Spirituality in a Multi-Faith and Multi-Home Family

I was born to parents from different religions and raised in a multi-faith house.  Despite the fact that my father and mother were both grounded by their religious belief systems, we attended church infrequently.  Our time in any house of God was limited mostly to Christian holidays and I was an adult before recognizing the subtle differences between the paths that my parents had pursued.  I believe that my experience was common amongst Canadian children in the early 70’s.

I exited a first marriage with 2 tremendous children and a number personal feelings to untangle.  At the time, my son was just reaching an age where in my mind, he could understand the notion of spirituality and its many teachings.  My daughter was still steadying her steps and mastering the art of controlling newly realized abilities.  As the kids and I settled into our new reality of a 50% custody and residency agreement, the question of spirituality for our children remained unanswered and was overtaken by the necessities of life.  My former spouse continued to pursue a personal path devoid of spirituality and religion.

Nearly 2 years later my question about spirituality for my children rchristian-paganeturned.  I had by that time introduced spirituality through books, songs and our occasional attendance at a local church or Zen temple.  I remained cautious about sharing my Wiccan path with the kids and introduced them instead to an eclectic commonality of underlying themes from many religions.  My goal was help establish a moral compass within them and help them to learn how to accept and appreciate others. 

Each time the kids enjoyed a spiritual talk or event with me, they shared it with their mother.  Sadly, a trend emerged as the kids would return to me espousing the evils of Buddhism, Christianity or other easily identifiable paths.  One day my son returned home from kindergarten in a state of dysregulation.  He explained that all of his friends were mad at him because he informed them that he agreed with his mom and that god did not exist anywhere.  On another occasion my son explained to me that Buddhists were bad because mom had showed him a story from Myanmar in which some Buddhists had apparently attacked some Muslims.  On a third occasion, I received a scathing email from ‘mom’ chastising me for the kids attending a church service at Christmas.  Concerned about any age inappropriate messaging that the kids might be receiving in retaliation for my spiritual sharing, I suspended temple and church visits. 

I have since married a devout Christian woman and we openly share our spiritual beliefs with each other.  Together we have woven a spiritual tapestry of love, mutual respect and humor within our home.  We celebrate Christian and Wiccan events; sometimes together and sometimes individually.  There are benefits to a multi-faith home but it takes understanding and togetherness.  It isn’t always easy to hear the snide comments of close-minded, 3rd parties when they speak to my wife about my beliefs when I’m within earshot. 

The kids are still operating on a weekly schedule and spend 50% of their time at our home.  The goal of mastering spirituality in a multi-home environment is one that continues to elude me.  With Samhain drawing close, I am feeling a pull to share more information about Wicca with my children and to celebrate as a family.  Ultimately, I believe that it is critical for me to shield the two young spirits that I am blessed with guiding until they can choose their own spiritual paths.  For now, protecting them from misinformation and manipulation is paramount.  I think that I’ll feel it when the time is right to share more.

Image Credit:  johnwmorehead

(https://www.google.ca/search?q=multi+faith&hl=en&biw=1368&bih=795&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjw25WRiovPAhXIeT4KHUz2A4UQsAQIOg#hl=en&tbm=isch&q=pagan+and+christian&imgrc=uqAY7blJrTq3PM%3A)

Indigenous supporters from Winnipeg, and Black Lives Matter in U.S. go to Standing Rock

The protection of water in the states has garnered the support of Canadian indigenous activists from Winnipeg, and U.S. group Black Lives Matter. They have begun to journey in small numbers to stand with the assemblage at Standing Rock in North Dakota, U.S.A. Support continues to grow for the efforts of the demand for the honoring of treaty rights and environmental protection from the proposed oil pipeline that would be built just up the way from the water system of the reservation.

A case is pending that will be decided on September 14, 2016 that will decide the fate of this project.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is suing federal regulators for approving permits for the pipeline that will move oil from North Dakota to Illinois. (The Associated Press/James MacPherson)

This is to be decided by a Federal Judge, and the petitioners have been granted the temporary victory of a halt in the construction. News is still developing on this situation at the time of this writing. The Standing Rock Sioux’s support camps continue to grow on the site while awaiting this decision, bringing material support and help.

This Sunday, Aug 28, the Black Lives Matter group issued a call for those coming to the site to visit them on activist row.

Standing Rock Sioux Reservation continues to demand dignity for their people and preservation of their land in fighting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Indigenous communities in the Americas have long been the recipients of the most egregious kinds of state violence, and this is no exception. Black Lives Matter stands in struggle with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and Indigenous people everywhere. There will be no more business as usual. Resistance is a shared struggle and we are here for the long haul. – Black Lives Matter

While communications from the camp itself have been extremely blocked, independent media sources are still covering the event. The site has also been host to several spiritual events and even a wedding. Traditional foods, medicines, and teachings are thriving at the site.  Up to date footage and reports of this key millennial event are available at Honor the Earth.

Every good movement eventually finds the artists to inspire and spiritually feed the people. This one is no exception. The music of Buffy Sainte Marie inspired the following video project by Casey E. Leydon, published on YouTube Aug 14, 2016. From her album, “Power in the Blood”, 2015 Canadian Album of the Year, the piece is “Sing Our Own Song”.

Advancing Paganism: Awareness in Canada

 

All Canadians share fundamental liberties, similarly to those provided to American citizens through the United States Constitution.  Canadian liberties are provided through the Canada Constitution Act of 1982 and referred to as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Amongst other freedoms, Canadians are granted the “freedom of conscience and religion; b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and d) freedom of association”.

