Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Including Children in Esbat Rituals

In one of the forums I belong to it was recently asked how to include children under 10 in esbat rituals.  Including children in our rites can take extra effort on our part but the rewards are rich.  Those who follow my writing know that I take the attitude that it is my duty to my children to raise them in the Pagan faith.  I am of the school that children need to be raised in a faith as part of healthy psychological development; I don’t think what the faith is matters as much as just having a faith, even the path of atheism offers answers to “the big questions.”  They need some sort of spiritual framework to make sense out of the world. My children may choose a different spiritual path when they are older, but while they are children I will guide them along the Pagan path.  Esbat rituals are a great place to start teaching them circle etiquette and some of the basics of the faith.

Here are some tips for including children in esbat rituals...
Break your ritual up into short segments.  Keep the segments short and for children with very short attention spans keep the overall ritual on the short side.

Incorporate movement and music into the ritual but don't have too many stimuli at once or it makes it harder for the children to focus.

Give each child a job or responsibility in the ritual. For example each child could be responsible for calling one of the elements.

Let the kids give ideas for things they would like to see included in next month’s ritual.

Let them write what they will say to call the elements, etc.

The use of a “talking stick” is sometimes helpful to remind them when it's okay to talk.

Make sure the "cakes and ale" are things they enjoy and it's even better if they helped to make it.  Crescent moon shaped sugar cookies are a good choice.

Have a clear structure (this will happen, then this, etc.) While you don’t want to do the same ritual month in and month out, keeping the same basic structure from month to month helps kids know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Especially for younger children, physically defining the circle space is helpful to them.  You could hold circle on a round carpet or outline the circle with rope/rocks/baking soda/etc.  I don’t recommend outlining the circle with candles when you’re working with younger children.

Get the children as active as possible, have realistic expectations of them, tailor the ritual to them not the other way around, and above all it should be fun. The Goddess laughs and she's not going to care if little Johnny does something right on cue or not.

You might also use positive reinforcement. Make sure to give them praise during the ritual for good conduct. If little Jill normally can't sit still and you see she's sitting still for a full minute, make sure to praise her. You don't have to disrupt the ritual to do this, a simple wink, thumbs up, or smile can go along way. Also you can have them work towards a goal. For every ritual segment they get through without having to be redirected they get a star. Once they've attained so many stars maybe they get to help lead a ritual or maybe the group can make something to present to them for their achievement.

The more integrated and important the children feel during the ritual the more successful it’s going to be for adults and children alike.

Here is a sample Esbat ritual for you to see some of these suggestions illustrated.  May it inspire you to write your own or adapt this one to your needs.

*Make sure you’ll have everything you need already within the circle before you begin. 

Children's Esbat Ritual

1. Cast the circle by singing Place of Power Circle Casting Chant, help them to face the correct direction as they sing.  You might even let the children drum or shake rattles along with the chant.

2. Next ask/or tell the children why you have come together in the circle on this night.  Explain to them that it is the Full Moon and what significance that has to your tradition.

3. Recite the Moon Phase chant with the children…

Where is the Moon when the Moon is new?
It’s a sliver to the right getting bigger every night.

Where is the Moon when the Moon is round?
Rising as the sun is going down.

Where is the Moon when the Moon is waning?
It’s a sliver to the left ‘til there’s no Moon remaining.

4. Help each child to light a floating candle (you can find them in most craft supply stores) and place it in a bowl of water.  They can each make a wish on their candle.  This can stay in the center of the circle for a bit.

5. Read the children a book.  One that I like for esbats is When The Moon Is Full A Lunar Year by Penny Pollock.  You can read the whole book to children with long attention spans or you can read just that month’s passage for children with shorter attention spans.  Another story I like for this is MOONGAME by Frank Asch.  This story is great if you're going to play Capture the Moon after the ritual.

6. Next is craft/hands on time. Now would be a good time to move the bowl of floating candles out of the middle of the circle. Here are some suggestions for projects…

Make stars out of Popsicle/craft sticks.  These can be painted
with glow-in-the-dark paint or decorated
with glitter glue and hung from children’s bedroom ceilings.

Make moon and star mobiles.

 Use glow-in-the-dark markers or paint to color moon and star
scenes on black construction paper.

Let the kids create with moon sand.

Have the children color moon themed coloring pages.

Make jewelry from moonstone beads.

Make a game of identifying constellations.

7. Thank you Mother Moon…

Have the children pass the “talking stick” around the circle.  On each child’s turn they say “Thank you Mother Moon…” and say something they are thankful for.  This helps to instill gratitude in children and balances the part of the ritual where they made a wish for something.

8. Now it’s time for “cakes and ale,” assign one or more of the children to pass these out.

9. Have the children help you release and thank any deities you’ve called and the elements.  Open the circle.

As treat for being well behaved during circle you can let the children round out the evening by playing Capture the Moon.

Capture the Moon

 In this version of nighttime tag you imagine that a soccer ball is the full moon.

You need:
4 or more players
A flashlight
A soccer ball

One player stands near the “moon.”  This player closes his/her eyes and counts to 28, the number of days in a lunar cycle.  (*Some sources say it’s 27 points something, some say 29 point something, and other’s say 28, I figure I can’t be too far off by taking the middle road.)  While the others quietly run and hide.  When the player gets to 28 s/he shouts out, “Full Moon!”

That player goes off to find the others, tagging the other players with the flashlight beam when s/he finds them.  Player keeps the flashlight off unless s/he is tagging someone.  While the person with the flashlight tries to find them the others sneak around in the dark trying to capture the full moon without being tagged.  Once a player is tagged by the flashlight beam they are “out.”  The first person to capture the moon or the last person left to be tagged is the next to carry the flashlight.

)O( Blessings Witches and Witchlings )O(


  1. This is a great ritual, I'm always thinking of ways to get my children involved. The video send chills through my body - in a good way. Thank you. BB )O(

  2. Thank you Playfullkitten. Blessings to you as well.

  3. I love that little rhyme about the moon!