Ritual etiquette is really important in Wicca. Of course, there are certain boundaries of behaviour that people are expected to observe, in all communities.
But it is especially true in rituals and spiritual circumstances, because we open our hearts and share our most precious hopes, ideas, fears, and even objects. We want to be safe to do so, and so we must do our parts to help others feel safe too.
But how do we know how to behave unless someone lays out the guidelines?
A Place With "No Rules"
I went to an Ashram once, where they insisted they had no rules other than aware, responsible behaviour.
In practice, however, there were a number of rules... like places that were off-limits, and taking off your shoes in certain places, etc, that were not exactly common-sense. And we only found out about these non-rules when we broke them and got our wrists slapped!
Well, I think it's much more pleasant -- and productive! -- to understand the expected rules of behaviour beforehand, and save a lot of fretting and stumbling and embarrassment and disharmony.
So here is a collection of Wiccan ritual etiquette that I've encountered.
It's important to be aware of all these as well, before attending a ritual.
Wiccan Ritual Etiquette
Great respect for others is vitally important when sharing something as intimate as a ritual. But there's a hidden benefit... When we tend to others' needs and hopes, we enjoy a beautiful feeling, and create a more beautiful world.
Be courteous and supportive, in Circle, and out. Trust and intimacy are necessary for magickal work, and can only be created in a community of respect and kindness.
Offer to help the organisers of the ritual.
Fulfill your commitments. If you've agreed to do something for the ritual, etiquette requires that you see it through because others are depending on you. If you absolutely can't, then it is your responsibility to find someone to adequately fill in for you.
Support the leaders. They've gone to a lot of trouble to put this together for your benefit, so pay attention and follow their lead.
Support the leaders! Avoid complaining about them or the ritual. People need to hear what they did right. Unless they specifically ask for constructive feedback, bite your tongue. Show them a better way, if you have one, by leading the next ritual yourself.
Support the leaders! Thank them! And the best thanks is in action, rather than words. For example . . .
Help clean up! It's amazing how people who are so appreciative can vanish as soon as the ritual ends.
Cleaning up means staying until the last sweep of the broom. When the tables and candles are put away, it may look like it's mostly done, but you're only halfway there at most.
And if your group sets a standard for this help, you will appreciate it when
A) It's your turn to organize, and clean up, and
B) People are willing to organize another ritual, because they know they'll have help.
Participate fully. Sing, and if you don't know the words, hum, or clap, or drum. . . It's everyone's participation that makes a ritual work. If you're not adding to the ritual, you are a weight on the collective energy, so join in however you can.
Stay on focus -- don't chit-chat. Come early to have time to socialize. Ritual time is too precious - and too scarce - to be frittered away.
Be aware when moving into and out of sacred space. Ritual etiquette and magickal process require that if you need to leave the Circle, cut a "doorway" in the Circle boundaries, and seal it behind you. (Or have someone do this for you.) Repeat when re-entering.
But it's best to plan ahead and not leave the Circle unless you absolutely must. Even with care, energy is disrupted and lost, so the best ritual etiquette is to stay with it all the way through.
It's not Drop-In/Out. It is rude to leave a church in the middle of a service, and it is just as bad ritual etiquette in Pagan circles. If you know ahead of time that you must leave, let others know... and be prepared: they may tell you it would not be appropriate, and that if you can't stay for the whole thing, to please not join in.
If something comes up and you must leave, unexpectedly, tell someone quietly what is going on, and unobtrusively exit the Circle.
It's absolutely essential to let someone know why you're going. If you are actually needing help (which you may not be aware of, if the energy is disruptive to you), you will be safe. And it relieves others of worrying about you unnecessarily, so they may carry on with the ritual.
No cell phones in Circle. It's remarkable that some people don't realise how disruptive this is. But a phone ringing immediately takes everyone's attention from the internal to the external, from the magick to a distraction, and is very poor ritual etiquette.
Never take photos during ritual.Wiccan rituals are not spectator sports. If you are taking pictures, you aren't participating in the ritual. Cameras remove you from the energy, like a wall between you and experience.
Also, it shift everyone's focus away from the magick.
And there's a third reason ...
Only take photos of Witches at gatherings with their express permission.
The Number 1 Wiccan Etiquette Taboo is "outing" someone as a Witch, Wiccan, or Pagan. It can have very serious repercussions in people's lives, when there is still so much paranoia and propaganda against Pagans.
So even if permission is given to take a photo, do not make it available for public viewing without specific permission. (As in all photography, a written Model Release is recommended.)
Do not bring children and animals, unless you know for certain they are welcome at the ritual.
This is not age-discrimination, or even ritual etiquette. It's simple practicality. In ritual, you will need to focus on the magick, and so will everyone else. Many Circles have rules that allow a child to come when they are mature enough to fully participate: stay focused, not get bored or act out, and enjoy the process.
To bring a child who is not ready is to set her/him up for failure. They can't help but be disruptive. This is obviously bad for the group, but it also puts you in an awkward position, and perhaps worst of all teaches the child that ritual is an awful place to be, and that she is unwanted!
If you don't want your children left out of your Wiccan rituals -- wonderful! They need to participate in Wicca too. Offer to organize an off-shoot ritual for the children.
With animals, there is the added complication of allergies and frightening the creature with sudden movements or loud noises or fire. A ritual is almost never an appropriate place to bring your pets.
Drugs and alcohol are not appropriate in sacred space. Even, sometimes, prescribed drugs should not be used -- anything that affects your attention, behaviour, or energy will affect the ritual and should be avoided.
Individual groups may have different rules on whether intoxicants may be used within ritual, but in any case, you should arrive at the ritual clean and sober, and able to function properly.
Bring something for the feast that everyone can enjoy, if at all possible. (Chocolate is always good, in my opinion.)
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