Today's kids are largely disconnected from the natural world and many suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Instead of an abundance of screen time this summer, how about weaving a story around the campfire that culminates in a kid-friendly ritual? Or camping with your children and building a labyrinth in the woods. Or taking a group of teens on a night hike that includes a silent meditation.
Faith-based camps are popular with Christian, and Jewish communities, but there are few overnight camps for Pagans, Wiccans, or families who practice Earth-based spirituality. Festivals, such as Pagan Spirit Gathering in Northern Illinois have programming for children, tweens, and teens, but for most North American Pagan families, the only option is to design your own camp or travel to a Reclaiming Tradition WitchCamp.
In Part 1 of this article we looked at creating a mystical children's summer day camp for your family. This time, we'll design a magical overnight camp in your backyard or at a local forest, beach, park, or campground.
Reclaiming WitchCamps: A Model Family Camp
Members of the Reclaiming community organize 16 WitchCamps in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia each year. The non-profit religious organization works to unify spirit and politics and is rooted in the religion and magic of the Goddess. Many of Reclaiming's WitchCamps are open to all ages, allowing children and teens to participate in age-appropriate workshops and rituals.
"With Reclaiming's family camps, we aim to create a place where children, teens, and adults are immersed in magic and able to step into their innate power," says George Franklin, Redwood Magic Family Camp co-creator. Franklin continues:
When working with youth, I'd consider "magic" a synonym for self-awareness and empowerment. The skills we teach help young folk to be more grounded and authentic in their daily lives, and to be more open and trusting with one another. In my experience, teens in particular seem fascinated by physical workings rather than interior processes such as grounding or invoking. This means tarot, labyrinths, cauldrons, amulet making, etc.
DIY Magical Activities
Here are some activities borrowed from Reclaiming's Redwood Magic Family Camp and Witchlets in the Woods. Both camps have morning "Paths" that are age-specific, with afternoon workshops open to everyone (ex. archery, crafts, drumming), and evening rituals.
All-Ages: Camp Magical Theme
What you need: A unifying theme or story can help guide evening rituals and daytime activities for kids, for example the Greek myth of Ariadne, Theseus & the Minotaur, the journey of the monarch butterfly, or a modern tale like The Last Wild Witch by Starhawk. The story can be shared at rituals and spread-out over multi-day events, and during opening and closing ceremonies.
Why It's Awesome: A camp story helps guide campers into the heart of an ancient (or modern!) tale. The story can create a transformative, archetypal experience that builds throughout the course of camp.
What you need: Activities that develop motor skills and encourage imaginary play. Props like fairy wings and shiny fabrics allow children to mimic the camp story, and they can also make magic wands from found sticks and decorate them with bells and ribbons. Be sure to include healthy snacks, a comfortable blanket or tapestry to sit on, and percussion instruments.
Why It's Awesome: Playing in nature, whether taking a walk or making simple altars with pinecones, leaves, and rocks, is fun for pre-schoolers and engages them in the natural world. Sitting in a circle and singing Earth-friendly chants is a great way to engage young children in a pantheistic, Deep Ecological worldview.
Ages 5 - 8, Newt Path
What you need: Have the kids help create sacred space by calling the directions and casting the circle. To work with the camp story, build a fort with fabrics, tapestries, and found natural objects -- have the children make masks and act out the camp myth in the fort. You can also include games that exercise children's executive function and encourage self-control, like Red Light - Green Light and Simon Says (or Mother Nature Says).
Why It's Awesome: Activities such as making fairy altars help children explore
their natural surroundings. Creating sacred space and playing games like freeze dance -- accompanied by a hand drum or rattle -- contribute to their self-regulation skills. Try having children freeze as forest animals, mythical creatures, and trees, and be sure to plan a variety of activities. A flexible schedule will allow for someone to finish an activity while others move on.
Ages 9 - 12, Raccoon Path
What you need: Engage children in hands-on, physical activities like building a labyrinth, going on a nature walk, doing a scavenger hunt, and finding items to build a group altar. You'll need a wide range of activities to involve different young folks.
Why It's Awesome: Building a labyrinth requires teamwork and walking a labyrinth offers many benefits including conflict resolution, group meditation, self-reflection, and having fun. Activities like collecting stones or making amulets, support a child's desire to attach special meaning to objects.
What you need: Teenagers like to hang out and socialize, but they also need activities that are interactive and engaging so they don't get bored. These can include yoga, meditation, learning tarot, Earth activist skills, labyrinth work, group-building games and trust exercises, jewelry making, ecology and nature awareness, tree climbing, and discovering their animal allies.
Why It's Awesome: Activities that support mindfulness for adolescents can help teens reduce stress, develop resilience, and build positive social skills.
Overnight Camp: Things to Remember
Remember to keep your magical overnight camp playful -- decorate tents, cabins, and gathering places and have costumes available for kids to wear. Add a talent show and opportunities for kids to lead rituals and chants. Don't feel that you have to do everything yourself. As with creating a mystical day camp, enlist friends, parents, and community members to lead activities.
To get a jump-start on your magical camp, check out the Witchlets in the Woods Family Witchcamp Handbook PDF. You'll find a camp schedule/grid, tips for working with gender inclusivity, and a sample of camp agreements and camp culture.
For a more in-depth study, check out the Teen Earth Magic: A Book of Workings & Rituals PDF. It includes exercises and rituals from Teen Earth Magic, Witchlets in the Woods, and Redwood Magic Family Camp. Also featured: an introduction to Reclaiming-style ritual and magic, an overview of magical activism, tips for teaching chants to a group, and much, much more.
Whether your summer camp is small or big, you can help prevent nature-deficit disorder and develop your children's earth-based spiritual development by getting them outside for a magical, overnight adventure. Have fun!
To learn more about Redwood Magic Family Camp's teen scholarships visit their IndieGoGo.com page, and join them in the forest August 12-16, 2015. To learn more about Reclaiming's California Family WitchCamps, visit Witchlets In the Woods, Teen Earth Magic, and Redwood Magic Family Camp.