How Do We Include Kids in Ritual Without Making Adults Run Screaming?

How Do We Include Kids in Ritual Without Making Adults Run Screaming?

 

by L. Lisa Harris

Ask a group of ritual facilitators what their philosophy on children in ritual is, and at best you’ll get as many different opinions as there are people in the room. At worst, you will have pushed a hot button that operates an opener attached to a huge can of worms. This topic is near the top of my “ways to start an argument at a pagan gathering” list. I’ve seen this issue turn a harmless candle-making party and ritual planning session into a virtual war zone, and don’t even get me started on what it can do to an e-mail list.

Groups that put on large public rituals, those who work in small family coven structures and every sized group in between all eventually face this issue. Public ritual comes to most people’s minds first when they think about controversy over kids in circle. But even in small covens, where all of the members consider themselves a family and parents or “aunties and uncles” to the children of other circle members, disagreements as to if and when children should be in circle do crop up.

One of the many issues that parents who want to include their children in ritual can run into is what circle members wear (or don’t wear). Bob, a member of a “medium-sized traditional coven” is concerned about the legal ramifications involved in having children present in a group that works skyclad.

“There are certain considerations when allowing children in ritual,” he said. “For instance, being skyclad in front of a child can get a person charged with sexual abuse in many states.” Just because a child is taught that nudity is perfectly normal and not necessarily sexual, it doesn’t mean that society as a whole and the judicial system will see it that way. If a small child casually mentions seeing “Uncle John’s wee-wee” to a teacher or member of the medical profession, the parents are likely to receive a visit from Child Protective Services.

A greater danger arises when the parents of a child are separated or divorced. Even if there is no ritual nudity, a parent who wants full custody can claim that what goes on in ritual is damaging to the child. Seeing someone hold a blade to Mommy’s throat and issue a challenge to her when she enters a circle, or even witnessing a light ritual scourging, can not only be frightening to a child, these things are also not going to look good if a complaint is filed by an ex-spouse with an axe to grind.

Some small groups prefer that ritual be a place for adults only. “Circle is a place for women to relax and take a break from their daily parenting responsibilities and nurture themselves,” said Luna, who facilitates a women’s circle. She doesn’t want new mothers to be left out of circle but has very clear rules regarding the presence of children. “Babies at the breast are welcome in our women’s circle, but once a child is old enough to be left with family or a sitter, we expect that mothers will come alone. They need to be able to bond with other women and to have time that is theirs alone.”

Sage, a father of two, feels strongly that children should be included in circle. “It is vital that we teach our traditions to our children, or they will be left open to conversion by more aggressive religions and there will be no one to carry on after us.” His partner Oana agrees: “We have a responsibility to provide for the spiritual education of our children. Christian churches have Sunday school, so why is it wrong for us to teach our religion to our kids?”

When it comes to public ritual, not everyone has or understands children, and many people have very different ideas as to what is appropriate behavior and how much parental discipline is called for. Stardancer, a mother of three, feels “watching children joyfully play in a circle is a beautiful sight. We don’t want to suppress their natural energy, it can be quite infectious.” Kim, who is married and “childless by choice” does not agree. “Poorly supervised kids in ritual distract everyone else, and they don’t learn or experience anything. Don’t get me wrong, I like kids, but ritual should be a sacred space that is not filled with running around and yelling.” She doesn’t place the blame for disruptive behavior on the kids. “It’s ludicrous to expect a 3-year-old to stand quietly in a circle or to understand what’s going on.”

Some groups don’t allow anyone under the age of 18 at any event. “Our circles can get a little wild and crazy sometimes, and the owner of the place where we meet doesn’t want to worry about having minors around,” said Wolfehawk, a member of a small group that hosts open events. Other groups restrict the age of the children to middle-school-age or older and specify which events are appropriate for kids. Freya, a Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans member, said, “We let older kids par-ticipate in most of our rituals, with the excep-tion of Samhain, as it tends to be a bit too intense. Although middle school seems to be a good cut-off point, it’s not always that easy. Reaching a chronological age or grade in school is not always a good indicator as to how a child will behave in circle. I’ve seen very young children pay attention and be respectful, while older kids in middle school have behaved atrociously. It’s really all about the individual level of maturity and how the child has been allowed to behave in public by their parents.”

A few groups have experimented with various forms of paid and shared childcare. “The problem with the concept of co-op child care is that one or two parents get stuck with all the kids all the time while the parents that tend to have the most badly behaved kids just dump them off and go have fun,” advised Morgan, a solitary witch and mother of two. “Sooner or later, you get tired of doing all the work and missing out on the festivities and ritual workings.”

