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HALLOWEEN AND PAGAN CHILDREN
© Copyright 2007, All Rights Reserved.
Halloween can sometimes be problematic for Pagans with children. For us, it is one of our most sacred and important holidays, yet we are surrounded by green-faced, cardboard 'witches' hanging over candy displays, plus offensive greeting cards. Story hour at school often involves a scary tale with a 'witch' as a villain and our children receive coloring handouts at school that depict at least one flying, warty 'witch'. It is inappropriate to expect your child to challenge these misrepresentations at school or for you to arrive fuming to confront the teacher or principal. Tempting though it may be to forego public confrontations, the proper response is to deal with these inconsistencies in the privacy of your own home. Tell your children that these images are produced by people who do not really know anything about real Witches and that no hurt or insult is intended. You can also explain how current North American Halloween customs developed in order to show them how other people do celebrate an important holiday with us.
The way I explained it to my daughter is:
Samhain begins the Celtic New Year, the time when 'the veil between the worlds is thin' and we are more sensitive to our inner selves and our psychic senses. Our ancestors who no longer have bodies often return to visit their homes and families at this time and we can communicate with them to help them pass on through to their next life and body, we can learn lessons from them and we can simply enjoy their company. Seasonal celebrations focus on the beginning of the rule of the God, the Lord of the Underworld, and Keeper of the Gates of Death. Our ancestors finished preserving their winter storehouse of food at this time and began the slaughter of animals that would feed them throughout the winter. The types of magick done at this time are for the preservation of our families and friends through the harsh winter months. We also send out energy to protect the wild animals, our winter stores of food and to strengthen the Sun for his rebirth at Yule.
The rest of the United States is celebrating Halloween with costumes and candy - both of which are fun for children. This custom comes from older traditions of our ancestors and is a wholesome way to let your children be a part of the larger community as it celebrates, perhaps unknown to them, a Pagan festival. In addition, here are some suggestions for Samhain celebrations that can include children:
- Perform simple divinations for the coming year using the pendulum, scrying or candle flame gazing.
- Talk about relatives, pets or friends who have passed on and what we learned from them or enjoyed about them.
- Tell stories about ghosts, using the stories to illustrate how children might deal with fears.
- Talk about the origin of Halloween customs. Trick or treating goes back to the beginning of the Iron Age when farm dwellers left offerings of milk, cheese or other treats to discourage the forest dwellers from pilfering. Leave some treats outside or in the hearth for the elves and fairy folk in your home. Costume parties developed during the Middle Ages so that on Halloween ('hallow' or holy evening) active ghosts and goblins could not recognize the people inside their homes celebrating the new year and therefore could not bother them. Jack-o'-lanterns developed from the custom of carving out turnips and placing candles in them to prevent the wind from blowing out the flame when people traveled at night using the hollowed out turnip as a lantern.
- Make dream pillows for dreams of the coming year: Take a piece of cloth about 6 inches square. Make a mixture of any or all of these herbs/essential oils: Lavender, anise, mugwort, jasmine, white sandalwood, lily of the valley, lilac, chamomile, hops, skullcap and poppy. To prepare the herb/oil mixture, mix 1/4th cup of each of the herbs desired, then begin adding your chosen oils to the center of the dry herbs a few drops at a time. Knead the oils in gently with a spoon until the scent is as strong as you like. If you wish to sew your pillow, fold the cloth in half and sew the long side and one of the short ones. Turn it inside out so that your seams are inside. Stuff the pillow with the herb mixture then finish it off with a slip stitch on the remaining opening. If you prefer not to sew, lay the cloth flat and place the herb mixture in the center. Take two opposing corners and bring them together. Do the same with the remaining two corners. Packing the herbs tightly in the middle, twist the corners up together and bind them with a ribbon. Dream pillows can help children remember dreams, sleep more deeply or ease dreams in the case of children with nightmares.
Maybe it's just because it's my birthday, but to me Halloween/Samhain is one of the most fun holidays of the year. It's serious but fun and rich in lore and practices. Take advantage of all of the fascinating Halloween customs to introduce your children to your spiritual world view and share the magick with them!
© Copyright 2007 Karen Charboneau-Harrison, All Rights Reserved.