rivka: (her majesty)
[personal profile] rivka
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?

Date: 2014-10-14 02:06 pm (UTC)
jenett: Big and Little Dipper constellations on a blue watercolor background (Default)
From: [personal profile] jenett
I think that's a good start - especially the ancestor altar.

Other things that might be worth including:

- pomegranates (well, a pomegranate) and maybe some discussion of why it's relevant in some myth cycles?

- Samhain for a lot of Pagan traditions is also the beginning of the new year. In my tradition, it's not the "I am going to make all these resolutions and go do them!" new year, but it's the "Let me reflect on the past year, and then take the time between now and Yule to think about what I want to do differently next year." - a very deliberate fallow time.

That's something that's often foreign to people these days: deliberately taking time for rest and reflection, rather than action all the time.

- On ritual actions, one of the really common ones is a ritual meal of foods that the ancestors you're honouring enjoyed. That's tricky to do in your setting, but it's worth talking about, maybe? (My own Samhain meals usually include cooked food that's more complicated, but also port wine cheddar and Cadbury's fruit and nut bars, for my father, for example.)

Date: 2014-10-14 02:47 pm (UTC)
kiya: (pooka)
From: [personal profile] kiya
Snrfk. And of course the other comment is you, and we're illustrating our difference in perspective in illuminating ways again. ;) (I am reminded of the Lengthy Discussions about capitalisation we had regarding poly-religion.)

Date: 2014-10-14 02:41 pm (UTC)
kiya: (uu)
From: [personal profile] kiya
A number of groups do some sort of sharing a meal with the spirits of the dead. Some fairly formal; some silent. (But that's not something that works with children terribly well, and that's not part of the one of my religions that cares.) A possible activity might be for each child to put something from their plate of snack on an altar plate so that the meal is explicitly shared, perhaps?

(I would... well, personally, I wind up feeling itchy around the gills with phrases like "pagan religious belief". (I do not capitalise deliberately; it's not a proper noun.) Because 'pagan' is kind of 'the none of the above bucket for religion', and while the religions that have stuff derived from northern European festival mishmash are the most common (between Wicca and its derivatives as most populous, other religious witchcraft trads that have similar cycles, revival druidry, people doing Celtic and Germanic stuff that actually has festival origins for some of those holidays, and people doing Generic Neopagan Religion TM), there's... well. My primary public affiliation is with a religion that shares exactly none of "the pagan holidays", and this gets kind of Life of Brian sometimes. ("SPLITTER!"))

Erm, the flip side of the above rant is if you'd be interested in commentary on a cultural polytheism to fill in a gap somewhere I might be able to throw something together for you. ;) (Egyptian recon, me. Passing familiarity with some Celtic stuff by marriage, too, but I woudln't call me anything of an authority there, while apparently some people think putting a book on the subject makes me some sort of expert on the first....)

Date: 2014-10-14 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kazoogrrl.livejournal.com
I wanted to underscore the point that pagan religions have a lot of variety so make sure to say that this is merely one way of celebrating pulled from particular Western traditions.

Date: 2014-10-14 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rivka.livejournal.com
Yes, definitely understood. I don't think anyone (kids, parents, or me) is under the impression that they are getting the definitive view of religious practice from this class, but I will be careful to use particularizing language.

Date: 2014-10-14 04:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lynsaurus.livejournal.com
I think "Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions" would be helpful to you here. I'll text you.

Date: 2014-10-14 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ranunculus.livejournal.com
Part of most Pagan (Wiccan version) celebrations is forming a circle and recognizing the directions. In my tradition the circle forms a barrier allowing in only those "spirits" who are invited and creating a safe and sacred space to gather in. In the process of forming the circle the directions are honoured thus reminding each participant of the world around us. Setting up your space by having several children "help" honour the directions (read a sentence, light a candle) and then going on to honour the departed (ancestors, the dog, a beloved tree or space) would be my recommendation. You might suggest that the kids think of things they want to say to the departed, and remind them this isn't necessarily a sad time, it can be a great time to remember that Uncle Dan used to tell horrible jokes and keep everyone laughing.
Don't forget to "open the circle" in order to go back to the "everyday world".

Date: 2014-10-14 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mactavish.livejournal.com
This isn't quite what your after, but an aside: One of my friends helped process her sadness about Mister Rogers by making him an altar for Day of the Dead. It was amazing, and I think he would have been honored.

Date: 2014-10-18 07:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] selki.livejournal.com
I like that idea, especially since I understand sadness about Mister Rogers.

Date: 2014-10-15 12:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] papersky.livejournal.com
Not a neopagan, but I know a lot about the Celts.

One thing you might want to mention is that Samhain is one of the four festivals of the turning year, the others are Lammas (2nd Feb) Beltane (1st May) and Lughnasa (6th August) and that these were seasonal changes in the British Isles, and that Samhain marked the turn from Autumn to Winter, and thus it makes sense for why it's between life and death. I'm mentioning this because I feel it might help them to have a bit of geographical and climactic context, especially if you have this for your other festivals. (Modern Wiccans add in the solstices and equinoxes to have eight festivals.)

Date: 2014-10-16 06:29 pm (UTC)
ailbhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ailbhe
The barm brack with the ring is the same basic deal as the Christmas pudding with the sixpence; seems like a useful thread to link things. Food with an omen in it crops up a lot.

Date: 2014-10-26 10:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] don-fitch.livejournal.com
I can't help with this, but I do think your course sounds marvelous. I've long held that families with children (I'm unmarried & childless) really ought to have some kind of Ritual Book that directs the children (once they're old enough) to research, each & every day, some religious or cultural observance that wouldn't otherwise be part of their inherited tradition. Yes, there are Problems with doing this without being cute or patronizing, but you seem to be doing a good job of avoiding such things.

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