Some groups that have considered hiring a babysitter to provide paid childcare have run into liability concerns. They are afraid that if a child gets hurt when childcare is being paid for at an event they sponsor that the group members will get sued. Anne, an attorney, advised, “The fear of lawsuits for an injury or allegation of abuse is very real, particularly if someone is providing care without a license. People will sue over anything, and you never know what a jury will do. Liability releases aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” Another problem with paid childcare is the policy that most pagan groups have of not turning anyone away due to inability to pay. Either you give some people free childcare and not others, or you allow some parents to bypass childcare. Either way, someone is going to feel that it’s unfair.

Yet another possible solution is making all kids under a certain age check into childcare and requiring all parents to work a shift. This concept did not go over well with me at all when one local group suggested it about a year and a half ago. My daughter, 11 years old at the time, was still in elementary school and would have been required to check in as a kid. I have trained her as a witch, taught her circle etiquette and even given her small roles in ritual at the Unitarian Universalist Association of Tacoma (UUAT). She generally behaves better than many adults in circle, and I most certainly was not going to “reward” her hard work and good behavior by allowing her to be labeled and treated as a “child.” My rule is that if a young person has continually behaved like a responsible adult in circle, then he or she deserves to be treated as such. In addition to my objection to what I considered an insult to the maturity of my daughter, an older, well-behaved young woman, I didn’t feel that I should be required to baby-sit the children of parents who couldn’t be bothered to teach their children manners or to supervise them.

Several local groups have had great success with separate rituals specially designed for kids. I was at a Mabon event earlier this year where just such a ritual was put on. The quarters were marked with colorful balloons, and the adult leaders led the children in a merry dance to lively music. I overheard several adults say, “I wish I was a kid, so that I could be in that ritual.” In this case, the children’s ritual, along with other kid’s activities, was held before the adult ritual, which still left the issue of what to do with the kids during the adult ritual.

One of the major obstacles to successfully including children in ritual with adults is the lack of a standard of behavior. What one adult interprets as children freely expressing themselves is often viewed by other adults as a lack of parenting. “I have to ask myself, do these parents let their children behave like this in school, restaurants or in other peoples’ homes?” said Laura, a mother of a 7-year-old daughter whom she is raising in a goddess tradition.

David, whose children are grown, has had negative experiences at public festivals where children were not supervised by their parents. He said, “I was at one outdoor festival where a very expensive drum was ruined by kids whose parents were nowhere in sight. There was a band of unsupervised kids running around all over the place banging on the drums and playing with things on the altars. It was like their parents just walked off and figured that the community would take care of their kids for them.”

I am one who feels very strongly that we should include our children in our rituals when possible. I tried for almost three years to bill events at the UUAT as child-friendly and trust that parents would ensure reasonable behavior from their children. It became increasing apparent to me that this was not going to work. After several complaints from adults who felt that ritual was disrupted and after having to clean up several messes left by unsupervised kids, the Gaia’s Grove earth-spirituality group had to implement a set of rules for at UUAT events. The following statement is available at the check-in table, is posted on our Web site under the heading “parents please read” and is also addressed in pre-ritual discussion:

We love our children.

We want them to be part of our community and events.

We design our rituals to be child/family friendly.

Due to past damage to chairs, carpet and other UUAT property, and to ensure that all ritual guests get the most out of their experience, we must now abide by the following rules.

  • Children must physically be with a parent or adult guardian at all times.
  • Children must respect altars, drums and personal item as hands-off.
  • Children must not climb on stacked chairs.
  • Children must not walk on the furniture.
  • Children may not run nor roughhouse in the building.
  • Children in circle should participate in the circle, not play with other children and/or disrupt the person/people who are speaking.
  • Children may play in the nursery downstairs WITH ADULT SUPERVISION. The nursery must be picked up afterward.
  • The circle guardian will gladly cut parents with fussy kids in and out of the circle as necessary.

Even with the new rules in place, it seems that some parents are just not sure exactly where the line of “disrupting the ritual” gets crossed. I found that often the parents with the most disruptive children were oblivious and did not think their kids were a problem, while the parents with well-behaved kids, who weren’t quite perfect, stressed out trying to make them behave well. We decided to enlist the help of a circle guardian who gently and discreetly offers assistance to parents whose kids are pushing the limits of being disruptive. After Gaia’s Grove implemented the rule, a handful of people decided not to bring their kids anymore, which is too bad. The ones that still bring their kids are making a concerted effort to help them to respect the ritual and others in the circle.

