Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside. Walking creekbeds and climbing trees, I developed an intuitive understanding of the sacredness of nature. Now that I’m older with my own children, I’m living in a bigger city where I feel less comfortable sending my kids out to explore the neighborhood on their own – at least at this age. But understanding and feeling the spirits of the land (landvættir as they’re called in Heathenry) is an essential part of my spirituality, and one I’d like to introduce to my children.
I have training in early childhood education, but it’s still difficult to teach something that you sort of wandered into on your own. So how do I help my children feel the spirit of the land around them? Though I’m still uncomfortable sending them out completely on their own, I try to get them as much hands-off time in nature as possible. Down at the local park, they can wander along the paths and in the prairie grass for hours, and I’m able to keep an eye on them from afar. Encouraging children to bring discoveries and talk about the new things they see or learn can also be a great way of increasing their observance – and when children are observing nature, I find that it’s not very long until they start to feel the spirits around them.
My two oldest (three and six) have become pretty adamant litter police, insisting on picking up the littlest and biggest pieces of trash as we walk along the creek in the park. It’s basically a drain for the storm sewers of the neighborhood, so it gets pretty messy. Making a point of cleaning up a bit every time we go to the park, my children have learned through my example – not only my words – that the earth is important to me.
Perhaps the best way for children to understand the magic of the earth is to let them witness it for themselves. Growing bean sprouts is a perennial favorite of elementary school teachers everywhere, and for good reason – beans require the least patience of any sprouts. Soak them overnight, stick them in dirt in a styrofoam cup, and a week later – the little baby sprout is poking up out of the dirt. Children are amazed to see their quick growth, and in little children who’ve been exposed to Paganism and the idea of the sacred earth, they see the inherent magic happening before their eyes.
As my children grow older, they’ll be able to wander the world on their own and encounter the spirits of the land for themselves. I can only hope that an early introduction, through their own experiences and some guidance from me, will be of help to them as they search for their own truths in the earth.