Links and resources mentioned:
This post includes links to the details on how we [Jon's family] celebrate each Sabbat: https://naturalisticpaganism.org/2014/12/14/starstuff-contemplating-by-heather-and-jon-cleland-host-celebrating-meaning-in-our-lives-through-family-holidays/
Grandma's cheat sheet summary of holidays to give relatives, (just click on the top image and print it for your own copies). https://naturalisticpaganism.org/2018/07/11/grandmas-cheat-sheet-by-starstuff-contemplating/
The First Cosmala rite of passage is described in the book "Faithful Practices" by Wikstrom, on pages 65-90. I'll attach a screen shot of that section. The overall page to guide making your Cosmala is : http://solstice-and-equinox.com/universebeads.html
The Ancestor Cards for Samhain dinner grace can be downloaded and printed from: http://naturalpagan.org/kidspirit/ancestorcards.pdf
Mark: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-based Paganism. I'm your host Mark.
Yucca: And I'm Yucca.
Mark: And today we are having a really exciting episode. We're interviewing two folks who are naturalistic pagans, who are parents, and we're going to talk about parenting. In, you know, and, and developing practices for families that and raising kids within a written naturalistic pagan tradition.
So I'd like to welcome first of all, Lilith, who is a parent and serves on the atheopagan society council and is an ecologist. So she really checks all the boxes for the kind of folks that that you know, we think are doing great work in the world. Welcome Lilith.
Lilith: Thank you for having me.
Mark: And then also we'd like to welcome Dr. Jon Cleland Host.
Yucca: Welcome back in fact.
Mark: back. Yes. Because you were interviewed on here before you have so many accomplishments, to your name. I don't really know where to start, but you're a scientist and I'm a materials analyst. And also have had a lot to do with the growth of naturalistic paganism from very early days.
So welcome to you as well.
Jon: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.
Yucca: So why don't we just do a quick around and all of us who are parents here, just maybe mention a little bit about you know, just briefly the, the families that we have and, and when, and how we got into paganism. So, Lilith do you want to start with that?
Lilith: Sure. All right. So I, my oldest is 22. I and it's, I have a 22 year-old son, and then I have a 21 year old son. I have an 18 year old daughter. I have a 13 year old son, a five-year-old daughter, and a two and a half year old son.
Lilith: Thank you very much.
Yucca: Wonderful. So you've got the full range of experiences there.
Lilith: I have quite a spread. Yes.
Yucca: yeah. And before we hit the record button, you were mentioning that with some of them you were pegging already. And then with the older ones, that was a transition when they were already older kids.
Lilith: Yes. So I, I definitely did not identify as pagan. Like if somebody had asked me what religion I was, I would have said atheist until my son who is now 13 was quite little. Like he probably doesn't remember when my answer wasn't pagan, if somebody asked me. So it's been, since I started using.
Label for myself. It's probably only been about a dozen years. So at that point, you know, my head children who were eight years old, seven years old already. So, yes, it, it didn't, it, it definitely doesn't predate my children, me, all of them anyway, me considering myself pagan, but I definitely think I was, I just didn't use that label.
So it's a little bit strange. Because I, we used to celebrate the solstice and the Equinox and I just didn't have a label for it. But you might get a different answer if you were to ask them actually this MI
Mark: That might be a great episode to do some
Mark: to bring in, you know, second generation folks and see what their experiences are.
Lilith: Yeah, I know my oldest would definitely be an interesting one too, to question. Cause he's a, he's a philosopher.
Mark: Ah, cool. Interesting. So, Jon, why don't you tell us a little bit about your family?
Jon: Okay. So, let's see, thinking about thinking about when things happened. I was raised Catholic. I had a fine childhood. I was not unhappy at all being raised Catholic and, and all that was an enthusiastic ultra boy and all that. I it was in about boat when I was maybe 19. I started to find a few things that I thought.
Real. And so I thought, okay, fine. Everything's still Catholic is just this one little thing that's not real. And then it was two and then it was three. And you know how that goes pretty soon as like, ah, okay, this isn't working at all. So, so I went to be just a regular, you know, regular atheist and and I found that to be a little bit empty.
So I started just watching the, the sunrise on the winter solstice thinking that this is something that humans have been doing for at least tens of thousands of years, maybe hundreds on all kinds of continents. And and about that time I met my current wife, Heather and she was, she was doing similar.
She was kind of in a similar place and together we kind of started to. Add things. We, we found that to be very fulfilling and with the winter solstice sunrise. And so we thought, well, we should pay attention to the summer solstice. And so we noticed that, and my, my birthday is near an Equinox anyway.
So we're already celebrating that and she knew about the wheel of the year, but I really didn't then after a little while we kind of had put together most of the wheel of the year because the cross quarters are holidays in America anyway, most of them. And and so, so I, I think that she clued me in on the fact that, Hey, you know, we're celebrating the pagan wheel of the year.
I'm like, whoa, look at that. So, so that was. That was after our first child was born, but really when he was very young, like two and we were kind of almost already there by the, you know, by the time he was born. So really all my kids grew up in a pig and family. I can't really count too much before about age four, you know how that is.
So, so, and that's even my oldest. So, so my kids, I've got four kids all boys and the oldest one is a junior at Michigan state right now. So he's he's 20 and the next oldest is a senior in high school, so he's 17 and then I've got a eighth grader and and one child in second grade.
