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Ritual Etiquette: The Best...and the Worst.....

Oh, it's the High Holy Season of Witcheries again!!!!

Whether this weekend sparks off your Beltaine or Samhain celebrations...one thing is for sure--Witches are dancing around the globe. It is truly the most wonderful time of the year....until six months from now when Beltaine/Samhain comes around again. Isn't it wonderful that our faiths have so many delicious holidays to choose from???  GO US!!!

Now, along those lines, here are a few pointers regarding Ritual Etiquette. People not being mindful of etiquette--either as leaders or participants--can lead communities to whither and fail. We're not talking white gloves at tea--just basic respect. Etiquette is important. Rituals are community affairs and while we do put a lot of good emphasis on the Sacred Self, we must remember how our actions impact other people. Planning/performing and even attending a ritual can be a stressful affair. Let's make things a little easier on one another, shall we?

One of the main things I harp on people about is nit-picking their rituals. I wrote all about it recently, but in addition to that, Please take a look at this handy-dandy list I periodically spam on my community...and feel free to include your own (constructive) additions!

Ritual Attendee Etiquette:

Avoid calling, texting, or sending ravens to the Priest/ess ten minutes before the event asking for directions.

In this day of Mapquest, GPS, NSA, etc., why are you bothering people for directions in the first place? Most cities have trip-planners for public transit. If the leader even has their phone on (I usually hand my phone off to someone else just prior to a ritual) their thoughts are on getting the event going. Getting last minute texts eats away at the focus the Priest/ess needs for the ritual. Not fair to them or the other people at the event! Plus....they probably already sent out the directions. In fact, they probably sent them out more than once.

Instead: Print out the address or directions as soon as they hit your inbox and put them in your cloak/gown/other pocket, immediately. Also, have on hand the phone number on hand of someone else (other than the leader....) to help you out if your ritual takes place during Merc Ret and your electronic devices point and laugh you into lost-lost Circles.

Avoid pulling aside the Priest/ess to ask for a detailed one-on-one description of what will be happening at the ritual e.g., "What exactly will we be doing tonight?" "Why didn't you tell me you were invoking this Deity? Was I supposed to bring apples? I see apples on the table. How long will this go? I'm supposed to meet someone later."

If the Priest/ess didn't include this information in the invite, he or she will most likely explain things before the ritual begins. Lots of people probably have those questions. Give them a chance to address the group.

Instead: Take time to read the invites carefully before showing up. If you still have questions, ask another ritual leader or simply wait for the Priest/ess to give the low-down. Don't demand personal attention from the Priest/ess moments prior to the ritual beginning.

Don't throw some random invocation or evocation of a Deity or Quarter into the mix just because your way is sooooo much better and "more right or whatever" than those of the people doing the event. 

My Coven calls Water from the East and Air from the West, whereas most North American groups do the opposite. Our reasoning? The Atlantic is just a few miles to the East and the jet stream drops freezing wind on us every year from the West. In our early years, we had *helpful* people hiss "AIR! AIR!" while we were trying to call in Water. So rude. Hey, look. The Priest/ess or Ritual team chose the Deities or Quarter locations for a reason. You're messing up the flow by throwing in something else, energetically. Go with the flow. In addition, be respectful of the tradition or culture of the ritual. If you don't like the way a myth is being portrayed or a rite conducted, it might be best to simply look for another ritual to attend. Dictating to the leader how you think something should be done, particularly if you are in a different community or country, is inappropriate and disrespectful.

Instead: If you just can't stand the way something is being done....and it better be so counter to your morals that you need to leave the room...politely ask someone to cut you out, faking a migraine or something. Otherwise, just go with it. When the Ritual has concluded, take the time to ask to the Priest/ess or a Ritual leader about the reasoning behind their choices. Maybe all can learn a few things! 

Don't bring people who are going to freak out.

Maybe it'll be hilarious to you to drag your stuffy roommate to a candlelit-chant-filled-drum-pounding gathering where people may break down in ecstatic hysterics. But your roommate will not find it funny. And the ritual leaders SURE AS HELL won't find it funny when they see the person cowering in the corner.

Instead: Bring along people who ask to come and do your best to let them know what kind of situation they'll be walking into. It's also polite to notify the organizers if someone is coming who is new to the Craft or rituals in general. Good ritual leaders want everyone to feel at home and will take special care to make sure a new person feels as such.

Don't chat during ritual or while Priest/ess or Ritual Leader is talking to the crowd.

Even if it's about Magick. Even if it's with someone whom you haven't seen since your last lifetime. No matter how quiet you think you are, you are distracting the leader and those around you.

Instead: Whisper to the person, "Let's talk later" and find them after the ritual for a chat over cheese and hummus. If what you need to talk about is really that important, it'll still be important after ritual.

Don't freak out about food. 

*Sigh* Why is it that food becomes such a sticking point at these things??? Showing up as a guest with a spoon marked, "VEGAN ONLY!!!" and policing it like a Fed will make everyone around you unhappy. If you have food restrictions and dig your tortilla chip into a nondescript dip without checking to see if your taboo food items are in there, don't summon the guillotine when you find the forbidden food on your tongue. Likewise, if you happen to eat the gluten-free cornbread, don't insult the people who made or brought it by spitting it out and screaming "EW!!!" If you don't have restrictions, it is best to avoid the foods that are marked for people that do so that there is plenty to share for all. 

