The Pagan Community; do we exclude children and their parents?

HB Horne, Regional Coordinator for Somerset, asks some hard questions about our responsibilities to pagan families:

The pagan community has been thriving in ever increasing numbers since the 60’s. Many believe that the recent UK census will reveal that the number of people who identify as of pagan outnumbers those of the Sikh and Jewish faith communities. We are certainly growing at a rapid rate.

However, when we refer to “generations” in the pagan community, we are not talking about familial generations (mother to son, father to daughter, for example). We are generally talking about the decade that each new group converted to, or found paganism. The generation who found their path in the 70’s or the 80’s or the 90’s. We are not talking about the generation that were born into a pagan spirituality. Which leads me to ask…have you ever met someone who was born into a pagan spirituality?

There are older children and teenage converts to paganism and there are parents who raise their children as pagan, but very few of these children grow up to remain pagan in adulthood. Many parents in the pagan community simply choose not to raise their children with an overtly pagan practice at all.

As a pagan parent myself, I can understand this. There are so many potential obstacles and dilemmas to being a pagan parent. We live in a hyper paranoid and vigilant culture, especially where children are concerned. I am asked to sign a form every time my children get a bruise! So imagine the potential reaction to a child telling their teacher that their “daddy dresses like a ghost for rituals and has a big sword”, “mummy likes to dance naked outside with her friends”, “my uncle doesn’t believe in Jesus, he likes hairy Vikings!” What do the other children at school think when pagan children talk about the Goddess or not celebrating Christmas (although granted many pagans make merry at Yule)?

It’s a veritable minefield. Choosing a pagan spirituality as an adult is to accept that you might either choose to be discreet about your faith or to spend the rest of your life explaining and correcting people who make judgements or express prejudice towards you and your beliefs. So how ethical is it as a parent, to expect your children to potentially face those questions and that prejudice? I suspect that this is at the core of why so few pagans choose to raise their children in an overtly pagan practice. I have actually been warned not to raise my children as pagan by other pagans.

After giving birth to my first child, I started to look for a pagan parenting group. I wanted to discuss all these questions with other parents; who else would understand? How to manage questions from school, what would we share with our children by way of practice and what we would explain to our children of a theology? I lived in London at the time, but there was no group. I left an advert in the Green Pages to start up a group, but I didn’t receive a single response. I tried to set up my own group but none of the pagan parents that I knew had time. It wasn’t a priority. That’s not a judgement or criticism. Committing to your own spiritual path, in addition to having a family and holding down employment can be pretty time consuming. What compounded the problem for me is that so many pagan events, gatherings and practices are in the evening. During grown up time. The events in the daytime are often talks and conferences for adults, and if children attend them at all they tend to disrupt the adults trying to listen and engage. Which is not fair on the children who become bored, or the adults who are wanting to focus on the speaker or facilitator and who have paid money for a ticket.

There are picnics and camps, but again, not many of these have specific activities for children, least of all young children. As a pagan parent you can begin to feel ostracised and unwelcomed by the pagan community.

Paganism for teenagers is a different ball game, of course. Paganism has huge appeal for adolescents. It is political (environmental/feminist), it’s rebellious, it accepts huge variety and alternative views, alternative clothing, piercings, tattoos, crazy hair colours, it can be a bit mysterious, sexy and dark…but again, the needs of adolescents are very different from the needs of young adults. Having worked with families, children and adolescents as a mental health professional for the past 10 years, I am acutely aware of the different developmental needs and complexities of each stage of childhood and adolescence. Adolescents need their own space to experiment with who they are, including in the spiritual context. Their needs are vastly different from the adult pagan community so how do we cater for this? It has been noted by many that in actuality the pagan community is an predominantly ageing population. Whilst many young people are quite interested in paganism earlier on in their teens or early adulthood, the same number don’t stay active within the pagan community. Let’s ask ourselves why this is?

I have been to many pagan events over the years and I can say with very few exceptions that either myself, a friend or my husband have had to step out of or leave an event because it wasn’t really appropriate for children. Even when activities are put on for children, it can feel a little token, or there aren’t often enough children there to make it a true success, because pagan parents often stay away or get a baby sitter and leave the children at home. Taking a child into most events within the pagan community is not easy.

In this country, we have become more and more disparate over the last few decades. People have questioned whether a locational sense of community exists as strongly as it once did. Certainly there are now great physical distances between family members and this has become a reality of our modern lives. But the issue of community isn’t entirely about physical distance is it? Communities continue to form and develop online or around common interests and that has certainly happened within paganism. But there isn’t a thriving pagan families network online either.

