Review: Growing Up Pagan

(review originally published in 2012, book purchased by reviewer)

Growing Up Pagan, A Workbook for Wiccan Families

I purchased this book a while back, looking for some books appropriate for my son. I’d say that even now, turning 4, it’s definitely still too old for him. It is, however, a nice book for what it is, though I still think it could be improved on. The artwork is wonderful, and it’s written at a level that kids will understand. I think many Wiccan and eclectic families will find this to be a great book to work through with their kids as a starting point for more formal or in-depth learning.

This book covers the God and Goddess as sun and moon, the elements, some symbols common to Wicca, altar building, the Rede, a few myths, prayers, and the Sabbats and Wheel of the Year.

For each section in the book, there are activities – practice drawing symbols, word searches, and crossword puzzles. I think I would have liked to see more variety in the activities, especially since they’re so focused on words. If your child isn’t interested in word puzzles, or has difficulties with written work or fine motor skills in general, they may struggle with these activities.

One major problem I noticed is that while all 8 Sabbats are named, only 5 of them are explained.The five explanations that are in the book are well done, but those 3 missing ones are important.

There are three myths in the book: a creation myth staring Dana and Morrigan, the story of Pandora’s box, and the myth of Cerridwen’s Cauldron. The Pandora myth has a one sentence “moral of the story” at the end, Cerridwen’s Cauldron has several paragraphs of explanation, and the creation myth has no moral or explanation. A little more consistency here might have been good. Also, I wonder about the choice of myths – two Celtic myths and one Greek seems an odd combination. I wish there were more open ended questions for children to think about with each myth – critical thinking, figuring out the lessons on their own, discussion about the motivation of different characters, etc.

The altar building instructions are really well done, and give kids a lot of room to be creative in making their altars. My one quibble here is that the author makes the statement, “Now that you have an altar of your own, you can learn some prayers…” – I’m not sure I’d suggest that you must have an altar to pray.

At the end of the book, there’s a quiz, with instructions that if you do not pass the quiz, you should go back and work on learning the materials again. There’s also a certificate to fill out once the test is passed. Again, the test is pretty strongly oriented towards written work and rote memorization, so kids with written language difficulties may struggle.

Also, I’m not sure I really like the idea of a test at the end. For a religion like Wicca that’s focused on direct experience, a test seems a little out of place. However, it is a workbook, so it’s not that out of place.

All in all, I’d say it’s a good book if you’re Wiccan and looking for something for your older elementary school children. I think when my own children are older, we’ll definitely use this book as a part of our educational process, which will give a good jumping off point for talking about various Pagan beliefs beyond what’s presented. I would love to see someone use this as a textbook of sorts for a group study with several children together – I think the possibilities for discussion would make for a much deeper experience for the children.

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