Monday, January 23, 2017
Pagan Parenting: Building Devotional Relationship
This week, I am going to share with you something that I have started doing with my boys. Up until this point, we have been very casual about devotional activities for the kids. They understand that the altar is a special space. They have learned that if they have something they want to give to the gods, they can set it there. They have also learned that if they have something they want to share with the gods, they can set it there. (Many matchbox cars and a few dinosaurs have been shared. A train or two as well, their favorite toys that they love are what they set up there to share. It is really sweet.)
The kids are curious and want to connect with pretty much any and everyone. This includes the gods and our ancestors. I was flailing around at a complete loss for what to do. Then I realized that I keep a prayer journal and they could perhaps keep one too. Where I post in my prayer journal on a daily basis, we are working with them to do so on a weekly basis (if we get organized enough for that). In the picture above is the working template that we're trying out.
I got the idea from looking at the pinterest pages of Christian folks who are homeschooling their children. As I saw the pages and worksheets that they had put together, I thought this was a great way to help them build their sense of connection with the gods. As such, I took the simplest elements of what I saw on these pages and put them together on to one.
The first element is addressing the deity they have chosen to write to and expressing gratitude for the good in their lives. It is such a simple thing and it helps a person to see just where things are going right for them. It works really well to help get a prayer session off on a good foot. Where the Christian folks have their prayer journals set up to address a single god, I left the line for the deity being addressed open. We're a polytheist household, so not the same god is going to be addressed every time.
The second element is asking the deity to help three people. I want to teach the kids that talking to the gods is not about asking for stuff. I want to help them understand that the value lies in other things, like establishing a sense of kindness and good will. As a result, I encourage them to think of three people that they would like to see helped out. This fosters in the kids a greater sense of empathy for others. It also helps them to look at the gods more as people they have a relationship with rather than ephemeral machines that dispense things if you put in enough tokens.
The final element is their own requests. I focused on the 'help' angle right now because the kids are very material oriented right now. It is positively maddening to have them asking me for new toys every time I turn around or they see an advertisement. As such, I am encouraging them to ask for help with things, to tell them something that they are proud of, and to share with the gods something that they thing is important. The distinction between things and goals is one that I think is going to serve them well down the road.
I feel that part of the objective here is to teach the boys that the process is often more important than the stuff that comes as a result. I am also working to teach them how to approach the gods as unique individuals. Right now, they have a great love for Sunna and Máni. They greet them every time they see the Sun and Moon. They tell them about their dreams and hold up toys for them to see.
Sometimes, the boys tell me about how they want to visit the gods. They talk about how they want to pet Sunna's horses and race Loki across the sky. They adore the idea that the gods take care of the world and everything there is. There is a little conflation of Sunna and Máni with the Sun and Moon, but they're slowly learning the distinction. They also are regularly excited by the idea that maybe they'll meet the gods wandering around in the world in disguise. Sometimes, they announce they are going to find the gods and bring them places that are special to them, like the park or the grocery store (which is special because that is where we get donuts, which are one of the best foods in the world according to my boys).
Giving them this platform to interact with the gods, I hope, will help them to feel more connected to them and foster a sense of love between them and the gods. The boys are so quick to love everyone to begin with, I think it will be wonderful if they learned to pick up on the care that the gods show them. And this is the first step in that process, I think.