An old African saying that states “it takes a whole village to raise a child” and my interpretation of this is that children are affected by the whole community around them. That we all have responsibility to be positive role models for the generations that follow us. If children do not have access to the pagan community, how will they have any sense of us at all?

An important caveat might be to note that there is also vast variations between the different pagan traditions. In particular I think of Heathenry being clan and tribe focused. To follow a heathen path is to share responsibility for your community as a whole. So I might suggest that perhaps this issue is less prevalent in certain traditions.

In the the past year or so I have begun to feel hope. I see the beginnings of change. The Pagan Federation 40th celebration last year held a free family friendly day which had wonderfully engaging activities for children. Bristol has a pagan parenting group now with some 60 or so members, articles are appearing here and there and paganism is being taught in some schools, if requested. (Thanks to the hard work of a few members of our Pagan Federation committee).

In more recent years, I have had the chance to attend and help facilitate a few pagan family groups with activities and themes especially for children. The holidays and Sabbats that are important to many pagans are celebratory in nature. It is a wonderful thing to be able to celebrate the turning of the wheel with a group, especially for children. To dance and sing, decorate and feast. There is so much fun, celebration, joy and laughter to be shared.

Like C.S. Lewis I happen to believe that all children start out pagan. Born with an inherent sense of awe and wonder in nature, born without sexual guilt or gender stereotypes, with a sense of magic and divine in all things. I appreciate that my concept might be extremely offensive to many non-pagans, so I apologise to those who might read this and baulk at the idea of an inherent pagan nature in their children. But it is a concept that I personally embrace with much enthusiasm. As a mother, the idea of encouraging my daughters to see their inherent divinity as embodied and demonstrated in the symbols of powerful Priestesses and Mighty Goddesses, to see masculine power in a necessary, collaborative relationship with femininity is something to embrace. To see a faith that instills our responsibility to this earth and doesn’t place mankind external to and above nature, which in my opinion carries the implicit permission to take as much as we want from the earth as if it was our limitless and personal supermarket.

Some of us have had spiritualities inflicted upon us, religions that we ultimately abandoned in favour of paganism. Are we choosing not to pass on our own spirituality to our own children for fear of them rejecting it, as we rejected the one passed on to us? Is it maybe that we want them to have the freedom to find their own path without fear of guilt or reprisal?

I feel strongly that a pagan spirituality is a strong and positive one and I would rather my kids experience that as part of their upbringing than nothing. For millennia human beings have acknowledged the value of myth and symbolism, they have interacted with the natural world around them with reverence and awe and it scares me to think of humanity stripped of that sensitivity. Our children will also be exposed to many other beliefs throughout their lives and I would like my beliefs and practices to be amongst them, whatever path they ultimately choose for themselves. I have no intention to force anything on my children, far from it, but I want to offer them experiences, stories and imagery that inspire awe and wonder. I believe myths are fundamental to our sociological and psychological well being, to our sense of belonging and community. We need to find a way, as a community, to share this with our children because it is within the community that the myths come alive and take on sociological meaning.

After some years pondering this issue I have decided to take action and am building an online forum called “The Pagan Child and Families Network”. It will be a space for pagan families to discuss this topic, explore these questions, share their practices and support each other in our roles as pagan parents. I also hope that this forum will help to develop a momentum for pagan parenting and to encourage community activity and inclusion.

I would love to hear from you, both positive and negative feedback are welcome, and please feel free to share this article with any pagan parents or groups that you know.

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    33 Responses to The Pagan Community; do we exclude children and their parents?

    1. Victoria Woodward says:

      I’m glad there’s someone out there on the same page as I am… my partner (who isn’t sure about if he could believe in the pagan ways) and myself (openly pagan for about 12 years now) are expecting our first baby just after Yule and I have been doing my research into being a pagan parent as I would want the child to grow with at least a good understanding of my beliefs (even if he/she decides not to follow them once he/she is old enough to understand) and I’ve come up with almost nothing of any real use. We live in Wales, the country of dragons and Merlin etc etc, and as such I thought I’d find someone/something helpful to me almost straight away but I agree, it’s almost like children as a whole aren’t really considered by the pagan/wiccan groups already established near where we live.
      I have no fears of the social stigma that still follows paganism around (so I’d have no worries regarding threatening to remove my child from a school that would allow teachers/other children/other parents to try and force my child into a specific belief system…. no school likes losing a child from the roster) and I’ve never had the support of my family in being pagan (coming from a catholic background) so I would love to find some support now I’m to be a mother.

