Planting Seeds

In thinking on the last post and the centers Nicholas Haney brought up in God-centric?, is that one of the centers that tends to get left by the wayside in the larger polytheist and Pagan blogs is family, and in specific how we raise our kids in our religions.  It is something that has been on mind for a while.  There’s a host of questions I will tackle here that I hope will generate deeper dialogue in the Pagan and polytheist blogs and communities.  I believe these are really important questions, tied not just to the center of family, but to the health and well-being of all the centers.  Without children, all we have are new converts to sustain the traditions and religions.  In my view, that is a lot of people coming to understand a whole new way of being, whereas kids raised polytheist do not have that learning curve, or the need to decolonize, or remove as much of the dominant culture’s mindset.

Before I get to the questions, however, I think it is important to tackle some of the reasons that I have heard, in person and online, for why people do not raise their children in our religious traditions.  Chief among them is some variation of “I don’t want to force my kid to follow my religion” or “I don’t want to indoctrinate my child.”  I will be honest, these reasons make me want to pull out my hair.  The definition of indoctrination is:

to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs

Raising our children in our religion(s) is simply not indoctrination.  Teaching them about our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, is not indoctrination.  Unless you are actively denying your child the ability to question concepts and people in the religion, not allowing them to explore the religion, or are actively denying your child’s ability to consider other points of view, you are not indoctrinating your child.  You are, rather, raising your child in the religion.  There is a gulf of difference between teaching a child “This is what the sagas say about Thor and these are my experiences with Him,” or “This is how we worship together as a family,” and “This is the only way to worship Thor” or “Only our way is the true way to worship Thor.”  Now, that is not to say that a given family will not have traditions, taboos specific to them, or certain ways they worship, but to entirely cut a child off from alternative views, and stunts the religious growth of a child.  My taboos are just that: mine.  We do not have taboos on offerings as a family.  What we do have are basic expectations of respect in religious space, how offerings that have been expended are disposed of, regular times for prayer, and guidelines and rules on handling altars, statues of our Gods, and various tools that may be on the altars.  For instance, on our Gods’ altar our son can dispose of the liquid (usually water, but sometimes beer or mead) offerings we make to Them.  He does not touch the offerings to Gods he does not have an active relationship with. Sylverleaf makes regular offerings to Frigga on this altar that our son is not to touch, as that is between her and Frigga.  He is not allowed to touch the swords or the hammer  on the altar without permission and an adult present.

How do we bring children into our religions?  Is it from birth?  If not from birth, when do they begin to learn, and what can they learn at what age?  How do we help our children understand religious phenomena?  If one has a very active religious life, how does one relate to a child that simply does not?  Vice versa?

The answers I have to these questions are lived by our son.  We brought our son into our religion by doing a baby blessing as soon as he was born, asking the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits to watch over him.  He was there as we prayed at our altar when we first brought him home, and has been raised with us praying and making offerings ever since.  Had we waited we would probably have started teaching him about our religion around age 3-5.  He has been raised with the prayers we make before he goes to school and before he goes to bed, and at each and every meal.  He is living polytheism.  He has been raised with a Dad who takes time out to explain religious concepts on his level, and who is not shy about being very blunt that “the Runes ask for blood in Gebo, and this is something you are not ready for yet, if you ever do pick Them up.”  He knows that if and when he does, it will be his choice and he will be able to make it on his own.

I firmly believe in raising children in our religions.  Without our children learning our religion, and co-religionists teaching their religion, there is no way for the religions to continue.  Teaching kids only a little bit about the Gods, Ancestors, and spirits, and not making daily prayers, devotion, etc. is giving a little soil to the seed and expecting a tree to grow to its full height.  Not teaching one’s children at all about the Gods is denying soil to a tree entirely.  Without a firm grounding in religion, the soil is loose and is blown away in the wind, or swept aside in the rain.  If we desire good religious communities that will last beyond us, we need to raise the children in our communities.  Indeed, we must do far better by them than has been done by us.

