For a large portion of the time I have been Pagan, I have also been a mother. This surprises some people, both on- and off-line; Paganism has a reputation of being for teenagers and experimenting twenty-somethings. While I’m very glad those demographics can find something useful in my religion, I honestly feel like it’s the best choice for a mother of three from the midwest, too!
The best part about Paganism? Most Pagans are not only open-minded about differences that much of society looks down on, but at least in my local community, they are actively supportive of those differences! There are a few transgendered individuals who attend ritual regularly, and it’s harder to find a straight person than someone who differs from that norm in some way at most gatherings; and this is not a bad thing! It’s something that is celebrated, each individual bringing themselves to the table with no expectations of conforming to a standard norm. As someone who identifies as pansexual, being able to interact with others who are comfortable with my identity is amazing. As a parent of children who may not fit into the cis heterosexual norm, it is incredibly comforting to know that they will have a spiritual community to support them whatever their future needs. Not only that, but Paganism’s encouragement of the leadership roles of women in a religious landscape largely dominated by the patriarchy is wonderful for all of my children; even my son. Seeing all the women leaders of our local groups gives my daughters leadership role models, and my son role models for respecting women in power.
My family is a pretty interesting mix of religions, cultures, and ideas. My husband is an atheist, my in-laws are Muslim, my mother is a devout Evangelical Christian and my father identifies as Buddhist. The nice thing about Paganism? My children aren’t being indoctrinated, and aren’t being told that anyone else is inherently wrong. We frame ideas of religion as “mommy believes..” or “grandma believes..” and that’s okay. In my Pagan worldview, there’s room for lots of different answers for lots of different people; and for children who are being exposed to lots of ideas that may conflict with one another, having that safe haven where it’s okay to believe whatever you would like (outside of actively infringing on others’ rights) is incredibly beneficial. The High Priestess of the local Wiccan coven won’t bar my daughter from attending if she prays to Allah with Grandma.
The big benefit that my specific brand of Paganism (Heathenry) brings to the table is ancestor veneration. I’ve been reading recently about the benefits of children hearing stories about their past, of knowing their place in the world. One of the practices most central to my tradition is the remembering of our ancestors, the telling of stories, the effort to incorporate those who are ‘gone’ as still being a big part of our lives. Not only does this help my children to better know their place in the world – and thus to feel more confident and certain in themselves – but it also helps them immensely to have a relationship with death that is less frightening and more home-y. My children were very sad to lose two great-grandparents in the span of a year, but it’s not a taboo subject. We talk about our memories, we tell stories, we visit their graves and leave gifts; and for my children, those grandparents are still very much a part of their lives.
Finally, I want to say a few words about Paganism’s treatment of this life we are currently living. I was raised in a home that emphasized sin and guilt, that if you were enjoying something more than you loved and enjoyed God, you were doing it wrong. Several times the phrase “be in the world, not of it” was frequently spoken. I feel like this really damaged my relationship with the world, one that I am still working on recovering from. I am so glad that my children aren’t being raised in this way – that they can come to know the world as a wonderful, awe-inspiring place without being made to feel ashamed for loving it. Pagans celebrate the world, the cycles of life, the beauty of sexuality, the joy and pleasure that is inherent in much of nature. I want my children to enjoy their lives, to learn to be happy the best that they can, and I feel like Paganism is a perfect conduit for teaching that.
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