Monday, February 28, 2011

Teaching Children the Craft: Seasonal Altars

Now that Rowan is getting bigger (he's walking, running, and learning the words for everything), he is naturally drawn to anything and everything- particularly items of natural beauty: flowers, rocks, leaves, feathers, you name it he tries to pick it up (and put it in his mouth).

I plan to harness that magpie impulse for easy lessons in the Craft. I am going to give him an altar space at his level. This altar is his- he can put anything upon it that he finds and loves. Because I am already showing him things (and taking him on outings that are seasonably appropriate for where we live), the altar is shaping up to be one that changes with the seasons.

Yes- a toddler altar is messy. Leaves have a way of getting crunched before they find their way here. But it also reflects who he is right NOW and his relationship to the planet- and isn't that exactly what it should be?

There are other lessons for him to learn about the items that he selects- as he gets older and begins to understand me and abstract concepts more, I can tell him that the rock he just picked up is quartz, or the feather he found is from a scrub jay. We can look out for that bird so he can meet one. He can learn to ask a plant before removing a leaf, flower, or fruit from it, and to leave an offering in return. He will also learn to listen to see if the answer is no.

When Rowan gets older, I hope to find a good woodworker who would be willing to make him altar tools out of wood (a cup, athame, wand, and pentacle) so he can practice what he sees mommy and daddy do in ritual. But that will come later (and I haven't found anyone to do so yet, anyway!). For now, it is enough for him to have natural items on his altar.

How do you share the seasons and the turning of the wheel with your children?


  1. Well, I'm not married and have no kids. But I think it's nice the way you start Rowan with getting to know religion and spirituality...and the way you and Mr. Oberon understand that a toddler altar is naturally messy!

    Question: This asking permission from a plant or tree before taking a leaf, twig, flower, or branch--I've encountered it before in Amerindian beliefs. I've tried it, but I felt silly and got so impatient at times.

    How necessary is it? (SOrry.) What if you badly need a twig and the plant/tree said No? (Oh, dear Lord, I can see myself glaring at the tree.) As you can deduce, I've never spent some quality time listening to what they've got to say (although I have heard trees talk several times in my youth).

  2. Listening to plant spirits is HARD. Kids seem to be able to do it naturally, but adults in most cultures have had it beaten out of them and to get that skill back is hard work.

    I think it is absolutely necessary, personally. How would you like it if someone took a part of your body without consent? Just ran up to you and said "ooh, pretty!" and yanked out some of your hair? :P

    Listening to plants, for me, is not about hearing. It is about getting pictures sent to my mind. But not everyone hears plants or animals the same way...

  3. FROM WM: I think it is absolutely necessary, personally. How would you like it if someone took a part of your body without consent? Just ran up to you and said "ooh, pretty!" and yanked out some of your hair? :P

    Well, put it that way... (OT: I smiled when I read this because I immediately thought of a
    crush doing same. Thrilling, but will still hurt. Thank you for the point.)

  4. Cathryn Meer BauerMarch 6, 2011 at 10:12 AM

    This is wonderful stuff! Makes me so happy to read about a young person being gently and wisely led into love of the earth like this! I have a big organic garden which actually has at different times been my primary sacred space and personal practice. I seem never to have lost my connection with plant spirits. I don't exactly ask permission. I observe the plant and see whether it seems ready to have fruit, flowers, leaves removed from it. Then I cut or pull gently and tell the plant, "Thank you." Something else I do that you and Rowan might like is to greet the garden every morning. I touch strong stems, gently grasp a branch, and say, "Good morning, beautiful tree." It is a wonderful way to start the day.

  5. Great idea, Ms. Bauer. Will try it.


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