So, so that's the spread there? Not quite as wide, but wide enough to keep me busy. Yeah.
Mark: Why don't we talk a little bit about about practices? One of the things that's really great about did you want to say first Yucca?
Yucca: should jump in. Mine are,
Mark: So, used.
Mark: you see being one of the hosts.
Yucca: but yeah. Well, folks have been listening for a long time, have probably caught bits and pieces, but I have a five-year-old and a just turned three year old. And I was actually raised as a pagan, so it was just kind of, it was, that's just how we are.
And my partner is as well, so. We didn't really have a decision to say, oh, we're going to raise our kids this way. It was just, this is the way our life is. And I've been having a great time at it. Not very much sleep, but a great time at it since. Yeah.
Mark: Well, great. So yeah, I would like to talk a little bit about practices. Are there, are there things that you do with your family, like at particular stations of the wheel of the year or daily, or I don't know, something special on their birthdays or any, any particular individual traditions that you've created for your families?
Lil, if you wanna, you wanna tackle that first.
Lilith: Sure. Well, I think my. Started kind of innocently and that so I've always had just kind of a mixed feelings about cut flowers, for example. So when my kids were little, you know, most people were getting bouquets for mother's day or or Valentine's day anniversaries and things like that. My family always knew I preferred things that were living.
So it started with get a plant and then it was get mama tree. And and so every year we would go and kind of visit what we had planted the year before. Oh. And the year before that, the year before that I didn't bomb for a really long time. And then, you know, implant the next thing. And that was probably the first time I realized we had like an eight typical tradition going and it just kind of morphed from there.
So, but that, that was the one that sort of started, or it came about really organically as the kids were recognizing, like they wanted to do something for me that I would really appreciate and they re they knew don't cut something, you know, plant something. And, and so that, that one has proven to be really the ground. what we built everything on. So then it became, now we plant something on emo because well, it actually, it changed because we used to live in Northeastern, Pennsylvania, where winter is like 14 months a year. And now we live in the Gulf coast of Alabama, where summer is like 20 months a year. So, so we really have changed quite a bit.
Like you couldn't, you know, you can't get into the ground at all in Pennsylvania, in February, but down here, I, I that's when you have to, if you don't plant your tomatoes by Valentine's day, it's too late. So, so things really changed a lot. So, so then, you know, rather than planting things and over mother's day, we were planting them in February and for you know, the various mid mid-year times.
And that is how everything. Began and everything we have is tradition in our family. Just sort of stems off of that. It's all things on our land that we do every holiday, but that's how it all began.
Mark: Nice, but that's wonderful. That sounds great. Yoko, would you like to talk about some of your family traditions?
Yucca: Yeah, well, we definitely really enjoy the wheel of the year. The oldest is getting to the point where she can remember and be excited that it's coming up. The youngest is still to sort of like what's happening next. Oh, yay. But you know, we, we also live in a rural context and it's all it's know, what is happening in our local environment is really noticeable.
And especially for the kids, because we make a point of being outside as much as possible when we did live in a city that was harder. Right. But where we are now, it's just like, Nope. Out, get out the door. Yes. I know it's 32 degrees outside. That's why you have a hat, helped the door and playing and hanging out.
So we do, we follow the, we live the year and we've talked about that a lot on the podcast. But with the kids at the age, that mine are the really key thing that we do. And this is incredibly important for me, it as a, as an adult too, but as our star time and our son time, and it's a moment of eat twice a day, you know, getting out and just being present for a moment, practicing a little bit of mindfulness and just awareness.
And you know, my kids are pretty typer, typical little people, but for those moments, because we practice it time and time again, you know, they can calm down and just be, be there, hang out with the stars or hang out with the, with the rising sun. So that's what I think at the core for us right now is just that daily experience.
Mark: Sure. Well, and, and even just doing that plants, the seed of the idea of a daily practice, right. You know, even, even, you know, at those very, very simple levels, that's really important. I think that's, that's wonderful.
Yucca: And that's something that I think that a lot of families do anyways. And just may not be super aware that they have that, that routine, you know, the book before bed or the, you know, everybody gets up in the morning and eats breakfast and brushes their teeth. Like we have these things built into our days anyways.
Everybody does, most people do. Right. But then you can just add in some intentional bits in there.
Mark: Right. Right. Jon, how about your family? What are some examples of you do?
Jon: Right. I let's see where to start. Just as Yucca was saying, the, the wheel of the year is, is certainly. But a nice framework to, to try to get these in order with one thing that I should mention is the rites of passage are so important in human lives and you know, there's, we had a a very nice ceremony for each of the kids for their naming like, like a baptism except without the water and supernatural.
So, so that's very important. The kids, of course, aren't really aware of that. The oldest ones are barely aware of it for the youngest kid. So there's that and the one might think, okay, well then you've got marriage and none of the kids are to that age yet. But in between that, we have had an additional Rite of passage that has worked really well.
And that has been the first cosmology where when the kid is old enough, when the child is old enough to understand our history, even, even in very broad brush brush strokes. And they see my cosmology over here on the wall and they see me talk about it and use it. And when it gets to the point where they can understand enough of it to make their own.