The challenge to groups of any size is to balance the needs and desires of parents and communities to involve children in ritual with the needs of adults who don’t want their ritual experience disrupted. It is ultimately up to parents to decide if their children’s behavior is appropriate for the circle they are bringing them to, but it is also vital that ritual facilitators address this issue and make expectations and behavioral standards clear in a supportive, yet firm, manner.

Daily Feng Shui Tip for November 17th – ‘National Adoption Day’

Today’s ‘National Adoption Day,’ is very close to my heart. Long ago I was dealing with fertility issues and suffered multiple miscarriages as well. We had decided to try one final time to get pregnant and carry the baby to term before seriously exploring the idea of adopting. My son was the result of this last intentional attempt to get pregnant, but my brother and his family took up the adoption mantle just a few years ago. That’s when his wife and daughter traveled to China to pick up our newest family member, my niece Jia Ning. And even though it took my brother and his family over ten years to welcome their new daughter, without adoption this would have never happened. To activate energies for a fabulously smooth adoption process, locate the ‘Children’ area of the main floor and play some music there. Also put in this space something metal and something that symbolizes children. Adopting these tips will bring success to all other child-related efforts.

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – November 7

Elder’s Meditation of the Day – November 7

“Abuse and repression have no place in a traditional family.”

–Haida Gwaii, Traditional Circle of Elders

Traditional families guided by their culture were taught how to live. The were taught about relationships, respect and spirituality. Only since alcohol was introduced to Indians have we seen physical abuse, sexual abuse and verbal abuse. These behaviors have no room in traditional families. The cycle of abuse must be broken during this generation. We do this by asking for help to quit drinking and abusing and return to our traditional culture and spirituality.

Creator, plant inside of me the knowledge of the traditional family.

The Witch Hunts of Old Hit Home

I have been thumbing through some of my books. Truthfully as I look through them, I can’t find anything at all that interests me to talk about. Except one thing that I learned about not to long ago that happened in my hometown.

All of my family came out of the mountains of Eastern and Central Kentucky. Most of the men were coal miners and the women were homemakers. I remember my father had come from a family of 13 children. There would have been 15 but two of them died as babies. My mother came from only a family of 3 children. Her baby sister passed on when she was 12 from lockjaw. She stepped on a rusty nail and there was no cure at the time. My father and mother met, married and moved to Western Kentucky. I grew up in this area and have lived here all my life. I always thought it was a very peaceful and lovely place to live. All those thoughts were scattered to the wind the other day. I learned of something terrible that had happened here. Down where the floodwall now stands on the other side of it, three witches were hanged. I cried.

The thought of those women or so called witches has been weighing on my mind. The is the first time, I had ever heard of the witch hunts and executions coming this far south. The details of the hanging are unknown to me. The names of the victims and what they were accused of is also. I want to know about these women. I feel a yearning to know. Perhaps it is a sisterhood or perhaps there Spirits are calling to me, I don’t know. But I want to find out.

I haven’t mentioned any of these to my husband yet. I know what he will say, “leave it alone. Don’t go snooping.” I had an aunt on my father’s side to just disappear. No one in the family ever talked about her. The only reason I know is because I did a little genealogy on my own. She showed up in the censuses and I also found a birth record of her. I even asked my sister about her and she had never heard of her either. It was always public knowledge that women on both sides of the family practiced healings and witchcraft. It makes me wonder if one of those women could have been my aunt.

I cannot even begin to think how to go about researching something like this. I know my husband runs across transcripts of Witch Trials no one had ever heard of before. He gave me one not to long ago about a trial in Pennsylvania that I have found no record of anywhere. I would love to find out more about these women. I would especially like to know if one of them was my aunt.

Perhaps this explains the strong feelings I have in regards to the Burning Times. Perhaps it explains why I am always talking about our Ancestors. I know I had several stoned and hung, distant ones not like an aunt. To me, an aunt is blood, real blood. I feel a responsible to find out what happened to her. Then I stop to think, if it was my aunt could I honestly handle the cruelty that I found out she suffered. Who knows if she was an actually practitioner? She might have been one of my relatives that was completely innocent. The thought of that makes me sick. The thought of her being tortured and no telling what else, just to make her confess. Then taken out to a gallows or even a tree and hung, it makes me cry. It is different when you read and heard about the old ones back in the 1600’s. But when you wonder if one of these women could have been your  aunt hung back in the early 1900’s. It hits home. It hits you square in your heart and soul.

The cruelty of people. How could people treat any of them the way they did? Did these people have any regrets? Didn’t they have any compassion for another human being? What happened back then, did the world go mad? I guess due to my tolerance and compassion for others, I will never understand it.

