Children Attending Pagan Rituals
Article ID: 8453
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,736
Times Read: 6,004
Author: Rev. Morninghawk Apollo
Posted: May 7th. 2004
Times Viewed: 6,004
They say that children are our future, but how do we ensure the long-term future of the Pagan community by involving them? I have seen different ways groups deal with the issue of children. There are many possible ways of addressing this and this article is more intended to help raise the issue and bring about community discussion, rather than present a concrete solution.
Most groups I've seen or communicated with have a rule that children are not allowed in most rituals, unless they are of a certain age or it's a special child-friendly ritual. The age specified differs between groups. Some members of those groups later complain that their children have no interest in attending the rituals more than a couple times when they are older. As a result, the only way for the groups to grow is through finding new members from outside the group. This commonly results in stagnation and eventual death of the group.
The issue with including young children in ritual is commonly a matter of discipline. Children can be noisy. They can be antsy and want to run around. They can be disturbing to the group. Frequently they are all of the above. But they are children and that is how children are at a young age.
Some believe that children should be able to attend all rituals of a group and do whatever they wish, simply because that is their nature. This ignores the effect that it has on the energy of the circle, if it is not conducive to the energy the child is bringing. Others feel that children should not be allowed at all. "Get a babysitter," they say. This ignores the needs of the community to grow and teach the young ones. It also can ignore the needs of the family, as babysitters are sometimes harder to come by than other times. There can be financial considerations as well. So where is the balance?
Other religions feel it is important to foster religious belief and raise their children in their religion. Again, different groups handle the issue differently, but they all do have a way of incorporating children into their religion. The most common method in the US is to have childcare for the youngest ones, special services or classes for older children, and inviting teens to the adult services at some point. Teens generally also will participate in a youth group.
This is an arrangement that works for many larger churches, but may not work well for smaller congregations, such as is common in the Pagan community. For example, if a group were to offer childcare for the youngest, they could either hire an outside (hopefully Pagan-friendly) babysitter or members of the group could volunteer to watch. It would cost money to hire a babysitter, which can be a problem for some people, and finding a Pagan-friendly babysitter can be a challenge. They would need to be someone that is trusted enough to watch children and there is no real way to hide the fact that it is for a Pagan ritual.
So, the group can choose to volunteer to watch the children themselves. Who will sit out the ritual to watch? Will it be the same person each time, or will they rotate? Should the people who have no children of their own attending need to sit out and watch the children occasionally? What if it is a ritual in which everyone wants to participate? What if the group is small enough that nobody can be excused from the ritual to watch the young ones? Questions like these tend to lead to groups that simply don't allow children, as they are difficult to answer.
Another option would be for multiple Pagan groups to get together on childcare during rituals. If they coordinated their schedules, they could have a central place to drop off their young children nearby and either a volunteer or a hired babysitter could watch them all. That would make it more economical and easier to rotate, but the groups would have to coordinate their schedules as well. That level of inter-group cooperation is something that I haven't seen yet in our community, but there is no reason why it couldn't be done if enough people thought it a good idea and did the work to make it happen.
There are some people who think that children of all ages should be exposed to our religion through our primary rituals (i.e. "adult" rituals). They believe that, as long as the energy used will not harm the child, direct observation and participation at whatever level they can observe and participate will teach them best. There is some merit to this idea because it can help the child become used to how rituals are and can include them very directly in our spellwork and other workings. The disadvantage of this approach is that a very young child might be at such a stage in their development that they will not be able to understand what is going on enough to get anything of value from it.
What about the "dark" rituals, such as Samhain? Is being exposed to energy of that nature harming a child? Some say that children should only be allowed to experience the "light" energy, such as at Beltane. Others feel that since both Samhain and Beltane are parts of the wheel of Life that everything experiences, children should be shown both sides. They see plants and pets die, so they are exposed to Death already. Why not teach them about it so they can understand it better?
There is another concern of many parents that needs to be brought up. What if one of the parents of the child is not friendly or tolerant to Paganism and has an issue with the child attending rituals? There have been cases where divorced parents have fought custody battles over the issue of the child attending religious services. This is not an issue that is unique to Paganism, but it is very common. Sometimes even married parents can be of different faiths and one might be intolerant of the other. There is no easy answer to this, but it should be discussed in the community. We, as a community, should develop resources to help people in this type of situation. We need to look at the needs of both parents, the child or children, and that of the community.
There is no single solution to how to incorporate children into the Pagan community. We can look at how other religious communities have included children. Most of us, though, couldn't use their methods directly simply because of the small size of the groups that are most common in our community and the difference in our beliefs about children and religion. We will need to be creative and work to invent a way that will work for us.
If we choose to continue to either exclude children or only marginally include them in our community and rituals, then they will look upon us from the outside when they grow older. They will not feel a sense of belonging that is necessary for a community to survive multiple generations. If we only want to have a Pagan community for one or two generations, then we can continue to ignore the issue. But I think we want to grow and last so that future generations can know and live the joy of the Pagan Path.
Rev. Morninghawk Apollo
Location: Brainerd, Minnesota
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Bio: Lord Dawn Blacksun is a 3rd degree high priest in Ecclesia Ordinis Caelestis Templum Olympicus (Church of the Celestial Order and Temple of Olympus), based in Minnesota, with lodges also in Wisconsin and Florida. He is the father of a fourteen-month-old daughter and with more on the way.
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