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.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Guest Blog Post! Introducing Elements to Children: Water

Today's blog post is a guest post from... (drum roll please!) Big Faery Daddy, an awesome blogger in his own right and Rowan's father. Since he has been giving Rowan his baths and been responsible for Rowan's exposure to Water, it seemed appropriate.

Lily and I have been introducing Rowan to the Elements of Life, the principle substances that coalesce to bring into being the living cosmos, the four states of matter/energy of which the world is composed, and which we as Witches demarcate as Earth, Air, Fire, Water. A fifth substance is recognized, Aether, which is the underlying energy which takes on these states to manifest.

Each of the Elements works as a symbol, representing a variety of qualities and energies. To quote Gabriel Carrillo: "When we speak about Fire, Water, Air and Earth, we are not speaking about the composition of chemicals, but of how our inner self understands the psychic qualities of the Elements. The Elements are used in magic to create alchemical changes produced by studying, defining, comprehending and embodying them. Clarifying and balancing the Elements internally transforms and greatly enlarges our sense of awareness of ourselves and of the world around us."

This week I have been focusing on Water, which is the liquid state of matter and whose power is Fluidity. In the body, Water manifests in the lymphatic and circulatory systems, and in the mind it manifests as adaptability. These heady associative principles are not something Rowan is going to understand right now, and I needed to appeal to his Fetch, or animal-soul.

I decided that introducing him to Water in the shower would be the best bet -- it's about the only time he really interacts directly with that Element. I often have Lily hand him to me when I'm in the shower so I can give him a good wash, since he hates baths. I usually spritz him with water quickly and then use a washcloth with baby shampoo on it to scrub him gently, then rinse him off again quickly. But today we took our time.

When Lily passed him off, I put him under the showerstream and cradled him against me, so that it was running down the back of his head and making sure it wasn't spraying him in the face, which he clearly dislikes. I let the falling water create a little pool in the hallow of his body nestled up next to mine, and dipped his hands in it, then lifted a small amount in my palm to trickle down his front. He liked it and laughed, so we did that game a few times.

Then I began rocking him while the water was running over us, and I began to invoke the Element of Water, "seeing" the water from the showerstream begin to glow a soft blue, (its principle color association), falling down over us, cleansing us.

Water is very much associated with cleansing and purity in Feri, mainly in a ritual we call Kala, a water rite that unbinds knoted up power within our energy bodies and physical form. A ritual bath is very much the same thing as Kala.

I began to sing a chant that the spirits gave me some years ago:

Mama wash over me, Mama wash over me;
White waves cresting, in the deep blue sea,
breaking over my beautiful body,
Mama wash me clean.

He liked the song, and began to vocalize softly and smile while I was singing it. I then thanked the spirits of Water, and as I was doing so, I could feel Rowan's emotional centers begin to get a little intense, and he began swinging back and forth between laughing and fussing.

It was time to pass him back to Mommy. When we did the handoff, he began to cry, and Lily took him in a towel to dry him off, get him grounded again, and centered.

It was a good adventure, a good introduction to an element that is very "shifty," but next time I'll make sure I have some better grounding going on.

It will be great to see how he develops as a little Witchboy, having a clear relationships with the Elements and the spirits associated with them. So precious!

Io Evhoe!

Big Faery Daddy is a blog about the journey of a queer father, Witch and Radical Faerie as he struggles to hold all of those identities.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Links Every Pagan Parent Should Have

As a new parent, I really appreciated getting tips from other more experienced parents about resources, items, and ideas.

As a pagan parent, There are precious few resources out there for us. There are more online and in books than in real life, to be sure. I have compiled a list of links (current as of today's post date) and a couple to help you create a real-world community of pagan parents offline as well!
 So I keep looking for places to gather with other pagan parents, resources that fit into a pagan philosophy of child rearing (whether or not it was targeted to us), and compiling them.