      Blessed Be

    2. Keeley Sparrow says:

      This is perfect timing for me, Hannah! Having run our local pub moot for a number of years, we had to step back as we now have a 4 yr old and 11 month old twins. However, I have been chatting with a few people and there is much interest in setting up a monthly family-friendly moot (for want of a better word!) where children can get involved in seasonal activities and family-friendly ritual. I am a trained teacher, so I don’t have any problems with organising activities etc, but I shall probably be in contact to pick your brains about interesting practice you may have encountered or ideas. Our main hurdle is finding a suitable venue to accommodate a number of families which isn’t a pub or restaurant. Good luck with the new role!

    3. Helen says:

      Hi Hannah, I would be interested in joining The Pagan Child and Families Network when it is up and running. Will you advertise it here so we can find it? Thanks

    4. AnthonyHJ says:

      I’m arriving quite late to this conversation, but I wanted to share my own experience as the father of a 4-year old girl just starting primary school.

      My intention was never to raise my daughter pagan. Living in Milton Keynes, that was never about shame or fear; I am openly pagan and can’t think of a better place for it. The issue was simply one of choice. Echoing a sentiment you mention, I did not want to impose my faith on my daughter. Maybe when she was older, 12 or so, I thought I might try to explain things and give her a better idea of her options.

      Two events changed my mind…

      The first, though innocent, was a bit of a wake-up call. She was three and attending a pre-school open day, where prospective parents can visit and see how the place runs. As a bright girl, she ended up chatting with some of the adults about what she was doing, who she was and whether she liked school. Something odd happened though; one of the parents made an off-hand remark about my daughter, calling her Christian (I assume in reference to some ‘Christian’ virtue) and she replied that she was not a Christian. She followed it up by explaining that she was a druid.

      My wife and I count ourselves as druids, but have never said to our daughter that she is too. In fact, we were always careful to avoid making any statements to her about ‘her’ faith. The fact that she took on the label of ‘druid’ was interesting, but can be put down to emulation or maybe just identifying more strongly with people who call themselves druids than people who call themselves Christians.

      The second event, which was the tipping point for me, was coming home last week talking about ‘the Lord’ and how he made the plants grow. I was a little disappointed, but I had been warned it would happen. We discussed different beliefs and different faiths, that the teacher was not infallible (this realisation was not a happy one for me as a child, but my daughter took it in good humour) for a while, but the only thing she seemed to take away was that ‘the Lord’ apparently had a name and his name was Freyr. (curiously, her understanding of the concept from school was a very good match, so I suppose it’s a good starting point for discussion)

      Sadly, the school seems to have forced my hand and now I’m playing the dissenting voice, offering an alternative view and undermining the school’s credibility in my daughter’s eyes. On the one hand, I feel bad, but I’d do the same if they claimed the Earth was flat or that vaccinations were actually a form of mind control. I also now know that my daughter likes the idea of the Norse gods, but I have no issues with a heathen daughter even if I am not one myself.

    5. Sue Dorney says:

      I get the impression there maybe mixed messages here. From my point of view, a Pagan parent will instill their morals and values within the upbringing of their child, just as any Christian, Jew or Muslim would. If you celebrate the Wheel of the Year at home as part of your normal life style, then that surely is bringing up your child as a Pagan?

      On the other hand, the social side of Paganism is no more child friendly than any other adult based collective. Most Moots are held in pubs, a place where you have laws about children being present, for very good reason. Is a Moot a place for children? in my opinion, probably not, it’s either a social night for adults, or it’s a talk on a hopefully interesting subject, which doesn’t lend itself as you rightly said to being child friendly.

      Open rituals? I suppose it depends on where they are, and who is organising them. I organise open rituals at Avebury, and although we advertise them as family friendly, that is because they are held in the day time, and we are very careful about the suitability of the content if there are likely to be under 18’s present. When we hold open rituals in the evening, we insist that there are no under 16s, and indeed, all 16 – 18 year olds must be accompanied by a parent. Why? we meet in the middle of a wood, in the dark and a very isolated location, the last thing I want is some irritated mother to acuse me of putting their child at risk, with having a mixed gathering of male and female attendees. For the same reason, we have alcohol for cakes and ale, if that were offered to an under age child who was there without their parents knowledge, can you imagine what the press would make of that? For the under 16s a ritual that ends at about 10pm on a school night is too late, and the ritual subject matter (think Samhain) in the dark woods is enough to potentially give them nightmares as they are not old enough to reason out what is happening.

