My plan for raising Pagan children

Guest post by Grey Catsidhe
Part of the family altar that I keep. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.
Part of the family altar that I keep. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

I can’t remember the first time I considered raising a future child Pagan. When I started down the polytheistic path, I was still quite young and wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids. I have memories of seeing the topic on forums and noticed a divisiveness about it. People either felt strongly for or against it. Little has changed!

I fall into the former category. I intend to raise my child in a Pagan household. I’ve come to see that this means different things to different people, and a lot of it probably has to do with our own experiences of childhood and religion. I was raised Roman Catholic — I went to church on Sunday mornings (eventually Saturday evenings) with my parents. I did the sacraments right on up through confirmation (when I was starting to feel it as all a personal charade to please my family). I experienced religious education, family pressure, and that fun little guilt that comes along with Catholicism. Somehow I emerged from it as an independent thinker, as a proponent of pluralism, as a tree-hugging Pagan.

I feel a lot of it had to do with my parents. My father is fiercely independent. Although his family was the biggest influence in my religious upbringing, he also values the American Constitution and the rights it promises us. While he initially had difficulty understanding my decision, he’s come to see it as my right to practice how I believe. He also taught me much about respecting nature by planning various excursions to the Adirondacks and explaining the power of fire.

My mother is what I describe as liberal Catholic. She introduced me to polytheism and magical thinking without even realizing it. She taught me to pray to different saints with different concerns and she valued the divine feminine in Mary. To this day, she keeps an altar to Saint Theresa in her bedroom. She kisses photos of the ancestors before bed. She taught me that when you find a fuzzy seed it’s from Santa Claus’s beard and if you make a wish and blow it, the wish will go to him in the North Pole. She taught me to believe in unicorns and the rights of even the smallest creatures. She taught me to use the sky to divine the next day’s weather. They both encouraged me to read, to write, to explore exactly what I was into — which turned out to be fairy tales, mythology, and ancient civilizations. And they wondered how I came to Paganism!

Most importantly, they showed me love no matter what, which is why I believe I have a healthy, open relationship with them and a positive perspective on raising kids in a spiritual atmosphere.

When I say “raising a child Pagan,” I mean that he or she will be living their life in a largely Pagan household. As someone who lives Paganism, I know that my child will see it and wonder about it. There is no hiding my Druidic beliefs at home! I have altars throughout the house, indoors and out. I pray before dinner, before travel, before bed. I leave offerings frequently. I talk to the plants and I sing songs to the Gods. The child will have a right to know, to be included.

By: Zach DischnerCC BY 2.0

Ancient and modern, Druidism was and is a tribal religion. It is based on community and, although there are many solitary practitioners, the bulk of Druids come together to celebrate, even if it’s once a year. My child will come with us to the High Day rites to sing, to pray, to laugh, and learn with the rest of us. The child will be living Paganism because I live Paganism. I can’t just stop being who I am.

My plan is not to isolate the child from other beliefs or to scare him or her into Paganism, nor to insist on it. How could I? My agnostic husband comes to The High Days but does not keep an altar. He is respectful and supportive of my religion — and our child will also wonder about that. He or she will be exposed to my husband’s way of thinking too, just as should be! And the beauty of the Pagan community is that it is so diverse. The child will be brought up in a world of varied thought and practice, seeing, I hope, that it is healthy and okay to think outside the box.

My plan for raising my child is quite simply inspired by how my parents raised me, although with more spiritual exploration and no hellfire sermons. Here’s a list I’ve made for myself, and that I thought might be helpful to other Pagan families:

What a Pagan childhood shouldn’t be:

  • Isolation from other spiritual paths
  • Threatening should the child show curiosity in other faiths
  • Indoctrination towards only one way of thinking
  • Boring or without consideration of child development
  • Forceful: if a child doesn’t show interest in a topic, make sure he or she understands enough to be aware but don’t press. Not every person is destined to be a bard, an artisan, a historian, a warrior, a priest, etc.!

