This feature`Children attending Pagan Rituals’ was originally written for and appeared in the September 2011 Issue of `Gaian Times Magazine (Eco-Spiritual). It was written after the topic was discussed openly in one of the Pagan groups that I was a member of. Only sections of the article are reproduced here for further debate. The Full article is still available in the Gaian Times magazine #2
What must be held in mind is that .. while voluntarily working as the `Events Manager’ for the `Pagan Federation ‘ ( London District), some pagan parents brought up the issue of them being unable to bring their young children to any Open rituals that were being held in London. They had been discouraged from doing do by others in the past, it would seem. So I began to make a special effort to change that situation, and actively started encouraging parents to ring their children to open rituals. (Unsupervised Children were not allowed. Parent/ Guardian supervision was required). I went as far as to even ask and then encourage one pagan friend to have her young daughter be in a grand closing Ceremony of a Conference.
It’s quite `normal’ now (here in the Year 2013) to see Parents and children taking part in or just watching open rituals and pagan Ceremonies. But some 7-8 years ago, that just wasn’t the case. It was a very rare occurrence, and even then, in some outdoor ceremony in a park. I guess the Organisers of such events were nervous about allowing such things, as the media was already full of pagans being persecuted. And Pagan parents were equally probably wary of being at the receiving end of any such antagonistic approaches by ill-educated members of general public (or a thrill-story weaving Journalist!).
So here’s some of the extracts from the article from Gaian Times#2
————————-Feature written by Mani Navasothy. Edited by April Jonquil.——–
What are your opinions on children in ritual? Is it good to be inclusive; bad to bring young children when they don’t have a choice; distracting; informative? Is ritual a place for children?
These are issues that will continue to have a big influence in pagan communities! Any person(s) who have been a practicing pagan (attending rituals, ceremonies in public or at home) is going to face these issues when they themselves become pregnant and prepare to have their own children. No such Pagan is – under normal circumstances- going to give up their pagan beliefs or practices, and so sooner or later, will wish to attend a ceremony, be it public or private. And it’s highly likely that when they do, they will face the matter of either taking their child to the event, not taking their child, or wishing to take their child but finds that the event does not allow children in it!
As a result of that `public discouragement’, those pagan parents who wish to go to rituals are going to find themselves in serious difficulty, and their only option may well be that of not attending any rituals for many years.
One male began the discussion by stating, “there should be something appropriate for children. Children are a very beautiful quality to any event or ritual but great care must be taken to make it inclusive for the children so that they do not feel excluded. So a large amount of attention needs to be given, and when more adult themes are being used, then children should not attend.” He go son to point out that we were all children once. “They hold beautiful gifts which we should all cherish and nurture ourselves.”
This same message came up in the tone of another response, this time from a lady, “Children are our future, we are their past; our lives are intertwined. To isolate them away from this vital environmental upbringing is almost denying them of their religious heritage…” Heritage is a theme we shall focus on a little further in this feature. This lady goes on to clarify that it’s the parent’s decision on reserving judgment on how disruptive their children could get in a particular situation, and so holds that supervisory responsibility in that environment for those children.
Another mother (of three grown up children) stated that, “we appear to be the only culture where children are thought of being in the way, or an irritation. This is due to adult intolerance and selfishness. Children should be part of our religion and our way of life.” She makes a witty remark that there is no need for children to be, “ not left at home in their Wellies, along with organic compost, until the age of 18 years!!!” By this she means that Children are not some inanimate objects that should be left out till they are ready and turned adults. In response to a suggestion that children may be becoming `indoctrinated’ if they come to pagan rituals, she firmly said, “We are not brain washing as other religions do, merely celebrating the love for nature. That under any heading is healthy for a child. To sing, dance and share love, no brainwashing!”
Another mother (one with younger children) sought to compare Paganism and Christianity in their respects of including Children. “ Sunday mornings are generally family services, specifically aimed at all ages with some provisions in place for small children (crèche, crafts and stories), while Church services during the week and evenings are kept for more ‘serious’ worship.” This mother asked the question, “Why can’t Pagan rituals be the same? If it is on an afternoon/evening, then perhaps as someone suggested, keep the earlier part more ‘family friendly’ and the evening for serious and adult orientated part of the ritual?”
One lady contributor was in agreement with the views of the famous author Richard Dawkins when she responded earlier in the debate, “There are no Pagan children, only the children of Pagan parents. While inevitably the parents beliefs will rub off a bit on children, I’m of the opinion that they should be protected from indoctrination until they are old enough to make their own decisions”.
To this strand of argument, another male added, “If people are coming to do serious magical work, I do not think it is appropriate to have children there. Someone/all would need to keep an eye on them and it would be a distraction”. Then he went on to add, “But if it is just a light hearted celebration of festival, then why not. It all depends on the content!”
Appropriateness of a ritual was discussed by many, and nearly all participants of the discussion agreed that it’s not always appropriate for children to be at a particular ritual. She explained that she had been to rituals where children were not given something else to do (while ritual was going on) and so they have been very distracting. She points out a valuable thought, that as adults people can easily assume incorrectly he length of time for which a child might remain calm in a group setting. .
Another mother with grown up children was against the notion of children in pagan rituals. “My own view, based on having been the parent of small children who are now not so small, is that not every occasion is suitable for children”. It’s a statement that resonates with the majority of contributors……. The Full article is still available in the Gaian Times magazine #2
-What are your thoughts on this matter? Please leave a comment below so we can continue to explore this delicate but important topic.