Broomstix Online Magazine: an online magazine for pagan kids with activities and articles, kind of like Highlights.
New Moon Magazine for Girls: Not pagan per se, but it may as well be! An empowering, ad free place for girls to express themselves, read other girls' perspectives, and reach towards their goddess-selves.
Pagan Moonbeams Online Magazine: a magazine for pagan families.
The Blessed Bee: Sadly, only one issue was printed, but it is available online.
The Pooka Pages Magazine: An online magazine for pagan kids

Websites and Online Resources:

Proud to be Pagan KIDS!
Mystic Moon Coven's Wiccan/Pagan Parenting pages
A Pagan Kid's Grove (includes coloring pages)- Warning! Annoying embedded sound
The Pooka Pages
Gingerbread Grandma's Cauldron
The Pagan and Wiccan Parenting Page
Teen Witch: Not in any way affiliated with Silver Ravenwolf, I promise.
Witchvox Articles by pagan teens
Witchvox Articles on Pagan Parenting
Covenant of the Goddess Teen Articles
Attachment Parenting International While not a pagan philosophy per se, most pagans I know practice attachment parenting, whether they realize it or not. Having support on positive discipline especially can be very helpful and comforting.
Pagan Babies (and Kids and Parents!) I have created a group on the pagan social networking site, The Cauldron Network (TCN). To join, you have to belong to The Cauldron message boards first. Join the message board, then join TCN, then join the group. A multiple step process, but it will be so worth it!
Grandma, Tell Me A Story is a great storytelling website designed for homeschoolers and kids who love stories and fairy tales. They are pagan friendly, too!

Resource Articles:

Religious Tolerance page on Teens and Wicca (Legal Family, and Safety Issues)
Rights of Wiccan and Pagan Teens in Schools
You Have a Pagan Student at Your School (A Guide for Educators)
Your Rights as Pagan Parent
Pagan Parenting Podcast: Developing Spiritual Parenting Skills

I hear you saying to yourself, "OK, great. There are umpteen million online resources for pagan parents, and a few choice books. What about finding other pagan parents in my area? How do I do that? Huh, Witch Mom?"

WitchVox Parenting Real-Life Links are far more disappointing. A search on WitchVox for groups with the term "parent" returned a mere 10 listings for pagan parenting groups WORLDWIDE. Surely, we can do better than this! We do not need to do this job alone! Build your tribe, people! When you build it, list it here! Which brings me to: This website allows a simple way for people to organize themselves. Many pagan adults use it for social gatherings to meet other pagans in their areas already. You too can start a pagan playgroup, a parent support group for witches, or a heathen baby gathering!

Spiral Scouts is an organization that does scouting activities for kids of all genders. It is pagan centric, but not exclusively so- all children age 3 and up are welcome to join. The caveat? We need 2 pagan adults (one female identified, one male) to apply to create a Hearth (family unit) or circle (troop extending beyond their own family). If there is not a circle in your area, they will help you create one.

And JUST STARTED, folks: Pagan Playdate! A resource for pagan parents of all stripes to create playgroups in their areas, and a strong group of folks (including Witch Mom herself!) in the Bay Area of California offering outings, a co-op childcare at PantheaCon, and more!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review: Teach Your Baby to Sign by Monica Beyer

I had considered teaching Rowan ASL or a modified version of it even before he was born. I had read articles talking about the benefits and was more than a little intrigued; there are studies that show it boosts IQ, helps with further language acquisition, and alleviates frustration in pre-verbal children (they can make their needs clearer and actually get them met.)

To me, it seemed like the perfect companion to my attachment parenting philosophy: if the child deserves to be listened to and have his cries responded to, then doesn't it make sense to give the child a way to express herself if they are able? Babies reach motor skills long before verbal ones. It just makes sense to teach sign alongside language, so that your child can tell you about his wants and needs.

From the book: "Signing has many benefits. For instance, your child will not only be able to tell you when he is hungry, cold, or suffering from an earache, but when he sees a bird in a tree or needs help getting his favorite toy from a shelf. Signing helped my children feel that they could come to me with their ideas, needs, and wants, and they knew that I would more than likely be able to understand and help them- all without saying a word."

Language is language. You can teach a personal family form for signing, or you can teach ASL, the language used by deaf people in the US. (Other countries deaf populations have signed languages as well.) Recently, there was a study involving two groups of children -- one group that was taught baby signing and another group that was not. The researchers found that eight-year-olds who had learned a simple form of baby sign language using invented signs did better on IQ tests than comparable children who had not learned baby sign language.

