Oct. 14th, 2014

rivka: (her majesty)
This year I'm teaching a world religions class for 8-12 year olds at the Baltimore Homeschool Community Center. The class is organized as a "festival tour" of religious holidays from around the world. Every week, we learn about a holiday and its role in a religion and culture through experiential participation in holiday traditions. Last week, for example, we celebrated the Jewish holiday of Sukkot by making lulavs and then building and decorating a sukkah. The week before we celebrated the Hindu holiday Dussehra by putting on a puppet play of the Ramayana (condensed). The kids adore this class.

I'm adapting a UU religious education curriculum called "Holidays and Holy Days" to remove the UU content (and some wince-worthy "it was a well-meaning product of its time" elements like "Africa Day"). I'm also adding a few holidays where there was inadequate coverage.

For example, there wasn't anything Wiccan or neo-Pagan, so I'm putting together a class celebration of Samhain. That's where I could really benefit from the supervising eye of a practicing Pagan, if some of you don't mind weighing in.

My plan is to mention the idea that Halloween is a night that ghosts and spirits walk the earth, and that a lot of Halloween customs were originally connected to the idea of needing protection from spirits. "People in the United States who practice earth-based religions like Wicca also believe that the separation between earth and the spirit world becomes thinner, but they don't see that as a time to be scared of monsters. They see the holiday they call Samhain as a time to connect with, and honor, the spirits of people who have died."

I'm planning to have an ancestor altar and encourage the kids to bring in pictures or mementos of people who have died - either relatives, or famous people they admire. We'll have a seasonal snack (donuts and cider?) and put a portion on the altar for the spirits, and we'll take turns sharing a memory of the dead or talking about why we want to honor them.

My first question for Wiccans and/or Pagans is whether there are any ritual words or (especially) actions that it would be appropriate for us to include. The experiential stuff really seems to help the kids connect to the lesson, and yet at the same time we want to be respectful of the fact that these religions do not belong to us.

I'd also like to be able to explain just a sentence or two about how Samhain fits into the larger context of Pagan religious belief. I was thinking of something about being closely connected to the earth and the cycles of nature, and seeing death as a natural part of the cycle rather than something bad or scary. But (a) I don't know if that's entirely right, and (b) I don't know if there's more.

Thoughts?

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