So how do I relate to our son when I have a very active religious life?  Some of the explanations we work with him on are helped along because we have taught our son how to interpret the Holy Powers’ messages, whether he has a reading done, asks Them to work with him through his intuition, or look for omens.  A good chunk of this work has been to encourage him to trust his intuition, to admit when his signal clarity is not where it needs to be, and to ask for help when he needs it.  He is encouraged to admit when he does not know.  We regularly talk on our religion, on the religious work I do, how it feels, and how it affects me.  I bring my son along when I do certain religious work, such as tending the graveyards I have been called to do, teaching him how to respectfully make offerings at the gate, to ask permission from the Dead before tending Their graves, and why we leave offerings of tobacco, or why I blow smoke on graves when I smoke a pipe as we clean.

The biggest link between all the religious work I do, and explaining it to our son, and in some cases involving our son, is the concept of Gebo: gift-for-a-gift.  Reciprocity.  That word opens up the larger world of animism and polytheism because it places us not at the center, but in relationships with all things, all Beings.  It is why we leave or make offerings to the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, landvaettir, housevaettir, and so on.  It is that recognition and/or fulfillment of reciprocity.  It is sometimes asking for help, which may be a form of reciprocity in and of itself.  Bringing our son to rituals, performing them with him, helping him develop as a polytheist, in and of itself is a form of reciprocity with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, as it ensures that the religion, and the Gebo engendered between the Holy Powers and ourselves, and our communities does not die with us.  It allows us to pass on the maegen and hamingja of these relationships between our communities, and the generations that follow on with, and after us.

Helping our children develop their own understanding of the Gods, their intuition, and communication with Them is, to us, part and parcel of raising a child in a polytheist home.  It is the hope that when they raise their own family they will have a well-developed understanding of how to understand the Gods even if they never engage in ecstatic spiritual techniques or do trance work.  Sylverleaf, for instance, does not do much in the way of ecstatic work at all.  It is simply not a part of her religious life.  A simple divination technique she uses when she asks Frigga questions is to hold two of Her sacred keys in her hands, and the hand which is heavier is the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.  If there are more complex questions she may ask me to read the Runes.  If she needs to get answers from her Ancestors, she may work with an oracle deck dedicated to Them.  Having two very different parents in this regard gives our son more models of polytheist life to understand, recognize, and live himself.  Raising our children as polytheists, then, is more than simply teaching and explaining.  It is modeling good Gebo, and the ways we do things by actively living in relationship with our Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir.  We are living examples to our children.

What age should we bring our children into animism or polytheism?  It is my belief that it is never too early nor too late to begin a lived animist/polytheist life.  Regardless of our age or the age of our children, sharing our religion is an important bond that we share between our communities, our families, and our generations.  It is the lattice-work that makes a strong bridge between the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, and one another.

In speaking with Sylverleaf on this, she has said it has been far harder for her to keep with regular prayers and offerings in contrast to me because she was raised in a largely non-religious household.  Lacking a background in any religion made it that much harder for her when she did find the Gods and became a Pagan, as she had no models to follow except those in books, and no community to speak of for quite a long time.  Living a religion does have a learning curve, and she hit this hard because until we met she did not have regular time for prayer, any rote prayers to draw upon, or regular times for making offerings.  In talking this over coffee and pancakes, it hit me that she was denied a lot of things that I took for granted in my religious studies as a child.  For one, pondering the nature of God was probably something very hard to tackle in a home that either did not think much on God or thought the subject of God was a non-starter where conversation was concerned.  I was able to talk with priests who were more than happy to answer whatever questions I threw at them, digging into the meat of theology with me and explaining as best they could their understanding of Scripture, the nature of God, and where we fit into the Catholic cosmology.  That grounding is absent when religion is not lived.  The hunger of curiosity cannot be sated when the entire subject of religion is off the table.  It also cannot be sated when the religious community one belongs to has a piss-poor grounding in its own theology, as she discovered her youth ministers had, during the short time she attended a church.  This is why our children need not only parents grounded in good relationships with their Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, but communities, and their leaders, priests, spiritual specialists, etc. need this too.  We cannot support the centers of our communities without them all doing the necessary work of living the religion.

