Managing Magic with Small Children

Managing Magic with Small Children

In which friends Sarah and Cin talk about what it’s like to be a witch mom, give tips on how to juggle magic alongside tiny mischief makers, and talk about how to keep in touch with your magical practice when all you want is sleep and quiet.

Sarah Lawless is an animistic witch, writer, and herbalist living in rural Ontario, Canada with her partner Alex, her three year old son, and a baby boy on the way. When she’s not chasing after the kiddo, Sarah works as a forager and herbalist crafting wild edibles and medicinals for her business Fern & Fungi. You could say she’s obsessed with herbalism, ethnobotany, native plants, and permaculture and you’d be correct. Sarah has been an author, teacher, and ritualist within the witchcraft community for the past 12 years and she can often be found teaching classes at herbal conferences and horticultural events as well as hosting rituals at the local Witches’ Sabbat and Kaleidoscope Gathering. Sarah’s idea of downtime usually involves baking sweets, cooking complex recipes, napping, and snuggling up with her man and binge watching Game of Thrones.

Once upon a time when I was childless (which seems very long ago, but has really only been three and a half years), I was a very active witch. I really do mean very active. I had my own personal magical practice working with my familiar spirits and the land, I worked with small groups of friends, I circled with a few large ritual groups, I was on the board of the local pagan festival, I taught workshops, I hosted rituals, I hosted events, and I wrote frequently about the practice of magic. Those who have known me for years will have noticed most of that has either completely stopped for the past few years, or has significantly slowed down.

I had my first son in 2014 and now I am about to have my second son this April. I love being a mom and I love my tiny adorable man who is so clever, funny, helpful, and such a goody-two-shoes, but I never could have imagined how incredibly tired I would be. I’m fairly certain small children have so much energy because they are secretly borrowing it from you! You know going in that babies and kids are going to be hard, but no one can really tell you just how hard until you experience it for yourself. It is a life-changing switch of going from an independent person who mainly has to worry about their own self-care to a parent who has to worry about tiny humans every second of every day… even when said tiny humans are sleeping. Free time is a distant dream as is uninterrupted sleep. If you’re lucky enough to have grandparents who babysit or have a good daycare program, then your “free time” becomes “do all the things you couldn’t do with the kiddo around time“. This means: laundry, dishes, house cleaning, emails, banking, groceries, cooking, and other fun tasks of adulting.

It is especially hard if you are a single parent, the other parents is absent or unhelpful, or you don’t have any family to rely on for help… but even if there are two awesome co-parents involved, the idea of fitting your magical practice in alongside parenting can seem daunting and impossible. It can be even harder when you get the fun reality check of discovering your coven, ritual group, and witchy friends are not kid-friendly. You may find yourself consistently sitting at home while the magic happens without you. Your childless friends may think reliable babysitters who are free when you need them fall from the sky, but if you aren’t near family it’s often not an option for many parents. Over the years I’ve watched a lot of friends drop out of their covens or the pagan community after they had children. Sometimes they come back, many times they do not.

I didn’t have the best experience when my first son was a baby. I didn’t have a reliable partner, I was thousands of miles from family, none of my ritual groups turned out to be baby or kid friendly, and some of my witchy friends even blatantly asked me not to visit them with my baby (this unexpectedly included friends who had their own kids). Isolation is not good when you have little ones and supportive friends, family, and community make all the difference in the world between a happy parent and a depressed parent.

I answered to these issues by leaving behind my pagan community for one that is kid-friendly, moving closer to family (as in 15 minutes away), and then leaving my previous partner who was abusive and not interested in parenting (despite claiming the opposite). I took care of my needs and what is best for my kid. I really miss my magical friends from the West Coast, but we try to keep in touch as best we can. Change can be hard and often painful, but if you find yourself in a similar situation as me, I can tell you now it was worth it.

Where on earth are magical parents supposed to fit in magic? If you don’t have a family-friendly coven and/or an awesome partner or family to help you out so you can attend rituals, coven meetings, and festivals, you are going to need to focus on building and maintaining a personal magical practice at home. In the borrowed words of my father: “Keep it simple, stupid.”

