I knew when I wrote my book "Children of the Wood," that there would probably be backlash if it achieved any success at all. Fear of things we don't understand is like the oldest trick in the book of humanity, and it results in lashing out, so I was ok with it ahead of time. This week the backlash began, so woohoo I must be famous now! I decided to write this post in response to a particularly rageful message I saw this morning, to help perhaps put some people's minds at ease. While I knew not everyone would like it, I also did not write it to cause anyone distress, so let's just clear that right up.
Today a stranger, who has not read my book, accused me of child abuse. They seemed to be of the opinion that children can't handle a spiritual practice and that I was hurting kids. Well my response to that is 1. Don't baselessly accuse me of something as serious as child abuse when you have not read the text. LAME. 2. How dare you underestimate children. Children are not stupid. Children are not helpless. Children have opinions and ideas that are valid. Children are resilient and thoughtful. Children are capable of, and ready to have, their own religious or spiritual practice when they feel a desire to have one. I have yet to find a Christian family claiming they don't take their 8-12 year old to church because they "aren't ready for a relationship with Christ." Having a meditative practice, or Wiccan practice, etc. is no different, as long as they have the support of a parent. The same could be said for basically anything a child wants to do. I don't expect my children to walk this earth without me, and I don't think any parent who buys my book expects their kids to do that either.
I want people to understand that this is a gentle book that pushes children toward introspection and self-empowerment, not external forces or solutions. Magic is within them, not outside of them. It's also written for their level of readiness, not mine or any other adult's. A child's bible study looks very different from an adult’s, though the book being studied is the same.
When I was a child, like the children I wrote this book for, I had a robust religious practice. I grew up in a Nyingma Buddhist community and was permitted to participate in all ceremonies and practices. I did things like all day sitting meditation and chanting, for days at a time. Studied ancient texts, went on silent retreats, and participated in complex traditional ceremonies. I met other children through that community from all over the country that went on to have highly successful careers helping people. They became assets to humanity, just as many church-going kids do. There are many paths to having a well-established contemplative practice, but no matter the label, they help us cultivate discipline, compassion, and awareness of our role in the world around us. I think establishing that before adulthood helps us develop into well-rounded adults, and you can only do that, by planting seeds when we're kids.
We all try to protect our kids, but you cannot shelter them from life 100% of the time. When I was a kid, inevitably unfortunate things did happen.... but having a spiritual practice and a wild imagination helped me cope. Sunny day spirituality is nice, but we all lean into it most when we don't feel strong enough on our own. Kids deserve those tools just as much as any adult, that's why I wrote this book. I believe in kids, and you would be hard pressed to find one speck of danger in this labor of love. I took a year to write it because every last word was carefully chosen to exclude any potential for dangerous tangents or negative consequences. But if you don't believe me, buy one and find out for yourself!
-Annie, the Witch of the Wood