All I know is I want to know who these women were. Whether any of them were my aunt or not, I pray the Goddess gave them peace and comfort. I truly pray they were reborn into a much kinder and gentler world from which they came.

Good Monday Morning, My Dear & Blessed Friends!

Celtic & British Isles Graphics

Goddess My Shield, My Encircler

Goddess my shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each dark, each light.
Goddess my shield, my encircler,
Each day, each night, each dark, each light.
In my lying, in my standing,
In my watching, in my sleeping.
Goddess be my strength everlasting.

So Mote It Be.

 

Magickal Graphics

Spell of the Day for July 9 – Protective Celtic Blessing for the Family

A Protective Celtic Blessing For The Family

This is especially good if you have to be away from the family temporarily or if the family are widespread. It also sends strength to individual family members at times when they need protection. You might like to perform this blessing regularly, making it a special centering time first thing in the morning before you go about your day – if you are busy, once a week or once a month is fine. Think of it as your ‘chicken’s call’, sending protection to all of your chicks, especially if your away.

Items You Will Need:

A candle, a fire or a wood-burning stove (in a hotel you can improvise with a lamp.)

Timing:

When you get up in the Morning.

The Spell:

  1. Light the candle, fire or stove
  2. Facing the source of light or heat, name those you wish to protect, focusing on any who are currently in special need of protection.
  3. Recite three times:  “I kindle my fire this morning with this good peat, without fear or envy of any who walk beneath the good Sun this day. I kindle this flame in my hearth and my heart for food on my table, health in my home and a gentle parting when my days are ended. I kindle in my heart this morning a flame of love to my neighbors, my foe and my kindred and God over all protecting May you be protected.”
  4. If you are using a candle, blow out the flame, sending light to the family. If you are using a fire or stove, add a small piece of fuel.
  5. Before you rush into the day, send a few special words to anyone among your friends you feel might be in special need.

Wishing You A Very Blessed Week To Come, My Dear Friends!

Days Of The Week Comments Good Monday Morning, my dear friends! I am sorry about the weekend. But as you know, my youngest child has moved back in with me. All I can say is, “Drama, Drama, Drama!” And I have talked till I am blue in the face. Still I cannot talk any sense at all into him. I know he is confused but he could listen to someone who has his best interest at heart. I keep hearing, “I am a grown man!” I am about ready to say, “Well, then damn it act like it.” But I am biting my tongue. You know I am seriously beginning to wonder if I got the right kid in the hospital, lol!

 

I ask of you, dear friends, to keep us in your prayers.

 

I picked out the following prayer for all of us parents. I am sure at sometime in our lives, we will find it useful.

 

Prayer Of A Parent

 My Lord and Lady, you are my eternal

parents, and I have a special need to ask

of you. Please make me a better parent. Help me

to understand my children. Help me to be

a parent when a parent is needed, and a

friend when a friend is needed. Help me

to set a good example so I may be a good

teacher for my children, and give me the

patience and wisdom I will need in raising

them.

So Mote It Be.

I hope you have a fantastic week. Don’t work to hard and remember to take time and smell the roses (watch out for the thorns, though). 

Luv & Hugs,

Lady A  

Magickal Graphics

What Does Your Birth Order Say About You?

What Does Your Birth Order Say About You?

  • Mel, selected from DivineCaroline

By Education.com, DivineCaroline

Does birth order shape our personalities? Scientists the world over have spent countless words and oceans of ink debating the issue of nature versus nurture. But how your child develops might have as much to do with the order in which they were born, as it does with their genes or environment.

Alfred Adler, a contemporary of Freud and Jung, first put forth the idea, claiming that when a child is born deeply impacts their personality. According to Adler:

Eldest children are socially dominant, highly intellectual, and extremely conscientious. Unfortunately, they’re also less open to new ideas, and prone to perfectionism and people pleasing—the result of losing both parents’ undivided attention at an early age, and working throughout their lives to get it back.

Middle children, sandwiched between older and younger siblings, often develop a competitive nature, making them natural entrepreneurs later in life. They tend to be the most diplomatic and flexible members of the family and often, eager for parental praise, develop musical or academic gifts.

Youngest children, according to birth order theory, tend to be dependent and selfish—as they’re used to others providing for them. But despite the negatives, they’re also quite often the life of the party—fun, confident, and comfortable entertaining others.

And only children? Like last borns, they are regularly spoiled, according to Adler, and have a hard time when they don’t get their own way. School can be a particularly difficult transition, as they’re used to being the center of the familial universe. But all that parental focus pays off. Only children are often mature for their age. They wow people with their vocabularies and their comfort in adult circles. Plus, all that self-entertaining fosters creativity.

