A reader asks, “I’m a new parent to a baby boy, and my partner and I are both Pagans. A friend of ours keeps telling me I need to hold a Wiccaning ceremony. I’m not sure what this means – first of all, I’m not Wiccan, so I don’t know if it’s appropriate for me to have a Wiccaning ceremony for my son. Secondly, shouldn’t I wait until he’s old enough to make his own decisions, so he can choose for himself if he wants to be Pagan? Is there a rule that says I have to do this while he’s a baby?
Let’s break this answer down into a couple of different parts. First of all, your friend probably means well, but may not realize that you’re not Wiccan – which many people assume is the default setting for all Pagans. The term “Wiccaning” is used to describe a ceremony in which a new person – often an infant or child – is welcomed into theirspiritual community. It’s the equivalent of the Baptism that your Christian friends do with their babies. However, you’re right – if you’re not Wiccan, there’s no reason for you to call it a Wiccaning. In some traditions, it’s known as a saining, or if you’d prefer, you can just have a Baby Blessing ceremony, or even hold a Baby Naming ritual. It’s entirely up to you and your partner.
More importantly, you don’t need to have a ceremony for your child unless you want to. There are no universal rules about much of anything in the Pagan community, so unless you’re part of a tradition that mentions baby ceremonies in its guidelines, don’t worry about it.
The Tradition of Saining
In some magical traditions, a ceremony called a saining is held for babies. The word comes from a Scottish word that means to bless, consecrate, or protect. Interestingly, a lot of the surviving saining charms and chants are actually Christian in nature.
Rev. Robert (Skip) Ellison of Ár nDraíocht Féin writes, “There are several ideas about naming and saining ceremonies for a newborn baby. In Pre-Christianized Ireland, there are records of passing a newborn through a fire three times while asking the blessing of the Gods on the baby or of carrying a baby three times around a fire to bless it. Several charms that were collected from Christianized Ireland were published in Carmina Gadelica by Alexander Carmichael. “Silvered water,” which is water that has had silver in it, figures prominently in these charms. Most of these were to be done as soon as possible after birth. There are other legends about places where the newborn baby was passed through a hole in a stone for protection from fairies. Most customs that have come down to us are for the protection of the baby from unseen forces.”
Certainly, many people believe in the idea of letting a child decide on his or her own path as they get older. However, a naming/blessing/saining/Wiccaning ceremony doesn’t lock your kiddo into anything – it’s simply a way of welcoming them to the spiritual community, and a way of presenting them to the gods of your tradition. If your child chooses later on that he’s not interested in a Pagan path, then the fact that he had a ceremony as an infant shouldn’t impede his way at all.
If you like, if he decides to follow a Pagan path when he gets older, you could perform a coming of age ritual, or a formal dedication to the gods of your tradition. Much like a lot of other issues in the Pagan community, there are no hard and fast rules about any of these things – you do what works best for your family, and what falls in line with your beliefs.