U.S. and Canada based businesses might salivate over the fact that Paganism is legal in Canada.  This is because Canada offers a market in excess of 35 million people with an online connectivity rate exceeding 88%.  From the perspectives of population and internet usage, Canada rivals California.  Although the Canadian market is spread throughout a very large geographical region, the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) claims that 90% of the Canadian population lives within 100 miles of the international border between the USA and Canada.  For online businesses, this means that most of the Canadian population can easily receive goods that are shipped by mail, courier or common carrier.  The CBC article is available here:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/by-the-numbers-1.801937

To me, the legal but somewhat cloaked nature of Paganism in Canada results in a market identification problem for all businesses.  How do you connect with a largely hidden market?  Further, how can you connect with a market that doesn’t necessarily want to be found?  The notion of wanting to remain hidden makes reference to Pagans who are not necessarily open and public with respect to their religious beliefs.  Wiccans often refer to socially shielding their beliefs as ‘being in the broom closet’.

I believe that the decision to ‘out one’s self’ regarding religious beliefs is solely personal.  Those that want to stimulate awareness for Paganism have a number of avenues which may include and are not limited to:

Identifying the Pagan marketplace in Canada is in my opinion, most efficiently approached electronically via the internet, and through the use of Pagan religious terms.  I’d suggest using a number of different search terms to enhance your search results.  Many people will search for one word or phrase such as ‘Pagan Canada’ and move forward with results from the single search.  However, adding additional words or phrases such as ‘Canada Pagan Festival’ or ‘Pagan Shopping Canada’ will likely broaden and deepen your results.

In addition to providing a space for market research, the internet provides a space for community interaction.  PBN is a great example of Pagan community and a space where like-minded individuals can share information.

Pagan stores represent a resource that can easily be overlooked.  The owners of Pagan Craft businesses might initially contact retail stores to carry some of their merchandise.  Regardless of how the first contact works out, I would recommend that all parties work to deepen these relationships.  During a recent conversation with the owner of a storefront business located in Mississauga, Ontario, the owner suggested that I visit a competing store, commenting that “it’s all about supporting the cause” of promoting Paganism.

There is a great deal that the Pagan community can do to support the growth of Paganism and Pagan focussed businesses in Canada.  Our future can be as bright as we want to make it through individual effort and collaboration.

image credit: Canada-Flag-545 [Digital image]. (n.d.). Retrieved August 16, 2016, from http://www.freelargeimages.com/canada-flag-545/

The Cloaked Politics of Paganism in Canada

Canada is a tech savvy nation with 88.5% of the population connected through the internet.  With such a high national internet user rate it seems reasonable to expect that information about any subject would be easily accessible.  But the internet is a repository for information just like any library.  Neither libraries nor the internet create information; both are repositories.  Information must exist in a library or on the internet before it can be accessed.  Herein lies a dilemma for Canadian Pagans.  The challenge appears to be about the existence of contemporaneous information on Paganism, not an issue of access.

What information exists for new or long time Pagans in Canada and what is the current state of Pagan politics North of the 49th parallel?  Statistics Canada (StatsCan) is the government agency that was founded in 1971 to support better understanding of the nation’s population, society, culture, resources and economy.    StatsCan completed the latest national household survey in July of 2016 but according to their published schedule, the freshest information won’t be released until February 2017.  Until that time, we’re limited to data from previous surveys.  Historically, StatsCan has lumped Paganism into a catch all bucket of religions called ‘Other’.  In 2001, you were included in the ‘Other’ bucket if you stated that you had a religion and did not identify as:  Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish or Eastern Religion Other.  In 2001 Canada had a reported national population of over 29.5 million individuals.  Just under 64 thousand people were labelled as ‘Other’.  StatsCan predicts this group to grow to 185 thousand by the year 2031.  We can’t determine the percentage of self-identified Pagans that are included in the bucketed number.

Interestingly, Canada does not have any state recognized religion(s).  The definition of the term ‘recognized’ is debatable.  My interpretation of the definition is that despite a national history steeped in both French and English religion and law, the Canadian government recognizes all religions similarly.  In general, religions are recognized in Canada from an administrative perspective and as charities. 

It would be easy to feel that Pagans do not have a voice on the national Canadian stage.  After all, how can the government take the Pagan electorate seriously when we’re considered ‘Other’?  I would argue that the Canadian Government struggles with the decentralized nature of Paganism.  In a 2011 Canadian Military guide for chaplaincy (http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/dn-nd/D2-147-2008-eng.pdf), contact information is provided for the governing bodies of many well recognized religions.  It appears that the Canadian Government is at a loss about how to recognize religions that do not have a centralized, hierarchical structure.  The guide can be found here:

http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/dn-nd/D2-147-2008-eng.pdf 

 Wicca was the only Pagan religion that was evident to me in the chaplaincy guide.  Further, the document did not recognize the various forms of Wicca and listed the Wiccan Church of Canada as a central body.

The Peel Board of Education, Canada’s largest school board, publishes an annual calendar of religious holidays.  The calendar states that it lists dates from 11 world religions and includes Wicca.  A copy of the 2016 – 2017 calendar can be found here: 

http://www.peelschools.org/calendar/schoolyear/Documents/2016-2017%20Holy%20Days%20Poster.pdf

Through my research it occurred to me that the key political issue for Pagans in Canada remains the matter of widespread and positive recognition.  The challenge of recognition, particularly positive recognition is not a new one for the Pagan community.  I will address avenues for recognition in a follow-up article.