What a Pagan childhood should be:

  • Full of exploration: independent and with parental support
  • Inclusive: involve extended family and friends who come from different walks of life. Look at the Koran, light a menorah, visit a Buddhist temple, admire pentacles in jewelry and apples, and explore science museums. Find the connections, marvel at the beauty, and model how a mature, well-adjusted adult behaves with others, even when you don’t believe the same things.
  • Respectful of elders: this will extend into respect for the ancestors once the child is old enough to really understand who they are.
  • Safe feeling: the child should know we will love him or her no matter what spirituality is embraced as a teen or adult
  • Full of honest discussion: children should understand your path but also know that not everyone believes the same way. Children should feel safe questioning and disagreeing. Again, model how to do this with respect!
  • Celebratory and respectful of nature: regardless of spiritual path, a good Druid will raise a child to be aware of the environment, the interconnections, and the seasonal changes
  • Sex-positive in a way that takes into account the child’s development, safety, boundaries, and own self-worth
  • Fun: learning about life, nature, Druidism, and other religions should be joyful
  • Artistic: self-expression is an essential part of Druidism, and carries over into other facets of life and other spiritual paths.
  • Based on virtuous behavior: I will teach the child the nine Druidic virtues but, as he or she ages, we’ll compare them to other systems (that of Asatru, the ten commandments, the noble truths, etc) in the hopes of finding commonalities. When paired with literature and personal experiences, children will soon develop a sense of empathy towards the world – one that can extend beyond a religious practice.
  • Magical: let children revel in the magic of the world. Make wishes on dandelion seeds, plant love into the garden, stir healing into daddy’s soup. Read fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology. Talk about your dreams and encourage imagination.
  • Balanced: while teaching simple magic, don’t ever forget to teach science. Name the plants, name the animals, look at the stars, and give magical and scientific explanations. When you don’t know the answer, model how to find it.
  • Patient: children aren’t ready for everything right away. Learn about developmental levels, pay attention to your child’s interests, and don’t automatically include your child in every Pagan practice. Remember that kids sometimes just want to play on their own and may not be ready or interested in quiet meditation or involved magic.
By: StephenCC BY 2.0

To end with, I want to share some of my favorite websites on alternative parenting. They’ve been very helpful in informing my perspective:

  • Ozark Pagan Mamma — This fellow ADFer has been raising Pagan kids and blogging about her experience! She shares a lot of wonderful seasonal crafts which I look forward to doing with the wee one. In addition, she sometimes shares child-friendly explanations for holidays, the Pagan Otherworld, the Three Kindreds, etc. I’m happy to have found a blog devoted to raising Pagan kids written by an ADFer.
  • Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom — Although not exclusively about parenting, Mrs. B has posted several things on seasonal ideas, introducing magic, and book reviews.

Comments on My plan for raising Pagan children

  1. Wooh Adirondacks!!

    I was born and raised in the Eastern Adirondacks. Like you I was raised catholic but I found my faith in nature. Some of my earliest memories come from camping and hiking in the Adirondacks with my dad. We’d be tramping up a mountain when he’d ask me to stop and soak up “the cathedral of nature.” He taught me to identify trees and herbs found in those mountains. One of our favorite past times was to drive up the point and look at the constellations (he could identify almost all of them). Those early hikes and his talks about all the life in the mountains inspired me to go college for forestry and into a career of env. advocacy.

    The approach you outlined here seem to paralel that of my dad – open mindedness and connection to the nature world, our food, and the universe.

    Great post.

  2. This is fantastic! When my son was younger (he’s 14 now) I was still going through some spiritual changes, transitioning from very liberal Christianity through paganism and eventually settling into a sort of Zen Buddhist path, he’s been exposed to not just the religions that I had been looking into but any one that we came across. It’s so important to expose them to different cultures and religious beliefs, even those we don’t believe in ourselves, and it’s equally important to explain why we believe the things WE do (or don’t). Interestingly enough at this stage in his life my son calls himself an Atheist.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post! We are also an interfaith couple (I’m Pagan with Buddhist sprinkles on top, he’s a liberal Christian who is leaning farther and farther towards Buddhism, and we both appreciate Unitarian Universalism). We don’t have kids yet, and lately my worries about Pagan parenting have taken the form of wondering how I’ll explain my faith to a social worker if we pursue adoption. I’d hate for that to get us disqualified, but I also wouldn’t feel comfortable lying.

