Children and Ceremony

As seen in the article in Pagan Pages e-Magazine:

Children and Ceremony

In many cultures in the world, rituals are built into daily life as a continual way of renewing the individual and community spirit: celebrating, giving gratitude, grieving, and letting go of that which no longer serves the health and well-being of the village. Ritual is a kind of glue that helps us to remember who we are and how we are related to everything in the universe–something we humans tend to forget unless we build times to experience this connection consciously into our busy lives.

Each of us authors noticed several years ago that many children we met wanted and needed ritual in their lives. The children were interested in what we were doing as shamanic practitioners and some children started asking us to work with them by creating healing ceremonies either with them or for them. This was particularly true of those brought up in the Western world without ties to ancestral traditions of their particular lineage.

With the growing secularization of society in the 20th Century, mainstream Western culture gained more freedom of spiritual discovery and expression. Unfortunately, some of us also lost our conscious tie with the sacred both inside and outside of us. This has created a generation of kids who seem to feel a bit in limbo; many want ways to walk their spiritual paths and make a difference in the world but do not feel comfortable in either secularization or organized religions. We find that many kids have instinctively discovered a relationship with the cosmos in a consistent way through spending time out in nature.

Indeed, ritual seems to come naturally to many children already. For example, when a pet dies, kids intuitively give them a burial and a formal farewell. Grandmother Ann (our co-author) wrote a little about her experience of doing ceremony with children in 2011:

I was fortunate, several years ago, to work with a group of children whose parents were also studying shamanism.  These children and I played games, did ceremonies and had discussions about their joys, fears, hopes and dreams.  We talked about how the ceremonies related to their lives in all aspects: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and life force energy.  We discussed the natural world and our connections to the Earth.  Doing ceremony together, I got to know the children’s needs and the gifts they brought to life.  For a parent, grandparent or other caregiver this sharing can bring increased joy and deepen your connection and love for the child.  That is a wonderful gift.”

The following is an excerpt from the book “The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within:”

A few years ago, one of our teachers shared her dream of creating a book of ceremonies for children.  She and our other teacher were working on their own book of ceremonies for adults at the time.  A few of us expressed passion for this project.  Each of us (Ann, Jen and Kat) have a deep devotion to children; serving them is part of our pathway in life.  Ann is a grandmother with five children of her own and two grandchildren.  Katherine (Kat) is a published children’s author and an aunt to two little girls.  Jennifer (Jen) is a BC-certified teacher and an aunt to a boy and a girl.  We share a love of children and passion for their welfare and empowerment.  Each of us has done so much healing through ceremonies.  We know how powerful they are.  Our dream for this book is that children everywhere will experience the magic of self-discovery as they do these ceremonies. 

Shamanism is a term to describe a general practice of using the wisdom of the natural world and the earth’s energies to heal oneself and add beauty to one’s life. Shamanism includes many spiritual practices and does not have one doctrine of belief to follow.  

The ceremonies we have created are earth-based and draw upon the wisdom in nature (and in each of you as parts of nature) in order to bring healing into your lives.  With the natural world as a point of connection, we hope that children (and parents) of all faiths, beliefs and cultures find these ceremonies accessible and healing.  Children who live in urban areas can connect with nature around and within their human-made environments.  Most kids will have access to trees, even if they are small ones that line the concrete streets.  Most kids will find insects, birds and other animals in their cities to observe and connect with.  All of us have access to the sun, the wind, the water and the earth…

Ceremonies can teach us how to use magical tools (altars, medicine wheels, wands) to call something we want or need into our lives, for protection, for working with life’s challenges and for calling forth our gifts, so that we can live the best life we can while we are here on Earth.  Ceremonies can help change our inner worlds so that our lives work better and we are happier people.  I don’t know about you, but in my life, it can be so hard to hear my own voice among people telling me what I should do, what I should think and how I should act.  So many “shoulds” can drive a person crazy!  As Grandmother Ann states, spending time doing ceremony can help people to hear their own voice so that they can follow their own inner wise magician in their lives: 

Why do I do ceremony?  By doing ceremonies, I clear away all of the monkey noise in my head so I can discover my gifts to the world.  I discover magical mysterious me.  I hear the magician that is my higher self, who knows what I need to do and how to do it.  When I do ceremonies, I hear the song of the Universe and its vibrations so that I can vibrate in time with the Universe’s rhythms.  Ceremony sets me free to be me.”

