Tag Archives: children

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: January 7

Lots going on in Ancient Egypt today, which happens to be one of my favorite cultures. I also think its fitting because this month is Women’s Empowerment Month here at P&P.

One thing Egypt has is very strong and empowered women. In fact, one of the things that I admired most of this culture was the fact that their women didn’t cling to any Great Gods to save them but rather took matters into their own hands and saved themselves.

We have seen a lot of Sekhmet and today is no different. Once again, because she is most deserving, she’s honored in Egypt. Sekhmet was not only testament to all women–being a strong warrior and protector, but she also brought the Dead cake and wine in the Underworld daily.

Also today in Egypt, there will be a festival of Isis. Now Isis was the Goddess of many things (why she is called the Goddess of a Thousand Names) but today she is remembered for being the Patron of Women, Children, Magic, and Medicine.

So on this day, whether you are Pagan or not, perhaps you could take some time to yourself…let your mind heal, so to speak and get in touch with your inner Goddess—the real woman that lives inside of you. Maybe you can see your children with new eyes and you’re importance to them. Remember that you are their protector and Patron. Remember that your love has the power to change the world you live in….because when it comes down to it, it is your world. Remember that magic isn’t divining tools and cauldrons but something that lives inside of you—energy. And that you can make anything happen no matter what the odds.

 

A child’s trust

He believes in me. That’s a humbling thing and an empowering one all at the same time. He believes that I am a good person and that makes me try harder, to make sure I never let him down and am never less than the person he sees. Sooner or later, our parents stop being infallible heroes, but right now I’ve still got something close to that, and I want to make it last because it is such a beautifully, precious gift of trust to be given.

Children are predisposed to trust. They think well of us adults. I remember being young enough to believe that adults knew and understood everything. It was a bit of a shock finding it not so. I’ve been careful, as a parent to flag up the limits of my knowledge and ability. I never wanted him to think I was something I’m not. Yet despite my many shortcomings, weaknesses and failings, he still thinks well of me.

I look at him daily with a mix of awe and wonder. Old beyond his years, helpful, sensitive, insightful, kind and patient, he’s a far better and more emotionally mature person than a fair few adults I’ve met. My son inspires me to want to be so much more than I am.

I don’t know many children that well, but they all come into this world wide eyed and hopeful, wanting to believe the best of us. We have a choice. We can show them how important it is to learn how to be wary, cynical and cautious, or we can try and be the people they think we already are.

Free Range Children

As a child, I played in the street, and wandered about in the woods with other young folk. I was about eleven when I was allowed to go walkabout in the day. My mother had played in the street, as had my grandmother. Previous generations of children grew up with a lot more freedom. Laurie Lee’s autobiography ‘Cider with Rosie’ shows boys playing in the woods and fields of a summer night in the early twentieth century. Other memoires from the time show children running wild from an early age.

These days, most children are battery farmed. They stay safely in the house until they can be driven to school, then we drive them home and keep them under close supervision. We do this to keep them safe. Anxiety about stranger danger is high – not that I think it’s actually increased, but it makes the news and so we hear about it when things go wrong. Of course, the fewer children there are out and about, the more exposed and vulnerable they are.

The other great danger we truly have to protect children from is cars. Streets are not safe places any more. Traffic is heavy, too fast, too likely to kill. Crossing the road is a dangerous business. And so we drive our young humans to school, and to the park and the cinema, adding to the problem of an excess of traffic.

For the parent intent on bringing their child up well, there’s also the feeling that we ought to be spending every available moment cramming them full of learning opportunities. However, that takes away as much as it gives. Children don’t learn to innovate, if they have every activity handed to them. They don’t learn how to make their own fun, or their own choices.

In addition to the little house and car shaped boxes, we further box in our young folk with televisions, games consul and the internet. We encourage them to spend hours staring at little boxes because it keeps them quiet. We keep them in the house, safe, and buy them all the boxes they desire to keep them happy. We battery farm them, expecting them to squeeze out excellent exam results, once we start testing them – aged seven. What kind of childhood are these younger generations actually getting?

Children need the opportunity to learn and make choices. They need the space to run around and the company of other children. They need the freedom to explore and create on their own terms, following their own inspiration, not just doing what they’ve been told. If they aren’t able to tackle small risks and dangers, how are they supposed to function as adults when there’s no one to hold their hand?

And what happens when these kids turn into teenagers, unable to entertain themselves? Then we let them out to stand around on street corners. When I was a teen, it tended to be the most closeted, overprotected kids in my circle who drank until they threw up and otherwise got into difficulty because they had no idea how to handle things. Now most of them seem to have been overprotected, and far too many go off the rails. Excessive alcohol consumption in the young is a recognised problem, and I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Time outside is good for children. Unstructured time where they can play and explore without having adults perpetually monitoring what they do. Children need privacy too. I’m lucky, I live on a fairly quiet street with a small cluster of trees at the end, and other parents round here are also in favour of free range children, so they rampage about together. It makes for happier, healthier kids.

Our streets should be safe to walk on, play in. We shouldn’t be designing infrastructure based on the assumption that everyone will go by car. As drivers, we need to slow down and be more careful. Thirty miles an hour is too fast in residential areas. In London some places have a limit of twenty, which is a bit more like it, but there are too many folk who don’t respect those limits as it is.

We need to reclaim our streets and public spaces if the young folk we bring into this world are to have any quality of life. If we all undertook to walk more and drive less, that would make a lot of odds. There is so much to gain here, but it’s going to take a concerted effort to make spaces safe for children again – not from the fear of stranger danger, but from the very real threat of irresponsible car use. If you don’t think battery farming chickens is ok, then please do spare a thought for the issue of free range children.