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  1. March 4, 2015 at 1:51 am

    I’m so glad you wrote this. My little girl is 5 and I’m trying to figure out how to introduce her to the Gods and customs. Heck, I’m trying to form practices myself but I want her to know and be curious. I’ve been explaining little things to her, like not to fear thunder as her friends do. I told her that Thor makes it thunder, and He wouldn’t frighten her or hurt her, so don’t be afraid. Planting seeds, indeed. 🙂 Really enjoyed this.

    • March 7, 2015 at 10:12 pm

      Thank you. It can be challenging to incorporate customs and introduce the Gods, but I look at that as a joyous thing as a polytheist. We get to develop our own regional cultus, our regional understanding of Thor. After all, I would think the way I understand Thor would necessarily be affected by how the weather shows itself. There are certain storms that feel definitively Thor to me, whereas others are Odin, and others are storm Jotun. We make extra offerings when it is the wilder storm Jotun, but even then, we recognize not every storm Jotun are alike, and some may be gentler, and others much more rough. Your recognition of Thor and teachings to her are beautiful and good. ^_^
      Hail Thor for helping little plants to grow!

      • March 7, 2015 at 10:55 pm

        Yes, hail Thor. 🙂
        We recently had a light and beautiful snow, and the first flakes that landed on me were shaped like tiny little Gebo runes. I don’t know Who sent it or why, but I definitely felt a presence. It was beautiful. 🙂

      • March 7, 2015 at 11:14 pm

        I pray to the Sons and Daughters of Nifelheim a lot during this time of year. Good thing, too, given the huge amount of ice and snowfall. I hail Jokull, Snare, Snotri, Ymir, and Kari, and offer to Them much as I do many other Gods and vaettir, i.e. with smoke, drinks,and mugwort. It wouldn’t shock me if They sent you a hello. ^_^ A Gebo in snow does sound beautiful.

  2. ganglerisgrove
    March 4, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    good thoughts from a Heathen father.

  3. March 4, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Reblogged this on Foxglove & Firmitas and commented:
    This. I loved this. I was fortunate to grow up in a house of spiritual free-thinkers and allowed to pick my own path, but at the same time I find myself regularly wishing that I’d lived in a home where religious actions were carried out. I find I still wobble when it comes to practicing set times of prayer, for instance. Up until the point where I had my daughter, prayer was silent for me, but now I’m sent to the task of teaching her how to pray. Other concepts, reciprocity for instance, I gained naturally, because that was modeled in my home.

    I caught a bit of grief from my mother when I said my daughter would be raised Pagan/Polytheist. But even if a time comes where she steps away from her mother’s spiritual path, she’ll still be carrying the tools to practice her own religion.

    • March 7, 2015 at 10:20 pm

      Thank you very much.

      I look at Sylverleaf’s background, and for all that I have had to do work on deprogramming and decolonization of my own headspace, I am deeply happy for my Catholic background. She has had more struggles than I in her Pagan path, at least in terms of getting her head around practices, prayers, and the like. For me, my Catholic background set me up pretty well for engaging in a devotional headspace and engaging in mysticism. Both were accepted and encouraged in my household, even if my conversion to being a polytheist Pagan was a bit rocky.

      I think, too, she had trouble with things because for what time she did have a church environment it was Protestant and the youth ministering was very younger-child oriented. There was not a lot of digging deep into Scripture or any of that other stuff I was lucky to have experienced.