This book is an invitation to ceremony for adults and kids. It can be used in a random and intuitive way. We invite each child and adult’s inner child to listen to the ceremonial descriptions and choose ones that feel/sound interesting. It is okay for parents to make suggestions, as long as they are not attached to the outcome.  It is important that the child participate willingly.  Each one of us has our own path to walk in life and making self-governed choices is a vital part of that journey.  We have included age groups that each ceremony is best suited for.  However, this is only a guideline.  Kids who are outside the age range are welcome to do any ceremony that calls to them. 

It is important to note that this is not a book “for” kids as much as a guide that will allow adults to connect with their playful, lighthearted selves while they participate in the ceremonies with their children. It is not intended to be a book where kids are left on their own to do these ceremonies…

Each one of you has special gifts you brought to the world when you were born that you carry around inside.  Our deepest wish as the authors of this book is that doing these ceremonies supports each one of you to shine more of your inner light into the world.  Discover your mysterious magical self!   What magic will you bring to the planet?

Jennifer Engrácio

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Video: Forgiveness Practice

Recently my friend, Shyloe Fayad, interviewed me on her live show “Real Lives. Real People” on Facebook.  This show is dedicated to talking to real people about their lives and their journey towards wholeness.

During this episode, we talk about the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono and how it can help you. This video was watched over a thousand times on Facebook so far and so it seems that we struck a chord with folks out there with the forgiveness theme.  If you have 40 minutes while cooking dinner, check it out and leave comments below if it touched you in some way.

Aloha to you and yours!

Jennifer Engrácio

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Good People and Bad People

Who are the good people and who are the bad people?

I have had many good conversations with children around this question throughout the years when we are talking about everything from current events to conflicts at school. After 9/11, I was teaching in a kindergarten class near the end of that school year and I was noticing kids still building up towers with their blocks only to then act as planes crashing into them.  This had been ongoing since the event in September.  I decided this day to ask questions to see what it was that these kids were still processing.  Kids started talking about “good guys” and “bad guys,” insisting that you have to be on a side. That the men that did that were bad and that they should be punished.  I could see one kid in the corner getting increasingly anxious. He started pacing and holding his head and then he just burst out with the most poignant and beautiful speech I have heard on the topic. He told his kindergarten class that no one wins in wars: “Don’t you see?  It is just all revenge.  How are we going to fix anything when we just keep revenging each other? People will just get more mad and more people will die.” There was a pregnant silence in the room, which is rare in a kindergarten class! I thanked him for what he said and for offering a fresh point of view that I hadn’t even heard many adults express.

“Shadow work means actively working with and embracing all parts of ourselves that are not pretty, not acceptable, and not liked by others…[A] huge amount of life force is locked away in those parts of ourselves we deny and divorce, as it were…And we don’t lock away the so-called bad things, usually we also hide talents…we are not ready to own for some reason.”

Imelda Almqvist from “Natural Born Shamans”

What this child was clearly seeing from his young eyes was the fact that we all have a shadow side.  None of us make life-giving decisions all the time and some people who are in pain emotionally or are mentally unwell make poor decisions that harm life often.  This child in particular had participated in enough healthy conflict resolution within our classroom to know that in a confrontation, it is not useful to find blame, but rather work towards listening to the needs and feelings of all parties to find a resolution that works for everyone in the classroom environment.  In the process, we get to look at some of our shadow pieces and we get to consciously make changes to our belief systems, behaviour, and emotional states of being. Being willing to look at the shadow to bring out the light is essential in the world we are living in today. It’s not work for the feint of heart, but if a 5-year-old can recognize the importance of this work, then we adults can find the courage to engage in it as well.

Jennifer Engrácio

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