Children in Ritual

There are many pagan groups out there who are exclusively adult. If you meet in a pub, or want to work naked, then having kids in the mix isn’t workable. Many people (especially those who do not have kids in tow) find younger humans distracting and disruptive. It’s important not to generalise though, because some children are great in ritual, and some are a nightmare.

My personal feeling is that it is really important to have spaces where families can celebrate, and children can be included. I don’t imagine our pagan ancestors excluded their offspring from spirituality, but we have fear born of media to contend with. I was a child in the bad old days when social workers did take children away and accuse parents of Satanic abuse. As far as I know, no one ever got to the bottom of those cases, but they bred fear. For a long time, you had to be 18 to access anything pagan, for fear the organisers would be accused of something heinous.

Most of us live in better, more enlightened cultures now.

One of the things I love about open Druid gatherings is how child friendly they are. Whether that’s out on the grass at Avebury, or hiding away in the woods, kids are able to be there. They don’t have to stay in circle and behave, either. Most of them roam around the area, exploring nature (and cow pats), joining in where it suits them. With a little support and guidance, they are certainly no more disruptive than tourists, rainstorms and other people’s dogs, and we cope with them.

Part of the issue here is how we think of children. What are they? If we perceive them as noisy, disruptive lumps of irritation, then we won’t engage with them, and their presence will damage the atmosphere. I’ve seen it done enough times. Relate to children like they are small people, and quite often they behave better. Talk to them, include them, make space for them in ritual and if they feel loved and wanted, they are more likely to co-operate. Find them little jobs – collecting wood for the fire, helping to make the altar, etc. If you like to cleanse the circle by sprinkling water about, children are always brilliant at this, spreading droplets and giggles as they go. We can also relate to children as being like other disruptive forces of nature in our midst. Because they are. We can honour that chaos, learn to take ourselves less seriously, loosen up and enjoy them!

Children who are able to attend ritual, have a broader life experience. The playing outside is good for them. So is being part of a community. I think it’s a great shame to entirely exclude younger folk. It’s important to be clear in advance of a ritual about whether it’s child friendly, and so that folk attending know to expect kids, but we shouldn’t keep them away. Excluding children frequently means excluding parents as well, and so a whole section of our community is exiled, and that seems very wrong to me.

As we get more folk who have grown up pagan and want to raise their children pagan too, we need more family spaces, more scope for celebration. Make space at your fire for the younger humans, and all the wild magic they can bring with them. Sometimes, they will throw your ritual off track and drive you mad, but they are the future, and we need them.

6 thoughts on “Children in Ritual”

  1. Well said! I’m lucky enough to be part of a group that enjoys the energy of children and lets the kids be part of circles – my daughter has even been part of planning the festivities before, with hilariosly magickal results! Magick, nature and ritual are not areas exclusively for adults.

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  2. I think when appropriate, children running around during Pagan get togethers makes it more magical. Children are on a higher level than we are and see what we can no longer see. They kind of bring that spirit with them. I felt that way before I had kids…envying them for seeing beyond the veil.

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  3. they do add a very lively kind of energy. I’ve only ever done a few rituals without children, I’d rather have them there for most things. Maybe not some of the heavier magical stuff, but it depends a lot on the child.

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  4. My youngest is the reason I am pagan. Excluding her from the circle would feel like excluding one of the Guardians to me. She is 10, quite capable of standing in the circle, keeping up with the ritual and lending her energy to it.

    Our church has gotten more child-friendly partly as a result of my family just taking it for granted the children would worship with us, and us expecting the children to behave and participate.

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  5. I only have a 18yo stepdaughter, and who’s away at college. So no young children. But I do have cats.

    When I started doing ritual at my altar, my cats were obviously intrigued, what with all the plants, burning candles and shiny objects, as well as an edible offering. When they first poked their heads around the stuff on the altar, I had the quickest impulse to nudge them away. But then I thought how wonderful that they are getting involved. Most of the time they sit next to me and I occasionally pet them. And if they want to eat a bit of the offering, they’re welcome to it. They too are divine, aren’t they? It really makes me think how free and beautiful the pagan/druid/wicca world is. It’s not about how perfect, ordered, serious and quiet your ritual is. It’s how much it comes from your heart.

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