      I think that giving that ground is one of the most necessary things we do as parents. Philosophically, religiously, giving our kids a ground to evaluate their experiences and understanding of the world is one of the most important things we do. The worldview inherent in polytheism, in which we live in reciprocity with each other and the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir, is revolutionary. The act of laying out an offering, of teaching our kids this way, encourages a lived revolution in which the world is taken out of being things, and being understood as Beings. For example, even money has a spirit, and so, I look at my purchases not only having the physical and spiritual weight behind them of all the Beings and places it took to make an item, but am I honoring the spirit of the money itself that I am exchanging for this good or service?

  4. thelettuceman
    March 5, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Thank you, you basically sum up everything I would want to say on the issue.

    One of the biggest frustrations I have is the knee-jerk reaction that many Pagans have on the Internet when it comes to teaching the next generation (or generations) of whichever Pagan identity. I get that some people have had to go through a number of trials in their home life, with abusive doctrines and overly repressive parents, but it is just ridiculous some of these people’s reactions. Screaming about “child abuse” and the like.

    It seems like kin-based and community-based reconstructionist and reconstructionist derived Pagans tend to grasp this concept better than other organizations. More than likely because the foundation of the religion is on the household cult and community as a whole and not necessarily personal mysteries.

    I’m not a family man. In all likelihood I will not be having children. But I really wish the people who do decide to have kids would encourage the growth of their children’s religious understanding and spirituality. My thoughts mostly align with yours and, while I wish to write something about it, I do not believe I have the right to tell people how to raise their children as a single and unattached individual.

    • March 7, 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Thank you for reading it! I’m glad I could do that.

      I look at people screaming child abuse and hear Richard Dawkins and the anti-theists beside him. That is what I hear. That reaction from those who would be in our own religious corner, with that attitude, makes me wonder if that is one’s view, then why are you in the religion? If it is so abusive or dangerous that you would not have a child touch it, why, precisely, should an adult?

      What I also do not understand is why folks think waiting till the kids are 18 is a good idea either, thinking down that similar line of thinking. By that time most of a person’s ground is set in concrete and their understanding and ideas are set in place, regardless of whether or not you helped prepare and make that ground. I can’t imagine ceding that kind of power to other people, especially the larger overculture which is actively hostile towards my religion, and the world itself. I can kind of get it if you have a coven and you’re performing a real-live version of the Great Rite (in which case…well, usually there’s privacy for that, right?) but excluding kids from a religion due to age doesn’t make much sense to me either. A coven does not equal the religion, and approaching things from that aspect makes little sense to me as a former Catholic. The Church sure didn’t hide the Joyous or Sorrowful Mysteries from me as a kid (Stations of the Cross and all that) so why should we hide our Mysteries, unless, of course, they involve adult choices?

      I agree with your assessment. I think that polytheist kin-based and reconstructionist, reconstructionist-derived, and similar folks simply have better ground underneath them for the kind of long-term growth we’re talking about here. It’s not that Wicca or Wicca-derived practices are somehow less, but there does seem to be less hangups with the groups mentioned above in raising children in the religion. Though, I think we’re starting to see even that trend reverse. One of The Wild Hunt’s column contributors, Eric Scott, is a second generation Wiccan.

      I think that for anyone who is in a religion their say is important even if they’ll never have a kid. While I don’t think you or I, for that matter, have the right to tell people how to raise their children, I will keep on advocating for people to raise their kids polytheist if they themselves are. I think both of us have a vested interest in that, even if we come to that interest by different ways. We both want the polytheist religions to continue on.

  5. March 5, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’m hoping to have kids in the near-ish future and while I respect the contributions of child-free folks, and their choices, they are often the most-heard voices, so it’s like the opposite of extreme of your typical church environment where Everyone Must Have Kids (what?! you don’t?!) I agree recon/culturally based traditions tend to be more into raising kids with the religion, minus the indoctrination paranoia. My upbringing was pretty loose- we went to church, but then my parents would look at me funny if I ask them questions about God etc. I also belong to a UU church and should review the children’s curriculum- while it includes “earth-centered” traditions as they call it, its in general rather default deistic monotheism with interfaith/multicultural sprinkles.