      Just as the Christians have Sunday School for children, and teach them seperately from the adults, if you wish to include children in things like rituals, they should have their own ones which they can understand and enjoy taking part in. Remember though, to work with children you must be police checked, registered and insured etc. its a political mine field, and a disaster waiting to happen. I honestly think that it should be up to the individual parents to teach or not, as much as they wish to, but unless it is a specified ‘family’ day, children are best left at home in bed.

    6. Hazel says:

      I have always been a solitary practitioner and never been a member of a coven or Order or even attended a moot. I’ve known a lot of Pagan friends and they are the same. Occasionally attending a larger organised event for one of the sabbats or doing a little kitchen witchery together but not much more than that.

      More recently, now that my little girl is at school I really do find myself longing for more child friendly activites that i can take my little girl along to show her the old ways and what nature based spirituality involves and also how widely paths differ.

      The biggest catalyst for my wanting to join in more now is that my daughter is being taught so much about Christianity at school and is so impressionable. Although I have always wanted to wait until my daughter is old enough to choose her own path before teaching her Paganism, I find that the school and national curriculum have different plans. Some friends on a Pagan forum awoke me to the fact that in order to choose her own path she needs ot know about the options out there. She needs to learn my Pagan ways from me in order to be able to understand and make an informed choice. I’m coming around to that idea.

      I’ve been buying a lot of Pagan friendly story books, and arts and crafts activities and she has always adored folklore and herb lore.

      I’m showing her films such as The Mists of Avalon and The Odyssey which are just fabulous and she loves them.

      My mum is a Buddhist nun and recently we attended a family dharma festival at her centre. It was great. A weekend of Buddhist story telling, mandala making, torma making, prayer balloons. Theatre, arts, crafts, bouncy castles. It was a very gentle and fun way for children to get involved in learning about Buddhism and understanding the different Buddha’s. I enjoyed it and she loved it. Just wish there was more out there on a similar footing for Pagan Children. If anyone is interested in creating such an event i am happy to post you a copy of the Dharma weekend timetable. it really was very well planned and catered for all ages from preschool to teens. All enjoyed it and parents did too.

      • Hannah says:

        Well the good news is at this weeks Pagan Federation Council meeting the council voted to create a “Child and Families Officer” whose sole duties will be to help facilitate more activities and community for children and their families. I was nominated for the role and have accepted it, so will try my best in that role to support those kind of activities. I have in mind some kind of camp for next summer, as well as something for the Pagan Pride event and maybe other Pagan Federation conferences. Exciting time for those people who would welcome that! I will keep you all posted!

        • Sam Wagar says:

          Twenty years ago my coven started a community festival specifically to be a safe place for families and children. Over the years a party-hearty crew became more prominent and quite a lot of the family-friendly aspects were lost, or became less viable. Fewer families attended. This was compounded by a rise in middle-class values around money in the community – it is expensive to take a family with a couple of kids out to a weekend retreat if the people organizing it don’t want to volunteer a lot of labour to keep the costs down but would rather employ other people to do it while they socialized.

          Now, I am not directly involved with that event anymore and have moved away from the area , although I understand both aspects have improved. My point is that initiatives in this area need follow-up and need consistent application to work. After thirty years in the Craft, I have seen a gradual increase in awareness of the needs of the whole community, and the whole cycle of life. Spaces for elders and disabled are also lacking, and class is still a problem people don’t recognize (but those are different concerns). I am pleased to see this initiative – the church I’m part of, Congregationalist Wiccan Assemly of Alberta, is interested in supporting families, and I’d love to get copies of publicity material and promote this.

          Blessings of the Mother and Father.

        • Hazel says:

          Offer is still open to send you the Buddhist camp timetable of activities. Something that could easily be converted to Paganism. Its ran a few years and had a lot of thought and planning gone into it so I think it would make a great template.

          There is a book called Keepers of the Night by Caduto & Bruchac with a lot of activities teaching about The Great Mystery and Native ways. Great for those that are into nature spirits. I would also make some visits to the Story Telling festivals as so much could be adapted from their styles which are often very present in Paganism too. Good luck with it all 🙂

        • Hannah says:

          Yes please Hazel! All help gratefully received so do send it to hannah@paganfed.org
          I am a regular at a New Age gathering called “One World Festival” which is exceptionally family orientated and has a wonderful programme for children of all ages and even parent and baby workshops! I have seen pretty much all other spiritual communities offer child focused activities so there is lots of experience to draw from there. I am also lucky to know quite a few professional story tellers and the Storyfest is just around the corner from me geographically, so also good links there and definitely an aspect I am looking to include. The Pagan Federation 40th family friendly day had story tellers and it was utterly wonderful! John & Caitlin Matthews have developed a wonderful resource for families, which we use regularly at home called “Storyworld” . It is a system of cards that helps children to use symbolic imagery and archetypes for story and myth to craft their own stories. I would highly recommend them to any pagan parent. Marion Green has also written wonderful children’s books as have some other pagan authors. I intend to have a book review section on the forum so that will help us all share what we have found useful!

