One of the things that always crops up in the wider Pagan parenting community is the question of religious indoctrination when it comes to our children.
First, lets get the big, scary word out of the way.
Indoctrination: as per dictionary.com, “to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point ofview.”
I actually don’t have a problem with this term. In my opinion, indoctrination is not synonymous with brainwashing–at least not automatically, once you get past the knee-jerk reaction. And, as far as I am concerned, as a parent, my job is to indoctrinate my children into all sorts of modes of thinking–like being biased towards compassion and logic and or towards good dental hygiene by brushing their teeth before they go to bed and having good manners by saying “please” and “thank you”. But, since I know that too many people hear the word “indoctrination” and think Jesus Camp, AND because I don’t want this to be a discussion of when and how indoctrination can become brainwashing, I’ll continue to forgo the term in favor of “teaching”.
I have been among some pagans who, in an attempt to respect their children’s freedom of belief and avoid the nasty connotations associated with the idea of “indoctrination”, refuse to in any way teach their children about spirituality. These people have instead chosen to avoid the subject, allow their children to be “exposed” to a variety of religious beliefs, and then make their own choice.
I believe this to be wrong, and here is why: either you actually believe what you claim or you do not. If you believe it, then you believe it to be true, a matter of fact. It is your job to teach your children matters of fact, and trust me, if you don’t teach them the facts as you see them either secular materialist culture or monotheism will gladly take your place. Your kids are going to get their ideas about these issues from somewhere, and the first place should not be television or the kids at school. It should be their parents.
When it comes to teaching Paganism to one’s children there seems to be two “camps” in this (though we, probably like most people, fall somewhere in the middle)–the first, that we should let our children find their own unfettered religious path without our interference (or guidance), and the second that we should be teaching our children our beliefs and practices and why they are our beliefs and practices. What most Pagans, regardless of where they fall into this spectrum, do NOT believe, is that our children have to adopt our beliefs and practices as their own, or that the adoption of our beliefs and practices as their own is even the goal or end game of religious education. Although, if we are completely and utterly honest without selves, there are probably religious viewpoints we would prefer they don’t adopt.
The Hubby and I, specifically, believe that a well-rounded religious education is a key component of cultural education, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. We also make a point to teach our children our personal beliefs and practices as well as teaching them about the more prevalent beliefs and practices within the Pagan community. We read mythology, we celebrate the holidays, and (because we are Unitarian Universalist as well), our children attend UU religious education classes. We also talk about different religions–their beliefs and practices, and their interpretation of divinity.
But there is one thing that we have made a conscious decision *not* to do.
We don’t define Divinity.
We have never told the kids to follow a specific pantheon (our personal gods are *our* personal gods), and while they have heard us pray, its always been to a number of specific deities or to a generic God/Goddess/Divine. They have never been instructed in a list of what gods we follow, or what their traits are (though, as mentioned, they have been exposed to mythology). We believe that how our children choose to acknowledge the gods is their own business–what names they call them by, which ones they recognize, whom they choose to talk to or pray to, who they choose to worship. After all, being a godly person is not necessarily conductive to making one goodly person.
Its been interesting to experience my daughter’s discovery of her own pantheon of assorted beings. Because we are very local in our practices as a family (and mine individually), you may see a theme–mostly beachy. Some of them are traditional deities, just interpreted a little differently, and others are completely new. One or two appear to be inspired or influenced by artwork or other media, as well as by the subjects we study as we homeschool. And all together, it is quite interesting…
Mother Moon–duh, this one should be pretty obvious
Mama O’shen–The Ocean, I’m pretty sure she’s a mermaid.
Rini O’shen–a dolphin spirit, daugher of Mama O’shen
Father Mountain–this one is pretty obvious too
the Star Sisters–the spirits of the Big Dipper and Little Dipper
Gramma Planet–Chickadee’s name for the Earth, I think she’s like Captain Planet’s mom or something like that (we saw some Captain Planet online a while back, and she was mad because “they got it all wrong”)
Mr. Neptune–(and don’t forget the Mr.!) the hurricane keeper, son of Mama O’shen
Thunderer–the god of storms (other than hurricanes), his real name is a secret
Kaias–mermaid in outer space that keeps planets in orbit
the Sun King–another obvious one too, he ages and is reborn with the Wheel of the Year and his title changes a bit–baby Sun King, Sun Prince, etc
H’sheth–the crab spirit
Mimi–a fairy friend (one of the freckle fairies who are made of sunlight and leave freckles when they kiss you)
Garnet, Citrine, Topaz, Aquamarine, Emerald, Sapphire, Amethyst and Opal–more fairy friends (the Sabbat Fairies)
Hana, Trys and Koru–tidepool fairies
Iris–the wind messenger (she whispers messages on the wind, in the form of a rainbow)
Sa–the sea turtle spirit, who has a map of the world on her shell
G’geegle–sea gull spirit, I have the feeling he’s a bit of a trickster
Tana–a sort of dryad that takes care of forest animals