    • March 7, 2015 at 11:05 pm

      Thank you for reading this!

      I deeply respect the contributions of child-free folks, as I have several among my dear friends. I also want to say that child-free folks should not be dismissed out of hand just because they do not have kids. I think that child-free folks have a great deal to contribute to our religions, and indeed to the raising of our kids. On more than one occasion I have been given pause and good advice by these friends and modified my parenting style to the better for our son.

      I have not run into the ‘Absolutely no kids!’ crowd all that much, and in my Catholic upbringing the idea of “Everyone must have kids!” had fallen by the wayside. For those I have run into edging to either side of this extreme, there’s admittance that it’s their view and they would be as uncomfortable putting it on someone else as having the extreme opposite thrust on them. What I’ve found again and again is that personal choice and respect for it comes to the fore. I’m sorry to hear others have not had that respect extended to them.

      The issues you raise here with UU churches is part of why I have not joined up myself. Well, that and I’m part of a Wiccan church in my area. I truly wish the UU Pagans luck and some ears bent their way. Sometimes it can be hard to get folks to listen, especially when many Pagans, polytheists especially, have definitive theological stances for which many UUs have none, or few and little experience or understanding in how to approach them, much less integrate their wisdom into the UU experience.

      • March 8, 2015 at 3:47 pm

        I totally respect them too, and growing up my parents always had friends who did not have kids (as well as aunts & uncles) and I grew up learning from them as mentors/teachers/role models, and understanding that there are different valid life paths & choices as adults. Written communication is tricky-!. I was just more commenting that we hear a lot of from the “I’m going to be a lone mystic in the woods” type people since they have the time to be writing blogs/books et al. I’m an extrovert, which might actually put me in the slight minority among Pagans, to me imperfect community is better than no community (so like the opposite of Sannion..) Every UU congregation is different too, and there’s a range of people within. I think the main issue is visibility- though UUs like to brag about “diversity” its seems like it’s unofficially taboo to speak of differences, whereas among Pagans people will usually volunteer that they follow tradition/path/deity X or Y and so you easily find people interested in the same things.

      • March 8, 2015 at 4:16 pm

        That makes sense. Yeah, sometimes the written word is a bit hard in terms of parsing. No body language, inflection, etc. to speak of. Heh.

        Yeah, we do hear more from the ‘lone mystic’ folks than others. That’s part of why I write as I do. I’m not a lone mystic; I’m a lot of things in a sea of people juggling this and that. I think it is good folks of different backgrounds are writing. We need that.

        That is true, re: every UU congregation is different. I get what you mean about ‘diversity’ vs. actual diversity. I guess, for my mind, I don’t have the desire to wade through that much resistance to actually having diversity. For those who are happy in the UU churches, I take my hat off to them, as having sat through a few services, I don’t think I have patience for the more deist-centric services on offer at the one’s I have experienced. Again, not trying to knock the UUs here, Gods’ know there’s happy Pagans and polytheists in some of the churches, but what I have experienced is not me, nor is all that friendly to me.

        In regards to the idea of imperfect community vs. perfect community, I lean more toward perfect community. I need to have ideas and ideals that align with the structure present, or the dissonance turns me off to the community. The reason I can jive with the Wiccan community here is that I’m not asked to melt in favor of deism or atheism to make other community members comfortable, as I have seen is sometimes the case in UUs.

        An imperfect community, for me, is not better than no community because at least with no community I can fill that with folks local to me, my family, etc. If my core beliefs are not present, or if there is resistance to my core beliefs being present, I cannot be there. For instance, in terms of Heathenry, I will not go to rituals where Loki’s worship is outlawed. I cannot do this. While they may be Heathens, the community’s imperfection is not one I can overlook and still be true to my Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, my religion, or to myself.

