Guest Post: Raising Up Strong Heathen Children

I do think it is a parent’s responsibility to teach their child about their religion. I think the idea that a parent will not share their religion with their child and will instead “let them figure it out on their own” is somewhat harmful. Children need to be taught spiritual beliefs in the same way they are taught how to behave in public.

Joshua (5) is a rough-and-tumble kid who brings up the Gods and Goddesses quite a bit.

If you do not teach your children about spirituality, the Gods, their Ancestors, and the way to live their lives in relation to the divine – then someone else most certainly will. If you do not teach your children your belief system as the basis for which they live good and honorable lives – then someone else most certainly will.

It might be their classmate, their Uncle Bob, their first girlfriend or boyfriend, or even some television show. But, when we leave a spiritual hole or emptiness in our children, they will find someone willing to fill that hole. When that happens, you will have very little input or control regarding how they fill that emptiness.

Nathan (10) has begun helping with tasks during our Fainings, and is beginning to show an interest in toasting during Symbel.

Some will say that teaching your child about your spirituality or belief system, is somehow “forcing them into a religion.” I believe that much of this reaction is based on negative experiences with being forced to go to Christian church or being forced to pray as a child. It is not about “forcing” your children to do or believe anything. It is about communicating, sharing, explaining, and letting them know what you believe.

I know that if I do not teach my kids about heathenry, no one will. I reached the age of 37 or so, without even HEARING of heathenry. I had no idea heathenry even existed.

Heathens describe being drawn back to our Folksoul. Heathen talk about the Gods calling us back to our native Folkway. But, our ancestors taught their children our Folkway from the day they were born. They did not remain mute about their Gods and Ancestors, and just let the Gods call their children when it was time. Our ancestors shared their culture directly with their children all through their lives. It should be no different for us as modern heathen parents.

Elizabeth (8) has a keen interest in her Ancestors and our house wight, and will also toast during Symbel.

We live in a world and culture with an immense amount of Christian pressures and indoctrination. There is also all this pressure from Science, which in many ways encourages a strong agnostic or atheist point of view. If we do not teach and share heathenry with our children, there is an immensely high chance that they will end up Christian or Agnostic. Having been Agnostic for 25-plus years, I can attest that it gave me a very empty and cold feeling about the world. I do not want that for my children.

If you are a parent and you are new to heathenry, take your time. Work your comfort level up, while also improving your own understanding of our native Folkway. When the time is right, share with your children the wonders of the world that you now know. Our Gods are amazingly inspiring, and your children deserve to have that inspiration in their lives. Our Ancestors are an amazing foundation, and your children deserved to have that foundation in their lives. The Vaettir are a wonder all about us, and your children deserve to have that wonder in their lives…

Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun’s Bane Kindred
Temple of Our Heathen Gods

Website: http://www.heathengods.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/#!/heathengods

Originally posted on Facebook and reprinted with permission.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Thank you for allowing a re-print of this. It’s nice to see that some Pagans are realizing that Faith & Culture go hand in hand to birth Heritage. Our children deserve that foundation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lamyka-L/649965363 Lamyka L.

    Thank you for allowing a re-print of this. It’s nice to see that some Pagans are realizing that Faith & Culture go hand in hand to birth Heritage. Our children deserve that foundation.

  • http://www.patheos.com Star Foster

    My Wiccan perspective is this: it’s taken me over ten years to be able to confidently say I embrace and inhabit a polytheistic viewpoint 24/7. Conversion is a hard struggle, whether you were raised with a faith or without it.

    Raising your children in your faith gives them a head start on their spiritual life and a chance to be part of a continuing tradition. If they choose another path then they (hopefully) have the advantage of not coming from a tradition that damaged them. Excluding your children isn’t healthy in my opinion.

    Everyone has a spiritual journey to make and trials to endure. Raising your child without religion doesn’t change that. They must face the crucible regardless of their upbringing.

  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    My Wiccan perspective is this: it’s taken me over ten years to be able to confidently say I embrace and inhabit a polytheistic viewpoint 24/7. Conversion is a hard struggle, whether you were raised with a faith or without it.

    Raising your children in your faith gives them a head start on their spiritual life and a chance to be part of a continuing tradition. If they choose another path then they (hopefully) have the advantage of not coming from a tradition that damaged them. Excluding your children isn’t healthy in my opinion.