    • I wouldn’t feel comfortable lying either, but I commiserate with your worries! I wasn’t always certain I could conceive and thought about adoption, but the thought of having to deal with all that frightened me terribly. It is unfortunate that we even have to fret over those things… Best of luck to you whatever you choose!

  4. I love this and I really think that any spiritual or religious belief should be able to be fairly easily substituted here. All children deserve to be able to marvel at the universe and feel safe learning about all the different ways that we as humans explain and worship in it. I’m Christian and I hope that if I ever have kids that I will raise them in much the same manner that you describe here, full of love, respect and learning.

    • I’m glad you see it that way! As I was writing it, I saw just how non-denominational it was in many ways! It just goes to show how we have far more in common than not. πŸ™‚ Thank you for your reply!

  5. Thank you for this wonderful article! Definitely brightened my day. My fiance is asatru while i am more newly pagan (ive always adored mythology and sought to commune with nature but have only just begun to explore the manner in which others do the same). I love that the children will grow up seeing this blend of beliefs in the household. I am so excited to explore the links posted in the article! .

    • Thank you for the website! I was hoping to learn more resources through sharing this! πŸ˜‰ And honestly, I have so much to figure out before the little one is born… I guess this just seems thought out because it’s something I’ve dwelt on since I started to seriously want a child!

  6. Another Adirondacker here! It’s a pagan breeding ground! My Dad raised my sister and I in a sort of pagan-Taoist-environmentalist way, much as the first commenter describes with the reverence for nature and the seasons, and I’ve settled into a mash of paganism and Zen Buddhism these days. I also have a very small child and an agnostic husband so your post is very relevant to my situation!

  7. These guidelines sound amazing for any faith. My husband and I are agnostic, but we hope to raise imaginitive, open-minded little free-thinkers, and I hope that we do as good a job as it sounds you are about to do. Thanks for sharing!

  8. I have gone from being a “New Testament Church” Christian to mild agnostic (for a few years) to an overall ecumenical Christian with some Jewish influence in my spirituality. I also believe in the Divine Feminine in God (and a bunch of other things many mainstream Christians either don’t believe in or think twice about) and am pre-engaged to a liberal Presbyterian. When I have kids, I will raise them as ecumenicals and emphasize the idea that there is no “one true” way of believing in God, the Bible, etc. However, I will also teach my kids to treat others with respect and kindness regardless of their beliefs.

    • That sounds wonderful, KK. There can be a lot of bile in the Pagan community towards Christianity, but I think a lot of it isn’t very constructive. I think it’s far better to teach kindness and respect to others regardless of path. Best of luck to you!

      • As another Pagan mama, this is a great post! I don’t get the bile either, its not constructive. I get that people treat our beleifs like they are a) a joke b) offensive or c) suspect often enough, which is why I keep my religious cards close to my chest. It doesn’t mean I have a bone to pick with others. Plus, its fun to have people realize I am doing magick in the kitchen without them knowing πŸ˜‰

  9. That sounds great. I’ve always been very interested in paganism, but unfortunately you don’t really have much religion options besides the best known ones in Belgium, where I live. We once had to make an oral presentation about a religion in high school, and I picked paganism, and everyone snickered a bit, thinking it was all a bit tree-hugger and silly. I could tell the teacher didn’t really think it was a real religion either. I’d have loved to get more into it, but I’d be pretty much alone.

    • I’m sorry you had a bad experience presenting on Paganism… I wonder just how alone you would be in Belgium… You might be surprised! If you continue searching, I wish you a lot of luck! And hey – you can always practice as a solitary. πŸ™‚

    • Trust me – you are not alone! I used to practice paganism when I was younger and lived in the Netherlands, and I found a pretty blossoming community on the internet. Good part about our countries is that they are small, so the people on the internet are closer than you think. πŸ™‚

  10. i feel like i need to plan a trip to the adirondacks. haha i love this post. i was raised by a very strict southern christian father, and was only able to “let go” to explore my own beliefs after my first child was born. This book (Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief) was recommended to me, maybe by an offbeat poster? it’s aimed at secular parents, but i think it does a great job teaching us how to be respectful of others beliefs and encourage curiosity and exploration. and as a parent, the book started answering my questions from chapter one.