  6. March 6, 2015 at 11:53 pm

    Yes to all this; I think you’re doing a splendid job. (And because you are, there is now a child in the world who understands something of my religious practice, for which I am unfathomably grateful and deeply moved–thank you again for that!)

    I am equally frustrated at the notion that “teaching” and “modeling” for one’s own children is understood to be “indoctrination”; it’s usually the same people saying that who call people who “actually believe in the literal existence of gods” fundamentalists. I have never understood how any religion which thinks that the people who actually take the ideas in the religion seriously are therefore “fundamentalists” can ever take itself seriously or expect to be taken seriously by others, and yet, there’s modern mainstream paganism for you. 😦

    • March 7, 2015 at 11:35 pm

      Thank you very much. (He had a great time and learned quite a bit, I think! So, thank you for the opportunity! Io Polydeukion! Io Antinous!)

      I do not understand how anyone can be taken seriously when they say “I am part of a religion!” out of one side of their mouth, and out of the other, say “I don’t believe in the Gods, Ancestors, or spirits as real Beings!” The amount of mental flip-flopping that must take is amazing. I do not understand how such things can be taken seriously, either.

  7. Erik
    March 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    What I don’t understand is, if I as a pagan parent have an active spiritual life, how could I *not* wind up raising my child that way, even if only by default? (For the record, we have been very intentional about raising our daughter, now 14, as pagan, because that’s what we are 🙂

    • March 7, 2015 at 11:42 pm

      There are aspects of my religious life that I am doing so that he does not have to. Some of the Ancestor work, especially the elevation work, is done so that when he begins doing deeper kinds of Ancestor work, he will have Ancestors who are far stronger, and better put together than when I began working with Them.

      Our son does not have personal cultus with Odin, but if he were to develop a relationship with Odin, or if he has a kid who develops a relationship with Odin, our family will have had some grounding in what to expect and how to be respectful with Him. That, to me, is a huge advantage that folks who do not raise their kids in their respective religion do not get.

  8. March 8, 2015 at 11:40 am

    It sounds like I’m in a similar situation as Sylverleaf. I was raised by an atheist mom who would rant about how stupid religious people are. My husband and I are now trying to conceive, and on an intellectual level I think “of course I want to raise our kid to be pagan!” but on a gut level I still feel bad about “indoctrinating” the kid into silly false beliefs (it’s hard to unlearn stuff that was drilled into you as a kid). I mean, if I tell him/her that Thor brings thunderstorms, what will happen when he/she learns later how thunderstorms work scientifically?

    I think keeping up holiday traditions will be easy for me, though. Holiday traditions might have been what helped me become pagan/heathen in the first place, since a lot of modern American ones have pagan roots anyway. We still did them in our house, just leaving out the Jesus stuff. Christmas was when Santa Claus came, Easter was when the Easter Bunny came, and Halloween was when ghosts wandered among the living. It was nice because I could still participate in some of those traditions with other kids even though they were all Christians.

    Of course, once I got “old enough”, my mom let me know that holidays are just for kids and it’s all silly fantasy and none of it is real. Except I hung onto it because it *felt* like something real and important and not at all silly to me, and was able to carry that over when I discovered paganism.

    • March 8, 2015 at 4:04 pm

      This is a post from both Sylverleaf and I.

      Sylverleaf: I was never told that holidays were all silly kids stuff.. At least, not outright. Being raised by an atheist Dad and a quasi-Christian Mom, I always was told that holidays are a time for family, not a time for religion. Religion was never an important part of our household. That has made it hard to do daily offerings, to do daily prayers, the holidays, and devotional work.

      As far as the scientific aspect goes, I know the process of how fire is made and how it continues to burn; I know it is a chemical reaction. However, from a religious standpoint, Brighid is a Goddess of Fire and She teaches us the beauty of Fire and the wonder of It.

