Why there are no children

On occasion I receive inquires from seekers and friends as to why children are not permitted in circle. Poor Corvus, who runs an open group here in Charlotte, receives these questions from would-be attendees routinely, despite detailing Moon Circles‘ policies and the reasoning behind them on multiple websites.

“Can I bring my children?”

“I have a baby and no sitter.”

“We want to raise our children to be Wiccan.”

And any number of variations thereof.

Corvus’ reasoning for not allowing children is straightforward: they’re distracting, often loud, quickly bored, and usually under-monitored by the parent in question. Circle, frankly, can also be scary for small children (when there are masks, dark rooms, chanting or yelling, and the occasional brandishing of weapons). Most parents I’ve met insist that their own child is an exception, but those of us who aren’t blinded by adoration know otherwise.

In Foxfire, the decision to not allow children is equally straightforward though somewhat more expansive.

Wicca (by which, I remind you, I mean Gardnerian Wicca) put simply, is a priesthood and initiatory Mystery tradition. It’s not suitable for children anymore than it’s suitable for anyone incapable of making oaths and understanding their consequences. And that’s even before we consider skyclad ritual, sexual themes, and the fact that we’re up half the night drinking. You might be fine with some or all of these where your own child is concerned, but a group leader can’t make that call for everyone.

The Wiccan parents I know encourage their children in more broadly Pagan traditions (holiday celebrations, deity worship, time outdoors, etc.). I’m also certainly not suggesting that children shouldn’t learn magic or a love for nature/Nature/the earth/whatever. The first generation of American Neo-Pagan children are full grown and having kids of their own. There are resources available for priming children to follow your Wiccan path without expecting them to be allowed to participate in adult Mysteries. There are books, scouting programs, home study courses, festival resources, and often a very creative body of fellow parents ready to offer ideas. There are also plenty of other kinds of circles and groves that allow children–some are even specifically designed for them.

In Christian traditions, kids go to Sunday school, catechism, or youth group. They generally don’t take vows, and sometimes aren’t even expected to sit through adult sermon services, participating instead in ministries designed for their age group. While I suppose a particularly motherly high priestess could fashion something comparable for her coven’s children, the tradition itself has little if anything to directly address the subject.

I think this is a point of dissonance for people trying to turn Wicca into “just another religion.” It doesn’t really occupy the same kinds of social roles we often expect of religion as a category (i.e. “religion” as, basically, Protestantism). In this case, it doesn’t tell you how to raise your kid. People from Christian traditions find meaning in developing Christian-flavored rituals such as Wiccan baptisms and Pagan Sunday School (Belmont has one, hosted by a local parent), but these are personal additions. Personally, I can think of nothing to say to a Pagan child that I wouldn’t say to a non-Pagan child (“Let’s go outside/don’t be an asshole/learn to read/hooray science/holy crap stop eating that.”), so Pagan Sunday School is lost on me.

Beyond these periodic logistical questions, these aren’t matters I spend much time on. I’ve opted to not have children, and I trust that many of those seekers with small children will find more suitable groups or at least make appropriate arrangements while in circle. Children are not permitted at the Covenstead because of the distraction they pose and because the place simply isn’t safe for them. We all make sacrifices to become part of the tradition, in terms of time, travel, and energy. The process is harder for some than for others, and harder or easier at different points in time. Those seekers and coven members with children have a special set of challenges, but they can’t receive special accommodation at the expense of others, each of whom has their own challenges.

4 thoughts on “Why there are no children

  1. yyzzaagg

    My Daughter is 8 and although she is accepted in some circles she of course is not in others. She and I do perform our own rituals at home. I think this is important so that she learns proper respect and is educated about alters, circles, tradition, etc…. I am hoping this will prepare her when it comes time to choose her own path. Parents who are looking to find ways to share there path with their children should reach out to other parents for ideas. No one should ever be offended that their child ,no matter how fantabulous they are, is not invited to participate.

  2. Heather

    I am one of the teachers for Pagan School (the pagan Sunday school
    in Belmont) and a non-parent who cares about creating outlets for the children for the greater pagan community. To be clear, the opportunities for kids in paganism that I am, and have been a part of are not Wiccan, nor do they make any claim to be Wiccan. They are eclectic in nature and this includes Pagan School.
    Why Sundays? It’s an open and available morning that just works well for us. Why kids? It makes sense that parents would want to share their beliefs and practices with their children in a community setting. It’s pretty logical.
    I agree entirely that there are situations and circles that are not child appropriate. This is why some have dedicated themselves to creating those spaces.
    We welcome any children and their parents who would enjoy participating and happy to send that information along.

    1. I certainly always pass your info along when I get these inquiries! In fact, while I’m thinking about it I’ll go ahead and mention you guys on my FAQ page. Do you have a website I can link to?

      Yes, I totally understand the whys behind parental desire to have their kids in Pagan spaces, and I’m glad that so many have put in the effort to make sure that Pagan kid spaces exist for those seeking them.

      I’ll be curious to see how children brought up in such programs fare in terms of continued religious affiliation in the long term. Anecdotally, I know many adults who were raised Pagan but very few of whom remain so (which is not to imply that there’s any kind of causation here). I wonder if our communities will experience comparable patterns in terms of membership that Christian communities do. As a sidenote, I also wonder about religious parents who DON’T raise their children in their religious communities (Pagans often cite the desire to not “force” religion and to instead encourage exploration). Does this affect the resulting adult’s level of religiosity? Are people somehow less “committed” to their traditions?

      Someone not me should do some sociology.

      1. Heather

        I will get you that info. I think it’s always interesting to see which way kids go with religion. I know it’s rebellion for some, but for me, it was acknowledging something bigger than Christianity.
        Over all, my sense is that the kids that come to PS want to be there (one of them takes notes and writes reports.)
        It would be awesome if someone did the research. Not me, someone. 😉

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