    7. As Heathens, we understand that family is the center of folk, community and practice. In many of our events, children are the main focus. At all of our events there are children activities if their are going to be any children present.

      We wrote two books of children’s stories, because we understood that stories were the way our ancestors entertained and shared their world view with the upcoming generation.

      Heathens do less magical ritual, more communal practice, more game and sport. We even had one of our stories made into a play for East Coast Thing performed by children for children. If we do not share with them our love of the gods, our faith is already dead and awaiting burial.

      • Hannah says:

        I have seen this within Heathenry myself, John, as I mention in my article. To not be inclusive of the whole family, as I understand is very much against the Heathen spirituality.

    8. Portia Wolf says:

      I think several things are being conflated here. I don’t think that, as a parent, you can do other than teach your child your values and beliefs: a pagan parent is not going to let their child leave rubbish on the beach, for example. Naming that belief, ‘coming out’ , almost, comes later, and depends upon a lot of factors, not least being the views of immediate neighbours schools, co-workers etc.
      There is also the British ‘we hate children’ attitude. It’s improving, I think, but there’s still the feeling that children aren’t wanted anywhere, and I think the most influential people in many pagan ways are not now, or perhaps have never been, parents, and as a consequence , parental responsibilities have gone under their radar .Parents who both wanted to attend, say, a council meeting, would find the same problem.

      • Hannah says:

        I very much agree actually, Portia. But my experience of pagan parents has actually never been that they want to prescribe or inflict any kind of faith on their children. Most are vary wary and sensitive about that. With most it is more of a desire to belong to a community of like minded people. Where the children might mention the word “Goddess” or mention this in play, or creative pursuits, without that making them a figure of mockery and insight bullying.

        Pagan parents often can’t afford baby sitting and entrance fees to evening events so they lose some of their own connection to the community too.

    9. Richard says:

      My take is that Paganism doesn’t need to be considered a religion because it is a reality based way of living and interacting with the world/universe … Is a matter of vision, one which children usually possess naturally.. We don’t need faith in things because what we are is real… Children just need to hear adults interacting with the universe in compassionate power, without being flakey or dogmatic about whats going on…don’t think they need to be ‘bought up’ pagan, which may be counterproductive if youre trying to be like christians or Islamists (goddess forbid)…they can join in festivals but it may be better to leave magic until young people come to it themselves…its too difficult to express enough in a few words but children and adults is an illusory Moniker, if you have an aware kid then let them participate.. Bristol pagan support is great, more like this, but we need to understand what we’re doing here, we re not to be dogmatic fear centred fatalists destined or chosen..these mistakes humanity is still paying for… The kids will come when they’re ready, teach astronomy, physics, biology and put them into context of the pantheon.. Occult knowledge is needed, gently introduced at early years and later for correspondences between different schools of thought to be understood, Kabbalah to shamanism.

    10. Kara says:

      nearly a decade ago some moms from our Pagan church formed a small group called the Pagan Family Connection. Originally it seemed arts and crafts based and an opportunity for these moms to get their kids to play with other Pagan children. As the children grew up, the moms lost interest. I took over and have been running the group for 5 years. We’ve grown from maybe 4 kids to between 15 and 20 – aged infant to teen. I adapt rituals and write ritual plays for the children. If little ones want to run around screaming, they do. If the older ones want to sit by my side and pick my brain about ancient history and mythology, they do. We meet 5 times a year for family only Sabbats, twice a year with our greater community, and in the summer for a 2 day retreat full of rituals, ancient history, a craft and mythology lessons.

      My own daughter is now 16. She went to Catholic school for a few years, attended masses until she was in 4th grade. Then she chose to practice Wicca with me. Now she is agnostic. I never forced any path on her. I always told her I wanted her to make informed decisions about religion. I was raised Catholic and found Wicca at the age of 12. I wanted her to know where I came from and why I made the choices I did. It is important that children have some sort of religion. And it is important that we all have education on the wonderful differences each religion has to offer.