Then that's a big event and they'll make one. We usually make the first one with maybe about 20 events. Just as a side note, a cosmologist string of beads that each bead represents an event from the big bang until today. So you've got like one for the big bang and one for the formation of solar system.
And one for, you know, maybe the first life on land or the first dinosaurs or something like that. My own cost model has a couple of hundred beads on it, event beads. The kids will start one with just 20 or so, but but that's a big thing and we have a whole party. We usually couple it with our fall Equinox party where, you know, a lot of people are coming over and the big event, in addition to them getting cards and gifts and things like that, where their first cost model is that the.
You know, go in front of everyone and say, okay, this first beat is for the big bang. Okay. This first, this second beat is for whatever and they go through the whole thing and and, and it's been great. It's been a wonderful thing and a really nice addition as a Rite of passage to, to have something in there where the kid can learn, because the kid isn't gonna learn much from a baptism of course, or, or a naming.
And they're not going to learn much about the, you know, the marriage is after they're not a kid anymore. So that's been great. The wheel of the year, we have traditions for each of the holidays on the wheels a year. I, I could go through them. They are all kind of a mixture of our own invention and traditional things.
And of course, the reason for that is as parents, it's difficult to do everything completely new and different from. It's easier to do, right? You can't, you have to kind of balance between it doing things enough with society. So the kids don't feel left out. Don't it's not a huge burden to, to try to do things on a completely different schedule.
You have to kind of balance that with still making all the holidays real and fun and teach real things and teach important things and still have a good time. So, so that's an important balance. And like I mentioned before, we're lucky that almost all of our big holidays are very close to our pig and holidays for historical reasons.
So if I was going to look at it, I can do just a basic, real quick. For the winter solstice or you'll we have a an advent you can think of it as, as an advent thing. It's got little doors and we open the door every day. The kids are mad because they're missing today's door. And it's got little prizes and stuff.
I put it in there, stuff about the star, sometimes a little note or something like that because the winter solstice is all about stars, about our star, about our stellar origin, things like that. And then after that, hold on a second, let me deal with.
Lilith: since he stepped away for a second, I I'll hijack just briefly what he said about tying in kind of tying to tie in holidays with kind of mainstream stuff. That's going. And one of the things that we've done that he reminded me when I was listening to him is that we take a moment during each holiday to kind of compare how other cultures throughout the world has, have expressed their joy or sorrow or whatever the holiday, you know, may be for and, and kind of looked for similarities.
And then hypothesized, why might we all be feeling the same way about the same time of year what's going on in the time of year, that makes us feel this way. And, and what he was saying about doing his comparisons with you know, pagan versus mainstream holidays, it just kind of made me. Then I think a lot of us do that.
We make those observations between ourselves and others, and it's just kind of a neat way to see globally how everybody in through time, you know, as his cousin Lala would show in the later parts of it you know how we've, we've really we're so, so, so similar. And it's very unifying for children.
Jon: right. I'm back.
Mark: We'll have you continue in just a second, but I want to point out that one of the things that all three of you have brought up repeatedly is the concept of pedagogy, the concept of teaching and learning as an element and an aspect of how you celebrate these holidays with your kids.
Because of course, kids are sponges for knowledge, that's, that's their thing. That's how they're coming to acclimate to being an operating adult in the world. And I, I just think it's great that there's a very conscientious intention there to provide learning experiences through these, the lens of these holidays. Jon, you want to tell us about your next.
Jon: Sure. So then on winter solstice, we go and watch the sunrise. They're doing that with Heather for a long time. And that's been wonderful. We'd go to some different place for a week. Can have a good view to the to the Southeast there. And then we come back and we have gifts that we open that have been, you know, underneath our winter solstice tree and stuff like that.
We have lights decorating the house and all that kind of stuff. I especially liked the different colored lights, because remember this holiday is all about stars. Both are our star dust origins, and the star that's coming back and the stars are different colors. People think they're all white, but they're not, they're all different colors, Bates based on her current Russel diagram.
And that's another concept that can be taught and reflected on because it makes it a lot more interesting than a bunch of boring little white spots. Cause they're not little and they're not white. So. So that's so that's great. We we then for in bulk we will put candles, sink them down in the snow for the wheel of the year, let them burn down.
And that tells us, we make, we use that as a kind of divination to say how fast we're going to get spring. And that's a really interesting time to discuss how we can have a fun time talking about how long it's going to be until spring knowing that these candles don't actually predict anything, but it's still fun and it's still useful.
So, so we do that. We make snow cream with snow. We then for Ostara, we'll do all the bunnies and eggs and baskets. And talk about new life returning and about the real fact that it's really nice to be able to see the summer, you know, approaching and the land waking up here in Michigan, when it's been, you know, buried under cold, snow and dark for so long belting, we will make some flower baskets and we'll plant our garden, make sure our garden is in good shape.
For the summer solstice, we try to do stuff outside. We'll do kayaking or swimming or, or something like that. That we don't have a lot of traditions around the holiday. We just want to make sure we're having a good time outside. For Lu NASSA, we will bake bread. We will have some kind of harvest usually going to pick blueberries that a local blueberry patch or something like that.
