going to local open circles, a word on etiquette

I'm sure that there's been hundreds of articles written on this, but I wanted to just point some stuff out because frankly, as the pagan community grows, we need to be more mindful of one another - some things you can't stress enough.  I love how the pagan community can come together, but there's a lot of things that just really get on my nerves.

The idea is that there is a certain etiquette you need to follow when you're attending public rituals.  Public rituals are generally hosted by groups who want to help build a stronger sense of community.  But these groups have their own beliefs, their own systems, and their own way of doing things.  You can, however, be a wonderful guest that hopefully gets invited back again and again.  Here are some simple things you can do.

Firstly, make sure your information is complete.  If you are going to a public ritual, whether it is hosted in a public place or private home, make sure you have the correct date, the correct time, a list of what you could and should bring (will there be a potluck fellowship afterwards?  Bring food?), how many people you're allowed to bring (they might want to know if your entire druid grove of 30 is planning to come out), parking (carpooling is best), indoor or outdoor, and get accurate directions (sometimes, different GPS systems or different online map systems will put you waaaayyy off the mark).  Also, if you can, try to RSVP - this helps the group get an idea of how many people will attend.  And... always ask if it's child-friendly. There is no reason to be pissed off and act a fool if you're bringing your kid to a Beltane ritual and they politely ask you to take your child home - because it IS a fertility ritual, and YOU forgot to ask. 

You have to remember, again, you're going into someone else's sacred space, into their tradition and beliefs - you're trying to be open-minded, but you have to be respectful of their beliefs and practices.  

Meet the criteria of the gathering - be prepared.  If you are told it's outside, bug spray might be a good idea.  If it's a night ritual, bring a flashlight.  If there's a meet-and-greet-potluck, bring something for a good amount of people (please...don't crap out and bring a damn bag of chips....if you're hard on cash, it's about 3  for cake mix and icing...there's stuff you can do on a budget.  Some people go all-out, which is cool, but you don't have to be that person...you just have to put a bit of effort into it if you have some advanced warning).  There are some things you should always try to bring - extra seating, a light or heavy jacket (depending on locale and weather), possibly a first aid kit, and maybe blankets (for warmth or for sitting on the ground).  

If you're wanting to go above and beyond to help the group you're visiting, you can bring things that are necessary to facilitate a large group,  such as paper towels, ice, disposable items (cups, plates, eating utensils), garbage bags, and I kid you not, toilet paper.  Would you be happy about buying the toilet paper for 30 people who are descending on your house?  All these items, most people don't think of, but let's face it, we are supposed to be a very tolerate, accepting group (of neo-pagans) and kindness towards others is something we should always be mindful of.  Trust me, having been part of a group that did large rituals, those things are very much appreciated.

Respect the differences. Perhaps the ritual wasn't what you expected.  In fact, perhaps your Egyptian leanings didn't fly well with the Celtic ritual.  Get over it.  Maybe the swag one lady was wearing looked more like a Halloween costume than High Priestess ritual robing.  Get over it.  They called the quarters differently, didn't use the proper elemental beings, and mispronounced the name of the God and Goddess as you know it.  Get over it.  Seriously.  You're a guest, and you should be appreciative someone had the courage to share their magics, bare their soul to the public in an effort to promote community unity.  If you can do better, put your money where your mouth is.  There's nothing more annoying than finishing a ritual and hearing someone talk shit about a 'flat ritual', or someone wasn't witchy/mysterious/serious enough, or that someone was dressed ridiculously or whatever.  Who the hell are you to judge?  And if you can do it better, do it.  But you don't have to show your ass by talking crap about your host and the people that just wanted to do something in the community.  If you don't like it, don't go.  If you're not into what they're into, fine, but you don't have to put someone down over their differences.

And finally, keep your bullshit to yourself.  Don't bring your drama to someone else's turf.  If you've got a bone to pick with someone who's part of another group, or you've got some internal conflict with another person in the organization, keep your mouth shut.  It's neither the time nor the place.  The gathering isn't about you, it isn't about them, get the hell over yourself - most people won't know, won't care, and just look at you as a distraction.  And frankly, if you really have that kind of a problem with someone who's at a public gathering - I promise you, the circle/nemeton/gathering that you're going to doesn't want the ugliness there.  No witch wars, no rivalries - stop the stupidity.  If you really can't stand someone, leave.  If you don't want to leave, don't stand in circle with them.  There's no reason you can't enjoy a celebration, even if you don't particularly like someone there.  Because, again, it's not about you.  It's not about them.  It's about the community.  Work for the greater good, will you?

If you can keep those four things in mind, you'll do good.  Have fun!


Yup, I'm only human - even I can forget something.  Even after all of this ranting, a great friend pointed out something that is one of the most important forms of etiquette that I should be punished for....

Don't forget to say thank you.  Putting together a large gathering is a tremendous amount of work, money and planning.  (And yes, I'm borderline spamming people, thanking them for letting us be there!...so I am KICKING myself for not adding this here the first time on my soap box....)  If they've got a 'donation' jar chillin', even if you don't have a ton of money to help, pitch a dollar in.  You can get a roll of toilet paper.  Or a roll of paper towels.  Or garbage bags.  You can get a lot of disposables from a dollar store.

It's nice when you do something so cool that people appreciate you enough to simply say, "Thank you."

(Thank you, Cathy S. for pointing that out to me. :)  )

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