    11. Emma says:

      I come from a more occult than pagan background, but my son (and his sister and little brother to follow him) attend a Rudolf Steiner (Waldolf) school. I love that the education there is so pagan in flavour and ties in perfectly with CS Lewis’ comment. Although Rudolf Steiner wasn’t a pagan as such he obviously clearly understood that these ideas were good, sound spiritual principals that children would benefit emotionally and spiritually from understanding. My son is inculcating from the school a profound reverence for Mother Earth and Father Sky, the cycle of the seasons, for the spiritual nature inherent in life etc. All without really any overt teaching as such. Just through lots of art,songs, myths and story telling etc. Parents go along for the ride generally as well. So this little school, and other Steiner schools I have seen, appear to me to be a good example of a very diverse spiritual community of adults and children celebrating pagan ideas all together…Just my experience anyway…

    12. Barbara Lee says:

      Hi Hannah,
      An interesting article, and an interesting conundrum. One that raises societal questions. From my own perspective, I brought my children up as a little bit of everything, they were exposed to both aChristian ethos and a pagan ethos, and brought to events where it was suitable to bring them, or left them behind when we wanted time away from them. My mother brought them to Sunday School, they went to a Christian school, than a multi denominational school, then a Christian, liberal school.
      But my overriding reason not to label my children was very simple. I think and truly believe, that children will find their own spirituality or not, as they choose. I don’t believe that parents have the right to impose their belief structure on their children. They can say this is what we do, this is what we believe, but you need to find your own truth, just as we have found ours. Very often the child will veer naturally towards the pagan, but perhaps they won’t and as a parent, I am satisfied that my son will make his own decisions, through his own life experience, he is aware, from his loving and tolerant Christian grandparents, that that is one way of belief, he is also aware from his parents and their friends that there are a multitude of other ways of experiencing the world and one’s own spirituality.
      As pagans, we need to function and integrate societally, and that means allowing our children to learn how to do that, experience and explore as much of the world as they can, preferably without any labels being attached to them, and then make their own choices and find their own path.
      However, I have also come across the sentiment expressed by many pagan parents, that my path is ‘mine’. ‘I found this and don’t really want to share it as if sharing would dilute it in some way, make the journey less about me and more about the me and the mundane world, of which my children are a part’.
      There is also a secondary fear, which is lessening, and would have been more prevalent when I was bringing my children up in Ireland, which is in no way a secular society, and that is the ‘fit’ with their peers. If you bring your children up too pagan, they will be considered weird, and not fit in, so best not to, and allow them to be part of the herd. I have seen this to the extent of pagan parents letting their children take their First Holy Communion in order to ‘keep mammy happy’, or so they won’t feel left out. This is an attitude that is changing as pagan parents grown in numbers, but it is not something that will happen overnight.
      As Wiccans, we also engender that separation of spirituality with our children, as we have rules regarding age of initiation, etc. Society has also created a sterility around nature, which is reflected in the antiseptic home, where it is almost unhealthy to be connected with Nature and get dirty.
      Sorry, I could go on and on about this for ages, but I’d better stop! 🙂

    13. Old Kitchen Witch says:

      Most of the pagan events here in West Yorkshire are meetups and moots in pubs – whilst some are happy for you to bring your children, there isn’t much for the children to do. And normally these are after 7pm, which is pretty much bedtime. We do have an annual pagan picnic at Roundhay Park, but that’s about it. And whilst I have been told that my children are always welcome at the local open rituals, the reality of taking my mildly autistic son to one would probably shock some my childless pagan friends! It is easier with babies; but once you have inquisitive, tantrum-prone 3+ year olds it is less appealing to drag your little ones along to a predominantly adult event.

    14. Kim Lugg says:

      Thank you for highlighting an issue that has been putting my husband and myself in a quandary for quite some time! We generally have to take turns going to Pagan Events if we can’t find a babysitter, which is either difficult or cost prohibitive, especially if an all day event. It would be wonderful to bring our youngest child (3) along to more events, but our older children (10 and 12) would probably think it was “freakish” to go, which raises the question of how to teach them the basics of a Pagan Spirituality without them feeling I’m trying to indoctrinate them or make them “weird”. A forum would be most welcome in this regard, I’d love to hear others’ views as to how they have tackled this and other questions.
      Thanks Hannah, and thanks Sorita for pointing me to this article.

    15. Personally I think a lot of the perceived exclusion is, at least in part, due to the conflation between Paganism and practices which are more “occult” or “witchcraft” orientated which might not be suitable for children. So for example a typical “Pagan” conference is likely to have several lectures on magical / witchcraft and occult practices, which might not be suitable for under-age children and can be quite academic in flavour, which does make it dull for children (and others who are not interested in sitting and listening to lectures!).