  11. I was *just* writing about this! My wife and I are Pagan and when the kids were younger (before she and I met), I was struggling to find my own identity and spiritualism. My children were raised to be open minded about faith yet had a lot of influence from Catholicism. Today, we celebrate Pagan holidays and the holidays my kids were brought up with, such as Christmas. We never force them to be involved in rituals but encourage their participation if they so wish. We have a theme in our house about having respect for all faiths as long as they don’t hurt the individuals or others. Those websites are great! I knew of the last two and follow both, but not the first one. There are also children’s books and even books for older kids and teenagers about being Pagan. We have several and read them often. I find that it’s important that our girls (17 and 10) understand that our faith and spiritualism isn’t something to be feared as it come sometimes seem so in society.

    • You are so right! Thank you for sharing. I’m glad to hear from a Pagan who has *done it* not just dreamed about it! Kudos to you! I’ve started to collect some books – some on general nature awareness, a history book about Celtic festivals (for when he or she is older), and kid mythology books. Does anything stand out on your shelf?

  12. I grew up in a Pagan household and loved it. It is definitely worthwhile to reflect on your child’s experience of Paganism, and how it will travel with them into adulthood. I found it much more awkward as an adult maintaining this important part of my identity, particularly with a non-pagan partner.

    • That’s interesting. Of course I sometimes think about my child in the future… But I mostly wonder about how close we will be. I haven’t thought about him or her finding a partner as much… Since my husband isn’t a practicing Pagan, I know it can be a bit awkward at first. When we first moved in together, it was hard to find quiet time for meditation and ritual, not to mention where I should place my altar… But he has always been very supportive and respectful. I hope my child can find something like that, regardless of what spirituality (if any) he or she embraces. Good luck to you!

  13. I was always sceptical of paganism but when the things a pagan childhood should be all of those things are things that I would want for my children apart from magical. The values are very important ones and I feel like praying/blessings aside as an atheist I could still take a lot from it.

    • Of course all of my thoughts won’t mesh with everyone’s lifestyle. Magical thinking isn’t for everyone, and praying will not appeal to Atheists. But I’m glad you see merit in the rest! Thanks for your reply!

  14. This was a great post and really well put together. I was raised in a pagan environment and it is great to see that others are treating it with the freedom to grow that I had.

    My boyfriend comes from a roman catholic background and while he himself is no longer part of that faith, his family (especially his mother) is and I’ve been wondering how this discussion is going to go when we do have kids. Your post reminded me that our way is natural and that you can see the beauty in it even without the labels (:

  15. This article could have been written by me! It sounds almost exactly like my childhood! My husband is Asatru and I’m an eclectic pagan, and we’re planning on raising our son pagan. Thanks so much for this article! <3

  16. I love this article! Do you mind if I borrow your ‘What a Pagan childhood should be’ list to show to my partner and stick on our fridge? It’s basically the life I want to raise my daughter in, although we aren’t Pagan [we don’t really follow any religion or any kind].

  17. Thank you for the great article! I’m Pagan, my partner is of no faith (but not athiest, he isn’t convinced there’s nothing), and he supports me in my pagan endeavours. I intend to raise our kids pagan. You’ve made points I would never have thought about – perhaps a good list to save for the family-in-law one day! πŸ™‚

  18. This is so awesome! Thank you for sharing your story. πŸ™‚

    I am sure now that I certainly do not want kids, but prior to that decision/realization, I definitely wanted to raise my kids in a Pagan household, with education on other faiths and the freedom to choose what path(s) they wanted to pursue. Your story also sounds very similar to mine; I was raised Lutheran and started realizing I wasn’t Christian around the time of my confirmation in 8th grade. After 8th grade, I started officially moving toward Paganism. I actually know a lot of people who share similar stories!

    Thanks again for sharing this, and best of luck with everything. πŸ™‚

  19. I don’t know. I expect my kids to follow my ancestral path because their ancestors have suffered and sacrificed so much so they can’t just spit on their faces and worship Allah instead! I see no problem offering them only one path. What are you telling your kids? Your ancestry and your folk’s ways means NOTHING, they can be swapped into ANY other exotic fanciful toy!

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