Why ritual anyhow? Isn’t that alot of work to go to?
Because it makes something special, out of the ordinary and it makes it standout from all of the everyday things.
I have a friend who does all of her teaching for her kids with all the bells and whistles of circle casting, etc, because she says it imparts a certain sense of importance to it, and because it results in an overall better behavior and attention because it is made special.
Kids are pretty astute…the generally ‘get’ the idea far better than we adults think they will, and if it gets their interest, they tend to retain it fairly will. Sophie, after a early evening ritual we dedicated to ‘thanking the beach’ a few full moons ago, still thanks the water, the sand, the ‘fissies in the ossean’, and the clouds every time we go…and has figured out on her own to extend that to the water in her bathtub…
Make it as fun and simple as possible, and keep it short. Anything you can do to impart the idea of ‘special’ to the event (for example, a costume or props) is welcome. No matter how we decry ‘you don’t need props’ and ‘all you need is you’, when you are working with kids, the rule of thumb is DO WHAT WORKS…and in my experience (with my pretty, pretty princess that likes to get dirty) that means lots of trips to the dollar store for fairy wings, crazy hats and glitter.
Creating Sacred Space:
In my experience, munchies are visual and tactile and creative, but they operate better with boundaries. While a pracitced person might not find a circle or other method of creating sacred space necessary, with a young child it helps truly teach the separation of ritual time and space. But…for it to work, it needs to be a physical boundary as well, one that they can see and touch and help assemble and take down. Some of the ways that we have used range from drawing a circle in the sand at the beach, to chalk in the driveway, to pebbles and sea shells around the livingroom floor (this is prabably Sophie’s favorite–she plays with rocks and shells like most kids play with blocks). I know a couple whose 4 year old has a special rug that gets pulled out for rituals and I have heard of circles being made with everyting from favorite stuffed animals as guardians of sorts to a braided rope.
There are dozens of ways to do this (and ways to interpret it),which will largely depend on one’s path. Obviously it is something one does not have to do…we use it as a way to teach about the elements and the place where we live, and how they correspond to the greater forces at work in the world.
We ask for the blessing (gift) of each element. Rather than follow any specific ‘official’ directionality, we use one based on where we live. For us, water is east since we live on the East Coast, fire is west because that is where the sun sets and when the day is warmest, the earth is beneath our feet so it is south, and the wind brings cold weather from the north (and that is where Santa lives). When we make the circle at home, we have different items to represent each element–a jar of sand for the earth, a piece of coral for water, a sea gull feather for air and a candle for fire…aside of the candle, all are things that we have found at the beach by our home.
I have also heard of using stuffed animals representing the different elements, or of pictures, colored banners or scarves. Some families also have special chants and activites (lighting incense, etc), depending on the age and capabilites of their children. Personally, I have a two year old…we don’t have alot of patience or alot of time until the patience runs out, so we ‘call the quarters’ while we are making the circle.
Purpose/main body of the Ritual:
I suscribe to the KISS method of parenting a toddler…keep it simple & silly. Children learn and grow thru play–for them, a ritual that mirriors this has the best chance of success. The main things that we hold rituals with or for Sophie generally follow one of the following themes–holidays, thanksgiving, wishes, blessings, healing. Holidays are fairly easy, as they generally have a set of symbols and myths that can be simplified that accompany them. For a healing ritual, judicious use of a stuffed animal and lots of band-aids to send healing can be a useful visualization tool. Thanksgiving, wishes and blessings can all benefit from creativity and fun activities…putting wishes or thanks or blessings in bubbles and sending them out, writing them in the sand to be carried out with the tide, planting a seed, etc.
A friend of mine has even had her girls collect fireflies prior to the ritual, and released them as part of the main ritual. And don’t forget singing, dancing and drumming or other musical instruments. One of the most effective ways to teach raising energy to a group of children is by creating a rainstorm–make instruments such as shakers, drums, etc–or just have them use their hands and feet…rub together the hands slowly for the sound of wind, then faster, add in snapping for a light rain, clapping for a harder rain and drumming/stomping feet for the storm–through out the whole thing increase in speed until it can’t be maintained and the energy reaches its peak. To release the energy, have them yell together something that correspondes with what you have decided to release the energy for. Make sure, as you are directing this, you encourage them to visualize being the storm. Another option, rather than building and releasing the energy in one big burst, is teaching them to bring the energy back down slowly buy going in reverse from storm to rain to sprinkle to wind, gently releasing the energy back into the environment.
Offerings and Ritual meals:
There is nothing wrong with an offereing of Oreos and milk…or a shared meal of peanut butter and jelly with a side of mac-n-cheese. For a two year old, tossing a handful of goldfish (which we have found to be quite well recieved) into the bay is the best offering (we call it ‘sharing’) to the gods that they are going to get (at least in the mind of a child).
Closing the circle:
By now, if your child runs true to form (at least akin to my child), their interest in waning…my only suggestion is to get it done as expediently as possible to avoid meltdown. We generally close with a ‘thank you’ for everyone and everything that took part in the ritual and a round of “The Goddess loves me, this I know”.