The Magic of Birth and Babies

If you are pregnant, remember that birthing IS magic. You are becoming a doorway between the spirit and physical realms. You’re about to turn a spirit into a corporeal being — that is some heavy shit! Look into traditional rituals that prepare mamma and baby for the birth and the big changes that are about to happen. The blessing way ceremony popular in new age circles may verge on appropriation (what doesn’t these days?), but make it your own using your beliefs and practices from your own magical or cultural tradition. For both of my pregnancies, friends put together simple, personalized ceremonies that were really beautiful.

If you’ve recently had a baby there are many ceremonies you can perform which mainly consist of blessing and protecting the baby and new mother. You’ve just ripped a hole open between the worlds, you’d better ward it! You can look to cultural traditions or pull a rite from your magical tradition. A baby blessing usually involves holy water and also often the official naming of the baby. Baptism is pretty pagan if you look into its ancient history. You don’t need a coven, you can do this yourself or with your partner and a small group of friends.

Craft yourself a protection talisman and a birthing talisman. Willow placed under the birthing bed is supposed to help with the pain, but there is a lot of folklore and superstitions you could mine for information. Talismans to protect babies and small children are very common across cultures as they are believed to be more susceptible to illness, evil spirits, pesky pixies, and the evil eye. Research can also help you keep up your magical work so I’m not going to do it for you here!

Daily Devotions

So you have a baby or a toddler and not much free time, but you can still try to do one small thing daily for yourself and your deities or spirits. You can work on maintaining an altar or shrine with offerings of incense, libations, flowers, or food. I try to light good incense one to two times a day for my spirits. My current partner helps with this, which is awesome, and the toddler loves to help by blowing out the flame when I light the incense sticks. I also refresh the cut flowers on my ancestral altar every 1-2 weeks. My ancestral shrine currently gets more love than my main witchy altar, but I’m working on evening things out.

You can attempt to meditate once a day (or at least sit for a moment and do absolutely nothing at all) even if it’s only for 5-15 minutes. The best time for meditation is when the kiddo is asleep at naptime or bedtime. If you try to meditate when they’re awake, it’s often going to be as bad as trying to take a phone call while your toddler acts out to get your attention (when just a minute before they were completely ignoring you). That being said my partner is Buddhist and has started meditating in front of the kiddo and instead of just pestering him, the toddler has decided to join him in just “sitting” and demands his own cushion. It’s pretty cute.

Maybe you have a favourite piece of devotional liturgy or a litany you like to recite that makes you feel holy or more connected to your magic. Something easy to memorize that you can repeat once a day at a certain time. I also often found myself forgetting the words to lullabies and more frequently sing my son to sleep with soothing magical chants to the point that he requests them now that he can form full sentences. Eventually you can sing them together. Little ones love songs and singing and most don’t care whether you can carry a tune or not – they certainly can’t!

Digging Deeper for Monthly Magic

Even practicing something once monthly can be hard, but it’s worth it. What is one thing that is important, that you promised you would do, that you really shouldn’t let lapse now that you are a parent? That one day or one hour of re-connection to spirit is incredibly nourishing to your soul. You need it, so make it happen! It could be your monthly coven meeting and ritual, it could be your local open sabbat ritual, or it could be something personal. I perform my solitary full moon rite every full moon and try to keep it simple and the same to make it manageable but still meaningful. It’s the one thing I promised I would do. If I lapse, man do my spirits get pissed! They don’t care how much I need to sleep and the bright full moon shining in my face at night, waking me up, certainly doesn’t either. If you have commitments to spirits you work with, it’s in your best interest to keep up with them. Apologize sincerely and leave good offerings when you fail.

I also tried to attend a local new moon women’s ritual, but couldn’t keep up. It’s something I know I can try to go back to. If I add something else to my monthly practice, it’s usually divination. I’m not a daily card puller, so once a month works well for me to bring out a favourite tarot deck. When the kiddos are older I will attempt to add my dark moon rite back into my regular practice, but right now juggling full and dark moon rituals would be too overwhelming. Know your limit, stay within it!

Magic on the Fly

If it’s just been too long since you’ve felt magical and witchy or your small, daily devotions aren’t nourishing you enough, then it’s time to step it up. Try to get a night off with a babysitter or invite your magical friends over to your place after the kiddo’s bedtime and have a good magical session and social catch-up with your friends. Do a simple ritual, read tarot or tea leaves, perform a needed spell, or go outside and soak up actual moonlight and starlight. Put aside the time and do it. Re-embrace your pre-kid witchy self.