Adler’s theories have been debated for generations. Whether they’re scientifically sound or not much more than hogwash, muse about them as you raise your children. And regardless of when they were born, help each of your kids recognize what makes them unique and resist the urge to compare them to their siblings. That’s sure to make every member of your family thrive.

Precious Pet of the Day for Jan. 11th

Aurora, the Pet of the Day
Name: Aurora
Age: Unknown
Gender: Female
Kind: Long-tailed Tamandua
Home: Oakridge, Oregon, USA
This is Aurora Jane and she’s a Long-tailed Tamandua (anteater), the Latin name is Tamandua tetradactyla longicaudata.

Aurora is not your typical pet because she was rescued. Her full history is not known. Her age is unknown, but she may be four to five years old. One night I got a call from a friend who runs a rescue and she said there was a tamandua in desperate need of a home. She was taking in several other animals so was short on room and knew we would take good care of the tamandua, as I own one already, and had another until he passed away. At first I said only if it was a male but after discussing it with the family we agreed to take it no matter the gender.

And so we were off to pick up what turned out to be a very pregnant female. We had a peek at her there but she was not going to let us move her from her box to the crate so we took her home that way. When we got her home we had to move her from the box to her cage because the box was too big for the door. I’ve never seen a tamandua hyperventilate before. We thought she might die of fright. She was in surprisingly good health though aside from being thin.

Then I saw how big her belly was and declared her pregnant as a cow. She calmed down and soon was exploring my room, though not that same night. She was desperate for a friend but Pua, my first anteater, wanted nothing to do with her and would chase her off. Aurora would camp out as close as Pua would let her but she wasn’t winning her over. Aurora got so desperate for a friend she was grooming my geriatric cat. She would let me touch her but didn’t like it and would only take treats of cheese from me.

Less than two weeks after arrival Aurora had her baby. Then Pua got curious but Aurora would chase her off like the momma bear she is. Aurora has been a great momma. Eventually, when baby was bigger, Pua won Aurora over. It took lots of grooming by Pua. Pua did lots of grooming while Aurora pretended to ignore her. Now they are best friends. They play together and snuggle together but when it’s time for bed Pua still chooses to sleep alone in her washer while mother and Daughter sleep together in their fabric house.

Pua almost seems to think Aurora is her new mommy, as she loves to try and ride her like the babies ride their moms. Though, now that she is big, Aurora sometimes tries to ride her own baby too. One time Baby was riding Aurora and Pua hopped onto the big baby but the triple decker anteater did not go very far. Aurora is so gentle and sweet she puts up with a lot from both her babies, adopted and natural.

To Aurora, she is no pet. I am but her lowly servant and must bring her fresh cold food. She won’t eat unless her food is ice cold. She still growls at me if I pick her up but she is very sweet and has never tried to hurt me. She is just not shy of telling you when she doesn’t like something. She’s not the brightest anteater. She kept panicking that her baby was lost but baby was merely clinging to her rump, like they are supposed to do. With some help from me she was able to figure that out after a while.

Aurora may not be a true, snuggle and cuddle pet, but is happy here with her baby and best friend so I am happy with her. In fact, I love her a great deal. Despite her not returning my feelings Aurora has stolen a special place in my heart. She’s a sweet gentle soul.

Aurora, the Pet of the Day

Daily Feng Shui Tip for January 10th

Today is ‘Houseplant Appreciation Day,’ a good time to show you how to plant a little luck in your living space that will result in family fortune. First locate the Family/Friends/Ancestors area on the main floor of your living space, found in the middle left-hand of your home or office. This area relates to your family, both past and present, including siblings and great-grandparents. According to Feng Shui, we are energetically linked to our blood relatives, and as goes one, so go all. Theoretically, this also implies that whenever anything happens to any member of the family, all those sharing the same bloodline will feel the reverberation in some way or another. This Ancestors arena also governs the health of the liver, blood, teeth and addictions, as well as our relationships with people in authority or those who hold any sort of power over us. It also relates to new thoughts, inspirations and ideas. So you can see why it’s important to bring balance to such a potent space. Wood is the element most associated with this area, so houseplants are the perfect remedy to activate energies of blessing and balance. In fact, because the number three is also a secret activator for this Ancestors space, it is said that placing three green plants here will nurture and nourish all agendas. Loving, watering and keeping these plants healthy will have that same reciprocal result on all the members of your family. Plant these intentions today and watch as familial blessings bloom and grow!

By Ellen Whitehurst for Astrology.com