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talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 20 Oct 2012, 18:36
by Lauralyle
I have been asked by my daughter's teacher to talk to the class (5-7 yr olds) about "the original meaning of halloween before it got americanised". The teacher knows I am a pagan - it is a lovely thing to be asked to this this, and I feel a strong responsibility to do it the best way possible, obviously. The school is alternative and not Cof E but neither can it be taken for granted that all the children will be comfortable or familiar with the concept of the dead being in spirit (may freak out those who are not brought up with this idea and will get all ghosty scared). I cannot NOT talk about this though. I will talk about the dark part of the year and the incubation of life adn light in this darkness. And how as it is a magical time of year when alot of people "remember" the loved ones who have died (grandparents, pets etc.). To say we remember them and send our love to them and put out pictures and offerings is true and not scarey, do you agree? Kids dress up in ghost outfits etc. but if I actually explain that children used to do it to try and scare away the unwelcome spirits who were abroad at this time, then I am worried that I am going to freak them out and offend/alienate families, this seems unlikely but you know how folk like to buy the outfits and confectionary but dont always want to know the nitty gritty behind it??!! I would really appreciate thoughts on this as it is such a good opportunity. Many thanks all. I need to do it on weds so thoughts asap please! I will have a chance to talk to the teacher before but would like to be confident myself first, she seems to feel anything goes as long it is prefaced by "some people believe...." which I suggested. Blessings.

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 20 Oct 2012, 20:37
by Bracken
Hi, Lauralyle.

I think you've quickly come across common problems, there. To be honest, I'm not sure all of paganism is appropriate for primary school classes in daytime unless handled very sensitively and with experience. Other people might disagree.

Instead of your chosen topic of "the original meaning of halloween before it got americanised" I wonder if you might simply want to do some activities with the children that are appropriate to the time of year. They are very young.

I just googled 'samhain samhuin samhuinn for children' and found loads of web pages that looked pretty good. To be fair, most of them were American, but I wonder if Americans are just a bit further down the road than we are when it comes to comparative religions in school. I'm sure they have a lot of useful stuff to say on the subject.

I know you haven't got long, but in future you might find THIS BOOK very useful. It is American. I thought it was loads of fun, actually.

Also, I think I heard from somewhere that the Pagan Federation have an info pack for schools, but I think it might be aimed at the teachers. I'm not sure.

Someone else will probably be along soon with more concrete ideas.

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 20 Oct 2012, 21:06
by Dathi

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 20 Oct 2012, 23:30
by Lauralyle
Thanks, the Starhawk book looks good, I did see it earlier when googling and certainly one for future. There is a book called Ruperts tales- wheel of the year, which someone posted about elsewhere on this board, and it appears to be a story for each festival based around a rabbit called Rupert, along with his forest friends. Sounds good, I may do the amazon express delivery thing and get it in time for wednesday. I get your point Bracken, they are very young. The teacher is already doing craft stuff with them and she definitely wants me to do this little talk, although I can bow out if I choose and it will be fine. But maybe I can talk simply and briefly about the start of the dark part of the year and how it was once seen as a beginning of a new year (the kids plant out in the school garden now so will understand that its the beginning of a new growth process in the darkness) and talk about remembering loved ones who have died (they do talk about pets dying and the impermenance of life), WITHOUT going into the whole spirits of the dead area. I think the darkness/new year aspect and the remembering with love those who have died (which ties in with the dying of the old year), gives the children more about halloween than they may already have, but does not overload them. My aim, therefore, will not be to explain the origins of trick or treating or the night of the dead or the thinness of the veil at this time of year, but it will be to simply give them a feel of halloween in terms of the wheel of the year and nature (remembering our departed loved ones is a reflection of this seasonal "hinge", if you will). What do you think? Thanks for your input again.

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 20 Oct 2012, 23:39
by Lauralyle
Thank you also Dathi, that book looks great too - I'll be better prepared next time. I really want to weave a tale and some play for them to give them a feel for it, not EXPLAIN stuff. So, yeah - having fun isnt a bad idea. (but having said that I still need to decide what to cover and what to leave out, and wording is important, very). Thank you.

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 21 Oct 2012, 10:04
by illion
I work in a forest kindergarten, and I have had many philosophical conversations with kids. They are wonderfully interested in the world around them, free from prejudice and very open.

In my experience, small children are not necessarily afraid of the same things that we, the adults in their lives, think that they will be. When we avoid talking about things, they get more afraid, because they visualize worse pictures in their heads, than they should. That is why we should talk to kids about things, but not bring up difficult topics if they don't ask.

I think that a good introduction could be a small conversation about the wheel of the year, maybe with illustrations. The point in the wheel where samhain belongs explains the wholeness of the year cycle. This is the time where nature dies, or kind of falls asleep. You could mention the bears that hibernate, the sun that gets weak, the seeds that sleep in the soil. You can tell them that this is why we revere those who have died at this time of year. That we light candles etc... and remember them.

Kids love to ask questions as well. They will probably ask questions and you will have to answer them the best you can. Let them lead the way to what you should talk about after the introduction. The spirit thing might pop up, or maybe they are not so interested in that after all? You don't have to tell them more than they want to hear. You might tlell them that some people think that deceased people live on in another world, and that at this time of the year they think that our worlds are getting closer to each other so that we can easier send them our love right now. I don't think they will find such an approach as scary, I think they probably will find it wonderful.

Good luck with your talk!

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 22 Oct 2012, 21:40
by Lauralyle
Really halpful Illion, it falls into place, thank you. The wheel of the year goes round and round, round and round (to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus, do you know that childrens song?!) Thanks again.

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 23 Oct 2012, 05:23
by illion
Oh, yes. The wheels on the bus. I've sung that little song a million times I think :D

Re: talking about samhain to primary school children

Posted: 26 Oct 2012, 23:47
by katie bridgewater
Feel free to use our MP3 of the Cheshire soul-caking song (available for free download from our website). It has an accompanying article on the tradition in Pagan Dawn Samhain 2011 edition, if you can get hold of a copy.
There are lots of ancient traditions associated with this time of year, but using a song is a good way of engaging children. I have used this song regularly in Y6 school assemblies over the years and kids always like it.
Good luck