Pagan Family Values

Pagan Family Values: Childhood and the Religious Imagination in Contemporary American Paganism

S. Zohreh Kermani
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Pagan Family Values
    Book Description:

    "An intriguing, important, and often entertaining look at an under-studied aspect of new religions. Highly recommended." - Douglas E. Cowan, author of Cyberhenge: Modern Pagans on the Internet For most of its history, contemporary Paganism has been a religion of converts. Yet as it enters its fifth decade, it is incorporating growing numbers of second-generation Pagans for whom Paganism is a family tradition, not a religious worldview arrived at via a spiritual quest. In Pagan Family Values, S. Zohreh Kermaniexplores the ways in which North American Pagan families pass on their beliefs to their children, and how the effort to socialize children influences this new religious movement. The first ethnographic study of the everyday lives of contemporary Pagan families, this volume brings their experiences into conversation with contemporary issues in American religion. Through formal interviews with Pagan families, participant observation at various pagan events, and data collected via online surveys, Kermani traces the ways in which Pagan parents transmit their religious values to their children. Rather than seeking to pass along specific religious beliefs, Pagan parents tend to seek to instill values, such as religious tolerance and spiritual independence, which will remain with their children throughout their lives, regardless of these children's ultimate religious identifications.S. Zohreh Kermaniteaches Religious Studies part time at Youngstown State University.In theNew and Alternative Religionsseries

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4498-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    Four-year-old Oliver is at his first SpiralScouts meeting, and he is obsessed with the apple that is just out of his reach. Last night, his mother, Carolyn, told him about SpiralScouts—that it was a scouting group kind of like the Boy Scouts, but for children whose families were Pagan. Oliver is not sure what a Pagan is, but he loves to talk about “growing his magic,” and his mother is trying to raise him in a vaguely earth-based, religiously tolerant, “spiritual-but-not-religious” home. She told him that he would learn about magic at this meeting and that he would have...

  6. 1 Crafting History
    (pp. 25-56)

    Pagans sometimes joke that if you ask three Pagans a question, you’ll get five answers. Even after half a century as an American religion, contemporary Paganism remains decentralized both in doctrine and in practice, and very little consensus exists among scholars or practitioners on more than the most fundamental aspects of the religion. Unsurprisingly, contemporary Paganism is also fraught with contentious and varied interpretations of its historical roots. In a striking convergence of popular and scholarly opinion, it is often the case that any three scholars’ descriptions of the nature and origins of the religion will result in five answers...

  7. 2 Old Souls: Pagan Childhood
    (pp. 57-69)

    This chapter examines Pagan perspectives on childhood and parenting and the ways that understandings of these idioms shape the religious and imaginative worlds of Pagan adults, children, and families. I suggest that contemporary Paganism maintains a complicated tension between the valorization of a sort of self-conscious, disingenuous naïveté among Pagan adults and an externally imposed perception of precocious wisdom among Pagan children. Put simply, contemporary Paganism seems to encourage a childlike immaturity in adults and, in some ways, an overly precocious maturity in children. Pagan adults seek to recapture the spontaneity of their lost childhoods (however oxymoronic that may be)...

  8. 3 Parenting in Neverland
    (pp. 70-88)

    The Council of Magickal Arts (CMA) holds a semiannual Pagan gathering on private land in central Texas. During my two years of fieldwork at this festival, I sometimes fulfilled my mandatory two hours of community service (required by CMA of all attendees at the festival) by volunteering at Fairy Mound (sometimes written “Faerie Mound”), an activity center and babysitting co-op for two- to six-year-old children. The name itself illustrates the deep connection in contemporary Paganism between children and the supernatural. Pagans often accept (seemingly as undisputed fact) that “children can see devas, fairies and nature spirits much easier than most...

  9. 4 Don’t Eat the Incense: Children in Ritual
    (pp. 89-113)

    Erin’s daughter Aisling was not quite two years old when Erin began her solitary practice of Wicca. Raised in a vaguely Protestant home, Erin had been curious about other religions from an early age and had visited a number of different churches as a child, but she found these experiences unfulfilling. What she found in these churches, for the most part, she describes as “hypocrites, manipulators, judgmental people, many unloving ways, women haters, tricksters.”¹ Erin tried several other spiritual paths, briefly deciding that she was an atheist before finally joining a Unitarian Universalist church, where she was introduced to contemporary...

  10. 5 A Room Full of FireFlies
    (pp. 114-152)

    Erin is holding what looks like a magnolia branch wrapped with ribbon, but her six-year-old daughter Aisling knows that it’s really a magic wand. Erin and Aisling use this wand to create sacred space for the rituals they have performed together since Aisling was two years old, and Erin has spent most of this chilly November afternoon telling me about these rituals. Aisling reluctantly joined our conversation once I managed to convince her that I wasn’t asking trick questions (“Why do you ask so many questions?” she asked me suspiciously. “Weren’tyoua Pagan when you were a kid?”). Bored...

  11. 6 My Dream Come True
    (pp. 153-180)

    Eoin laughs in a deep, full belly laugh that seems absurdly large coming from a three-month-old baby. The guests who have gathered at Erin’s home this evening for Eoin’s baby blessing ceremony find it impossible to resist tickling him and swinging him in the air, just for the reward of that unlikely sound. The adults admire the baby as the four older children—three daughters of guests and Erin’s older daughter, Aisling—play a loud and elaborate game of tag in the dining room. A plaster cast of Erin’s nine-month-pregnant belly is displayed in the living room near two large,...

  12. Conclusion: Building Fairy Houses
    (pp. 181-188)

    At a summer solstice campout for the SpiralScouts of Silverling Circle, one of the craft activities in a very full weekend called on the scouts to make “fairy houses.” These houses were intended to provide the local fairies with shelter, but the craft needed very little explanation; scouts and parents alike seemed immediately to understand both the purpose and the need for these structures. Working with moss, bark, grass, and twigs they collected from the campgrounds, the adults and children set to work creating suitable lodgings for the fairy folk. While the children spread thick layers of glue on bark...

  13. Appendix A: “American Pagan Families and Family Values” Online Survey
    (pp. 189-192)
  14. Appendix B: “Second-Generation Pagans: Experiences and Opinions” Online Survey
    (pp. 193-196)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 197-218)
  16. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 219-222)
  17. Index
    (pp. 223-234)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 235-235)