Not everyone has witchy friends to call on or at least not ones that are nearby enough to come visit. Skype or face-time those far away magical best friends and talk about your magical practice and all things woo-woo. Sometimes even just talking about magic with others who practice and get it is immensely helpful and invigorating. Also, it’s nice to talk to adults, adults who talk about adult things using adult words –especially adults that don’t mention toilet training, diapers, or the hell of toddler bedtime at all. Forget you’re a mom or dad for a while and hang out with your fellow magical people.

If you’re really alone or are just a very private person, then it’s time to get your witch on. Get those hands dirty and do some spell work. It doesn’t matter if it’s something serious that needs doing or just refreshing your household protection charms — get down and dirty and do it. Make talismans for protection, luck, money, gardening, or sleep. Perform candle spells. Do a house cleansing and blessing. Take a ritual / spiritual cleansing bath complete with candles and herbs and oils. Craft herbal concoctions like salves, incense, magical oils, or a dream pillow. Break out those occult books you’ve been hoarding since your teens and mine them for crafty hands-on ideas. Steal some that super precious “free-time” and do one small thing.

A Note On Precautions

So you’re a parent now and are responsible for the safety of tiny people. Be smart and responsible. You can’t shit where you eat anymore. This means you don’t curse in your house, you don’t summon dangerous entities in your house, you don’t open portals to unsafe places in your house. You don’t do gorey or kinky rituals in your house the kids could walk in on that might scar them for life. Now you have to do it at a friend’s house or take it outside – preferably completely off your property. Go find a crossroad or a spot in a park or the woods for your witchery. Save some things until you are kid-free at your local pagan festival. Seriously, don’t even let some spirits or deities know you have kids. Children’s innocent souls are tender and delicious.

You’re pregnant? Yeah, the hedgecrossing wherever/whenever you want, the shape-shifting, and any possessory work is going to take a big hit. Reel it in until your bun in the oven turns into a toddler. I still do some dream work, but it’s much tamer and safer than my pre-mom, pre-pregnant self practiced (even unconsciously). Then there’s that awkward moment when your witchy friend’s kids and husband, who are tired of being haunted, ask you to “talk” to mom about her loose boundaries with spirits and come over and shut all the doors to the otherworld in the house whether she likes it or not and give her a talking to. Oh the magical parents I’ve known who have done dumb things…. Letting ghosts in the house on purpose or getting possessed and speaking in tongues is not going to impress your kids.  No, just no. You’re a parent now. Ward all the things and check those wards at least monthly.

Be cautious, but no need to go overboard. A simple spell candle, a divination, a blessing, the crafting of talismans, consecrations of tools, etc are not going to be a big deal to do in your home when you have children. Just save those Hekate devotions for the crossroad and the necromancy for the graveyard or the forest. Keep those baneful herbs and any fetiches or tools that can’t be handled by anyone but you locked up and out of reach. As my partner would say: “common sense, yo.”


 

Cin of Stone Spiral Creations is an experienced practitioner of the Craft with over 22 years of study in both group and solitary rituals. Growing up she played with astrology, tarot cards, and crystals in her Grandma’s kitchen. In her teen years she began to practice Wicca.  She has been involved in a long-standing coven and a Sabbat group, both based on Wiccan Traditions, and has been both a leader and participant in public rituals, classes, and events. Since moving from Canada to Wisconsin, USA, Cin has been working on building a coven and getting to know the local community.

By day Cin lives the cube life of an office worker. Evenings and weekends she can be found cuddling or chasing after her baby son. Cin loves to take photographs and will often be distracted by some tiny detail that she needs to capture. Cin is also a geek who loves to collect My Little Ponies, dolls, or anything sparkly or cute that catches her eye. She loves to do crafts; she sews, does embroidery, scrapbooks and adds large amounts of glitter to things (some of these things end up in her Etsy shop). Cin relaxes with a good book and a large bowl of popcorn.

