Can Pagan Families Sustain A Faith?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 10, 2006 — 3 Comments

An interesting tidbit filtered through the routine interviews during a local Yule festival covered by the Nashua Telegraph. It concerned second-generation Pagan Elizabeth Becker on growing up Pagan, and why she left modern Paganism for a time.

“Elizabeth Becker of Bristol has practiced paganism for her entire life, as her parents did, except for a period of 14 years in which she described herself as being in a “rebellious” stage. She said she stopped practicing because she and her parents worshiped in solitude, as there were no pagan groups for them to adhere to, and she missed the community aspect of organized churches. Becker grew up in Lawrence, Mass., and said it was not acceptable at the time to practice openly. “I think if my parents had come out as pagans at that time, it would have been a major issue for them,” she said.”

This comment brings up a host of issues facing the modern Pagan communities. Do we have enough support and faith-based community to offer a full spiritual life to our children (outside of San Francisco, Salem, or Paganistan), and how committed are we to the raising of the next generation(s)? While some modern Pagan faiths are initiatory and adult-only, it still leaves the question of what children of modern Pagans should be exposed to, and how to deal with the fact that their parents are “different” from their predominantly Christian peers. While there is a growing consensus that our children should be proudly reared in our faith traditions, some still feel that keeping silent is the best tactic.

“In addition to a basic knowledge of what Christianity is, a child in this day and age, as sad as it is, should also be told not to speak about their beliefs, unless it is with family members. We live in the Bible Belt, and there may be other pockets of the country that are more progressive, but this isn’t one of them. Publicly declaring oneself to be a pagan is enough to have the neighbors ostracize you, to have them refuse to let their kids play with yours, and in some cases to even call the authorities to report the “devil worship.” I personally have never told my children about the concept of the devil, so our risk, I feel, is not that great. But children who hear people talking about the devil should be warned that he does not really exist. Anyone connecting your child to talk of the devil, and knowing that you are practicing pagans, could make trouble for your entire family.”

But as we see above, such tactics can backfire and lead the child to “rebel” and explore other faiths (or no faith at all). While some see modern Paganism and Wicca in particular as “religions of converts”, conversion alone can’t sustain a new faith forever. Eventually, new faiths must root within generations of families or slowly fade away. This isn’t to say I advocate a Pagan “Quiverfull” movement, just that educating our kids about our faiths and working to build real community to interact with (even in the “Bible Belt”) is important if we are going to continue for generations to come.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Stephanie

    Always nice to see a local mention!I feel very fortunate here in NH to be able to practice more openly if I so choose. Over the last 20 years I have seen the state’s Pagan population flourish. While we are not in the bible belt we have a strong influx of transplants bringing that mentality with them. It shall be interesting how everything evolves by the time my 7 yr old is grown and on her own path.

  • Noddy

    I raised my children Pagan in what some would call the buckle of the Bible Belt – Oklahoma (I think Texas, and maybe Kansas are closer, but we’re between them, so, maybe). They went to public schools, had friends from all walks of life, and we never suffered any harrasment that wasn’t quickly quashed by teachers or other adults in hearing range. They’ve all explored other religions, and decided upon their own versions as adults – and they’ve all decided to remain Pagan in one form or another. It makes family gatherings interesting – and often brings us closer together sharing the bonds of belief.None of my children have faced any sort of harrasment in college or their jobs, either.I know some people are fearful of raising their minority religion child in a majority religion culture, but it’s not only possible, I think it benefits the children in ways new parents can’t even begin to imagine.

  • Angela

    I was raised in the Spiritualist church by two Spiritualist ministers. As a young teen, I went searching for my own spirituality, but I think the impetus was partially that there were no other people my own age in our church. I understand being raised in a “fringe” religion in a small conservative town. Yes, you do have to take precautions, but I learned from my parents that lying about or hiding your faith, especially from your own children, means you feel that you have something to hide, and is always more suspicious than being a minority religion. Going to Christian churches for about 3 years gave me the social aspects I wanted, but also left me cold theologically. I realized that to “become saved” meant that I had to reject some of the teachings of my parents that I cherished. That I wouldn’t do. I don’t know that I would have made the decision to keep searching and not sign on as Christian if I had not had the context of the religious values of my family religion.