A couple years ago, I wrote about my girlfriend working on her garden and feeling the breeze, and wondering if Freyja was looking over us. My personal experiences with the gods, or to ponder if something experienced is the gods or their touch, is something I normally keep to myself. Especially with my non-Heathen family members.
My girlfriend is agnostic, leaning more towards Atheist. Mother and my girlfriends parents are Christian. Local Heathens are scarce, especially compared to general pagans and Wiccans. And having met many years ago, I do not wish to associate with them. But I do love my family, and the concepts of Heathen tribes does NOT require a shared religion or even spiritual experience.
A strong tribe, makes a strong Heathen. It’s the Heathen parent(s) responsibility to pass down the beliefs they hold – either the direct religious practice, or the morality and ethics from the culture they come from, were born into, or adopted into. If you child is raised right, they’ll pass it down to their children.
Image: My niece, Gabriella, 6/2016
There are many Heathen parents writing about how to raise their children in a Heathen household. I do not have children, but I do have 2 nephews and a niece I love dearly. I was around for all their births and spend a large amount of time with them. We celebrate all holidays in the American secular style: Easter is about egg hunts, candy, and family. Christmas is about Santa, gifts, family, and merry-making. Halloween is about candy and fun. American holidays like Independence Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and New Years are about BBQ, national pride, firework and… yes, MORE family. The little ones are always first and foremost.
Spring and Summer in Florida bring us to beach season! Yes, in Florida we have periods of time where swimming in the Atlantic is just too much. Water is 62-74 degrees and it can be 60-75 degrees outside. You don’t want to strip down and swim! Babies get cold! But the season is now and off to the beach!
I personally prefer Treasure Island, near St Petersburg, FL. The beach is cleaner, brighter, more life, human and other. The town is a tourist concert hub. The homes and area are beautiful. If not Treasure Island, we normally go to Daytona. My niece and nephews are my girlfriends sisters babies, and her family prefers the east coast (blargh!). So New Smyrna Beach, and Ponce Inlet are the go to places. They’re 45 mins to an hour away. Treasure Island is twice the distance and 75-90 minutes away. We decided to go to Ponce Inlet and the kids were coming too!
Being kids, and all under 5, they’re scared of water at first. Couldn’t get the eldest in the water for 2 hours. The middle not at all, and the younger was all about it! All boy and no fear! Playing with his favorite aunt and uncle makes it 100x better. When the eldest, Gabriella (Gabby), finally decided to get in the water and loved it, she couldn’t be pulled away. She was wearing plastic $1 bracelets. She loves sparkly colorful jewelry. And like a 4 year old, broke one. Half her bracelet broke splashing around in the rough surf.
This felt like a good opportunity to first, help her get over being upset, and second tell her a little about Heathenry. She and her brothers are not being raised as church-going Christians.
Gabby says her bracelet broke and she’s sad. I ask her if she knows about the gods. No, of course, she doesn’t. I tell her of Aegir, who is a god, a powerful and large being who lives in the sea. And he took her bracelet to fish, because he eats fight and loves to go fishing. Unlike older people, she doesn’t question Aegir’s existence. She asks, and it’s shocking a little, if he’ll give it back when he’s done. Aegir exists because something happened. Did he ACTUALLY take the bracelet? No, it just broke. But the idea in her head that he is using it is there. It’s innocence and accepting something new with an open mind. How do you answer if Aegir would give it back?
Image: Fate of the Norns; Aegir
To me, experiences between gods, alfar, disir, Jotnar and us are private and should be shared but never used as a hammer, or a fact to discredit someone else. I told her that Aegir wouldn’t be giving it back, but when she comes back with or without me, she might have something waiting for her in exchange from Aegir. A very minor and easy-to-accept concept of the gift cycle. And she was happy with this. She was no longer upset, and even talked about it as we left.
Children are sponges. They absorb what we put to them, with a reverence because parents are their heroes, their mentors. Heathenry should be put to children not as dogma, or how things work “because.” Much of what we do is purely natural. We are not above nature, we are not divine beings in the favor of the gods above others like Jotnar, dokken, or alfar. Introduce a concept in a way they can understand it, and over the years, enforce it with more stories, growing in complexity as they develop into young people and finally teenagers and adults.
Make our concepts part of their life, not the end-all-be-all of it. We live with our ancestors gifts to us from cradle to grave – and beyond. Teach your children about gifting, and the strength of tribe. Give them pride in themselves, their action, and make it all fun. Stories told in the lore were for educational and entertainment around fires at night, and during travels over land and sea. The same was done in other religions for millennia.
And who knows, maybe next beach trip Aegir will leave something for Gabby. Or maybe he already did? 30 minutes later, she found a piece of jewelry in the dunes. Did Aegir, or one of his servants, place it? Not for me to say. It was between they and Gabby.