      But then the same can be said for any other “conference” aimed at adults learning on and sharing information on a particular subject.

      The lack of inclusion of children in religious activities of mainstream Paganism (rather than witchcraft / occult activities) are amongst the reasons I do not self-define myself as a Pagan. But I also understand from my own experience of organising both private and public gatherings and ceremonies that when children are involved there is a whole new level to contend with. A lot of the barriers seem to focus on what is acceptable in the greater community, and also what the ethics and boundaries of a particular community are. This is easier in smaller closed communities (such as amongst initiates of a particular tradition) as there might already be shared ethics and practices, and a shared understanding of boundaries.

      But in the greater Pagan community there is a lack of coherent ethics and boundaries. Each for their own, which makes things difficult – but not impossible.

      Tracy Bartlett of “Stagman Creations” produced a set of stories a few years ago for her youngest child, explaining the seasonal celebrations around the Wheel of the Year, which is a good example of what is available for children. There are other people who have done likewise.

      And to your question, do we know people who have been born into Paganism – and the answer is yes. Absolutely. But in most instances Pagan parents of past generations have been keen to allow their children to find their own way to religion, rather than prescribing a religion. So most of the children I know who have been born into “Paganism” have found their way to other religious traditions, sometimes rebelling against that of their parents – sometimes holding onto respect for it. The exceptions which come to mind are all examples from initiatory Wicca, where children were born to initiates and raised with general pagan values, being introduced to the festivals and gods, but not to all the practices – and then subsequently decide to ask for and receive initiation into the same tradition as their parents. Quite a few such examples now as the children of the 1970’s and 80’s, and even 90’s are all old enough now …

      • Dana Morgan says:

        “The exceptions which come to mind are all examples from initiatory Wicca, where children were born to initiates and raised with general pagan values, being introduced to the festivals and gods, but not to all the practices – and then subsequently decide to ask for and receive initiation into the same tradition as their parents. ”

        As the parent of a now-adult child raised pagan because I couldn’t include him in my Wiccan tradition of practice — this about covers it. That child is now an adult, finding his own way in the Pagan world.

        When there were child-friendly events, it was good for him to meet other kids and know he was not alone in limbo-land — especially since the places we live(d) in the US tended to be church-heavy, and all the churches had camps for the kids. It was nice to let the kids have a place where they could make friends and not have to hide significant parts of their lived experience.

        I wish you well with your new online community!

    16. Nimue Brown says:

      My experience of Druidry has been fairly family friendly. Druid rituals are often open anyway, so have to be able to cope with all commers, regardless of age. I’ve helped run overtly family friendly rituals (Bards of the Lost Forest in the midlands). Having space for kids to step back, do here own thing etc makes it a lot more viable, being outside is often easier for that.

    17. bunnybumples says:

      “Many parents in the pagan community simply choose not to raise their children with an overtly pagan practice at all.”

      For me, it’s probably this. However,when I have children, given that many of my friends are pagan, this may change.

    18. Jack Dark says:

      Part of the problem isn’t just the nature of events itself, or provisions made, but the general culture.

      It’s not that some older, or childless pagans don’t want children around at their events, it’s that parents wouldn’t want their children around some of the older, childless pagans, who’re getting drunk and exuberant. As is quite their right to do, or course, but it’s a mix that parents are wary of, when it can be assumed by many that a lot of pagan events are not for kids and where they may still be surprised to see them.

      • Hannah says:

        100% agree regarding the general culture, Jack. I won’t repeat myself, but i have commented on this to Velody on my understanding of the nature of exclusion.

        On occasion I *am* the drunken lairy adult at those events and would certainly not want mine, or anyone else’s children to witness that! I need grown up time, as much as the next mum. I don’t share the totality of my spiritual practice with my children, far from it. But that doesn’t answer why there aren’t more activities specifically for our children. Almost all other faith communities cater for children and families. If we truly want paganism to be taken seriously and not held in such suspicion then we need to take children and families into consideration. I wonder if some people in the pagan community simply like being counter culture and this is more about their rebellious identity than it is about a spiritual path.

        • Jack Dark says:

          “I wonder if some people in the pagan community simply like being counter culture and this is more about their rebellious identity than it is about a spiritual path.”

          The very idea!

    19. Velody says:

      I spend a lot of time paying attention to pagan parents and talking with them. I am one myself and run a business trying to make pagan and alternative children’s items. I’ve also been in the pagan community here in the Southeast US for over a decade so I’ve seen a lot of what you’re talking about both before and since having my children.