Tarot cardBecoming a mom has been an amazing journey. I never thought I would be here, but I have learned that the universe throws you curveballs on occasion. I’ve always stated that if I had kids I would let them be free to explore religion and find the path that works best for them. Now, here I am, a new mom, trying to figure out how to have time for my spiritual needs in a way that works for my family and in the small amount of time I do get to have. I want to figure out how to let my son see this side of me, but I want to do it in a way that lets him know my path is mine, his dad has a different path, and he can find whichever way works for him.

I have many worries and fears. People often say that a child raised without spiritual purpose is lost. I never felt that way, but that is me. I want to offer some sort of guide post to help him find his way, but I also have to be careful. His sister is being raised Christian and I have promised to never mention my faith to her. It means I have to figure out how to juggle all these things and keep it under wraps every second weekend in my own home. I also don’t want him to get to school age and feel left out when all his friends talk about Church or to look weird if he talks about the things we do at home. A delicate balancing act is about to begin.

While I was pregnant I just didn’t have the energy to do much so my serious spiritual practices stopped. The first few months after he was born was a time of adjusting and learning to take care of his needs. I have slowly started to bring back my deeper work, but it can be hard when I am used to giving everyone else what they need before seeing to the things I need myself.

Here are some things that have helped to motivate me, inspire me or some general tips and tricks.

Social Media

Be inspired by Instagram, blogs, FB, twitter but never compare your practices! I also find if I want to snap a photo of something on my altar I then feel I should actually do something. I’ve made it a rule, no empty photos. If I post my tarot cards, I do a reading, if I post a pretty altar shot I take time to pray.

Schedule Time

I try to look at the month and plan out what nights I will have more time. Schedule chore nights so that you can have time for yourself. After the kids are asleep is a great time to meditate or do some divination or journaling.

Tracker

I am very motivated by accomplishments. I use a bullet journal and within it I have a daily tracker. Each day has several items on it that I want to be better about doing, things drinking enough water, eating more vegetables, and being Spiritual. As I get to the end of the day I start to figure out what I can do to check that box off.  Figure out what motivates you and use it.

Be Flexible and Simple

Understand that you might have to pause that invocation to feed a hungry baby. Let anyone you work with know what potential interruptions might happen so everyone is on the same page.

If you feel like you don’t have time for a full ritual – pull a tarot card daily to meditate on. Make a note of it in your day planner or snap a pic with your phone so you can reference if you need to at various times of the day. Take a few mins on your lunch break or in the bathroom or wherever you have a few moments to yourself.

Before bed light a candle and pray. Connect to the divine however you feel most comfortable.

Chant while you push the stroller to raise some energy. Or while you rock the baby, or do the dishes, or the laundry etc. Use the time your hands might be busy as a time to raise energy with your voice. Focus it and then send it to aid you in your workings.

Set an alarm on your phone and when it goes off, pause and practice gratitude or work on a visualization etc.

Traditions

Build family traditions that work around whichever holidays you celebrate. Keep them simple enough for your family and friends to take part in, but witchy enough that you can tap into the symbolism and feel like you celebrated.

In our family we plan to make “Sun cookies” on the solstices. We created a Wassailing tradition to bless the yard and our gardens. We celebrate Lent for my husband and during that time I work on sacrifice and shadow work.

Take Turns

When my husband needs some time to relax I watch the baby. When I need time he takes him. Work together to make sure everyone gets a healthy amount of time to do the things they enjoy.

There will be moments where it is a struggle. There will be months that go by with no serious work. Get creative and see what you can do in the short moments you do have.

Last night I had my candles lit, the incense burning and I was ready to get to work. I heard my son wake up and my husband go to get him. I waited, but after a few minutes I could hear the cry of “mamma”. I blew out the candles and headed up to rock and soothe my little boy. We sat in the dark and snuggled. I could smell my incense on my skin and as he slowly fell back to sleep I paused and breathed deeply. I sent out a pray of gratitude and connected. This wasn’t the meditation I had planned, but it was magic of its own.