And by the way, for all of these it's. Special sacred day. You don't have to do any work. They don't have to do their chores. I actually let them drink pop here in Michigan as popped by the way, not soda. And and and so they know that this is important because just like mark you've mentioned before these holidays, they teach what we think is real and what we think is important.
That's what a spirituality is. It's understanding what you think is real and what you think from that is important. And so I make sure that that comes across in everyone because that's, cause they're gonna learn. They're gonna learn either way, no matter what. And the only thing you can decide is what you're going to teach them what they are going to learn as opposed to, you know, consumerism or supernatural things or, or they just believe whatever's written somewhere or something like that.
Yeah. So then for the fall Equinox, we have more of a harvest theme. We have people over and celebrate our community. And SALWAN is one of the it's between it and winter solstice. Those are the two big, big, big holidays. And part of that is cultural inertia, of course, for the winter solstice.
But really for me, ancestor, my ancestors are such an important part of my spirituality. And of course, as the recognition reg recognition there, that all of us have some good ancestors and some really bad ancestors and a whole bunch of ones in between. But for that, we go through the ancestor cards.
I have these ancestor cards we put up that take us all the way from the big bang until today. And we celebrate all of our ancestors before dinner. Every day we talk about our ancestors, we do ancestor grace for someone can name an ancestry, they're human or otherwise. And what they're thankful for from that answer.
Maybe we'll get to some fun stories. There's some neat stories around all of these, but one of the ones that's been really interesting is and fun is a little while ago, we were talking about ancestors and I have a lot of German ancestry and one of my German ancestors last name was a Gandalf on a German it'd be more gone build.
Right. And so I often tell the kids about that and we talk about, you know, who that person was and all that stuff. Her name is Clara. And and so we're doing that one time doing the ancestor grace one time. And one of the younger kids says I'm thankful today for my ancestor Gandalf, because I know that if I ever have to face a Balrog, I'll know what to do. So fun, stuff like that. And of course we do the trick or treating too. And I emphasize with the kids that Solomon is. The real important and sacred recognition of our ancestors and celebration of our ancestors. And it's also all the fun stuff of Halloween, of trick-or-treating and candy and ghosts and, and stuff like that.
And they're quite, they're quite good if you asked them, you know, you know, what's, what is Halloween? Oh, it's this fun stuff we do. And it's stuff we do around sound. And so in is the, the sacred part, the meaningful part and the fun part and Halloween is just the fun part with a lot of candy. So, so anyway, that's the whole wheel of the year that, that we celebrate and all prey listener, all of those, there's longer descriptions with additional things on on the webpage, on the blog.
I have a central link. That's under our powerful Sabbats is the name of the thing. And on there is links to all that.
Yucca: And we'll put that in the show notes
Mark: thank you
Lilith: I have to, I have to interject here really quick. Well, while he was speaking, just now I got. Texts from my daughters. She just hit a deer with her car and she's panicking. She's okay. But she's panicking. So I'm actually gonna hop off for a minute. She's in North Carolina and I'm an Alabama, so there's not much she needs except for her mama for a minute to just talk to her on the phone.
And and then I will hop back on if it's possible.
Lilith: So I just wanted to make my excuses really quick and then I will get back on if I can as soon as she's calm.
Jon: Good luck with that best
Mark: Yeah. Thank you. Lilith
Jon: we one of the things that we do, one of the holidays that we have. In addition to the wheel, the years to go and see the Perseids in August, because that's a wonderful new year shower and it's not freezing cold. Like the Geminids are, you know, in, in about a week.
Yucca: We've been spotting them already, actually.
Jon: oh yeah.
Yucca: So that's, we've had the nice, clear skies freezing, absolutely freezing, but they're, and they're definitely the geminids right. I can see, you know, where they're coming from in the sky.
Jon: they're coming from. Right. See where the radiant is. Yeah. Nice. Yeah. One time. Oh jeez this is more than a decade ago. It was, it was the night of the Geminids. We didn't have a moon and I knew it was going to be really tough to get a bunch of young kids to go and sit still in the cold..
And so, so I said, all right, you guys, listen, you know, their kids are like, like six and four and, and two, and I'm thinking I don't know if this, I still look at we're in the middle of a town,. It's not horribly dark, but it's decently dark. It's not a big town. And I said, look, why don't we just go lay on the deck on the back deck?
And maybe we'll see a couple, but at least we'll have gone out and tried. And they're like, nah. And they're like, all right, that'll be good. You know, it'll be good. And he'd get bundled up and we go out there and I'm thinking, I'm thinking this is going to last about six minutes maybe before they're too cold.
And that's about how it went. But we were laying out there and all of a sudden this giant meteorite across, it lasted several seconds to cast shadows and wherever it was like, whoa. So yeah, sometimes you're lucky. You never know,
Yucca: Yeah. Oh, that's wonderful.
Jon: but speaking, but the reason I thought of the Perseids was this past summer, we drove up to Lake Huron to see the Perseids.
It's not that far from here and on the way there in the Thumb area of Michigan, it's a bunch of. Farm open farm areas and know cities and stuff like that. And, and we hit a deer hard and it was, it was a mess that we had to deal with the car is the car drivable? It's the middle of the night because we thought, you know, it's dark meat, yours.
You want it to be dark. You want to go up there at like, you know, three in the morning or something. So it was like two 30, again, this is out in the middle of nowhere. Yeah, it can be, it can be bumpy. It can be bumpy to hit a car. I had to take care of things with the deer. It was only Jon knew is an inch Navi for a DOE.
