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23 March, 2012

F is for Family

I sometimes get the impression that a lot of pagans are kind of allergic to thinking of religion as something that happens in families.

Yes, I get it: there's a substantial number of pagans who are dealing with the aftermath of having been indoctrinated into some form of religion that didn't work for them, which might even have been cruel to them, and who have resolved that they will never participate in that sort of thing.

But religious ritual isn't just about the cosmic. It isn't just about the turning of the seasons and making sure the sun comes up.

Religious ritual marks births, deaths, comings of age, marriages - not all of them in all religions (no marriage in mine, for example), but most of those big life event things, the things that form, transform, and change families tend to show up again and again in religious ritual. I can't see how to take family out of religion without taking the people out.

Oh, sure, you can do DIY family. Coven-oriented oathbound witchcraft is, as I understand it, supposed to be that: the family of the religion is the circle of initiates. But not everyone is into that sort of thing.

But still the books come out, with titles that end "... for the solitary practitioner". "... for one." The unspoken things in the books are so often either geared towards a young adult with no voluntary fixed ties or people even younger, still at home with presumably-disapproving parents. The assumptions are adult, independent, almost isolated.

My household is mixed-religion. It's important to me to support the religious Stuff of each of my family members. Which is why I spent some time a few months ago making a children's menorah so that Little Foot could learn about her other mom's Judaism in a participatory manner. She would light the candles for the adult menorah, and then we would go light little LED candles in the cups of the other one, and let them 'burn' until morning, a small child's miracle. And Little Foot loved the Hannukah rituals just as much as she loves helping tend my (Celtic pagan) liege's cattle shrine.

My ritual notebook has notes on formal grace prayers for the dinner table. It has morning prayers, evening prayers, bath prayers. Things that I could, when she is a little older, teach my child, because children thrive on rituals. When I look for how to celebrate my holidays, I don't just dig for the esoteric and "spiritual", the meditations, the ecstasy - I look for the things that a child can love, a child whose response to a candle is "Make fire!"

"Make fire!" is the core of so much of religious ritual, cross-traditionally. "Make fire!" is the foundation of the hearthside, the meal cooking, the resting in the long winter. "Make fire!" a child understands.

Which means a child can understand religion.

Make fire.

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