Practicing Heathenry as a Parent
As a mother, I tend to seek outside validation that I am doing good by my children. Or at least decently if we’re being honest here. That I am trying my hardest to give my kids the best life possible and that it can be seen by others. Even if that means I’m putting on my toddler’s favorite movie for the 100th time so I can gather myself together to be a better mom. I often think of things I “gave up” to stay at home and raise my children and the practices and passions I put on the back-burner. That’s not saying I don’t love my children and have a great life. I absolutely do. It’s just…hard. Harder to find time to do basic things such as take a shower at least a few times a week much less practice various aspects of my Heathen faith alone. Group gatherings? Community, outside some online Heathen friends? Forget it. Especially when many people I have found in person are put off by, or don’t understand, children.
Then there are the mostly understanding groups that just have a few members who would rather not have little ones interrupting. The second The Toddler Tornado revs up during blót and the scathing looks begin, I’m out of there. Promises of a treat or coaxing to turn a situation away from becoming a full blown tantrum just doesn’t work every time. Traveling to a group? It’s just not going to happen. Obviously, this isn’t the case for everyone. Many groups I have heard of (*crosses fingers they are not actually imaginary*) are completely family friendly and support one another. This is just my personal experience here.
I know not being able to set aside a regular chunk of time to focus or perform any sort of ritualized interaction with gods, wights, ancestors or what have you doesn’t make me less of a heathen. Yet others may seek to make me feel this way indirectly. Online posts and podcasts essentially shoving down your throats the idea that if you can’t do certain things a certain way you are ‘lesser’. Even degrading other, similar paths then placing you with them. As if they have a right.
I realized recently that many people feel this way when I spoke with a friend of mine about creating groups to discuss parenting and/or homemaking. She recently wrote an article (more directed at those who practice witchcraft) about how parents and others who cannot devote the same kind of time to their practice as they used to. It may not be a Heathen article, but it’s still full of good advice for those of us wondering how others manage to do ANYTHING other than parent their children.
Since I can empathize, and some here might want a more Heathen oriented perspective, I’m wanted to offer some helpful suggestions of my own.
1. Keep it small.
There’s no need to do anything elaborate with your best tools during a very specific time as many try to do. I know I’m not bringing out the drinking horn from my handfasting anytime soon unless I want a horn with mystery stains and stickiness hidden behind the couch for three months.
2. Read articles.
A book? Maybe when the kids are out of the house (if ever) or if you have a child who is a fantastic napper. Articles are “do-able.” They usually are not very long and you can at least skim through one when you are hiding in the bathroom from your family pretending it is in use. Articles on historical events, views on aspects of Heathenry, archeological digs, etc. All easily obtainable.
3. Go outside.
Let the kids burn off some energy while you take a moment to commune with the landvaettir (wights). Even at a park in the middle of the city or next to a tree on a concrete path. It takes a few seconds to even just say hello. This could be a great opportunity to tell your children tales of land spirits as well.
It may be difficult to read a nice fact-filled tome or book of Viking age stories/poetry on your own. Luckily, there are children’s books you could read WITH your kids. Pictures to keep them close to you and interested are a gods-send. Or tell them your own rendering of a myth. It’s great bonding and keeps the gods and such in your thoughts.
5. Dedicate parts of your home to the gods or ancestors.
Create altars where you can show your devotion through a little dusting now and then and a few treats when you can. Grandma can still enjoy half of the pb&j that your child asked for but suddenly doesn’t want to eat. You get the other half because honestly…when else are you going to find time to eat?
I know this may not be feasible for some but there are plenty of fun “Viking” inspired crafts online (or others of your practice is more Germanic, etc based). Build a longboat out of construction paper for your table or make runes from clay. Any crafting is bonding!
7. Play music.
There are many Heathen artists out there or at least groups that sing about Heathen inspired practices. Let the kids dance some energy out or join in with them for a ritualistic experience. Losing yourself in the music for 5-10+ minutes. Who knows who may join you. Even just singing songs is wonderful. My children love when I sing. Even if I sound like a banshee to everyone else.
I make a lot of our food from scratch or at least semi-homemade. My toddler adds the spices and does some mixing. She even brings me the oven mitts. She’s two. If she can help in small ways I’m sure other children can as well. You can have them make a plate for the gods/ancestors or give pieces of food to house spirits. Though it may make some eyes roll you can have them engrave runes into food to imbue them with the energy of that rune (or because it’s fun to poke things). If my toddler couldn’t help out I wouldn’t be able to do as much homemade as I do. Even when she can’t actively help she’s on the counter with half a frozen Gogurt talking to me as she snacks.
9. Meditate before bed.
It doesn’t need to be some hour long journey where you go on some grand scandalous adventure with Freyja in your working. Take a few minutes as you lay down to think about the gods and spirits or say hello to your ancestors.
10. Morning devotional.
I know a lot of us are strapped for time or so exhausted that when the kids jump on you to wake up you contemplate just letting them loose on the house alone. So I won’t say wake up early to do anything. You can chit chat or recite prayers or sing songs as you get up to get ready. This is a great way to teach your kids to interact with the gods and such regularly. To build relationships.
These are just some of many possible pathways you could take. As I said before just do what you can when you can. You are raising the next generation of potential Heathens. Unlike many of us, who found Heathenry online as teens or adults, our children can be immersed in it from a young age. Thus, hopefully, they can find the same fulfillment and spiritual understanding those of other faiths have who raise their children in their belief systems can have, instead of struggling alone with that shift later in life.
Solidarity with all the parents out there trying to make it work.
Where there’s a will there’s a way.
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