The advantages for teaching actual ASL rather than a personal form, though are numerous:  there are so many resources available, many of them free or low cost, for teaching ASL. There are between 500,000 and 2 million people who use ASL in the United States and you are opening a door to communicating with them for your child. And learning languages while the brain is still forming is the best time to learn, and it creates pathways in the brain that assists with further language acquisition later. There are great websites that can assist:
  •, has videos for all ages (and the website offers video samples).
  • ASL Pro has an ASL for Babies dictionary online, with video clips of adults signing. 
  •, the website of this book's author. 

I found the websites very helpful for learning myself, but I am "old school" and like to have a book at my disposal, when I am offline and wanting to learn a new sign to teach my son. So the quest for a good book began! There are a lot of guides, but I quickly became frustrated with many of them. A common complaint I had was that the illustrations, photos, or descriptions of how to make the sign were unclear. Another complaint I had was how the material was organized. Sometimes, I found it very hard to find the sign that I wanted to teach!

That changed when I found this book. It is organized in a way that makes sense for a parent of a small child: Routines and Needs, Animals, Fun and Nature, Let's Eat!, On the Move, People and Places, Advanced Concepts (mostly adjectives like big and small, etc), Teaching the Rainbow (colors), and Signing the Alphabet. The Sign Index was excellent as well, allowing me to find what I needed pretty quickly. The illustrations are the clearest that I've seen, and are accompanied by a paragraph describing how to make the sign as well.

I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the idea of signing with their child (the first chapter is all about the how and why and anyone interested in taking the plunge).

Formal Rating:
Title: Teach Your Baby to Sign, An Illustrated Guide to Simple Sign Language for Babies
Author: Monica Beyer
Publisher: Fair Winds
Price: $17.95 USD , $22.95 CAN, 10.99 UK
ISBN: 1-59233-273-0

Topics Covered: Non-Verbal Communication, Signing, ASL, Adapted ASL

Target Audience: Parents and Caregivers of Pre-Verbal Children
Witch Mom Rating: Three Hats:
 Excellent guide to an often complicated topic. Very handily arranged by topic, with a good index in the back to help you find what you are looking for. Illustrated well, and also photographs of common signs.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Introducing Elements to Children: Earth

In this new series, I hope to unearth (pun intended) insights and exercises that help parents to witchlets everywhere explore the elements and their world in an age-appropriate manner. Religious traditions originating from other continents often have similar systems, but are different in their execution- for example: many polytheistic religions from Asia or indigenous religions from the Americas use Wind instead of Air and do not use Spirit as an element.)

Elements, working in conjunction with a witch's will, can create magick (as well as put the practitioner in touch with nature and create balance.) Thus, teaching the elements is foundational to a pagan education.

 I hope to share with all of you things that I think are excellent ways of exploring pagan belief with small children, element by element, concept by concept. And I hope that you will share with me things that you did with your small children, to start them on the Path. And today, we start with the element of Earth.

For my son, who can sit up unattended only for short periods and is starting to crawl but not quite adept at it yet - Earth seems like an appropriate place to start. He is "grounded" so to speak! So getting him out off of the living room rug and into the out-of-doors where he can experience soil, rocks, grass, trees, and plants is important for his early concepts of Earth.

Now that the weather is so gorgeous, it's easy to do. I try and remember when we are hustling about from place to place to literally stop and smell the flowers (and feel the leaves!). I point them out to the baby. Rowan loves flowers and is fascinated by their colors and shapes. He wants to eat them, and who can blame him, really?

While I have been tempted to spread a blanket down wherever I placed him outside in the past, I am going to stop that because of this great article I read. Dirt, quite literally is GOOD for babies. Makes sense to me! I am going to start placing him in the grass and letting him feel those blades and explore that micro-terrain.

I remember, as a small child, spending countless hours on my belly, with my hands propping up my head,  watching with great fascination the plants and insects that are so easy for bigger humans to ignore. There are vast civilizations at our feet that most of us hardly notice- except as children. I spent an entire recess once communing with a praying mantis. I found her fascinating, and perhaps she thought the same of me- a child who could lower her energy and sit still for so long, observing the small world with wonder.