    Everyone has a spiritual journey to make and trials to endure. Raising your child without religion doesn’t change that. They must face the crucible regardless of their upbringing.

  • Morgan

    Very well said. I never understood the idea of excluding your children from your religion – if it’s good enough for you, why isn’t it good enough for them? I am raising my daughters with my faith and I accept that they may choose something else when they are grown, but for now they love to participate in what I do. wht would I deny them that?

  • Morgan

    Very well said. I never understood the idea of excluding your children from your religion – if it’s good enough for you, why isn’t it good enough for them? I am raising my daughters with my faith and I accept that they may choose something else when they are grown, but for now they love to participate in what I do. wht would I deny them that?

  • http://twitter.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

    There’s no problem sharing a faith with a child. However, I think it’s also fair that since so many of us likely don’t practice the faith of our childhood that we be supportive should a child (ours or otherwise) want to leave our faith and seek out another one for whatever reasons. Sometimes, such a journey only leads them back to where they started but while traveling, they’ll grow.

  • http://dashifen.com dashifen

    There’s no problem sharing a faith with a child. However, I think it’s also fair that since so many of us likely don’t practice the faith of our childhood that we be supportive should a child (ours or otherwise) want to leave our faith and seek out another one for whatever reasons. Sometimes, such a journey only leads them back to where they started but while traveling, they’ll grow.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1362174498 Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    Agreed! It is a parent’s duty to teach about religion- just like any other important topic in life. I am always bewildered at pagans who say that they are not teaching their kids any spirituality and letting them choose when they are older. True choice requires information!

    I believe that we will not have a real pagan culture until we have several generations of children raised as pagans. Right now, we have many people, raised in Abrahamic religions who have converted. It affects our religious filters, even when we do not want it to.

    I revel in the idea of raising my son to be a religious polytheistic Witch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1362174498 Lillitu Shahar Kunning

    Agreed! It is a parent’s duty to teach about religion- just like any other important topic in life. I am always bewildered at pagans who say that they are not teaching their kids any spirituality and letting them choose when they are older. True choice requires information!

    I believe that we will not have a real pagan culture until we have several generations of children raised as pagans. Right now, we have many people, raised in Abrahamic religions who have converted. It affects our religious filters, even when we do not want it to.

    I revel in the idea of raising my son to be a religious polytheistic Witch.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashcooper Ashley Cooper-Cooper

    I do agree that parents should share their beliefs with their children, but in a passive way. let the child choose if they want to follow your heathen footsteps. I’m a pagan with a daughter, and while she will be raised knowing her parents are pagan, and we will of course encourage her to learn and follow in a pagan path of her own, I dont see it as a failure of parenting if she decides she wants to be a baptist or catholic or agnostic or whatever else later down the road. spirituality is a very personal decision.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ashcooper Ashley Cooper-Cooper

    I do agree that parents should share their beliefs with their children, but in a passive way. let the child choose if they want to follow your heathen footsteps. I’m a pagan with a daughter, and while she will be raised knowing her parents are pagan, and we will of course encourage her to learn and follow in a pagan path of her own, I dont see it as a failure of parenting if she decides she wants to be a baptist or catholic or agnostic or whatever else later down the road. spirituality is a very personal decision.

  • Illiezeulette

    I agree with much of this. I was raised in a non-religious household, and I didn’t realize how empty my life was until I started hanging out with religious people. I wish I was raised as *something* religious, be it Christian, Neo-Pagan, or otherwise.

  • Illiezeulette

    I agree with much of this. I was raised in a non-religious household, and I didn’t realize how empty my life was until I started hanging out with religious people. I wish I was raised as *something* religious, be it Christian, Neo-Pagan, or otherwise.

  • Sunweaver

    I’m raising my little one as a Pagan, sharing my beliefs and practices with her, teaching her to pray in the way that connects me with my gods. This is going to be part of her for as long as she lives, no matter what she might choose to become later in life. But I’m also teaching her to explore, ask questions, and find new experiences in order to find wisdom wherever she can. I’m also teaching her that there is no one but her that knows what she believes. No person on this earth can tell her what she believes or what she *should* believe, not even me.

    My biggest hope is that when she eventually does go through the period in her life when she’s searching for her truth, she can rely on the tools I’ve given her to find her own path, whatever that may be.

