Being a Pagan Stepparent
Article ID: 12987
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 1,914
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Author: Talitha Dragonfly
Posted: December 14th. 2008
Times Viewed: 3,961
The Elements have been evoked. Candles flicker peacefully and comfortably in the otherwise darkened room. Gentle wisps of incense smoke float effortlessly through the air. Soft rhythmic music plays in the background. All of the participants in this Sabbat ritual are beginning to naturally slip into a lucid other-consciousness, that curious merging of states where excited expectations for the miraculous are high cradled within a deep sense of calm and safety.
The Coven’s High Priestess closes her eyes and opens herself up to allowing the Goddess to enter and inspire her. She lifts her arms up and takes a deep breath. Yes, she feels it now. It’s happening, and it’s beautiful. A smile crosses her lips, and she finally finds her voice. “Listen to the words of the Great Mother, who…”
“I gotta get through, ” a brash female voice disruptively shatters the moment.
The High Priestess’s teenaged stepdaughter stands defiantly on the perimeter of the Circle with her hands on her ample hips. “You guys are blocking the way to the front door, and Becky just called me on my cell saying she wants to meet me at the mall. And it’s not like I can stay in my room all night or anything. Um….yeah. So I’m gonna go now.”
The teenager then pushes through the participants of the ritual, her suitcase-sized purse knocking over a couple of ritual candles off the altar in the process. Hot melted wax spills all over the carpet. She trips over the ceremonial robe of an important guest that was invited from a neighboring Coven.
“Sorry!” the teenager sarcastically hollers over the sound of the front door slamming shut. The over-flowery notes of her designer perfume are left hanging in the air. The moment is shattered almost beyond repair. All eyes shift to the High Priestess who stands utterly embarrassed, and utterly unsure of how just to proceed without making things worse.
This scene, unfortunately, accurately depicts events that all too often have occurred in my home in the past. I married a man who was raised Catholic and has three teenagers. Although he considers himself now to be mostly agnostic, he is curious about some of the aspects of my Neo-Paganism, and sometimes participates in a Coven ritual, class, or meditation session.
We often have deep meaningful discussions about my philosophies of the Divine. He can even rattle off Neo-Pagan terminology like an old pro, often peppering a conversation with words like “Sabbat”, “handfasting”, “Athame”, and “mystery tradition”. More than once he has come behind me while I’m making coffee or preparing a snack in the kitchen, has nuzzled my neck, and whispered “My Goddess, let’s go perform the Great Rite.” We’ve read erotic mythology together. We’ve celebrated the Full Moon by the shores of the Delaware River, just the two of us making a bonfire and experiencing the tantric energies that this time of month can offer.
I have to admit it. Without my husband, I could not do the things that I do. I could not successfully commit to my role as High Priestess. He has graciously cooperated in facilitating the Coven I founded to come into our home once a week for our classes, and for Esbat and Sabbat celebrations. I’m far luckier than some of my peers. Some women I know have only recently even admitted their Paganism to their spouses, and this has been a source of varying friction within their relationships. They’re thankful to just be able to admit to what they believe in. I doubt their husbands would ever allow a vibrant and joyful Coven into their homes to celebrate a ritual that’s all too often misunderstood or even ridiculed.
Further complicating my own home is the fact that I have become the Wicked Stepmother to my husband‘s unruly teens. Living in a blended family has enough hurdles to overcome. There are issues to deal with like disrespect, jealousy, house rule enforcement, manipulation, privacy and personal space, shared chores, schedules, and a myriad of other struggles for adapting and learning to live with the strangers who are suddenly in our midst. Add in one very guilty and overly accommodating biological father who caves in to every whim and want that these werewolves constantly confuse him with, and you’re left in a state of confusion and disarray.