And I wanted to offer some same some tobacco to thank it for its life. And I didn't have any, because we were in the other car. I have it in my car just in case something like this happened. And so we flagged someone down and I asked them if they had two things. I said, I was, I said, do you have that I could borrow a hunting knife and a cigarette and the guy and the guy said, yeah, we got a hunting knife right here.
And I've got a, I've got a real good vape kit you can hit the here to calm you down. And I said, I said, okay, that won't work, but the knife will help. So thank you. So that was, that was just a few months ago. So,
Mark: Well, well, Well, the, another thing that we were going to talk about in terms of parenting as a pagan and specifically as a naturalistic pagan one, that's, you know, rooted in the science and in the empirically verifiable world pagans have, in some cases, very disparate values that the mainstream culture the, you know,
the, the predominant kind of Christian values that are very shame-based and all that kind of stuff really are not the way the pagan community approaches things.
How do you, how do you go about teaching or modeling Val, you know, your, your values with your kids? Know you wanna go first?
Yucca: Well, I think you said the keyword in there is the modeling,
Because people pay more attention, whatever age. Right. And remember, we talk about kids. Sometimes we talk about kids as if they're not humans, but they are right. They are, you know, there's still some brain development differences in size differences and things like that, but no people learn.
They are people and people learn by what we do much more than what we say. And so trying to model that, and then again, miner are very young. But when appropriate talking about. But we try really hard not to be preachy about
it. Right. And actually my I'm despite doing a podcast, I'm not much of a talker.
So it's usually my, my partner, who's much more of a charismatic words person is very good about, you know, sitting down and having a conversation about what happened and why we think or made the choices that we did. But we choose to really be very open and not do any of the, because we said so, but let's talk about this, let's explain it.
And Hey, sometimes there are topics that, you know, we don't want to go too into detail with as young as the kids are, when it, you know, got to talk about things like sexism and you know, the violence in the world and things like that. But we try and go as far as we think they are able to handle at that time and never, ever lie about any of that.
All right. We never do any of the let's make up a, a white lie or pretty lie to cover things up.
Mark: Great. How about you, Jon?
Jon: Yeah, I, I, I agree. Yucca has covered a lot of the main points that I wanted to hit and say really a lot of it comes down to them noticing and paying attention much more to what you do than just what you say. And so, and so modeling is a very important part of that. As far as trying to think one of the, one of the, the honesty is a very important one as y'all can man.
We didn't do, we do, we'd let the kids figure out the gifts for winter solstice and told them that if they ask questions, we will answer honestly and see if you can figure it out. And after they get to about, you know, five or six, they figure it out and we tell them, congratulations, you figured it out.
That's excellent. You, you can't tell your brothers they have to figure it out on their own. So, so that's true. The the values, I think that, I think that a lot of it comes down to showing a respect for life, discussing why we have a respect for life, why these things are important, why we're doing things to make a better world.
And and why that's, you know, that's important for everyone and that we are benefiting from people who have helped make this world better. And we are continuing to pay that forward to future generations.
Yeah. A lot of times I've, you know, I've realized that you can tell an awful lot about a person's priorities from two things from their calendar and from your checkbook. And I try to make sure that that mine are in line and I point that out to the kids when it comes up for, when we talk about why we're doing something.
Mark: Yeah. that makes a lot of sense. While I I'm thinking that there's a, there's another sort of related topic about, you know, interaction with other families because you know, a pagan family. Just have a really different operating culture than say a Christian family where, you know, like an evangelical Christian family, where the father is the patriarch and the mother is the help meat and the children are property. Right.
Mark: so do you have experience with interactions like that or conflicts that may have arisen or techniques or approaches for avoiding those kinds of conflicts?
Yucca: That's rough. I mean, there's, there's several layers to that within our own family. We tend to, to be very picky about how we spend our time, like Jon was saying with the calendar. And when people in our lives are really toxic to be around, we choose not to be around those people. Right. And they're you know, there are some people who are, you know, close family members that sometimes we will make exceptions for.
We actually talked about that last week. Right. Oh where my family is developmentally. We're so young as a family. And COVID has been such a huge chunk of that. Right? My, my youngest wasn't even walking when COVID started. Right. You know, let alone talking. So we just don't have the people who have been in our lives have been very, very select because of our value about just spending time with the people who are nourishing, but also not being around a lot of people because of the social distancing.
So I don't know if that's something that maybe Jon you'd be able to speak to more with a wider range of, of ages.
Jon: Yeah, a little bit. I, I think that it comes down to the basic fact that I wish I had a good way to make things perfect. The nice in that kind of situation. And I don't I ha I can I just like, just like you had mentioned, you know, there's things we can do to, to help make things as good as possible.
And one of them that I've found is to be clear, right, from the start to say, look, this, this is what we celebrate and why I, you know, I, I, I don't think that these things are real and, and if that's going to be pushed, then you know, we're not going to just let that be pushed on our kids and not say something about it or change something or enforce boundaries.
At the same time, I've found that being clear and honest and nice, and kind about that situation from the start really. Keep things from getting bad. Usually I'm a good example. My parents, my parents are devout Catholics and, and early on, I explained to them that we weren't. And and after some time, you know, I would say, look, this is how we're doing things and raising the kids.
