Hallowe’en has passed, and just like every year before, you may have noticed an uptick in children‘s curiosity about magick. Thanks to rampant commercial appearances of witches and magick during the holiday, the younger people in your life may be asking about your altar, or exactly why you have so many crystals. You may feel nervous about explaining your beliefs to them, but really, you don’t have to be!
Children are curious about new things and to be honest, a lot of our practical magick supplies will draw their attention. Crystals, altars, bundles of sage, even tarot cards and pendulums are neat to look at and beg to be held. It’s no wonder children are interested in learning more. Figuring out how to address their questions without forcing your beliefs can seem like a challenge.
Whether they are your children or a friend’s, there are many ways you can speak of your practice without pushing any boundaries.
Be open but be age appropriate
The first step is figuring out what to share. For example, if a child questions you about your tarot cards or crystals, it’s perfectly fine to tell them what they mean and how they are used. Sharing this information may lead to more questions, or the child may be satisfied and move onto something else. Answering these sorts of questions without making a big deal of them will help them feel at ease and invite further exploration, if interested, without shame or fear.
For questions about specific practices this may be a bit more complicated. There are as many different type of practitioners as there are stars in the sky and not everyone draws from a pool of energy that is appropriate for every child to learn about. For example, telling a five year old about your blood magick ritual probably isn’t the best idea in most cases. That being said, you don’t have to live in the “woo closet” either.1
Think about your practice and what aspects of it are rated G or PG. When speaking of it, focus on those aspects keeping the more adult parts to yourself. You are not hiding anything about yourself, you are just considering the audience.
But witches are bad…
Most children’s early exposure to magick performed by humans — known as witches in most popular culture — is bad. In fact, many people think that those interested in the occult sacrifice puppies on the weekends and children may sadly parrot these beliefs. They may even fear people who identify as witches or occult practitioners.
If a child says something like that to you, it is best to address this but do so gently. Remember, they are only repeating what they have learned.
Try to avoid statements that single you out from the general magick community, for example, “Some witches are bad, but I’m a good witch,” and instead be more direct in letting them know that this type of dichotomy is just not true. Explain instead that many people don’t understand magick, and then lead into your G-rated introduction to your own practice. Open with something like, “Lots of people believe in different things, but being different doesn’t make someone or something bad. You wouldn’t think your friend was bad because they liked a different candy would you?”
If a child doesn’t understand, try presenting them with something relatable to their own lives. Remember, children don’t have the background knowledge to understand complex concepts or social issues, so keep it simple, and align your examples with things they are familiar with.
Let them touch your things
Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean to let them run through the house with your crystal ball in their pocket, or take your supplies on a trip to school for show and tell. But being able to handle objects can really help open up the lines of communication for kids. Children are tactile learners, and being able to handle an item serves two purposes: first, it helps to cement a familiarity in their minds, and second, it helps to remove some of the mystery.
If it is something that you would like them to not touch without supervision, be upfront about that. Letting them know that something is fragile or special will help them understand their boundaries. Similarly, if it is an item that should not be touched at all save for ceremonial purposes, such as a devotional for a certain deity, then you can turn that into a teaching moment so they understand why the object is off limits, as well as more about what you believe.
Being able to handle items will also lead them to more questions and being more open to information. There is a chance they won’t like it once they’ve handled the item, and that’s fine too.
Include them in your practice
If thinking of your own children, this means just letting them share in your rituals as much as they can. Although they may not have the patience for full ritual work, letting them light candles, meditate, or even sprinkle salt, for example, can help them be a part of your practice and give them a better idea of what you do. Including them will give them a better idea of how they feel about magick on their own.
If they are not your child, be respectful of their parents and ask permission if the child shows interest. If their family is not familiar with what you are doing, give them a quick explanation and invite them to join as well. Even if the child is a niece or nephew, if their parents do not share your beliefs, it is always best to ask permission. Imagine how you would feel if your child came home from a visit and announced that they had spent the day in church without your okay. It would likely be pretty upsetting. If the parents say no, then it is probably best to respect that as well, but how you navigate your family ties (or your chosen family ties) is up to you.
Work information about your beliefs into your daily life
If you are actively raising a child in your beliefs, then incorporating it in natural ways will help a child learn and feel comfortable with the information. Encourage them to speak on things that remind them of the teachings.
For example, I recently attended an art show and overheard a child telling his mother about the different Orishas he saw depicted in the paintings. These were not paintings of the Orishas; he was responding to what he knew of their stories and how the art reminded him of them. He did not remember their names, but he could describe them. As he stood he described them as, “the one that likes water” or “the warrior,” after which his caregiver would repeat the correct name for him.
Many of us don’t speak of our practices in public but it can really help a child become comfortable if they are invited, at least with you, to talk openly about what they have learned or see as they are passing through the world.
To that end, it also helps if you drop bits of knowledge into your everyday life. Of course, you may reserve your practice for certain days, locations, et cetera, but questions like, “What crystals are this colour? Do you remember which God liked water, just like the ducks?,” or similar prompts can help make conversation around your beliefs part of daily learning and more natural.
Give them options and resources
Children learn best when they have resources that they can interact with. You can take them to your local shops to pick out their own gifts or you can purchase materials on your own.
There are many resources about magick and witchcraft — in all its many forms — available for children in the form of books and other learning tools. Although reading material may not outline spells and rituals, there are many books that are geared to teaching children the basics of many pantheons and that can be found with a quick Google search. If you’re looking for a general starting point, books like the ABC Book of Shadows ((See Psyche’s review of the ABC Book of Shadows.)) or tools like The Happy Tarot2 provide children with an easy (although Euro-centric and somewhat Judeo-Christian) introduction to magical practice. (We’d love to hear your recommendations for children’s titles dealing with magick and spirituality in the comments of this post!)
Be specific in what you are seeking, and chances are it shall appear (today’s world of children’s publishing is an exciting place). You might also consider building a little kit to introduce younger (maybe) practitioners to ritual work and objects. Such hands-on tools will give children a better idea of what you believe but remember to be clear that you are not forcing them to follow your beliefs, only sharing them.
Above all, don’t be embarrassed
Children will ask a lot of questions, or you may feel a little awkward bringing it up to your own child, but relax. Children make excellent audiences and although they may have some misguided ideas at first, a little patience and some time spent openly speaking with them will go a long way to sharing the world of magick with them.
Image credits: Rudi Schlatte, Jonathan Cohen, and a detail from The Happy Tarot
- Andi Grace, “Coming out of the woo closet: Facing shame, stigma and historical trauma,” Little Red Tarot Blog, 20 October 2016. [↩]
- See Donyae Coles’ review of The Happy Tarot. [↩]