As he gets a little older and can sit up for longer (pretty soon now!), I will be taking him to the beach to show him a different kind of earth, where it meets water. And he can learn by making castles and digging trenches and burying his mommy and toys. And on Labor Day weekend, he is going up to Sacred Land to join mommy and daddy at a magick camp, and will see forested land and land set aside for altars and magick-making and feel how energetically different it is from the everyday land feeling of Oakland which is used by so many for so much.

Once he is even older still, I will talk to him of the properties of Earth (like manifestation and silence) and where we, as Feri Witches, acknowledge the earth in our rites and temples and altars (north). We will do simple spells for him to understand these concepts. We will bake bread and learn where all the ingredients come from and why Earth sustains us all. We will incorporate biological sciences into our lessons- showing how in our tradition, science and religion overlap and do not conflict. (We've got quite a few scientists in our trad, we do!)

I will revisit each element as he grows older in this blog and will share our introductions and lessons and activities each step of the way.

So... what have you done with children to introduce them to Earth- the element, the physical manifestation of it, and its correspondences?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Pagan Playdate!

I have been involved in the beginning stages of a pagan playgroup with local folks here for a few months now. Our group gets together every Wednesday to get our kids together and to give us pagan parents a place to commune.

Sometimes, we just meet a member's home- toys are shared, snacks are eaten, and songs are sung. Other times, we go to free museum days or play cafes or events. We also try and invite one another to kid friendly events that happen at other times during the week.

Although Rowan is just now excited to be with other kids (although he is still a little small to actively play with anyone yet), I started going months ago. Why? To find a community of like-minded parents for support and tribe-building, of course! The playgroup is as much for me as it is for Rowan, and hence, we have a win-win on our hands!

Besides having fun, I have other aspirations for my/Rowan's participation as well:
  • I hope to group school Rowan and I hope to meet like-minded pagan parents who wish to do the same. I like the idea of homeschooling, but I worry that I will do a less than adequate job of teaching my son if I am the sole person responsible for curriculum. After all, we all have our weak points, and mine happens to be math. Having a group of parents contributing to the education of our children makes sense and will mean a better education, to my mind. I also want Rowan to have the main advantage of a school environment- that is, exposure to other kids and the ability to learn social skills. So while homeschooling is appealing, group schooling is even more so. So I hope to meet parents that want this for their kids, too.
  • I want to start a spiral scouts chapter for my area.
  • I want to start a co-op child care group so that we can go on dates, go to adult rituals, and other things without breaking the bank.
 Anyone out there part of a pagan playgroup? A spiral scouts hearth or circle? A co-op childcare group? A group schooler or part of a co-op school? Tell me about it!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teaching Children the Craft: Etheric Anatomy, Energy Work, and Three Souls

In this new ongoing series, I am sharing insights and making proposals regarding teaching children the Craft. My hope is that you, the readers, will join me by using the comments section. Please make comments, ask questions, and engage is dialogue with me and each other in this section. My hope is that fruitful communication will benefit us all in the form of a Craft curriculum for kids of witches everywhere.

Teaching a baby about Etheric Anatomy, Energy Work, and the Three Souls:
My son is less than a year old, and I am already "teaching" him concepts in the Craft. Given that he doesn't understand very many words yet, the concepts are rudimentary and are mainly shown, not told.  Basically, I am teaching his Fetch through experience. What exactly am I teaching? Energetic work- how to use parts of the etheric anatomy to serve you and your loved ones.

Rowan's Talker is not yet fully developed (visually, it is pretty misty and freeform- it often extends towards things he is interested in, rather than staying around him) and he relies upon mommy and daddy to encompass him in their Talkers to shield him from undesirable situations. His talker has not created hard boundaries yet.

Often, I will use breath or energy to change his auric field and show him that I am doing this intentionally. I'll smile really big when he first notices the energy shift (babies are hilarious and cannot hide anything that they feel) and laugh to show him it is safe and OK. Sometimes, I'll just send a energy band of color his way. Sometimes, I'm a sneaky mommy and use it to get him to (finally!) sleep.

He has started to ask for this kind of shielding when we are in situations that he does not like (sketchy people, people on drugs, etc.). It's amazing to see when a non-verbal lesson pays off so early. More on teaching Rowan and other children Craft lessons soon!