And if you want to give us gifts, that's fine. But these are, these are the holidays. And we'd appreciate it. If you didn't give them a Jesus filled Christmas card on the 25th. And so, and so actually with only a little bit of bumpiness at the start, very little, my parents were like, oh, well, you know, the kids are more important and we want things to be good.
And so they have done a great job of really helping us celebrate our holidays and. And not pushing that hard at all. The, at one time I got a phone call from my mom in you know, the first week of April or so. And she said I think isn't something coming up. I think it's Esther when's Esther.
And I said, no. Okay. All right. And I realized, this was my fault. This was completely my fault. I sure I've mentioned it and things like that. But so what I did was I made up a nice little nice little one page thing that described who will the year describe each holiday and the basic themes and and gave that to her and let her have it tacked up at the house and all that kind of stuff.
And that has really helped. I've called it. Grandma's cheat sheet. I'll send the link for that too, in case anybody wants it, it's really, really useful because I think that, I think that one of the most important things to make. Discussions go easier. The whole interaction go easier if that's possible.
Sometimes it is sometimes it's not. And if it's possible to make it go easier, clear communication, honest, open communication from the start really, really helps. It's been nice to see that very often things can go well and they have in a lot of situations. A lot of people I care about even very fundamentalist Christians that I'm good friends with from college.
Week we quickly see that things are very different and we're like, okay, this is how we can interact and do fun things together and, you know, and maintain our boundaries. And don't feel that either one is hurting things with the family and a place that wouldn't feel good. So, yeah.
Mark: Yeah. that's really interesting. It, it occurs to me as you say that, that sort of the Trump card for dealing with parents, his grandchildren, because they're gonna want access to grandchildren under pretty much any circumstances. So you can set some conditions and, you know, they'll most grandparents I think will go along with it.
Jon: And a lot of times that kind of conflict can start even sooner than that. You're certainly right. That's, that's the, that's the big thing. But I don't know how many times I've seen people have a wedding that was a very Christian wedding because their parents said you have to have a very Christian wedding and neither the person believed that didn't want anything to do with it.
And they kind of went through it and I'm like, no, you guys, this is your wedding. You can do it the way you want.
Yucca: Hm. So another topic that we had discussed or mentioned that we wanted to discuss was involving kids in specific practices. Like, and this is one that I see a lot of parents ask about, especially when they're just coming into paganism is how do I get my kid involved with. With ritual, right? How do I do this in a way that isn't going to make them be like, Ooh, mom, dad, or feel forced, or, you know, so is there Jon, is there any advice or any, you know, little gems of wisdom that you've come across?
Jon: I can think of a few things. First of all, I want to echo what Lilith mentioned is it makes a huge difference. What age the kid is when you. But all needs start as young as possible with the kid. If the kid can walk, they can carry something in a ritual. Another one is to make these rituals kid friendly.
You don't have, don't be standing around in a circle for 45 minutes while someone reads you know, some big, long thing. The kids aren't going to like that make them very kid-friendly because, because really that's, what's important. I, I talking with, you know, there's all kinds of different people.
There's all kinds of different pagans. And I, I have to remind myself sometimes that I, I mean with me, I try to make every decision based on. The guide of trying to think, okay, what can I do here? That will be the best for future generations, regardless of my own convenience, regardless of what's easiest right now, regardless of all those kinds of factors.
And when you look at things that way, a lot of things change. And one of the things that changes is that kids become extremely important. They are the next generations. They're the ones that are going to pass things along to other people. And and to have a spirituality that is reality-based and is beneficial and wants to help future generations means that your first concern has to be kids above.
If you did this ritual, right? If you felt personally fulfill there, or if you're having your enough transcendent, mystical experiences or whatever, the kids are a lot more important than if you feel personally inspired and one with the universe all the time. And so when I keep that in mind, I want to make the rituals so that the kids can enjoy them in and get something out of them.
Not so that I feel I've done the ritual perfect. That no one messed up. Right. It's okay to mess up. That's perfectly fine. You're making it fit the kid. So if you start early on you can get the kid involved with the rituals. If they see you're enthused, then they're a lot more likely to be enthused. As, as a little as mentioned, it can be difficult as if they, if you're trying to get them into stuff.
When they're older, it can be difficult to keep them involved with stuff when they get older, for instance a daily practice. I have a daily practice, a daily practice that I go through every morning as the sun come, usually as the sun comes up or a route that the eye is not work that well to pass that along to the kids at their ages, it takes, you know, a certain amount of time and, and discipline and stuff like that.
That's really not there for the kid when they're getting ready for school or something like that. And that's fine. I found in that case that, you know, I really don't want to push it because the last thing you want to do is make them reject things and be bitter and not want to do so. So it's, it's a, it's a tricky balance to, to, to try to see and try to feel when you can say, okay, let's do this.
Okay. Let's do this to the, to the point where, okay, it's not working. Okay, fine. We're we're gonna, you know, do something else that the kid likes or something like that. So again, no, No perfect way I can think of that makes everything work. It's just a lot of effort and balancing and enjoyment. Really. You want to have fun?
