In The EarthSpirit Community, we are “…dedicated to the preservation and development of Earth-centered spirituality, culture and community…” and I have done my best for myself, my family, and the community to embrace and nurture those things. Today I’d like to talk about pagan culture, and the pull of the cultures that surround my family.
In Western Massachusetts, the wider culture is one I am mostly comfortable in. We enjoy cow pie bingo, many agricultural fairs, a festival in which children roll pumpkins down a hill every year, and other fun, satisfying traditions. Traditions and customs knit people together, and provide the sense of belonging that we need to be happy people. People know what the expectations are about what they will do, and what they can expect in return, because of culture.
I’m doing my best to raise children who know who they are, and celebrate the customs and traditions of our pagan culture. This is made difficult when the majority of the kids they see day to day aren’t part of those customs and traditions. It can be confusing for them when my kids watch their friends celebrate customs and traditions that my family does not. It is so much easier to be excited about Yule when your friends are also excited about Yule (and not telling you that “you mean Christmas”).
Some of the adults my children see are not part of the pagan community. Many of them are loving and accepting, but don’t understand that when they expect my kids to be excited about their Christian holidays, they reinforce a cultural gravity I’m actively trying to help my kids avoid. A couple of years ago, a grown-up who knows we’re pagan asked my then-four year old if he was looking forward to Easter. He looked confused, put his hand on his hip and said, “I do Equinox, NOT Easter.” I wish my children didn’t have to navigate these difficult cultural waters, and I wish people who know we’re pagan would not put them in that position. It is an opportunity to teach tolerance, of course, but now we’re expecting children to do the emotional work, and not the adults around them.
My husband and I have tried hard to make the pagan culture in our home vibrant and rich, with the gravity to cradle our children in its rhythms. It is much easier to handle the pull of other traditions when you feel secure in your own culture. Words matter. Day-to-day routines, choices, diet, and activities matter. Holidays, rituals, and traditions matter. I have filled my home with pagan books, music, and art, and that matters. The friends they talk with matter.
Adults, too, feel the familiar gravity of the holidays and customs of their families of origin, their workplace, and their circles of friends. But I often wonder if I would be as dedicated to nurturing a rich pagan culture in my home if I didn’t have children.
I’m not advocating for stripping celebration out of shared spaces; there is nothing wrong with sharing and celebrating lots of holidays and traditions. But it is much easier to handle the pull of other traditions when you feel secure in your own culture, and you don’t feel pressured to pretend you’re part of a culture that you’re not part of. It is important for everyone to notice and respect both the areas of overlap and the areas of difference between the traditions and customs of majority and minority cultures.
Because the thing is, with gravity, all things are pulling on all other things. People pull on the Earth even as the Earth is pulling us toward it. Cultures have gravity. My hope is that instead of tearing us apart, these different cultural gravities will draw us into a dance. Best wishes from my home to yours for a swirling, twirling season.