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Raising pagan kids in conservative areas?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
To say that my home city is conservative would be the understatement of the year.

My husband and I are polyamorist pagans in an area that often openly affiliates itself with "traditional family values". Life is interesting.

What I'm wondering is how other people raise their kids pagan in religious and/or very conservative areas. I've explained to people that she has to miss certain days of school (i.e. Samhain) because it's a religious holiday, or that sure, it's fine to visit on Christmas Day but we won't be doing a damn thing (we always rent videos on the 23rd and buy Chinese food on the day).

People often ask us if we're Jewish when we mention these things. (Did Yom Kippur get moved to the 31st October or something? :eyeroll We've explained, no, we're not.

"Then what are you?"

"We're pagan."

As they dig out the crosses and start to tell us how much they love Jesus and how their child can't play with mine anymore, I usually flee the area. I'm wondering, however, how to make basic routine religious requests, or just explain that we don't "do Christmas" clearly without being specific. I've always been able to handle the stares, but I'm an adult. I'd like to raise my children in my family's religion WITHOUT alienating them from their peers.

post #2 of 25
In Pagan Parenting, Kristin Madden has a chapter dedicated to this subject, which may help you think this problem through. One of her suggestions is finding a pagan community in which your children can find friends they can be totally open with. Maybe you could find fellow pagans by going to a metaphysical shop if there is one not too terribly far from you. Go to .The Witchs' Voice to look for covens or festivals in your area. There's a spiral scouts group in Milton, NH you could check out.


For the sake of your children, you may want to refrain from telling the mainstream community that you are pagan. Maybe say that you 'are not affiliated with any religion at all' or you 'are not really religious.' That's usually more acceptable to traditional christians than paganism. But, of course that's for you to decide.

Hope this helps somewhat. I haven't run into this problem yet. We live in a pretty open community, so I don't feel the need for total secrecy. But we still don't tell everyone. I'll even hide my pentacle if I feel uncomfortable in a certain environment. I do plan on getting involved in a pagan community when dd is older. We'll try out the spiral scouts and see if she likes it.
post #3 of 25
Actually, Jessica, Yom Kippur moves around the English calendar, since the Jewish holidays follow the lunar calendar ... at its latest it appears somewhere in mid-October.

But seriously, it's a problem you've got. Being a minority can be tough, especially when it's not outwardly apparent ... people assume you're "the same," and then when it turns out your not, are less tolerant than if they knew the difference at the outset, or so it seems to me.

Give your children a strong enough sense of self that they know how to respond to the "why" questions. Even if they don't know details, they should know that that's how their family does things, and it may be different than another family, but it is their family tradition, and right there they will get a measure of respect.

I've lived this. It's tough, but your children can do it. And even feel good about it.

- Amy
post #4 of 25
When I was an active pagan living in the Bible Belt I found refuge through the local Unitarian Universalist Church. It's a really nice place where you can go and be yourself. They have picnics and kids programs and they are very tolerant to everyone. I was most impressed when I saw in the Sunday School room that the kids had done an art project that included various relgious symbols including a pentagram.

Another good place is your local university if there's one close by. Ours (yes in the middle of small college town Oklahoma) had an active Pagan Student Association.

Good luck!

post #5 of 25
Thread Starter 
We're actually university students, and the university's as conservative as the town. Depressing.

I just find it hard because I refuse to hide my pentacle. I'm sorry, but if people wear crosses, I WILL wear a pentacle. (Although I haven't been wearing it this last week or so, mostly because, well, Julianne got to the chain and made it into a knot. Like a really BIG knot, and I need to go buy a sturdier chain )

We live a very different life than other people around here, and it's lonely. I imagine pagans are really accepted somewhere, but heck if I know where.
post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Oh, I certainly don't care about whether kids my kids are playing with are Christian, although I am concerned about what they see in their friends' homes -- i.e. evangelical households, where my kid got yelled at for arguing with a boy and also not being willing to play in the play-kitchen.

But as long as the parents aren't exceptionally weird (and I've never seen this strict-assignment-of-gender-roles from secular parents, but that may just be my experience), I could care less. However, my kids must be accursed or something for being the offspring of pagans. Jewish kids are okay from what I can tell, but pagan kids are Right Out.

They're actually not neighbors that often -- most of our neighbors are much older. But I get these weird attitudes at the Y, at the mall (someone actually picked up her kid and moved her once she realized the woman with the pentacle had a kid there and then came over and told me I was going to hell -- honey, I'd have to believe in hell before it could scare me), at her school . . . it's getting REALLY tiresome, and Alicia's beginning to notice.
post #7 of 25
I would say try not to let it get to you too much because your daughter may pick up your tension too much and notice more than she would normally that there is this division between "you" and "them"... even though I understand you are not at fault - kids read us better than we think and they are just like little sponges sucking it all in. I know that when things really get to me in public, my kids look to me for a reaction and how they react usually depends on what I do. I know it's not easy to always brush it off, especially when you are in the minority, but if you can it helps take the edge off.