That's one of the really neat things about kids is that they give us adults an excuse to be silly and have fun. There's a lot of things that I do with the kids that if I was doing alone, everyone would be like, society would be like, what is, what is he you know, we should check on this guy. It really wouldn't be as much fun anyway.
And so a lot of this, a lot of this stuff falls into that category.
Mark: Yeah. And, and I think, I mean, part of what I've seen also is that. Along with that idea of, you know, not, not having someone drone on for 45 minutes while people standing around, around in a circle with their feet hurting is having a different set of rules for kids, especially young kids when it comes to rituals.
I mean, it isn't fair to expect a toddler to stand still. That's not what they do. They run around and they're loud, even when the ritual calls for people not to be loud. And to me, the solution to that is not to remove them and have some childcare person somewhere. In most cases, I mean maybe in some cases that would be okay, but I think you tolerate it.
I think you, you, you get them accustomed to being in a ritual circle just by letting them run around and, you know, pick up and hand you sticks or whatever it is that they feel like doing.
Jon: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And if you can come up with something that they can do as part of the ritual, then that's great that they it's really good to get them involved. I don't know how many times I've had. You know, carry the water around the circles, sprinkling water and carry the incense around for the direction of air and things like that.
They like the hands-on things. That's what works a lot better with them.
Mark: Sure. Yeah.
It's like, you know, being the, the flower bearer at a wedding, you know, kids love that kind of thing. It's a real job. You're, they're doing a real thing. That's actually helping with the ceremony and it's theirs
Mark: and it requires no skill.
Mark: handfuls of rose pedals. That's all you gotta do.
Jon: One thing that I really like about the wheel of the year when it comes to rituals and ideas and concepts, is that it gives us a structure to do, to hit a certain concept, a certain. Every year, because we can't teach something to the kids. Once it takes repetition over and over and over for them to pick something up.
And, and the you know, the fact that we come around to in bulk again, you know, it gives us a chance to really teach those things.
Mark: sure. Do you have any like ritual products that persist for a year and then get burned or buried or something and then recreated?
Jon: So sometimes we do, we don't have a tradition of anything that we always do that on. But we, but for, but like, like a certain arrangement of cattails or something like that, a cat tail weaving or something like that, that we'd burn at and maybe make make during the summer when the cat tails are up, you can't make that thing.
And in bulk, of course you all, you could, you could go across the ice and get some, we have actually done that. I don't have a set practice that I do every year like that, but that's one of those things that I think is a great idea, could work really well for some families. And I would, I would recommend it.
Jon: I've heard it worked well on a number of cases at least.
Mark: Well, I'm thinking about my tradition. For example, of, I go for a walk in a cemetery on Halloween day, every year, an old Victorian cemetery, beautiful old cemetery out here and there. And I, I break a Sprig of a huge tree or a Cedar tree that then dries on my ultra for a year. And I use it to light the Sao and fire the following year.
Jon: Oh yeah. That sounds really nice.
Mark: So, I mean, it's just, it's a little thing, but it's the kind of thing that kids can help you with, you know, find me you know, find the twig that we're going to break off of this tree, you know, and then thank the tree and you know, this is going to be what lights our fire next year, but it has to sit and dry because we can't light it this year.
It's it's too green.
Jon: Yeah, that sounds great. And it reminds me of another thing that as human beings, we have such a, such an emotional connection to fire and when, and that's why we have it in our rituals. And I think it's a great thing to have in our rituals for, for a number of reasons. And kids are humans and they especially connect with that.
If you can do things like that, they, they really like, you know, even, even just candles and certainly a fire in the middle of the circle or something like.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. A fire is a very energizing event for people. And it's, to me, it's very interesting, you know, it's like, if you, if you light a fire on the beach, you will meet strangers because they will come to the fire. They're just, they're attracted by that, that flame. And they come over. It's it's such an interesting thing. Well, it seems as though Lilith is not going to be able to rejoin us here. I was glad that we got to interview her for as long as we did. Yucca. Are there other topics that we had identified that we haven't covered?
Yucca: Well, we do have the topic of co-parents and it sounds like Jon, you and I, we both are, it sounds like our partners are both, you know, a hundred percent in with us on it. But this is something that may not always be the case for families. Right. And when you, and having split families in all of the different kinds of arrangements can be challenging on just in general, but especially when adding in different, just whole approaches to life.
Mark: Right, right.
Mark: Yeah. I can see that being very, very challenging. I mean, presumably some, if you marry somebody you're at least tolerant enough to not feel that their, their beliefs are an abomination.
Yucca: Yeah. Well, sometimes people change over time though. Right? They, they realize, you know, this is where we were when we met, but I'm not that way anymore. And Hey, we have three kids together. Right. Or whatever it is, or, or they're kind of cool with it, but their parents are real pushy and you know, they don't
Jon: And they're not standing up to them. Right,
Mark: Or their church is, you know, very ideological and, you know, keeps telling them that they should not tolerate difference right.
In their family.
Jon: I don't have a huge amount to add there. I don't have a lot of experience in that area. The best I can say is to, in a case that's not too divergent, I guess, try to find what common ground you have and celebrate that. And then you know, and you can you know, work with the kid on the, on the rest themselves, you know, in discussion with the other parent and, and go from there.
That's the best I can, I can come up with. I'm sure that that can be a very difficult situation in some situations.
