It’s scary how quickly the wheel turns. It only seems like yesterday that I was pregnant with my eldest daughter, counting down the days to her arrival, and now I am counting down to her last single figure birthdays. She has always been a powerful personality but she is now beginning to find her way as a Witch and I have had occasion to reflect on the way things developed for both her and her sister and it seemed appropriate to share some of them here.
The way I have approached bringing up my witchlets is probably not for everyone. My girls are most defiantly aware of the magical side of life but they are strong minded and independent to one degree or another and require a level of hands-off parenting in some areas. This has coloured the way I approach introducing them to pagan concepts and ideas so please take my observations for what they are worth. Also, I am not a child psychologist nor a child care specialist, though I have benefited from the input of the latter. I would suggest that if you have any real concerns about your children that you shelve the woo woo and go speak to your doctor or other registered professional.
The Crushing Secret
I will let you into a little secret. Babies are born free of religion, free of prejudice, free from hate. They don’t care what skin colour their playmates have, they don’t care about their religion, your religion or how that differs to the other people that they encounter.
These are all things they learn from us and the people around them. Some parents go out of their way to brand their children in one way or another either through their actions or deeds done in the name of religion. Not all of these things are “bad” or impactful because they don’t have to be definitive if a child wishes to follow a different path. We can either encourage them to keep their hearts and minds open or teach them the same tired old prejudices. Children are little sponges, soaking up everything from their surroundings. Even when you don’t think they are learning they are.
The one thing that I wanted to avoid with my two was branding them one thing or another so I have attempted to practice what I am about to preach. The ED was baptised, they are included in school activities involving religion, they are encouraged to attend places of worship when they are invited to attend and have even participated in church-based nativities. There is no stigma in their friendship choices and they are free to learn about any culture they wish to but all these are things that are relevant to them as they get older. In those first few years of babyhood, it is you who is concerned with their religious and spiritual outcomes, not them. They are enjoying the bliss of simply existing and experiencing.
A lot of new parents, particularly first time ones, get a little hung up on ” How do I raise my child Pagan” question within those first few months and whilst I appreciate the desire to get things set in your mind there really isn’t a reason to rush when they are still only six months old. Children will find magic in the most wondrous of places if you give them an environment of acceptance and exploration, or background fuzz as I like to call it, and a more structured method of learning can come at a later date.
What do I mean by background fuzz? Well, what I am trying to say here is that the environment you create goes a long way to planting their feet on the path you may hope for them. The ornaments you have, the activities you do, all have an impact on them as they get older. Having an altar in your room, or pictures around the house will have an impact them understanding the differences between the religion and spirituality they experience at home and that in school. The idea of a Goddess, or a deity with a name, will be somewhat different to those concepts they encounter in the wider world and getting them used to the idea that there are special spaces which they are not allowed to play in is always a good idea to start young.
Whilst I am not recommending that at this age you should be sitting them in the corner whilst you practice ritual witchcraft it is amazing what they will pick up by just watching. Even from the youngest age, these subliminal presences in their lives will mould a mindset far more effectively that sitting them down and trying to teach them. As they get older and ready for nursery and preschool there are things you can do which will help prepare them and allow you to work in a few more overt elements.
Activities for the Top End of the Range
One thing that I did with both girls, to varying effect, was to use show and discuss as a method of prompting thought and discussion. It started with colouring in some pentacles, which I backed with card and laminated, which I used them to teach both girls their colours. The eldest, in particular, loved to talk about the colours and the way they made her feel, what they made her think about etc which led to her building up a set of colour correspondences which fit both with standard models and with her own personality. My youngest engaged with this in a different way, preferring to pair up coloured crystals to compensate for her delay in speech and language skills.
From there, and as they get older, we move on to other objects. Crystals, plants, tree and herb associations all lend themselves well to this kind of process and some supervised exploration is also possible. This is more suitable for older children who aren’t exploring their world through their mouths but it is something to consider. Getting children interested in nature is always a good place to start and the obvious activities are those that are out in nature such as walks and craft activities using natural materials. Obviously, you need to take care with this and younger children, avoiding anything they may make them ill however heuristic play baskets are a wonderful way to introduce younger children to natural materials and sensations without running the risks associated with the “exploring the world with the mouth” stage. Both my girls loved their treasure baskets and are still avid collectors of stones which eventually lead to my “all children are magical” moment.
As I’ve said, my girls loved their heuristic boxes and in particular stones. ED was introduced to the heuristics box when she was about two years old and her obsession with the stones in the box was initially rather cute. She was given access to my crystal collection, which later they would both use for learning colours and counting. Both loved defining them, in ways consistent with their abilities to express, according to what thoughts or feelings they created (ED would explain, YD would make piles). It was always interesting to see how they agreed, or disagreed, with received wisdom.
But I am getting ahead of myself. When ED was three we were more concerned with her habit of bringing smaller pieces of garden gravel which baby YD was likely to put in her mouth. My crystals were far too heavy to allow the rambunctious ED to have access to unsupervised so I came up with an alternative “play stone” which was large enough not to get lodged in anyone’s throat yet light enough to not cause too much damage if they were thrown.
Thankfully the answer was tucked away in the bottom of my “tat too useful to throw away” box aka the box I hide the books and products I have collected over the years which are either so bad I want to keep them for future reference right through to things I have been given and don’t have the heart to let go. Amongst this collection were the resin rune and symbol stones which had come with the original Mind Body Spirit magazine back in the day when it was first published.
Being made out of resin they were light, yet durable, but had been made to sort of look like stones whilst being large enough to not cause a risk to anyone so I dumped them into her heuristics box and that was that. I didn’t explain them, I didn’t call them runes, I just put them in the box and said told her to play with these instead.
A few months pass and Halloween came and went; the stones were eventually moved from the Heuristics box and into the plastic cauldron which had been used for trick or treating. Although cute enough in itself things didn’t get weird until the day ED donned her black hat, lined up half a dozen soft toys and gave them all a rune stone…
…and proceeded down the line taking the stone, explaining it in baby talk, and then giving it back.
I and visiting family watched her go down the line without saying a word, letting her get on with it, and at the end asked her what she was doing.
“Reading.” she says
“The stones. The teddies asked what they meant so I told them.”
“What do they mean?”
Now I am not a rune reader. I like runes and have dabbled with them as a sigil making method from time to time but they are not my divination method of choice. So much so that, to this day, my children have never seen me use runes as a divination method. I have no idea where she got this idea from, there was nothing subliminal in the house which could have given her the idea and at that point there were no runic inscriptions around the house.
This was my wake-up call. Such small children don’t need direction at this age. They just need time and space to be allowed to be children. From there the magic will flow but a lot of the direction with be guided by that background fuzz I mentioned before.
Strangely enough, I have learnt more about being a witch and a magical individual by watching my children, which I will come to talk about in a few weeks time.
I have been really fortunate in that my husband has built me a computer in the last week or so which may lead to a slight change in blogging style. Up to now I have been reliant on my phone and it hasn’t always been easy to ensure all my images have been appropriately sized so hopefully, this is one improvement you will see straight away. The second improvement will be that I will hopefully catch more of my spelling and grammar fluffs thanks to having Grammarly installed on my browser. I doubt it will be perfect but I will go with better for now.
I am pretty certain that I will still be spotted on the bus or wandering the streets, phone in hand blogging my ideas and thoughts as they occur so I can stay committed to my New Years Resolution of Be More Weird.