, in the mountains? Who's there with him/her? What are they doing? Can they smell anything? Allow him/her to describe the scenery and events in as much detail as he/she wants. This one is particularly relaxing and enjoyable. Kids love to share their inner worlds with others and what a beautiful place to visit! Encourage them to return to their safe places whenever they need a break from things.
Cloud gazing is a favourite pastime for adults as well as children. Who can resist the images you find in clouds? These are all ways to help your child learn to focus his/her attention and discipline the mind. It's important to remember that it takes practice, like all things, but above all else it should remain fun and interesting. If you're a parent, then you know what it's like trying to keep a bored child interested in a project. Be prepared for laughter, fidgeting, and sometimes even sleeping. Don't scold or threaten. Instead, enjoy the time you're spending with your child. If necessary, limit your sessions to a workable time frame. Once you feel your child has learned to effectively control images in his/her mind, the next step is to teach him/her to completely relax and still the body as well.
I've found that one of the most effective methods is to have your child lie down and close his/her eyes. Beginning with the toes, slowly clench and unclench them three times. Then point and straighten the ankle three times. Move slowly up the body, tensing and relaxing each part slowly three times. Emphasize proper breathing as you progress. In through the nose, out through the mouth, slowly and rhythmically. Believe me, this part takes lots of practice and patience, on your part as well as the child's. There will be giggles, and burps, and sighs of boredom but eventually, he or she will get the hang of it. Relax, and enjoy.
If nothing else, at least you've had relative quiet for a short time! It makes a good bedtime ritual, as well.