      Sarenth: She also teaches the mysteries of Fire, both through actual work of lighting and keeping a Fire, and craftsmanship like forging and the more metaphoric ‘works’ of Fire, such as the martial arts, and the Fire in the Head like poetry and song.

      The scientific process is as much a part of understanding Fire as these more metaphorical and esoteric understandings are. The scientific understanding we have is not actually separate in terms of religious understanding, in my view. While a scientific understanding of Fire is not the same as a religious one, as we are talking about different views and even parts of a Being, understanding the former brings light (if you’ll indulge my pun) to the latter. I see scientific inquiry as being a holy thing, as a person can be understood to be trying to understand the Gods by different means from the priest, shaman, or layperson. When a scientist looks at a lit candle they are, in fact, seeing the lit candle as much as the mystic is while deriving different information, inferring different things from it, and quite possibly having very different experience of that candle from one another. .

      Sylverleaf: You’re not indoctrinating your kid. I know that every parent is afraid of screwing it up. *laughs* You’re teaching your kid about your religion. Take hir to the rituals, include hir as a part of your life as a Pagan. Do the daily work, the prayers, and when shi asks questions answer as best you can, and if you can’t answer them, well, that’s what we have our priests and shamans for, right? Sometimes we have an answer for something in science, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t also an answer in our religion, and both answers are right in their own respects.

      Sarenth: Undoing the damage of the largely-Protestant mindset that this country has can be a long road to hoe. Especially because you’ve had to deal with a lot of these warnings and anti-theist attitudes for quite a long time, it may be quite hard to move out of the mindset. Having patience with myself can be hard, but it has been necessary as part of the rooting-out process in regards to the overculture and some of the things I was taught as a child. It’s a process. ^_^

      Being a quite religious polytheist does not mean I throw science out the window. Quite the opposite! Understanding religious phenomena from psychology (I have a B.S. in Psychology) actually helps give me a leg up in understanding folks, their experiences, and what may be going on in a given situation. I add it to my toolkit as a shaman rather than keep it separate.

      I don’t think you’re lying to your child at all when you tell hir that Thor bring thunderstorms. Thor doesn’t violate nature. Belief in the Gods does not set us up for a schism between our religious beliefs and science. Recognizing (to borrow from V for Vendetta) that “God is in the rain” doesn’t mean that the statement is unscientific. Science and religion are not mutually exclusive, and when I say “God is in the rain” it doesn’t mean I think the rain falls without the laws of nature intact. We explain the scientific understanding of how a thing occurs alongside the religious. Yes, we view Thor as bringing the thunderstorms while also understanding this is how the clouds form, how the rain puffs the clouds up, and why lightning strikes when and where it does. It is not an and/or thing, it is an and/and thing.

      We both want to reaffirm that you can only do as well as you can in any given moment, and so long as you’re trying to do your best, that’s really all you can do. Neither one of us is a perfect anything, let alone polytheists or parents.

      • March 8, 2015 at 6:27 pm

        Thank you both for this reply. Sometimes I think struggling to get out of this atheist/anti-theist mindset I was raised with is just as hard as someone trying to get out of monotheism. Especially the belief that science and religion conflict with each other. On one level I know that’s not true, but I still fall into that mindset easily without thinking about it.

        One thing I’m already realizing (before I even have a kid) is that raising a kid in your religion forces you to really examine your own beliefs.

    • March 8, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Amanda: I hope you’ll also allow for the possibility that your future child may not be either a “he” or a “she,” and that it is a blessing if such occurs just as much as it would be for a child of any gender.

      • March 8, 2015 at 6:05 pm

        Honestly… I completely forgot about that possibility! Thank you for reminding me! I didn’t mean to offend those who aren’t a he or a she and whatever gender identity my child wants will of course be fine by me.

  1. March 7, 2015 at 12:36 am

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