Friday, July 30, 2010

Pagan Playdate's Lughnasadh!

So we had our wonderful children's Lughnasadh and I thought that I would share what we did, since several readers asked how to plan a sabbat with kids in mind. Some things I planned on worked, others didn't, some I planned on we abandoned in the moment for a better situationalist option. We had kids there ranging in age from four months old to 5 years old, for a total of 6 kids. The ones that could not walk or sit up well on their own were held by their parents or sat in special baby chairs at times. This was our first sabbat together, and I learned a lot in the moment to make the next one better.

As High Priestess, I arrived early to prep the space. I set up a working altar with some safe tools (I normally use my  very sharp athame, but also have a blunt one made of jet, which was used today). Then we put a small elemental (earth, air, fire, water) representation in each direction (a bowl of water for the west, a bowl of dirt for the north, a blob of play-doh (how's that for kid-friendly improvisation when you cannot find an incense burner?) holding a stick of smoking incense for the east, and a lit candle for the south. Charmingly, one of the kids placed a bowl of goldfish crackers in the west as well.

Getting mama love beforehand
I had created an outline in advance of what I wanted to do with the kids, and had also made a double batch of bread dough that morning, so that it had risen properly before they kids arrived and we needed to use it. I brought along prepped "add ins" for the breads- cinnamon/sugar and plumped raisins for the kids, chopped onions and cheddar cheese chunks for an adult loaf.

When everyone arrived, we went over the ritual outline to get everyone on the same page: We then assigned/asked kids to represent each quarter so that they could shout out the name of the element that they represented when it came time to cast circle. We had the oldest child be fire with the help of a parent, since that was the more dangerous element and the smaller children got to be water and earth and air, with the help of their parents or me (in the north).

Getting the kids to pay attention during the orientation was kind of like herding cats - some had just arrived, others had been there for 30 minutes already and were running around like the wild things that they are. I tried to get them to focus by asking direct questions to them, starting with their name: "Alden, would you like to be the north?" etc.

Orin,  as the element of fire.
As the HP (me!) cast circle, we involved the kids. As we called each direction, I would point at the child(ren) in a quarter and they would call out their element. I pointed my athame in the north and pointed to the north and the kids and adults in that quarter would shout, "Earth!" and I would nod and say "Yes! By the earth that is her vital body!"- then I would continue casting the circle including each of the four quarters- pointing at each element child to let them have their part. Then I did above, below and center myself (which is Feri thing, not all traditions (including those represented) do that). I then asked the kids to help me form and push the magic circle out beyond us, to encompass the entire house and yard- as we were going to be doing things in several rooms and the back yard that day. "Okay, everyone- now use your breath to blow the circle outward- like a giant balloon so that it is not just in this room, but also the kitchen and the backyard!" The kids were really into that, and the adults helped.

Circle casting
After we had cast circle, we heard a story about the wheel of the year, and where we were on that wheel (Lughnasadh). We talked about how we had made goals for ourselves at Samhain last year (which for my non-witch readers is witches new year- many people know it as the secular holiday of Halloween) and asked if people had made their goals come true this year- it is now the first harvest, and goals should start to see some fruition. The adults had plenty to say at this part of the ritual, the kids? Not so much. "Um, I had a goal of getting more toys?" asked one hopefully. So I played along. "And did you meet your goals? Did you get more toys?" "Oh, yes." he replied earnestly. Cute!

So I switched gears. We talked about how the wheat and how the god gets cut down this time of year, which is why we were making bread gods. I got the kids excited: "Everybody gets to play with the dough and make their own bread god! And when they are done- we get to EAT THEM!" With the kids sufficiently excited, we headed to the kitchen.

I handed out blobs of dough to the kids- some in high chairs, still others at kid sized tables. They started making their creations, some with the help of a parent. We added raisins and cinnamon sugar to the kids breads and put them in the oven just as the adult loaf (with onions and cheddar) was coming out of the oven. Can I just say, the place smelled wonderful?!

I also need to tell you that the bread god shown on the right is also a robot. Just so you know. Cuz that's important. Oddly enough, he also has a goldfish cracker in the center. I don't know why that was important, but it was.

We then headed outside into the sunshine to play games. Lugh was exceptional at games. I had planned to play hug tag and do relay races, but the kids had so much pent up energy that they immediately made up their own games as soon as we were outside.  I told the adults that if the action lagged, we could step in with structured activities. But it didn't seem necessary, and we never got to play those games I had planned. Oh well! Another day! The lesson here for the adults? Never underestimate the power of children to invent their own fun.

While the kids ran around and played, the adults communed and had some fun feasting on the bread, leftover raisins, and banana bread. Eventually, we spread a blanket on the grass and exchanged songs that we sing to our kids. We were all wound down at that point, so I forwent the idea of the kids crazily running in a circle chanting a simple chant to raise a cone of power. At that point, I asked our two oldest kids to help me devoke and bring down the circle. I asked them to see the circle on the periphery of the yard, and on the count of three, we were gonna "pop the balloon we made". They were great at it, and the circle came down!

I captured some other photos that I would like to share:
Avery, messy with plum
The Kunning family
Rowan explores the grass

Things that I would do differently for next sabbat:
1. Storytime needs to be more engaging. We lost focus at some of these times, when they were supposed to act as a bridge to the next activity. We are thinking about using puppets next time.

2.  We should start teaching our kids songs and dances now, so that we can engage them to join in easily. While four of our regular kids are pre-verbal, two can dance and clap to a remembered song at this point. I think having common touchpoints in the ritual may anchor and ground the ritual, making it easier for kids to follow.

3. We have some logistics to work out about timing and such. We all arrived very staggered, making the start time later than intended, thereby making the day longer than intended for some of the kids. This made several of the kids lose their naptimes (which at least in my case, led to a meltdown at the end of the day). This demonstrates that planning (good, bad or a lack of it) has a very real-world effect on our kids!

We all talked toward the end of the ritual about how we can get more organized as a group- calendars, a ning group, and much more. It's quite exciting to see us coming together for the kids.


  1. Oh, I should've guessed Orin and family were in your group. The world is too small!

  2. LOL! How do you know one another?

    We joke right now that we aren't "Pagan Playdate" but the "Celtic boy name club": Orin, Alden, Gavin, Rowan, Avery, and Aidan! Soon we will get some little girls, though.

  3. I am banking on you being the coolest mom ever.


  4. Hi Nicomi!

    I got a peek at your portfolio on your website, and it is gorgeous! Your image that comes up on the index page reminds me so much of the Lady that I work with. Such lush images! I love them! Do you sell prints as well as the originals?

    Witch Mom!

  5. We circled together when we all lived in Santa Barbara.

    If Bridget visited your club I guess she'd fit right in.

  6. Next time you venture over here, pencil in a Wednesday afternoon! We'd love to have you and Bridget in the playgroup!


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