I'm Christian and there's a lady that goes to the chiro's office at the same time I do. She wears a pentacle and has two boys around the ages of my girls. I would never get up and move away from her just because we're different. Like NM said I have faith in my own choices and am not worried about anything. She has the right to be who she is and if my kids ever asked me about her pentacle I'd just explain that she has a different belief than we do, no big deal. Our kids are all little and IMO too little to be bombarded by religious info they can't understand yet. So I would keep it light, because what those Christians who over-react don't understand is, they are effectively planting a seed in their children that says they are judging people and wasting positive energy for God in the wrong way, and that's it's okay to do so.
post #8 of 25
II met a Father and son today who are magicians by trade. The son is about 12. After everyone left the show I was talking with them, along with one other, and the man mentioned that although he rgrew up one type of Christian he is quite Spiritual and is currently a practicing WIccan. I can relate (but am not a practicing Wiccan) to that experience. Anyway, heis son said his neighbors won't let him in their house. Geez. Dh hides his beliefs b/c of this stuff (he practices Santeria) but he does now keep his altars in the open. We noth grew up Catholic but in his culture Santeria is commonly practiced by Catholic. I am learning aif I want to define myself i am probably Gnostic Christian. Point is, weare a really odd house "religiously" I am sure once DD starts attending CATHOLIC school next month (LMAO) we are in for it! I know the altars will scare some away too, b/c we now live in the burbs, not in the city where it was common.

But being we live ina trailer park, are what the ignorant consider a "mixed" family, and came here from the looked down uppon Bronx, the worst offenders will be scared off beofre the yget to know this much about us anyway...

STAY STRIONG! Choose your battles, and begin looking for a place to move down the road...
post #9 of 25
Yuck! That Christian mama has gotta be a transplant herself, older New Hampshirites tend to try and stay out of your bussiness. You could try reminding such people of the state motto "Live Free or Die".

Now are you at the big public university or at the big private University in the area known as the "Upper Valley"? Hang in there in any event, the UU suggestion is a good one, You can always say you are UU if you think the balder version will flip somebody out...but if they're pulling away from you on account of your pentacle you can usually assume that they are holding on to the false idea that you are Satanist. sometimes that isn't an idea they can let go of, even presented with the truth...it sure isn't you, it's them.

It's pretty conservative up here in the 'dacks. I decided to take my DD's to UU Sunday School because Church is so "social" here that I want them to have a place they go that I can depend on to teach the truth and not trample on my values or my husband's.
post #10 of 25
Thread Starter 
NM -- I live in New Hampshire. Yes, I've considered running away, I'm tired of fighting the good fight, particularly when it involves my kids constantly the way that fighting the good fight does, you know.

I have a feeling that I am not the Ideal Pagan Poster Child. For gods' sake, I'm a polyamorist on top of everything else. The way I live my life, to them, is evil. I can see this, although I don't really happen to think it's anyone's business but mine. However, I do understand that sometimes they think they're saving me from myself, sometimes they think I'm genuinely evil and out to hurt them and their children. (My answer to the latter sentiment is pretty rude. )

AM -- I'm at UNH, but I'm at the Manchester campus. Manchester is the same city where mamabliss is trying to organize activism against wonderful entities such as the Union Leader. It's EXCESSIVELY conservative. When I worked for Planned Parenthood, I had demonstrators there every day and it wasn't even a site that provided terminations!

I appreciate the suggestions. The local UU church is in a lot of turmoil, but I think I'll start calling the UU churches in neighboring cities and seeing if we have enough people to start a CUUPS chapter.
post #11 of 25
I just wanted to pop in and sympathize with you - Though I haven't run up against this problem yet (I take DD to a Pagan Playgroup every now and again about 40 minutes north of where I live). I am a poly Pagan in a conservative town (cincinnati - VERY CATHOLIC) but I have blissfully, not had that issue. I wish you love, light and good luck!
post #12 of 25
Heck, where I live, being a Catholic is the same thing as being pagan Their stupid little comments just make me want to be MORE Catholic. Is that awful? Like I just want to put a Darwin fish and a Harry Potter sticker on my car to annoy the people who tell me I'm going to hell.

Anyway, I feel for you. I still don't know what goes through some people's heads. I really hope that my children are exposed to all forms of religion in their life.
post #13 of 25
Hee hee! I know about the Union Leader...Ugh what a yucky newspaper! I know there is a store Pachamama, in downtown Concord and another one in Hooksett that might help you find groups and such...Spirit of Change sometimes hase useful listings in it too...

Manchester is a funny place, My friend worked as a Social worker for Child Family services for a number of years and has some awful stories to tell...I hope you do find a CUUPS circle I went to the Wdebsite and found that there are no chapters in New Hampshire There are some in Northern MA though

I wish you luck, feel free to PM me for support or just to talk..
post #14 of 25
bebesho2 ... I'm interested in Gnotic Christianity too. I was raised fundemental Baptist and I have laways known I didn't fit in. I finally met a great group of Pagan Ladies (a home school group) who have really helped me in my search for what feels right for me.

