Incurving: Spiraling through Motherhood
Mothering with a Pagan Perspective
When I thought about having a child at home, my first concerns followed Maslow’s pyramid pretty closely: how will I care for this child’s physical needs; how will I make sure I understand her developmental needs; how can I help her live a happy and fulfilling life? I did not immediately think of the fact that in addition to caring for her physical, mental, and emotional needs, I’d be her first priestess. Once I realized that, I embarked on a serious investigation of my values and beliefs.
As a younger pagan, I had played with paradigms. I read as much as I wanted, tried on new ideas, and tested out theories and spells. I allowed myself to change my mind as often as I liked. Once parenthood peeked over the horizon I felt obligated to solidify my ideas somewhat. I will of course continue to learn and grow, but with tough theological questions would be in my future I wanted to know how I might answer.
I want every explanation I give my daughter to grow from both poetry and science. My answers must contain multiple truths that can unfold themselves over time. When she looks back, I want her to realize that the short answer held the seeds of deeper ruminations. The door to further insight remains open, leading to multiple paths and paradigms for her to explore, while I ensure that she gets grounded in the reality of life as we understand it.
So when she asks, “What is the sun?” I give her facts: its physical composition; its identity as a star among other stars; its distance from the Earth. Then I tell her that some people call her Amaterasu, and tell her the story of how She hid her face and came out when lured by her own reflection. Or she asks, “Are fairies real?” I answer yes, and tell her about the different ways humans think about faeries, from the scientific explanations to the folklore. She’s allowed to have Tinkerbell as a friend and also leave offerings for the Good Neighbors with me. The world will inform her experience soon enough; it’s not my place to take anything in the realm of the imagination away from her.
Some days I think of my Catholic upbringing and remember how all of my spiritual queries had answers. The answers didn’t always make sense, and definitely did not satisfy, but they were written down. Everyone knew them and discussed them as a community. I don’t have that now. I am the architect of my theology, as well as my daughters, and must consider every answer I give. Sometimes I have to do research. There’s no pagan theology book (though I’m quite grateful for Starhawk’s Circle Round book). I wouldn’t want One True Dogma among my fellow pagans, but I recognize that my daughter’s spiritual education stands as yet another place in my parenting journey which I must re-invent the wheel.
That said, though sometimes I long for the simplicity of the easy answer, I also value the opportunity to find non-dogmatic answers that lead to further seeking, experiential data (Unverified Personal Gnosis), and the luxury of being able to say, “I don’t know. No one knows.” (It helps that we study Buddhism, and the Buddhists wrote down plenty of things that apply to our lives; I’m not completely on my own.)
Ultimately, we will continue to develop our paradigms as a family. She will take the practices and beliefs that we’ve taught her and decide what works for her as an adult. Certainly I hope I raise a child who believes in magic as well as technology, the gods and spirits of the land as well as the humans and animals she can touch with her hands. I want another questioning, imaginative person in the world. But it’s not important to me that she view everything exactly like I do. Instead, I want her to have the ability, and the desire, to choose for herself.
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