What is a Wiccaning?

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So you're a new parent to a baby–or maybe you've already got a baby around somewhere, and you're new to Paganism–and you and your partner are both Pagans. At some point in your interactions with the rest of the Pagan community, someone is bound to ask whether or not you're going to hold a Wiccaning ceremony. But what does this actually mean? Is it appropriate for you to have a Wiccaning ceremony for your child if you don't identify as Wiccan? Secondly, you might be wondering if you should wait until your child is old enough to make his or her own decisions, so they can choose for themselves if they want to be Pagan. What's the deal? Is there a rule that says you have to do this for your baby?

What is a Wiccaning?

Dad and Baby
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Let’s break this answer down into a couple of different parts. First of all, your friends in the Pagan community probably mean well, but may not realize it if you aren't 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 their spiritual community. It’s the equivalent of the Baptism that your Christian friends do with their babies. However,  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.

If you are Wiccan, you can certainly have a Wiccaning ceremony... or not. It's entirely up to you. It doesn't make you or your child somehow less Wiccan if this ritual doesn't take place.

In other words, 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."

Ellison goes on to say that most of these charms and rituals were to be done as soon as possible after a baby's birth. In addition, he adds that there are other legends about places where a newborn baby might be passed through a hole in a stone as a way of providing protection from fairies, who might want to come along and steal it, leaving a changeling in its place. Many of the customs that we have today are rooted in a need to keep young children safe from unseen, supernatural forces. 

Why Not Wait?

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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.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "What is a Wiccaning?" Learn Religions, Aug. 27, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-a-wiccaning-2562532. Wigington, Patti. (2020, August 27). What is a Wiccaning? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-a-wiccaning-2562532 Wigington, Patti. "What is a Wiccaning?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-a-wiccaning-2562532 (accessed March 28, 2023).