For more information on Etheric Anatomy (and the words Talker and Fetch and what I mean by those) and Feri, I suggest the books linked here (50 Years in the Feri tradition and Etheric Anatomy).

Friday, July 16, 2010

Children Coming Into Their Power

"There is a big difference between providing help and addressing a need."

This sentiment was expressed in one of my classmates a couple semesters ago in seminary (For those that don't know, I am a student at Starr King School for the Ministry, a Unitarian Universalist seminary that specializes in multi-religious education and social justice. I am in their M. Div program.).

They were referring to people who have the best of intentions when embarking on social justice work; but often come into a situation from the outside and take away marginalized people's power in the name of helping. This pattern has been repeated by many (particularly white, middle class activists) in many different movements. I agree with the sentiment, and can see how this sentence also applies to parenting.

My son is almost 6 months old. He is learning to get around, but not accomplished at crawling yet. He is starting solid foods enthusiastically, but gags in his learning curve of how to take in soft smooshy foods (we are doing mainly "Baby Led Weaning"). He has learned that we respond to his cries, and now he "cries" to get our attention even when he's not upset (he just wants something).

The urge to jump in and "help" my son can be overwhelming. Many parents would be freaked out as their child gagged on a chunk of overripe pear. But he's not choking- he's gagging. There is a difference, and that is the difference between learning about his world (and the depth of his own mouth) and being sheltered, only given pureed food and not given that chance. (Yes, mommy is right there in case he actually starts to choke...)

In my religious tradition, Power is one of the five human birthrights. (The others being Sex, Pride, Self, and Passion- and these words encompass far more in Feri than the mainstream culture has assigned them). Power is Rowan's birthright as a human and especially as a witch. I am fighting all the time to allow myself to give him the room to experiment, fail, and possibly get banged up a bit- all in the name of having him claim little bits of his power, as he earns them.

I have to say, the experiment is working. He is thriving and being adventurous in his world. He is strong, happy, and by all accounts well-adjusted. He trusts and loves his mommy and daddy. He takes risks knowing that we will catch him.

I wonder, how often do well-meaning parents take away a child's power- all in the name of "helping"? 

(Oh- and for those of you who think Baby Led Weaning is some new-fangled fad: ever wonder how babies ate before there were blenders and food processors?)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review: Pagan Parenting by Kristin Madden

Pagan Parenting, subtitled "Spiritual, Magical, and Emotional Development of the Child" was a book I snatched up as soon as I became aware of its existance. It seemed right up my alley- as I intend on raising my son in our religious tradition (Feri Witchcraft) and am interested in developing a age-appropriate religious and homeschool curricula for him steeped in the knowledge that Rowan is a spiritual (as well as physical and emotional) being.
I bought this book when I was pregnant, and I was so excited to read the first chapter on incarnation. In it, that author discusses how to attune to your in utero child through energy and dream exercises. It talks of how the energetic systems are developing in the child's body before and after birth, just as its physical and mental capacities are growing, too.

Because the book discusses simple exercises that you can do with your very young child to develop her/his psychic ability (games, dreams, breathing, working with his/her aura), this has been a frequent re-read now that Rowan is here.

The book is also valuable to parents of older children: exercises for health and healing, bolstering your family connection through rituals, sabbats and esbats, meals, and activities, and much more are discussed. There are activities for children and tweens. There is even a Q & A chapter on the hard questions any parent encounters- with suggested answers from a pagan perspective.

Oddly enough, while the author identifies herself as on a "shamanic path" and mentions being a Druid, the book seems to be written especially for Wiccans (the references to "the God" and "the Goddess" as opposed to a polytheistic "gods and goddesses" is a common refrain in the book). But I find it is helpful for pagans of all stripes (as I don't identify as Wiccan at all, and I enjoyed the book). I found some of the exercises inspirational both to do "as is" and as a starting point to develop something "more Feri in flavor" for Rowan.

I especially was charmed by the chapter that discusses helping the child build a first altar- I am so looking forward to the time that Rowan can tell us what he wants on it and why!

Formal Rating:
Title: Pagan Parenting
Author: Kristin Madden
Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide
Price: $14.95 USD , $22.95 CAN
ISBN: 1-56718-492-8

Topics Covered: Parenting, Religion, Spirituality, Childhood Development, Exercises and Activities
Target Audience: Parents and Caregivers of Children and Teens, Pagans- especially Wiccans.