Mark: Yeah, I'm sure it can.
Jon: Yeah, I think that I think that one of the areas that we, that you might be able to get a lot of common ground in is there is of science and critical thinking. A lot of times, even if, like, for instance, let's say someone was a. Liberal Catholic, right? When it comes to science, they're usually completely on board with that, even if they have a bunch of other supernatural things.
And I found the wonder of the wonders of our universe and nature outdoors, especially with the younger kids, just to get them out in nature and, and experiencing that is something that really sidesteps a lot of the ideological stuff. And it's still very valuable. So that might be an area where you can get to the critical thinking might be a little bit trickier, but maybe not sometimes, you know, you can say, we want to teach critical thinking and we want people to test ideas and it, depending on how compartmentalize things are that might've actually worked fine.
I bet I found critical thinking to be a major part of what I teach them.
Jon: Things like teaching them to watch and think about everything. Like when we're driving up to a traffic light and I can see the traffic, like in the other direction from the side, you know, and I can see it turn yellow. And and I say, okay, you guys, I'm gonna use magic powers to turn the light from red to green.
Here we go. Magic powers, magic box, magic powers, magic powers. And the kids are like, whoa. And after a little bit where, you know, doing that a few times with kids get a little older, they're like you looked at the other thing and I'm like, yeah, I'm glad you figured that out. And I tell them exactly how it works and I'll, you know, do stuff like that all the time.
So they can learn that people trick you and they will trick you with easy things that you can figure out if you watch.
That's something that, you know, that might not be an ideological difference if you, you know, depending on the season,
I did want to mention one of the thing if I could and that's the tricky balance that we often have with regards to how much we guide them in a naturalist or a pagan path. And on one hand, you know, most of us are pretty progressive and a lot of us have come from households where we were really you know, brainwashed and indoctrinated in ways that encouraged us not to think critically and not to investigate other paths. I think that partly as a result of that, partly as a result of that, sometimes progressive people, pagans, especially seem to perhaps go too far the other way. And say, oh, I'm not going to, you know, try to move them in a certain direction. They can develop their own spirituality and decide for themselves what's true and not true and real and not real. And they can pick any path they want and I want to be mostly hands off.
And I think that there's an important balance there between guiding and teaching, critical thinking and teaching that some beliefs are incorrect, harmful, and are pushed in society. And that if we don't have critical thinking, and if we don't seriously examine the impact of beliefs, then it's easy for people to be taken in and harmed and society.
by you know, certain approaches, these approaches that we're using are I found them in many others have found them to be wonderful, fulfilling, and life-giving, and I don't want to fail to give my child a chance to have that. I think that I think that we can go too far and trying to be hands off. You can go too far and trying to be hands on, of course, but I don't think that's as big a threat to us because of our past.
And a lot of cases, imprinting giving them a foundation is not the same thing as indoctrination. And I think it's okay as a loving parent to give them an option for a solid foundation with real values based on reality, evidence, critical thinking and practices that work in ritual and and, and holidays and things like that.
I think that's, I think that's okay. I think it's okay to say that out loud. I think it's okay to do it. And it's, like I said, it can be a tricky balance. But I've seen too many times when people say parents say, oh, I don't want to force my spirituality on them. And they give them almost nothing. And the kids grows up with a very empty and bare approach to spirituality and says, oh, you know, this fundamentalist group down the road is having a party.
And so, you know, I'm going to go and join them. And pretty soon this is a homophobic racist, you know, anti-abortion protest or type person. I've seen it too many.
Mark: I think that's really well said, Jon. We, I mean, one of the things that is delightful about being a pagan is that our practices are in many cases fun, even when they're solemn there's a pleasure in doing them. It feels meaningful. It feels important. There's a, there's a momentousness to to what our rites feel like.
And I think that that's, you know, that's the sort of thing that is going to keep kids wanting to do those kinds of practices over time, you know, living a life that embraces happiness and pleasure, living a life that is kind and receives kindness. You know, I, I think if you grow up with those experiences, it's going to be very hard to get drawn into some context that is not so much about that.
Jon: Yeah, I think so. And I've had to talk with the kids a number of times you know, different kids at different times when they get really concerned because several of their friends are telling them that they're going to be tortured forever because they're not in such and such church. And, and that is a real threat that they can, you know, be harmed by that kind of an abusive threat system and giving them the defenses against that, to understand that that's not real and they don't have to be afraid of it is good parenting.
Mark: I agree. I agree. I think that's a great note to sign off on actually. Because obviously what we want for the kids in our community is good parenting. More than anything else, I mean, that is just so important. Thank you, Jon. And thanks Yucca for taking an interviewee chair this week.
This has been a great conversation and there's, I know there's so much more to be said about parenting generally. I mean, it's a never ending, never ending conversation for parents. But I hope that our listeners have had a chance to get a bit of a peak inside some naturalist pagan households with kids and how they're conducting their, their rituals and observances and talking about their values.
And welcome your questions. If you have any further questions by all means, email thewonderpodcastQ@gmail.com. That's the wonder podcast Q firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, Jon. And thank you Yucca, and thanks to Lilith who had to leave early. It's been a great conversation. Thank you so much.
Jon: Thank you. And it was an honor to be here.
Yucca: Thanks everyone.