We are atheists. We didn’t set out to be, but that’s what we are. Ben was raised Jewish, I was raised Agnostic/Atheist. One of the more stressful, but amusing, stories of my childhood, in my opinion, was when during a family visit, my father pulled me aside and said through his teeth, “Don’t ever let your grandmother know you don’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”
I pictured, throughout dinner, the various ways I could prove to my grandmother that I didn’t not-know it, should she ask, but it never came up. (Claudia attended a Catholic pre-K for a year, and was able to say the Lord’s Prayer and a few other rote prayers during that year she was three and four, but she has forgotten them.)
Because of our social ties, the religious rites Claudia and Béla have spent the most time witnessing or participating in are those of the heathen contingent of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. Our friends there understand that we are, again, respectful and peripheral. The heathen communities’ beliefs, however, do dovetail with an understanding and respect for empathic abilities and witchcraft — which, this “non-believing” household has no choice but to address. Claudia is an empath and has been pointed to and called out as one from infancy. “That baby has been here before!” “That baby knows things!” “That is an old soul!” I had to look up “Indigo children” by the time she was six months’ old, as so many people had told me she was one.
Claudia predicted the 2011 Richmond, Virginia earthquake, first hours before, and then again moments before, it was felt in Philadelphia. She was three and did not know the word “earthquake”. That is the only precognitive incident she has ever achieved. Claudia can read minds. She knows what people are thinking, she knows when people are on the move (traveling), and she tunes in particularly clearly when someone she cares for is geographically distant. (She can tell you what Ben is thinking, not when he is right here necessarily, but more easily when he is in a hotel in Washington DC and she misses him.)
Our friends in the Urglaawe community have helped Claudia feel less strange about her abilities, and she has a mentor who gives her support in learning to control all that mental input, which seems very tiring and stressful (and sometimes, I am sad to say, shameful) for Claude. Claude also began her very first spellwork this past October, and it is that first spell that seems to have indirectly lead us to homeschooling.
It seems clear that the children will continue, organically, on a path where they attend heathen rites and know witches. It’s how life turned out, and it’s fine. But we realized recently that they knew very little about the major religions of the world. They knew we celebrated Christmas but that we were not Christians. They knew Daddy was Jewish but… only in a food-and-Hanukkah kinda way. Claudia knows her birth mother was Muslim. We would have to look it up in the paperwork, thanks to second-child syndrome, but it is possible that Béla’s birth mother was Buddhist; it would not be unlikely.
And so, on the day after Christmas — because I thought the Shrine would still look pretty for the holidays — we set out to combine our sort of casual Architecture/World Religions curriculum, by visiting the Shrine of St. Rita of Cascia. I visit there regularly, because I find it very peaceful.
Here are some people who found it less peaceful. Béla was, I would say, tolerant. Claudia bordered on horrified. We had talked about Catholic relics, and she was not impressed. We looked at the statues, and I thought that seeing a Black saint might warm her up to things a bit.
It did not. Nor did she like the candles. Nor the sheets of paper upon which to write intentions. When I opened the door to the chapel, she loudly announced, “NO.” Eventually she came in just to check out the Christmas creche.
Their journal entries on the visit were succinct and dismissive. Alright then.
I had thought, while we were in Margate, NJ over the New Year’s weekend, hiding out from the Mummers, that Ben might take them to one of the many synagogues there, but he wanted to wait until we were back home to take them to the oldest one.
All of this felt better to them. In comparison:
and from Béla:
Again, we can only count on other people (and books) to tell us much about what these religions “mean”. Religious buildings are still interesting. I believe the thing on the left was the beginning of a drawing of some tenements, but the other two drawings of Claudia’s are certainly houses of faith.
We are still looking for someone to show us, however perfunctorily, houses of worship for Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. It seems though, that before we will be getting to any of those, our path is leading us to another Christian house of worship — very different from St. Rita’s shrine. Stay tuned!