Witch Mom Rating: Two and a Half Hats:
 A valuable resource. Isn't all things to all trads, but does a great job being general enough on trad specifics but specific enough on activities and exercises to be of value.

Pagan Parenting (Revised Edition) (link to buy this book, if you so desire)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Watching My Son Grow

Every day, I watch my son make leaps and bounds in his cognitive, psychic, and physical development and it floors me sometimes. I wanted to document some of the things that I have noticed in the past couple weeks:

1. We live in Oakland, CA- best known this past week for the demonstrations, riots, and looting that took place (after a BART (transit) cop got a 2-5 year sentence for shooting an unarmed black man (who was face down on the ground, defenseless and unarmed) in the back. It was caught on video by many lookers on.) here recently. It's been a somber time here in Oakland.

The day of the verdict, I was out having coffee with a friend and Rowan at a neighborhood cafe. Rowan went down for a nap about an hour later after the verdict was announced- safe at home in the back of the house. I was in the front, working on my computer. At some point,I heard him fuss and cry, so I went in the back to tend to him. It was then that I heard- far off in the distance- the protesters. They were making their way down our busy street to Fruitvale BART, where the murder took place, for a rally. They were not loud and it was several blocks away, unamplified. But the energy was unmistakable and I could hear the distant chants of "No Justice, No Peace" and cars honking in support as they passed by.

I am convinced that Rowan was awakened by the anger, frustration, and sadness of the protestors several blocks away. 

Background: Rowan sleeps through crazy loud noises all the time. Semi trucks, sirens, vacuum cleaners right next to him- nothing bothers him. Noise is not an issue. Energy however, is. He is highly sensitive and has been from the start. Tweakers (people on drugs like speed, cocaine, meth), schizophrenics and bipolar folks (whose energy is spiky and unpredictable), overly negative people, and also creepy people of different stripes all freak him out. Often in these cases, he turns inward and his eyes become unfocused. He's trying to cope/escape the best he knows how. If he's able, he clings to Mom or Dad for refuge inside our energy body to shield him from the unfamiliar and uncomfortable energy coming his way.

Anyway, back to the story. He woke up and was crying. I went back to soothe him and see if he was going to sleep more or get up, and that's when I heard the faint sounds of protesters. He was very agitated, thrashing from side to side in the bed and the only thing that helped was holding him and sheltering him from some of the hurt he could feel and subsequently casting circle and shield and protect the house from excessive anger coming from the outside. After that, he seemed to be better.

He stayed up late that night- probably picking up on Mommy and Daddy's agitation (we both were on live twitter and blog feeds all night, trying to keep up with the protests, what was going down in our town, and what the cops were doing). But he did not thrash in agitation like before, thankfully. I was glad to be able to shield him a little. It's not as if he hasn't been energetically sensitive before, as I said. It's just that up until this point, Rowan seemed to only be affected by energy in his immediate presence. Now his range of field has expanded. An interesting and noteworthy development in my little witchlet.

2. He has become a master manipulator. He squeals and mock cries, only to immediately stop, smile, and have his eyes sparkle as soon as we give him whatever it is he is squealing for. He is learning to master his world (that would be us!) and it is astounding to see how smart he is. At least we know that we can avert a meltdown this way!

3. He is learning language, even though he himself cannot speak or sign well yet. He definitely knows the words "Rowan", "milk", "Ba" (bottle), "sleepy sleepy", "Mommy", "Daddy" and "bird" (we have pet birds). He also knows "up" and we ask him to raise his hands (so that we can get under his arms to lift him easily) if he wants to be picked up. We are working on "change" (as in diapers), "food" (as he just started solids), "more", "hi" and "shower".

4. He is going through a frustrating phase of fighting sleep (naps and for the night) and intentionally works himself up into a frenzy so he cannot fall asleep. It takes a whole routine now, whereas before, he would just fall asleep (twice during the day, and then again for the night). He usually employs the strategy of kicking frantically and moving his arms (one day I want to get him on a blue screen backdrop doing it, as I could manipulate it in some video software and have it look like he is walking through Paris or something.) so that he won't fall asleep with all that movement.

