Children In Heathenry
Getting our kids involved may seem like one of the most awkward things about being a Heathen. They can hardly join in on the drinking side, or the late nights chatting, or in most cases, the ritual side of Heathenry either......
So, what can they do?
Anything you want them to is the answer to that, and also what 'they' are comfortable with.
Gareth Hockin, AUK's Youth Officer has put together the following, as a guide to kids and moots.
Bringing your children to a moot
A guide for heathen parents
If you are reading this then I will assume that you are a heathen parent, with at least one child and are considering coming to a real world AUK moot.
Now the first question which we are often asked is are children welcome at Moots? The answer? Absolutely! Our children are potentially the future of AUK and it is so important that they are included. As a heathen parent myself, I was of course worried the first time we came, but my worries were totally unfounded.
Obviously having your children at a moot does have its challenges and as with any holiday involving children, you will have to plan in further depth.
One of the first things to consider is sleeping arrangements. Now these do vary between locations and range from camping to bunkhouses and YHA buildings, though at our Jorvik moot you arrange your own hotel. Now depending on the age of your children and any additional needs you have you may have specific accommodation requirements. We do try to provide these if at all possible, obviously you need to communicate with us and discuss your needs. It is entirely possible that you may have needs that cannot be met at our specific location. In these cases we are very sorry but you may need to choose a different moot to bring the children to. Alternatively you may arrange your own accommodation or attend for a day as a taster. We do really try however to be as helpful and hospitable as possible.
Once sleeping is taken care of next is eating. At many moots we arrange communal meals. We find that this is a really nice way to spend time together and build bonds, by cooking and washing up as a community. As with any other attendee of a moot with communal catering specific dietary requirements will be catered for, so long as you let us know in advance. If you have particularly young children or those who may find it difficult to eat out of routine or would prefer specific foods, then it would be an idea to bring extra food for them with you. We always take a selection of snacks and safe foods for our child to ensure that he doesn't go hungry.
Another question is what will happen at a Moot? All of our moots generally have an opening and closing ritual at the very least as well as some organised activities and free time. Organised activities could be a visit to a local historic site, a workshop of some kind, or a structured discussion. Activities for children will be added to the programme in line with those attending. So to ensure that we provide the best for your little one then contact me. We can then tailor what we are offering to the ages and interests of your children. It's also an idea to take some toys or games with you. There may be times when nothing much is going on and children will appreciate familiar things to fill this time.
Hang on, I said rituals didn't I! Next question we have been asked. What does that mean? Ok so far from being scary it really isn't. A typical AUK ritual will be a Blot followed by a Sumbel. We don't use blood sacrifice in these rituals, preferring mead, beer and bread. There will be handouts so please don't worry! The Sumbel afterwards typically follows three rounds and the Gothi or leader of the ritual will give clear guidance, but remember, speaking aloud is not compulsory. Typically a full ritual will last no more than about half an hour.
Are children welcome in ritual? At AUK we do believe children should be given a broad understanding of religion and not indoctrinated into a set belief. To this end we would expect that children, particularly the younger ones, wouldn't take part in the adult rituals. Further to this, as alcohol is used, parents may feel it inappropriate (consuming alcohol in the ritual is not compulsory it is just as acceptable to offer your share directly to gods, wights, etc). This is not to say that if an older child of their own free will wanted to take part they would be denied. It may also be possible to arrange similar rituals in a more child friendly manner if sufficient children would like. If your children require attention during a ritual it may be more practical for one parent to miss the ritual and in this case we suggest that you take turns and allow each parent who wishes to take part the opportunity over the moot. If there are multiple families with children it may be possible to arrange them to watch your children in exchange for you returning the favour. It is also likely that there may be teenagers present who are often very happy to watch little ones while rituals take place.
It is important to remember that you are parents first.
The same goes for late nights and alcohol! Children wake up particularly in unfamiliar surroundings. No one will judge you if you don't drink or head to bed early. Trust me I have experienced the no sleep night, where the little one woke up as we went to bed! Best advice. Take turns! Get your rest and try your best to get your child back to sleep! Easier said than done!! At least if one of you has had a bit of sleep the other can catch up during the day.
Will my children be safe? We do everything we can to ensure that everyone is safe but your children remain your responsibility. We do have at least 2 Kin members who are DBS checked through their ordinary lives. I myself am a scout leader. Also my partner is a nursery manager. We have experience with children so don't worry.
The last question that I have been asked is "my partner is a Christian/atheist/Wiccan/other, can they still come?" The answer to this is simple. So long as they are supportive of you and respectful of us, they are more than welcome. If they would prefer not to take part in rituals, that's fine. Our moots are relaxed and a lot of fun. There is no heavy heathenry and we would expect followers of other practices to behave the same.
Other advice I have for you? The best moot for children is probably the Early Summer moot. It's a great space for children and is one of the most relaxed moots of our year. Talk to us! We arrange events and activities based on our experiences and what we know. If you have something you want us to sort or something you can offer then brilliant! We will do our best to implement it.
The young are our legacy and they are the future of AUK! It is important that parents feel comfortable to come, bring their children and enjoy themselves. But talk to us! We can't help if we don't know!
So, until we see you at moot!
AUK Youth Officer