Ancient Calendar: June 11, 2010

Fortuna is the Roman Goddess of luck. She was also patron women and fertility. So it’s no surprise that today (in Ancient History) Rome made sacred to her. She seems to be one of their favorites, so pops up quite a bit here and or there on their calendars.

However, today didn’t belong to Fortuna alone. Women of Rome would have also celebrated Matralia, honoring Mater Matula, a Goddess of both dawn and birth.

If women had been married once, and only once, would go to Mater Matula’s temple in the Forum Boarium and place a wreath upon the statue of the Goddess. They would ask the Goddess to foresee the health and protection of their nieces and nephews…as well as their own children.

C.H. Scarlett

www.chscarlett.net

Bullying

Over the last few years, personal experience and explorations of media have taught me that when it comes to children bullying other children, we (as a society) have some very weird ideas. There is often much pressure on the victim to prove the problem is genuine, and that they are not over-reacting and making a fuss about nothing. The victim is encouraged to ‘toughen up’. More so if they happen to be a boy. Many people see verbal and physical bullying between children as a normal, healthy part of growing up. I can only assume these people have never been significantly on the receiving end, or watched their own child suffer.

Parents of bullies can be surprisingly fast to defend their child. Particularly if they are boys. Girls get away with a fair amount of bitching and verbal sniping, and violence between boys is brushed away as ‘normal rough and tumble’. If one child, regardless of gender, repeatedly comes out of a situation distressed, then there is a problem and it needs taking seriously.

Children are not born with an innate sense of right and wrong. Empathy, compassion and tolerance are things they learn (or do not learn) along the way. They (hopefully) learn about other people’s boundaries, about how and when they cause pain, and when they need to modify their behaviour. Socialising a child and turning them into a decent adult is a process. Being a responsible adult, is something you learn. It doesn’t happen automatically. A child who has learned to bully, ridicule, torment, and injure is unlikely to wake up one morning and miraculously decide they are going to treat everyone nicely thereafter.

Self esteem and a sense of worth are not innate things either. Children who are repeatedly on the wrong end of bullying and who are not supported by adults do not do so well developing a sense of self worth. This has implications for how they fare as adults.

Children learn by observation and experience. They see what they can get away with, and they pick up patterns of behaviour based on how they themselves are treated in turn. A child who is treated with care and respect is more likely to be able to be careful and respectful. There’s a classic piece of child psychology research that shows a child who sees an adult beating up a doll is more likely to repeat the action than one who hasn’t. Children learn, and we are teaching them all the time through our own actions, and what we let them get away with.

What do we want them to learn? That crying because someone hurt you is sissy? That protesting against violence and abuse is wrong? What is that laying down for the adult they will become? Do we want them to learn that if you say you didn’t mean it, that makes it ok to have hurt someone? That ‘we were just having a laugh’ means it doesn’t matter if someone else is crying? How many of us look at knife crime in teenagers, and the frequency with which they harm each other, and despair? They don’t wake up one morning and decide out of the blue to start beating the crap out of each other and kicking to death people who happen to be different. (Which happened to a goth in the UK). They’ve learned, years ago, that it’s ok to pick on the oddballs, and ok to play rough. They stop being children. They grow bigger, and they get sharper, more dangerous toys, and every now and then, someone dies.

 It starts on the playground.

Goddesses for Children

As the theme for the month is Pagan Parenting, here is a list of Goddesses who protect and help children. They are all wonderful focuses for ritual and activities with your little munchkins!

Bast – Egyptian goddess of annoiting. She is the creator of perfumes and oils, as well as the Mother of cats and the magickal power they contain. Considered the mirror to Sekhmet, Bast is the protector of women and children and brings health, joy, and prosperity to Her worshippers. She teaches children (including the inner child) to play without fear and enjoy life.

Demeter – Greek Goddess of the Harvest.  Mother of agriculture and the seasonal year, Demeter is the Goddess of the grains and parenthood.  Sympathetic to suffering and grief, those who call out to Her for aid are always answered.  She is the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess, forming the triad with Persephone and Hecate.  Demeter’s endurance and ferocity in the struggle to rescue Her daughter Persephone from the Underworld expresses a mother’s protective love for child.  She keeps children safe from harm.

Eostre – also Ostara. Goddess of Spring to the Saxon and Germanic tribes.  Eostre is usually depicted as an adolescent girl or as a buxom young woman, representing the beginning of the spring season, and the ripeness found within.  Her name is derived from eastre, an ancient word for Spring, and She is the ultimate representation of the Maiden.  The Christian holiday Easter is actually named for Eostre’s festival, where she was honored as a fertility Goddess with painted eggs and sweet foods.

Lady of Beasts – Animal Goddess of the Middle East.  The title Lady of Beasts is used to describe a variety of Goddesses in many cultures.  She is best known in the Middle East, stretching into Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley.  She is the life giving force of the universe, ruling wild forests, jungles, and the animals within them.  A birth and fertility goddess, Her presence is said to reproductively bless all women and animals. She protects animals domestic and wild, and teaches children to respect the animal kingdom. Lady of Beasts is generally depicted as a pregnant woman and surrounded by untamed animals.

Shasti – Hindu Goddess of Children.  Shasti protects mothers in labor and children until they reach puberty.  She is a favorite of midwives and nurses, and is pictured as a matronly figure riding a cat.

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.