Join the discussion 18 Comments

  • Robin W says:

    Thank you for this <3. Reading it helped me feel less lonely. When I became pregnant in 2012 I was just really coming into my own path, really feeling that I was in a good place, spiritually. But my world quickly turned upside down when I found out I was having twins. We also ended up moving to another state for my husband's job, so I was not only a first time parent but a parent of twins, four hours away from my support network. I've tried my best to keep up with things, but it's been hard. I'm now a bit closer to my home town, just under two hours, and my mom comes once a week to help me; the girls are 4 1/2 now. But as you say, the catching up one has to do when you finally have a bit of time can be overwhelming. I found a local women's group but in 9 months have yet to make it. Your advice is so good. Simple really is best for now and makes things much more manageable. Wishing, you well, Sarah, and many blessings on your growing family.

    • nCmira says:

      I was in a similar situation with my daughter Evie. She was born in 2012. She’s five now. 😀 I agree, this article’s spot on!

  • no says:

    i was one of those new mothers with no support network. my husband loathed children, including his own, and did nothing to help with anything. i was ill and exhausted from a complicated pregnancy, long, hard labor, and postpartum hemorrhage. my baby was “high-need”, and sleep was a distant memory, as she didn’t nap or sleep more than a few hours until nearly her 4th year. i had no friends, no family, no babysitter.

    thankfully, i am an introvert by nature, and my magico-spiritual practice had always been a sort of hedgewitchery. i’d done a ton of research prior to pregnancy, so i was confident in parenting based on what i knew plus my intuition. still, having access to a group of women who also had babies and children and who were at least not hostile to a pagan worldview would have been so wonderful…the local la leche league group had a bright—and discreetly pagan—leader, but the bulk of the membership was christian, and not, shall we say, welcoming to other spiritual paths.

    i managed to do everything i needed to do with baby attached to me, and later, toddler/child following me. it wasn’t easy, perhaps, but it wasn’t torture either. (apart from the years of sleep deprivation…) we had a rhythm to our days and a seasonal rhythm. we lived a sort of “witchy waldorf-y” style of days…she assisted with housework, cooking, and gardening from earliest days possible. by being part of my day, she learned without being didactically taught about the world and about kinship with all that is. she watched or helped me doing little magics in the garden, absorbed herb-lore, placed shiny stones for “the fairies”, learned magical rhymes and traditions just like she learned colors and nursery rhymes and stories. it’s true, one has to have an awareness of a little one’s needs and attention span, and be willing to take breaks as needed for other activities that active, growing bodies need. but small hands can be surprisingly helpful, and small minds surprisingly adept. one thing we did was to have a nature altar in the home: little children love to have a “season’s table” in the house—they can be very magical places indeed. and children love an altar, although common sense with candles and the like is needed. the seasonal table can be their own altar place, and i’ve yet to meet a child who doesn’t enjoy this tremendously. we observed the various holidays around the year; ostara and lammas were as normal to her as any other holidays, and she understood that different households observe different holy days. my own practices just got folded into the days with her. for example, she would make simple forms of woven talismans with yarn and sticks etc, whilst i worked on a more intricate version for some purpose. it was organic, and it has very much stayed with her over the years. she’s 20 now, and more capable at ordinary mundane tasks and skills than many of her peers; she’s more savvy about unseen worlds as well.

    as for meditation and focused workings, well…those were brief for a few years. i’d make a pot of tea and sit for a few minutes in meditation in the early morning if she was asleep. (rare, for the first year or so. but she got used to sitting quietly with me during morning teatime. it’s easier when they are small nurslings.) once she went to kindergarten at age 5 and a half, there were hours in the morning for me to do as i wished. some of that time went to earning money by starting to teach yoga etc again, or editing. some of it went to the bliss of being able to read a book uninterrupted! but i think i was lucky in many ways…despite having a worse than useless domestic partner, i was fairly financially secure. i had a quiet, safe rural home with a garden and lots of nature about. i had minimal internet distractions. i was used to being alone and going my own way. and i believed absolutely that motherhood was as vital, as holy, as deep a spiritual path as any other. if anything, motherhood deepened my spirituality and my connectedness to ancestors and to all of nature more than anything else before or since.

    as cin observed above, our planned activities may be interrupted by our babies’ needs, and rocking or feeding a babe “wasn’t the meditation planned, but was a magic of its own.” i believe that very strongly—motherhood IS magic. it’s an apprenticeship of its own kind, as stringent and challenging as any shamanic training. more so, probably. i’d love to see our culture, both mundane and magical, support diving deep in maternity by supporting mothers better. thank you for bringing up the intersection of mothering and magic, and very best wishes to you and yours!

