When we grow up in a particular religion, we have a set of shared experiences with other members of that religion. In the case of Christianity, those shared experiences encompass most of the people we know. We share holidays, like Christmas and Easter. We share times like Advent and Lent. We also share songs and stories, ones we sung and heard in Sunday school every year from as early as we could remember. We all learned “Jesus Loves Me.” We all knew the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and the Ark. We all knew the story of baby Jesus being born in a manger in a stable, and his visit from the three wise men. We all knew the story of the Last Supper, the sermon on the mount, the loaves and fishes.
I have a tendency to make parodies in my head, and they come out at random times. For example, this morning, as I rode my bike through a town pummeled overnight by thunderstorms, dodging branches and walnuts, seeking the path with the least amount of mud and yellow gunk, I started hearing in my head:
‘Tis the season to dodge walnuts
Fa la la la la, a bike ride refrain
Duck and swerve until I go nuts
Fa la la la la…
A couple of weeks ago, something prompted me to sing a snippet of verse to the tune of Jesus Loves Me. Knowing the song from infancy like I did, the parody was hilarious to me…but my kids didn’t get it. That’s okay. I know that by not raising them as Christians, they are by default not going to have some of that shared experience. They know those stories like others know the myths of Olympus or the Eddas, and the songs are either completely foreign or pounded into their heads every season with no meaning.
The encounter got me to thinking: How can we create that kind of shared experience among our new generation of pagan children? Christian children may go to different churches in different denominations, but they all have those shared stories, and many shared songs. I would like to encourage that kind of shared experience among our children, so that they have something in common with each other no matter what groups they go to. It’s the shared experience that allows one child to start singing a song and everybody else to jump in and feel like they are at home, even with complete strangers.
Mentioning anything like “liturgy” or “gospel” to most pagans makes them run screaming for the hills. We are proud of our individuality, proud of our UPG and our self-expression and our personal development. The term “like herding cats” keeps popping into my head! As has been noted elsewhere and by many others, though, things like a common culture and community for the children is how our movement will survive, thrive, and continue to grow, as our original elders continue to pass on.
So rather than suggest that we all adopt some common set of stories and hymn books or something else equally outrageous and impossible, I’m going to suggest this: Don’t disparage re-use and repetition. Don’t be afraid of telling the same stories and singing the same songs and chants over and over. The best ones already get passed around between multiple traditions, through festivals and travelers and bards and the internet. How many of us know the Goddess chant, “We all come from the Goddess,” “Hoof and horn,” “Earth my body,” and others? Don’t be afraid to keep singing them. Don’t feel like you have an obligation to always be creative and original. When it comes to passing our culture and our heritage down to our children, simple repetition is the best vehicle. Tell the same stories, sing the same stories. Carve those grooves into our collective memory.
What is remembered, lives.