Thoughts on the Village in Paganism
It Takes a Village to Raise a Child…. this proverb, saying, cliché is often bandied about in society. While the origins of the saying are debatable, the meaning behind the term is one that I have always thought to be important. As parents and as pagans how does this philosophy apply to our lives? And do we practice it or should we even practice it?
As humans evolved we lived in groups to ensure survival. Our societal structure was vastly different from how it is today. We hunted, gathered, ate together, lived together. Our living was done in units. The women and men probably broke off into groups at times to accomplish various goals. The women and children worked together during the days. This type of living arraignment lent itself to the concept of the village raising the children. Parents we primary but care was most likely derived from the most available adult or older child. The group watched out for everyone. Exactly how the tribe disciplined or raised the children and what values were instilled is not something we can know for sure but the communal aspect was no doubt the means of survival. To be alone as a single nuclear family was unheard of.
In my mind I tend to idealize this method of living. It seems so reassuring to think of being around many women in various life stages. Tanning hides, drying fish, sewing clothing. Children are running around, all being watched, observed, and cared for. Some are still nursing, some are entering puberty, some are about to join the men and come of age. These children would experience adult interaction very differently from our own. And there is no doubt that the biological parents of the children would view their kids differently from how we see ours today.
Fast forward millions of years and here we are, living in our separate dwellings, supporting ourselves with one or two parents working. How can we apply the concept of children being raised by the village into our lives as pagans? Many facets of our community divide the ones with children and the ones without into separate categories. People without children, whether by choice or by circumstance can be reluctant to be around kids. Kids can be loud, disruptive and distracting. Pagans with children often expect their kids to be included in every event, can let them run amuck and not admit that their child is the one in the wrong. And so we have two warring factions, both accusatory, neither thinking communally with a village mindset. After all there was never a village that only contained the childless or only had parents. Everyone lived together. Despite the fact that our communities are not looking at communal living as the norm for every day and we experience community in small doses at festivals, rituals, etc. we still can not seem to be respectful at many events. We need to rethink our mindsets. We need to remember in our bones what it was to be a tribe.
“Children need the attention and encouragement of many adults, not just their parents. Adults who may not have children of their own still need to feel connected to the next generation.” pp. 284, Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions
Most parents will say that they don’t want another person disciplining their child. We feel the need to control the guidance that our children receive. Of course it is our job to protect them and keep them from abuse or harmful people. But does it hurt our children to learn to interact with others and hear their means of communicating lessons? Most parents put our kids into school or classes where teachers will be given the authority to enforce discipline. Is that different from a family friend or coven member giving your child guidance when they may be acting inappropriately? A perfect stranger may even offer words that are appropriate to a situation.
This summer while at the beach my toddler was playing in the sectioned off area for young children. Some older boys, the youngest being at least 10, were throwing handfuls of sand at each other and having a blast. The younger preschoolers were of course getting in their way and I worried that one could be knocked over or hit with sand. I looked around trying to place parents to these boys but no one seemed to be watching them, so I made a judgment call. Politely but firmly I asked the boys to move their game to another section of the beach that was away from the little kids. At first they thought that I wanted them to stop altogether and they seemed taken aback. But I explained to them that they could move to another area that was away from the little ones. They saw the logic and moved over. There was no disrespect involved and they were obviously very thoughtful boys. I would consider that act one of parenting in the village style, respecting the game that the older boys were enjoying, while protecting the smaller kids who could not protect themselves.
“Because Pagan communities are generally small and far flung, support and congregation has been minimal…but as more of us have children, and especially as children almost dominate the population at many pagan events it is time to reorder our priorities as though we actually were a clan, a tradition, and a cohesive culture, if that’s what we think we are or would like to be.” pp. 283, Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions
If we prefer the nuclear family model as it is today across North America and many parts of Western society then we need not take much about “it takes a village…” seriously. We can go about our lives, raising our children in slight isolation from a larger community of similar minds. Or we can strive to build a community of many layers that offers the youngest and most impressionable members of society a place where multiple adults are considered their guides. The primary role of guardian will always be with the parents, but we can offer children a glory of knowledge by letting others, who we trust and sometimes who just happen to be there in the moment, teach them about how it is to be human and what it means to live as a clan.
As always you can reach me at stonegirl1177 AT yahoo DOT ca with comments or questions. Or you can visit my blog at http://chasingdomesticbliss.blogspot.com