As a teacher and Priest of the Craft for over ten years, I have walked with my students through a wide variety of Life's challenges - from broken hearts to family discrimination; from pregnancy to unemployment. There is one issue, however, that seems to come up more often, and to cause more anxiety, than any other. "Between maintaining a home, providing for my family, and raising my child/ren, how on Earth am I supposed to find time for Religious Observance?"
This question has been asked time and again, and I am usually met with irritation when I respond with, "Don't find the time; Make it. Where there's a Witch, there's a way." When I say this, however, what I really mean is "Get creative." It is inevitable that there will be situations when Spiritual Practice is difficult, and Coven attendance nearly impossible. More often than not, though, I find that what the student has in mind is some elaborate Ritual, complete with Robes and Swords, and over an hour's worth of meditation beforehand; now WHO's making your life more difficult than it already is? "Not I!", said the Teacher!
The answer is to combine priorities, keep it simple, and INCLUDE the children; make it part of the "quality time" you already spend together. The suggested outline which follows is ideal for introducing young children to Sacred Space and Time. It requires minimal set up, and takes little longer than it does to read the average storybook. (Something I would hope every Wiccan parent is already in the habit of doing!)
This, then, is my gift to all those who work so hard to provide for the Sons and Daughters of Our Lady and Our Lord. Blessed Be.
PREPARATION: A small table should be set up as an altar, such as an end or coffee table, or other surface where the child/children will be able to see, but not touch. It should be kept simple, i.e., a colored cloth, flowers and/or seasonal decorations, candle, juice in a special Cup or Chalice, a plate of cookies, and an incense burner. (if exposure to smoke is undesirable, a suggested alternative might be a small aromatherapy diffuser, with a few drops of scented oil.) If the child/ren are older, they might be allowed to assist in lighting the candle, incense, etc. A circular area should be clearly marked (colored ribbon, stones, shells, even stuffed animals might be used for this; Be creative, and get the children to help out!) Special Ritual garb is optional.
(If there is any smudging and/or sprinkling to be done, I suggest you do it BEFORE the child/ren are brought in; even the older ones tend to get carried away with this sort of thing!)
RING A BELL, BANG A DRUM, SING A SONG, OR ANYTHING ELSE WHICH SIGNALS THAT IT IS TIME TO COME IN, AND THAT "SPECIAL TIME" HAS BEGUN. (Make sure that everyone has gone to the restroom beforehand, and be sure to explain, "The rules are that once we make our Circle, we have to stay inside it, unless we make a doorway, so if you have to go, let me know, so we can do that, okay?" )
1. Have you and the child/ren "walk 'round and 'round, The same way a clock goes". Have them imagine a "sparkly Circle , all around us!" You can move faster as you go, or sing an appropriate song or chant. Alternately, if you are working with a larger group of youngsters (5 or more), such as at a festival, you might have them stand in place and cast the Circle "hand to hand".
~NOTE: if you are working with a mixed gender group between the ages of 8 and 12,this last method WILL NOT WORK! ("Eewww!") You've been warned!
2. To invoke the Elements, you might simply say something like "We ask the Earth, and the Air, the Fire and the Water, Please come to our Circle, and make it strong! Welcome, and Blessed Be."
3. Now add something like, "Lady and Lord, this is your Special Day/Night, We know you love us always, and we're here to say thank you." (Light the candle and incense, which should be of an appropriate seasonal color and/or scent, according to your Tradition.) "Please Bless our Circle...and Blessed Be!"
4. Have the child/ren be seated, then read to them a story selected to reflect the meaning/theme of the Occasion or Season. (The classic "Meagan Stories", which can be found on the internet, are ideal for the Sabbats!)
5. Once the story is finished, Bless the cookies and juice. You might say something like, "Lord and Lady, please Bless our cookies and juice, so we may be strong, do good, and show Your Love to all living things. May we always have plenty to eat and to drink. Blessed Be!" Place a cookie and some juice in a bowl for offering outside after Circle, and share the rest while discussing the story.
6. When you are ready, stand and say, "Lord and Lady, Thank You for this Special Night/Day, for loving us, and for accepting our gifts. Blessed Be!"
7. "Earth and Air, Fire, and Water, thank you for making our Circle strong! Go in Peace, and Blessed Be!"
8. Open the Circle by walking widdershins, by imagining a curtain being drawn aside, or in any other creative, playful manner. When finished, say,as always-"The Circle is open-" ALL;"But NEVER BROKEN!" Hugs!
9. CELEBRATE! (Have a special dinner, make Sabbat Arts & Crafts, etc.)
You have now paid hommage to Our Lady and Lord, spent quality time with your child/ren, and learned a valuable lesson; "Where there's a Witch, there's a way!";and all in about 30 minutes. How's THAT for multi-tasking?
BLESSED BE, AND SO MOTE IT BE!