  • Afshin says:

    Thank you, Sarah, that was an interesting and rather grounding post.

    It’s lovely to read about the magic you perceive in your voaction as a magical practitioner and a mother. In your note on precautions section, you mentioned saving the Hekate devotions for the crossroads. Why so? What is the need for caution concerning Hekate devotions? Obviously She is a liminal goddess standing between the worlds, but why the note of caution for her devotions?

    Do you have personal experience with her which you can elaborate on in regards to having children at home?

    • Sarah says:

      I don’t know how much history or mythology you’ve read, but it’s generally a good idea to not bring chthonic titan deities with a long history of being feared, and propitiated at a safe distance rather than worshipped, into you living room.

      • Afshin says:

        What you say is true…i think a lot of people forget this about chthonic deities. Thanks for the dose of common sense! :)

  • Ivy says:

    Reading this post and the comments were a bittersweet reminder of my own early years with a baby… who never slept.

    When my little one was tiny, my midwife gave me an important piece of advice. She said: everything changes. Remember that when things are tough the baby will soon outgrow it. And when things are great, stop and appreciate it. Because with children, as in life, everything changes.

    It’s been an eye blink and now my baby is learning to drive, picking out his first tarot deck, creating his own altars, and rapidly becoming an adult. I can do whatever work I need and have most of the time I ever did. And yet it seems like only a second ago I brought a tiny baby into the world.

  • Louise says:

    My kids are in their 20’s now, but I do remember the days of having to schedule in meditation/witchy time. Thanks Sarah and Cin. I miss you both here on the West Coast!

  • JudithAnn says:

    Granny witch here and solitary practitioner. My babes are long since gone but I’ll tell you, this advice speaks to every busy and/or solitary looking for aye to stay engaged and give ritual meaning. Thank you, ladies.

  • Yex says:

    Thanks for this post. As a stay-at-home parent to a four-year-old, it definitely can be hard to find enough time in the day to accomplish everything, magical and otherwise. I’m lucky enough to have an incredible support system and a partner who is very accommodating of my magical practice, but I can still relate to a lot of your article.

    A quick question of clarification: In your (entirely appropriate and important) precaution against doing gnarlier magical work where it can affect one’s children, you mention necromancy as something that should be done outside the house. Is it safe to say that this doesn’t apply to ancestor work? I work pretty regularly with my ancestors of blood, maintain an ancestral altar, and do trancework with my ancestors, all in the house. My daughter (who seems in general to be pretty “tuned-in”), for her part, loves to talk to the ancestors, look at their altar, help me leave offerings, etc. I feel quite comfortable with all of this; indeed, I aspire to pass down a living cult of ancestor-veneration.

    Do you think there are any dangers of doing ancestor-related necromancy in the house, or trusted ancestral spirits exempt from that prohibition?

    • Sarah says:

      As mentioned in the blog, I maintain an ancestor altar in the house that is more like a shrine and both my partner and kiddo help me maintain it. It’s for the beloved dead only (family). Other work with the dead is kept outside the home. It’s very common in Asiatic and other cultures to maintain a family ancestor altar in the home as well as take care of family graves and I too aspire to passing on the practice of ancestor veneration.

  • Brycon says:

    I’m actually a young student and the rituals I am supposed to be doing is so dang complicated that I can’t do them at all now. I live in the suburbs, too. It would be very odd if I was caught lighting a huge bone fire with fetiches and candles around near private property, a high-way and an apartment while a guy in a black robe chanted odd things and placed odd ointments on my body, right? Luckily, I’m hitting the country when I move out. So, I guess this can be applied to people that have a lot to do, too. My mother likes her chores done, school likes the good grades and my mind and body wants to be skateboarding, swimming, singing, practicing the guitar, playing old video games and the like. I know that I really need to be doing this stuff, cause my spirits really are not a fan of me now; you know, juggeling doing things that make me happy and school. Thank you for the advice, Sarah. I kind of needed this, especially since no one I know understands it.

  • Kristopher says:

    It’s so cool how whenever we have thoughts, regarding whatever, we see the motif all around us to encourage growth!