  • Sunweaver

    I’m raising my little one as a Pagan, sharing my beliefs and practices with her, teaching her to pray in the way that connects me with my gods. This is going to be part of her for as long as she lives, no matter what she might choose to become later in life. But I’m also teaching her to explore, ask questions, and find new experiences in order to find wisdom wherever she can. I’m also teaching her that there is no one but her that knows what she believes. No person on this earth can tell her what she believes or what she *should* believe, not even me.

    My biggest hope is that when she eventually does go through the period in her life when she’s searching for her truth, she can rely on the tools I’ve given her to find her own path, whatever that may be.

  • Billwheaton

    I agree wholeheartedly. I am glad to see the idea of letting our children “make up their own minds in their own way and time” go away. Such a waste of time when it could be better spent learning how to actually make well thought out decisions.

  • Billwheaton

    I agree wholeheartedly. I am glad to see the idea of letting our children “make up their own minds in their own way and time” go away. Such a waste of time when it could be better spent learning how to actually make well thought out decisions.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    As usual, I’m going to be arguing for a middle ground. Certainly, children should be taught at least something about their parents’ religion(s). On the other hand, they should not be included in initiatory mystery cults. For those whose primary religious identity is rooted in an initiatory mystery cult (such as Trad Wicca or Feri), I would suggest exploring a more folk-pagan approach that can appropriately be shared with kids.

    While I practice three initiatory traditions, I also have a shrine to the Powers of the Three Realms. There, I make daily and weekly offerings to: the nature spirits and other dwellers in the living world; the ancestors, orisa, and other dwellers in the spirit world; and the gods, angels and other dwellers in the shining world. It is also at that shrine that I light prayer candles for people. If I had children, it would be that aspect of my practice that I would start sharing with them. I would start by simply moving the shrine into family space and making the offerings aloud when the family was present. Perhaps that could be done before dinner, leaving the oil candle lit on the shrine until after dinner.

    One thing I would NOT do is simplify the rituals of any of the initiatory traditions to make them “understandable” to kids. I truly despised “children’s masses” when I was in Catholic school. They felt condescending. When my coven celebrates life passages, our families are invited to join us. And we perform the rites using the same words and actions we usually do. My covenmates’ kids have therefore seen the cup blessing with athame. (Though we don’t have kids in most of our circles, and certainly not when we perform the Great Rite at Bealtaine, even though it is “in token”.)

    We have also explained the symbolism of the objects on the altar to a couple of them at one point. If they ask questions, we answer honestly. The teenagers know that they have the right to ask to guest with us, but that it must be their choice. (“You have to ask” is one of the four Craft Laws in our Book of Shadows.) One of the three teens has said that he intends to guest at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. The computer games still win every time.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    As usual, I’m going to be arguing for a middle ground. Certainly, children should be taught at least something about their parents’ religion(s). On the other hand, they should not be included in initiatory mystery cults. For those whose primary religious identity is rooted in an initiatory mystery cult (such as Trad Wicca or Feri), I would suggest exploring a more folk-pagan approach that can appropriately be shared with kids.

    While I practice three initiatory traditions, I also have a shrine to the Powers of the Three Realms. There, I make daily and weekly offerings to: the nature spirits and other dwellers in the living world; the ancestors, orisa, and other dwellers in the spirit world; and the gods, angels and other dwellers in the shining world. It is also at that shrine that I light prayer candles for people. If I had children, it would be that aspect of my practice that I would start sharing with them. I would start by simply moving the shrine into family space and making the offerings aloud when the family was present. Perhaps that could be done before dinner, leaving the oil candle lit on the shrine until after dinner.

    One thing I would NOT do is simplify the rituals of any of the initiatory traditions to make them “understandable” to kids. I truly despised “children’s masses” when I was in Catholic school. They felt condescending. When my coven celebrates life passages, our families are invited to join us. And we perform the rites using the same words and actions we usually do. My covenmates’ kids have therefore seen the cup blessing with athame. (Though we don’t have kids in most of our circles, and certainly not when we perform the Great Rite at Bealtaine, even though it is “in token”.)

    We have also explained the symbolism of the objects on the altar to a couple of them at one point. If they ask questions, we answer honestly. The teenagers know that they have the right to ask to guest with us, but that it must be their choice. (“You have to ask” is one of the four Craft Laws in our Book of Shadows.) One of the three teens has said that he intends to guest at some point, but it hasn’t happened yet. The computer games still win every time.


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