I’m certain that any interfaith family, whether in a purely biological or a blended family, has its own challenges and confrontations. I’m sure that our situation would be strained if I was Jewish, Buddhist, or Hindu. There are bound to be grey areas of confusion concerning the beliefs, holidays, and practices of someone who is not of your faith. However, I can’t help but think that the open hostilities towards my faith from my stepchildren stem from the fact that Neo-Paganism is often openly chastised and attacked within our society. They’re simply giving in to the hype.
So how can some of these tensions and misunderstandings reasonably and successfully be overcome? I believe that there are two simple and logical answers to this dilemma, and they are unequivocally respect and consistency. Here is a list of things that my husband and I have been working on with a great deal of success.
1. Recruit your partner for support
As with any relationship issues, your partner should care enough about you and the health of your relationship together to always “get your back”. Whether it’s dividing up household chores, the need for privacy, curfews, respecting personal belongings, noisy stereos, sharing computer time, back-talking, or any of the other complications of sharing a living environment, your partner should stand united on matters that are important to you and the health of your relationship. Even if your partner’s beliefs totally differ from yours, and he or she never tries to understand a single aspect of your beliefs, that’s okay. Obviously your love is what counts the most, and not what gods are acknowledged. The stepchildren should be made to understand this as well. Ask for and expect your partner’s help in explaining to his/her offspring and other family members that your spiritual practices are important to you, and that interference or disrespect will not be tolerated.
2. Be respectful of their spiritual beliefs
Never get into an argument with your partner, the stepchildren, or other family members over whose religion is “right” or “wrong”. Don’t take on this personal crusade of trying to “educate” them on your Neo-Paganism. Let them notice on their own the similarities and differences of your joint practice, beliefs, and holidays, and allow them come to their own conclusions. Participate in the more secular aspects of their holidays in an appropriate and loving manner. Recognize that their beliefs are as important to them as yours are to you. Be respectful when you must attend functions that occur in churches, synagogues, etc., that are a part of their lives like weddings, funerals, graduations, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, and confirmations.
3. Be specific informing them of the times of your rituals
If you are hosting a group ritual in your home, let your family know exactly what the dates and times of your events will be. Explain that interruptions will be considered as rude and unacceptable. Ask for their cooperation in allowing you the time to perform your ritual without interference. Give them reminders as the event draws closer so that they can make alternate plans if they are not going to attend. Remind them again on the evening before or on the morning of the celebration, or both if you think it will help. Although some rituals can go later than planned, especially when some of your guests are running on “Pagan Standard Time”, give your family the respect of trying to tie things up at the time you had promised. It’s their home too, and they need time to unwind at the end of the day and to get settled into bed at a reasonable hour.
If you are solitary and don’t have group rituals in your home, these same rules apply for private rituals and mediation time, too.
4. Invite them to your celebrations
Even if you know the answer is always going to be no, continue to try to include them in your rituals and celebrations, either the rituals that you will be hosting in your home or the ones you will be traveling to. If they won’t attend, ask them if they would instead like to prepare a dish that you’ll be sharing with your participants, or if they’d like to help you with the decorations, or if they’d like to hear some of the music you’ve selected for the event and give their opinion. Invite them to gather after the ritual is complete to share in food and drink with the group so that they can bond with them on a social level.
5. And did I mention recruiting your partner for support?
Continue to ask and rely upon your partner for help. Consistency is the key. When requests for privacy and respect are not met, don’t feel that you have to be the “bad witch” from a fairy tale. No poison apples from me, thank you very much. Let your partner know that you expect him/her to consistently dish out the appropriate consequences for any disrespectful or rude behavior on the part of your stepchildren. Agree upon these consequences together so that they will be acceptable to both of you. Let this be the chance for the kids to witness for themselves that your beliefs and happiness are important to their biological parent.
Living in an interfaith household doesn’t have to be an Us vs. Them crisis. It should be the graceful, respectful merging of ideas that come from a variety of sources. Whether it’s the music you listen to, the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the company you keep, or the gods you acknowledge, different does not mean wrong. It’s just different. And diversity can be a wonderful experience when there’s a safe and happy environment to share it in.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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