      I think the previous poster is correct in that with a community with so many people who don’t have children or have grown out of the house children they don’t mean to exclude. They just don’t always realize that have made a situation that is difficult for parents. I have a local group that does public sabbats. Everyone there is very child friendly but the rituals start at 8pm, my small children’s bed times.

      In the past few years I’ve been seeing a much bigger shift as more children are being brought to large festivals, being included in rituals and even helping put them on. I do also know a few adults who were raised pagan. They aren’t many and most are under 25 but I do know a handful.

      If you’re still looking for online discussion groups I run one over on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/172383682818836/

      A very good discussion posts with some great points all pagan parents can relate to or think on.

      • Hannah says:

        Hi Velody,

        Straight on your facebook group! Thanks for that link! Wonderful!

        I agree about some of the larger festivals. Children are certainly coming along and even joining in, i have certainly done so myself. But i do feel that the needs of children (at various stages of development) are very different in terms of understanding and interaction. I would like to see more child specific activity, like the other spiritual communities do. Even the New Age community have lots on for children and families. It is pretty much **only** the neo-pagan community that seems not to. And I am very interested in why that is.

        Things can only get better though surely? I certainly agree that no one has excluded anyone on purpose. But non-intentional exclusion is still exclusion, as various sidelined communities have argued in many corners of our society, on many occasions.
        I think it depends on your understanding of community, inclusion and social responsibility. If you don’t have children yourself, does that mean you do not have any responsibility for the future generations of your spiritual community and the legacy you leave them? If you are heterosexual does that mean you need not bother to fight for equal marriage rights? If you are able bodied, do you leave access issues to the disabled? I happen to believe that for a community to be truly healthy, to truly thrive, we need to demonstrate active social awareness and inclusion.

        Thrilled to hear you know some grown up children of pagans, who are still pagan, I will be really interested to hear from such people about their experiences and perspective. I wonder what that generation will be like?

    20. Like C.S. Lewis I happen to believe that all children start out pagan. Born with an inherent sense of awe and wonder in nature

      what a fantastic and true comment!
      Children have an almost magical sense of being able to explore nature, they see all the things we have forgotten, they have the nature to celebrate nature in all her/its glory, their fantastic innocent energy touches the earth and celebrates it how it should be celebrated.
      when my daughter goes to the woods she finds the most wonderous things,hugs the trees and their stones and sings away to them too.
      its an awakening of all the senses that she and all children are born with.
      they are our future and the earths future!
      and yes to children friendly pagan events! who knows a dedicated event for the children!
      please give us more details of the forum when its running.
      xx

    21. Atreyu says:

      From a heathen perspective, where ‘faith folk and family’ is the whetstone that inspires and compels our faith, I realise how privileged I have been to witness the natural inclusiveness this tradition affords to its younger generation. I am yet to attend a gathering (ritual, moot, or althing) where children were not involved. I realise this is not the case in other traditions, and feel that it is of utmost importance to work towards resolving the dilemmas you pose.

      In doing so, we may begin to liberate ourselves from doubt and those pesky, lingering reservations (‘What will the neighbours say?’); for when a tradition is proudly disseminated to children and the torch carried on to the next generation, we are reinforcing our oaths to the gods, thereby strengthening our identity and fortifying our faith. How opportune that you should post this blog on Fríge’s day, goddess of the home and hearth. Wæs hæl!

    22. Zoe Bidgood says:

      I suppose people don’t necessarily deliberately exclude children, it’s just that if you don’t have any in your life you don’t have a clue about their needs or how to fulfil them!

      But as the number of Pagan parents grows as it is now I think with people like you around there will be more and more parallel activies at Pagan events that are children-friendly.

      • Hannah says:

        There have been many generations of pagan children. Since the 60’s pagans have been breeding the same as anyone else. I think what you highlight here is that pagans with children aren’t as visible in the community. Which is very much my point. Pagan families are there and have always been there, but they aren’t always attending events, especially evening ones. So it might appear to those without kids, that there aren’t many pagan parents. And that is what I am trying to highlight. Most of the pagan parents I have spoken to and there have been many over the past 4 years, generally feel that they are forced to play a less active role in the wider pagan community because of the inaccessibility issue. I hope this will change too but I don’t believe it’s the numbers of pagan parents that will change that, I believe it will be our motivations as parents to do something different and to forge our own sense of community, so that maybe the wider pagan community will notice and want to include us more. Not at all events either! Many would be unsuitable for children and adults certainly need kid-free time (I know I do!) but hopefully a few times a year, some of the bigger events will become places with child focused activities too.

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