Tonight, I foiled that plan by putting him in his sleepsack (the awesome European one from Nightshade! Thanks!) and then into the swing. Because his legs were encompassed in the sack, and the sack was pinned down by the swing's tray/leg separator, he could not kick. His solution? He went out of his way to pull himself up into an upright position (the swing was in a sleep inducing recline position), holding onto the tray for dear life- grinning in a ridiculously huge way at his triumph over sleep. We tested this hypothesis- to see if this was why he was doing this strange thing. Sometimes he would recline back as he tired himself out and then we would say, "Are you sleepy sleepy?" "You gonna go sleepy sleepy? Or some such thing. At those magic words, he would immediately employ his wakeful strategy again, causing us to laugh.

5. He is sitting up unassisted for longer periods these days- he even had a shopping cart ride at the supermarket and LOVED IT. It was all we could do to get his mouth away from that nasty cart. We lined it with a blanket, but still. Eew.

6.  His love of solid foods is amazing- he squeals and demands more and is actually starting to have some minor fits of pique- I would not call them temper tantrums quite yet- more like a precursor of what loveliness is to come- if we are not fast enough with the goods. So far, he's has carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, apples, blueberries, blackberries, and rice cereal. He eats about a third of one of those baby food jars at a time, gleefully.

7. He had another doctor's visit and is 27 inches long, his head is 17 inches around, and he weighs almost 18 pounds. These are his stats at 5.5 months.

8. Yesterday, we took him to the county fair. I was excited to see if there was any spectacle there that would catch his attention. Mommy likes the animals. He wasn't too interested in sheep, pigs, or cows in pens. But he liked the peacock and turkeys strutting in their pens. His favorite thing was a kids event- a two clown circus show. He was mesmerized by their juggling and their crazy toilet paper launching machines. As we were leaving, we stopped to get daddy some cotton candy and he got to see some of the carnival rides. He was entranced by the flashing lights and movement of the rides and screaming people. It was cute to watch.

Ok- enough mundane things. Next post will be about teaching kids the Craft, promise!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Lessons for My Son: You have Power

This is the first installment of a regular feature that I hope to institute called "Lessons For My Son". In it, I hope to express ideas and concepts that it has taken me 40 years and many mistakes to learn.

The lesson today, Rowan, is that your words and actions matter- and so does your silence and inaction. That you have a direct impact on the world- what you say and do matter just as much as what you do not say or do. You help to shape our reality and you have power.

To deny this fact or act as though it were not true (by letting only others do the shaping) is not only false, it is blasphemy, if witches are said to have such a thing. It's not that I haven't seen witches lose their way- I have. I have lost my way once or twice, too. But a witches' role in this world is to be a bridge, a conduit for power between this world and the next. We have sway and power in both these worlds we span- because it is how we are made. We are born for this work.

So, with the theory above expressed- let's get to the tangible parts of the lesson:

  • Sitting on the sidelines watching others do or say something mean, harmful, or ugly is just as bad as articipating in it actively. As Audre Lorde said, "Your silence will not protect you." It just makes the world an uglier and unsafer world for a little longer. Best to confront the ugliness head on- and if you need help, ask me. I will be there for you- always.
  • You must think of the world that you want to live in, that ideal and live as if you are already there- in that world, every day. Live as if the actions and words that you choose will help to shape those around you and the world itself in the image of that ideal- because it DOES. Words and deeds are the everyday magick that helps us weave the web of life and culture.
  • Allowing others to control your words and deeds because you fear losing their acceptance or approval is giving away your power. Do not allow bullies to strip you of your birthright as a witch*. Even if those bullies claim to be your friends.
  • Taking action or saying something that only serves to create comfort isn't always the best path. Speaking the truth, as you know it- particularly when it makes some uncomfortable- is most likely a better course of action. C.S.Lewis said, "If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair." More to the point, JFK said, "There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction." 
I wish for you to know your power and what you are capable of and to use that power to make the world a better place. And I hope that growing up with a witch's training will help you reach that gnosis a little sooner than most.

* Yes, I believe that you were born a witch. While it something that you must choose to confirm as an adult later in life- you were conceived and are being raised as a witch. You have already shown promising gifts for such a role in life. You are my little witchlet.