I have already written two articles on another blog about including children in ancestral and devotional works from a young age. The first is about helping children through the grieving process of losing a loved one and in the process creating an ancestor altar or devotional ancestor practices. The second, a little more light-hearted is about how to take care of your house elf, or tomten/nisser during the yuletide season and beyond.
We started my now three-year-old daughter off last year with devotional work, when she was two, by using the Tomtens I made her as a jumping off point. Now, she is starting to understand that there are forces beyond this plane of existence or ones that exist here that we don’t always see. To her, she understands it as magic, a concept that most children understand around toddlerhood. Her recent fascination with Faeries is stemming from this, and her imagination has really flourished in the past months. All things I believe stem from the fact that we encourage her regularly to expand her mind beyond the here and now.
We have a small nook in our house that my husband and I use as a sanctuary. In it there is an altar for ancestors as well as the personal Gods and Goddesses that we work most closely with. We still keep those altars to do deeper private work, but we now also have a few public, family altars in our kitchen.
They say the kitchen is the heart of the home and nothing is truer in our household. I am an avid cook, kitchen witch and sometimes herbalist and so we spend a great deal of time in that room. My daughter also enjoys baking and so we also do a lot of kitchen projects together as well.
My husband and I made a decision this year to keep family altars in the heart of the home, so we can be around them as we go about our daily routines. That way the altars serve as a constant reminder of the Gods and Goddesses we hold dear and their influence in our lives.
We started several new projects in the fall of 2016 (The Dreams of Ýdalir Patreon Project and our Dreams of Ydalir Etsy Store ) and so erected a brand new altar to Freyja. Not only is Freyja the Goddess of prosperity and wealth, but she is also the Goddess who introduced me to Heathenism 7 years ago (although I have been Pagan for over 20 years) and my daughter seems to have a special relationship to her. We do offerings to Freyja using this altar every Friday. In a way erecting this altar to her and creating the tools for it is what helped us with the concept for the second altar, which is the one we use all the time.
The second altar is a rotating altar and we change it around each day to honor the God or Goddess of the day. This will be different for every household, but the how can be used universally.
For each God or Goddess we have a little kit of items that we use: an image of them (some are images my husband, who is an illustrator has created), an amulet that contains a symbol that represents them imbued with magic, as well as a prayer that I created especially for each one and a food/beverage offering specific for each. To get an idea of what is included, for example, in our altar for Freyja, you can check out the kit we made for her here. In fact we have a special going on today in our store!
We place these items on the altar, light a candle, light incense if needed and say the prayer together as a family. My daughter helps by blowing out the incense flame, if we are using it, and placing the offering in the offering bowl. She also says the prayers with us and then at the end blows kisses to whomever we are honoring on
She loves doing offerings, often becoming giddy when it is time, and even through some of the words in the prayers are still a little unfamiliar, she does her best to repeat them after us. We weren’t sure if she was going to be interested in our daily devotional practices. But we have been happy to see her excitement at being involved.
Some people believe that children should have the right to find their own spiritual path, and although I do not disagree, I also believe it is important for children to grow up, especially when they are very little, with a sense of roots and to be involved in family traditions and practices, something familiar that they can always return to. I was raised Catholic and although I no longer have ties to that religious path, I do have the love of ritual in common with those of that faith. Trees need roots to grow strong a tall. Yes, they will also grow many branches, growing in different directions throughout its life, but having the root that grounds them allows those branches to soar high.