Celebrating the Pagan Festivals
Religion and children. What’s the right thing to do?
As a former teacher of religious studies, I feel strongly that children should be able to learn about many religions and be able to choose which, if any, they wish to follow. If their parents are religious, they might of course learn more about that religion, but I don’t feel that they should have to follow that religion.
Are Stonelaughter and I religious? I don’t know. We’re spiritual for sure. Although we both class ourselves as Pagan, we don’t share the same Pagan beliefs – which is completely usual in Paganism. What we do share is a dislike of formalised religion, so we don’t attend regular meetings, ceremonies, celebrations or anything else, and in fact very much prefer not to take part in group worship of any kind.
We also agreed that our beliefs should not have to be our children’s beliefs, but we’ve been led by the children on this and both Bean and Plum have asked us to do more as a family to explore the Pagan Wheel of the Year and celebrate the festivals. We always have great intentions on this regard, but fall sadly short of them on many occasions. I think it’s fair to say that we have lost our festival mojo somewhat.
And if we’re honest with ourselves, not all the festivals speak to us equally either. I can’t speak for Stonelaughter in this regard but I find that Samhain, Yule, Mabon and Imbolc feel most important to me, and I find those easier to celebrate. I’m not sure I mean important, I mean that they are the ones I feel most comfortable with (which surely means I need to explore the others more!) and which I feel most connected to.
Beltane is next for me. We were handfasted at Beltane but over the years, I’ve struggled with connecting to the festival itself. I always try to celebrate Ostara with the children, but it’s another that I struggle to connect with. It makes for an odd spring!
Perhaps surprisingly, I also find Litha – Summer Solstice – difficult to connect to. I’ve never felt the need to go and join a group of others to watch the sun rise and I don’t feel the same impetus to celebrate as I do with Winter Solstice, Yule. Lastly is Lughnasadh (Lammas). A harvest festival (one of three), it takes me by surprise every year.
It’s clear I need to do more to engage with the festivals – how can help my children understand a faith they want to know more about if I’m not feeling it myself. I think the issue stems from the fact that I’ve always tried to connect with the festivals as presented (often through a story of the God and Goddess), but it doesn’t work for me. Now I’m finding my connection to Goddess again, I think this is the way I need to go back and connect with the festivals. It’s not a matter of faith or belief, or lack of it, simply a disconnection from the Wheel of the Year thanks to the vagaries of modern life. And I’m finding that as I deal with issues of old in my life, I’m feeling more spiritual again, which of course makes connection that much easier!
And so, to help me, and Plum who is particularly keen to find out about and take part in this aspect of Paganism, I’ve bought some books to share with the children. We have plenty of books about the various festivals, including recommendations for celebrations. We don’t feel the need for formal circle work though; for us informal celebrations with the children, including small activities (crafts with a spiritual element for instance), unplanned words and seasonal food that ties in with the festival seems to be the way to go. I’d rather explore connections between the seasons and the festivals, and connect them with Goddess in particular (but not exclusively). So we have three new books to explore – Let’s Talk About Pagan Festivals; Let’s Talk About Elements and The Pagan Wheel; Let’s Talk about Rites of Passage, Deity and Afterlife. I’ll be concentrating on the first two for the time being.