Instead
Ask what is in something and yes, maybe someone used your Vegan Only spoon to dish Mac n' Cheez. If you're not going to chain the spoon to your wrist, quietly wash it and let it go. Likewise, if you see a spoon or dish clearly marked for a food item, be respectful of that and use a different utensil or dish. 

Also instead  Do list the contents of a dish if they're not apparent in appearance particularly if it contains potentially fatal allergens such as nuts. Label your items. It is respectful of those who have restrictions to know what's in the food, but particularly if the item could send someone to the hospital, LABEL IT.

Avoid commenting on a logistical problem without offering a solution: "Gee! Could you have FOUND a more out-of-the-way place? lol" "Man, maybe you should have gotten a bigger space?" "Oh, I know...you should use a bigger font on your website..." 

REST.

A.

SSURED.

If there is a logistical problem, the ritual leader is MORE than aware of it. But if you bring it up without suggesting a GOOD solution, they're probably going to be envisioning pins in your effigy.

Instead: If you attend several rituals that continually pose the same logistical problem, email the Priest/ess at a later date with a suggested alternative. If you don't have a suggested alternative...smile and say nothing.

Don't leaving without offering to help clean up.

So rude.

Instead: Offer to help clean up. The ritual team may refuse, but they'll appreciate the offer.

Ritual Leader Etiquette


Start when you say you're going to start. Conclude when you say you're going to conclude. Leave your space better than you found it.

Things happen. Stuff comes up--like a hurricane knocks the power out of your city for over a week and your ritual team has to walk from Brooklyn to the space. Okay, that was just me...but yeah. Sometimes, you may run late. Sometimes, you may run over. Don't make it the norm. Your guests have worked very hard to be there and need to get home to families and obligations. 

Make your event instructions as clear as possible

Check address, dates, and times. Include any information that the people should know. Will you be outside? Will there be heavy incense? Are children or teens allowed? Is this an alcohol free event or will adult beverage be present? Should the participants wear certain colors, or avoid bringing certain items? If your guests are comfortable, their experience will be greatly enhanced. Help them out with clear directions.

Explain things thoroughly, but don't spoon-feed experiences.

Maybe you're starting with a ritual cleansing. Let people know that! Maybe they you'll move into a chant and dance session. Say so! But you don't need to tell people what you think they will or will not experience: "You shall be SHAKEN TO YOUR CORE AND WILL ARISE AGAIN EMBRACED BY THE TIDINGS OF THE GREAT BLAH BLAH"  Let people come to their experience on their own. It's not for you to tell them what they will feel, see, or learn.

Don't change the way the Circle is being cast--in the middle of the Circle Casting.

Even if an Ancient Muse came along and kicked you in the head, it's not a good idea to scream out, "I HAVE AN IDEA!!!" You've just fucked the flow for the rest of your Ritual leaders.

Instead Put that Ancient Muse on the back burner and as soon as ritual is over, scribble it in your Book of Shadows. Mention it next time, for the NEXT ritual, during the planning stages. (This one came courtesy of Tamrha.)

Don't argue about the ritual--when the ritual is about to begin and guests are present.

All ritual leaders should ask each other questions regarding the ritual before the actual ritual, and any disagreements should be figured out before the community arrives and not in front of them. It unnerves the guests and undermines the energy the group is trying to cultivate. If something is unresolved before the ritual starts, hold onto that thought and discuss it at a later date before the next ritual. (This one also came courtesy of Tamrha!)

Don't interrupt the Priest/ess while they are talking or invoking about something they forgot to say/do.

You're probably right, but being all like, "Hey! You forgot...." Probably the quickest way to never be asked to help lead ritual again. Don't do it. Unless you notice the space is on fire or that someone needs medical attention. Then, you should interrupt. Otherwise, Mention it later. If you simply cannot wait until later, whisper it in the ear of the Priest/ess when they're not the center focus of the ritual. But better to wait until afterward.

The ritual you lead is not your performance or your therapy session. The ritual attendees are not your captive audience or your therapist-team.

Your ritual may be seem like a time to show off your gorgeous singing voice or beautiful dance movements, but use that as a gift to make the ritual more beautiful--not to gain applause and compliments. You may have cathartic moments during the ritual, but your main role is to be present, keeping an eye on the flow of the ritual, and possibly channel messages from the Divine so that participants can gain as much from it as possible. If you lose yourself to your emotions in the ritual, your participants gain little from it. It's a weird paradox.  

Be available when the ritual has concluded.

Listen to experiences. Answer questions. Hug. Share laughter and tears. Someone who has had a powerful experience may be confused about it, or simply wanting someone to hear them. Be present, loving, supportive. Later, you can go home and shut out the world to recoup, but in the aftermath of the ritual, be a supportive presence. 

Don't leave the space a mess.

Dude. Seriously.

Blessed Be, Kitty Katz!!!

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Courtney Weber is a Priestess, writer, Tarot Advisor, performer and activist originally from Portland, OR living in New York City.She is the High Priestess of Novices of the Old Ways, a Progressive Wiccan and Pagan Coven and community. Her writings on Witchcraft have been published in numerous publications. She host public Circles in the city, teaches locally and nationally, and is available for Tarot consultation. Her first book "Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess" will be released by Weiser Books in February, 2015.

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