The funniest thing I have witnessed was the expression on my mothers face when one friend said she believed in God but not in Christ. Then someone started talking about her Pagan camp out that was comming up. Well as soon as we were in the car my mother said "they all worship Satan". Well it took a while to get her to put aside her misconceptions about the word Pagan. After that we have had a lot of long talks. Turns out this apple didn't fall too far from the tree. She was really interested in the concept in Gnostic beliefs that the "holy spirit" in the biblethat visits Christ as a Dove is the Goddess Sophia. She agreed with me that it makes sense that there would be a male and female aspect to a "higher power".

I really think that most Christians would not be as uncomfortable if they didn't have the preconceived notion that Wiccan or Pagan means Satan worship.
post #15 of 25
Originally posted by sha_lyn
I really think that most Christians would not be as uncomfortable if they didn't have the preconceived notion that Wiccan or Pagan means Satan worship.
OH and I know it! I confessed to being "socially Catholic" because more people understand that than Pagan. I think they're coming to take away my Catholic Homeschoolers card! The backlash is amazing!

for you Jessica for me for those not as brave as we are!
May we find the strength we need right here
post #16 of 25
I'm I the process of putting a Gnostic/Christian/EarthCentered altar in my bed room. I know I will have to explain it several times to memebers of my family. My closest friend is Catholic so hopefully she won't think an altar in the the home in weird.
I can't jsut here myself ... "No the celestial sun doesn't mean I worship the sun and moon, I honor them as a part of creation etc etc etc" "No Gnostics don't worship satan, yes they believe in Christ etc etc"

I'm also interested in a little known aspect of Wicca that is Christian Wicca. A majority Wiccan's and Christian's alike don't accept the 2 as being able to co exist.
BTW I am right in the deep south aka the Bible belt .... Everyone assumes we homeschool because we are trying to isolate our kids from the non fundemental Christian atmosphere in the public schools.
post #17 of 25
I'm Catholic and I homeschool and got dumped by many because of it. I don't homeschool because I'm Catholic (not that it should matter). Anyway, we are moving because of all of this mess. People stopped letting their kids play with ours. It's really quite ridiculous. I let me kids play with who they want regardless of race, religion, or anything else. As long as the parents aren't totally irrisponsible then who am I to judge?

Good luck to you!
post #18 of 25

Re: Raising pagan kids in conservative areas?

Originally posted by jessica
People often ask us if we're Jewish when we mention these things. (Did Yom Kippur get moved to the 31st October or something? :eyeroll We've explained, no, we're not.

The priestess that married us has a line for those who see her pentacle and ask if she's Jewish... (said while smiling brightly and nodding yes) "Yes, I'm Jewish and I can't count"

If you ever do decide to run away from it all, try the un-churced pacific NW. It's really hard for me to relate, I've talked to people who've traveled all over the world and said they've never been anywhere that had so many pagans as Olympia WA.

Olympia's kind of weird because it's the capitol & not exactly predominately liberal by polls, but liberals & conservatives here are pretty accepting of everyone else's beliefs. I've heard the theory it's because so many people are state employees and the state has a staunch non-discriminitory policy & work atmosphere. If you don't play well with others, you can't work there.

But then again, the Pac NW is so beautiful, you can't help but worship nature out here. Oh, wait I didn't mean that. It's yucky here, rains all the time... bad place to move, no one should move here...
post #19 of 25
We live in northern Ma, 20 mins from Manchester, NH. I know there are some witches in Manchester, I visited a circle there, but then, I didn't like them. They were all early 20somethings, mostly unmarried women, 2 men, no kids, all seemed to be shallow manheaters, being all witchy to shock their parents. Thinking b/c they had swords and drank mead, they were all Celtic. I did not like them, my dh was totally freaked, so we didn't go back.

We are pagan, and we unschool. My children are ignored by the kids in our 1970s era housing development. They are all preteen/teen, and I think it is more the school issue that bothers the kids. It's a shame the parents don't explain it better to their kids. I told one family we were pagan, I don't know if the word got out or not. So, we just don't socialize with most of them. One guy, whom we met soon after moving here 6 yrs ago, is a total pagan, musician, extrovert and all around blessing to us. He lives right across the street, but is moving to Milford NH when his house is done. One of the UU churches my dh has visited is there.

My oldest dd and my dh just started checking out several area UU churches. i haven't been able to bring myself to set foot in a church, even one that has no dogma. To me, the goddess is in the home or in nature. But if I can overcome that predjudice, I sure could see that at least the youth programs could be good for the kids. I do wish we had a CUUPS nearby. Seems the closest one is in Salem Ma.
post #20 of 25
jessica, I am christian and I would love to have your kids come and play with mine! And we won't try and convert them either!!

We have conservative chirstian homeschoolers down the street. We've known them for years and they are still trying to get our children saved! : Funny, we thought we were doing just fine. I think our unschooling style and earth loving overtones make most "christians" suspicious of us. I think we've become a little suspicious of the "conservative christians" as well.

Too bad we all live so far.....hmmm.....maybe we should start a commune.....

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