Pagans are generally respectful people but some may wonder what Pagan etiquette truly is and how one should behave.
1. While many people have become far less secretive about their membership in pagan groups, it is never permissible to blow someone’s cover. Do not ever out anyone; do not call a friend or acquaintance by their pagan name or their affiliation with their pagan group when in a mundane situation. Please be aware that some people have serious reasons to be sensitive about being known as pagans. Don’t mention that someone was at a ritual or is a pagan without their permission; this is just like outing a gay person, and could be just as devastating. Many of us cannot afford to be open about our religious preferences; never give out this or other personal information about another without their consent. Remember the 12-step saying, “Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here, let it stay here.”
2. For many pagans their ritual tools are very special items which, in some cases, may never have been touched by any other person. Especially sacred is a Book of Shadows, which is not ever touched by anyone who does not own it (except in the case of a Coven Book Of Shadows which is used by members of the same coven). If you see anything interesting lying around or on the altar, make sure to ask permission before handling it. Never touch or take something without the owners permission. Tarot cards, drums and other musical instruments may be ritual tools. Again, don’t handle other people’s items without permission. Do not assume because you have not been told “not to ” do such a thing that the person, whose items you have taken it upon yourself to examine, is not upset. Many Pagans find it just as impolite to have to tell someone not to do something, as it is for the person examining the item to do so without permission.
3. Never assume that you have been invited to attend any ritual or gathering just because your friend was invited. You should have your friend ask, or you call the leader of that group to request permission for you to attend. If you are refused do not take it personally and attack the group or its leaders. Also if you wish to bring a guest to a ritual, you should first get the permission of the people putting the ritual on. Guests who are non-pagans or new pagans have special needs and may or may not be welcome. If your hosts are open to your guest attending be sure that you talk to them well before the ritual about what they’ll be seeing there. Explain the theme of the holiday, make sure they understand what will be expected of them, and take some time to verbally walk them through a ritual. And remember, once you are at the ritual, stay close to your guests and make sure they are okay. Be sure they know it is not acceptable to get up and leave in the middle of ritual beforehand. Introduce them around. Lend them a drum or a rattle if need be. And teach them about grounding if they don’t already know how; they’ll need it.
4. When participating in any ritual of a group that you are not a member of, ask ahead of time what will be done. Should there be something in the explanation, or in the setup of the ritual area which bothers you, you can quietly not participate in the ritual.
5. Never prosthelize your beliefs to others no matter what the situation. There is no “One true and only Path” in paganism. Refrain from criticizing others paths and never insist that everything must be done your way. If you feel uncomfortable about doing something, quietly refrain. If you don’t understand, politely ask. Even if you really do have the conviction that what someone else is doing is “wrong”, “incorrect”, “left hand path”, or whatever, just don’t talk about it. It is perfectly permissible to refrain from participating in the activities of those with whom you cannot feel comfortable. It is not acceptable to express the idea that they “ should not” be doing it. This is not to say that if you know of criminal behavior of a group that you should not report it.
6. Ask the person officiating at a ritual before you place anything in the ritual area or wear clothing or tools which may be considered unusual, or add private energy workings to the ritual being done.
7. Never just walk out of a cast ritual circle. Ask someone in the group sponsoring the ritual to cut you a door if you really and truly absolutely have to leave. If you are leaving because you do not like some aspect of the ritual, you should have understood the ritual beforehand and not come if you were not comfortable with some aspect of it. If one must use the bathroom remember again that when you are going to participate, it’s best to make a ‘bathroom run’ just before starting.
8. Do not assume that children are welcome or not welcomed by the group. If your child is being disruptive you should have explained to them beforehand that this is not acceptable behavior and is seen as disrespectful and rude. It is preferable for you to remove your disruptive child as explained in number six than to stay and possibly ruin the ritual for all the other participants.
9. Many groups have a potluck after the ritual. It is courteous to find out whether you are expected to bring something and what that might entail. It is unacceptable to go to a potluck either empty handed or with just a bag of chips, bag of cookies, a bottle of soda or some other such item. Many people have taken the time and made an effort to prepare something worthwhile to share and if you are going to partake of their hard work the least you can do is put the same effort into your offering. Please remember to take your pots and cooking utensils with you when you leave; don’t leave dirty dishes for others to take care of.
10. For vegetarians, vegans, strict carnivores, diabetics, and any others with very strong food preferences. No one minds you asking quietly and politely what dishes have meat, sugar, spices, hot pepper, etc. in them but loudly proclaiming you “Simply can not eat________” or that there is “Nothing you would possibly see as fit” for yourself is grounds for you becoming the next meal—- not really but, well, you get the idea! If it is a potluck, bring along a dish that fits your diet. At least you will have one thing to eat. For hosts: When planning a meal for large Pagan/Wiccan groups, it is strongly suggested that at least some of the dishes be vegetarian, sugar free, relatively not too spicy, etc. Also within and without the ritual context you should always provide non alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages for those who for whatever the reason, may not wish to partake in the alcohol.
11. Whether you drink, take drugs, or indulge in other similar behavior is completely your own business. It is also always wrong to urge this behavior on another person. The majority of serious Pagan groups absolutely do not allow anyone who is under the influence of drugs or alcohol to participate in ritual. Never bring anything illegal with you; this is to protect you and the community and it is rude to do so in someone’s home, especially. If you are sponsoring the ritual please remember to have a non-alcoholic alternative for non-drinkers if you do allow alcohol. It is not cute to secretly spike the punch – do not do it. If you are taking a psycho-active drug for medical reasons it is very wise to check with the ritual leader(s) so they will understand and can advise you if they feel the ritual might be harmful to you. .
12. Just because many Wiccans/Pagans are in reasonably good physical condition, never assume that everyone is. Rituals and gatherings should be planned so that those with physical problems are not barred totally from participation. Particularly in ritual, be aware that many more people than you might think are “mobility challenged”. Group rituals should take place in an accessible area and some thought should be given to designating a safe place for those not taking part in dancing to sit. Please be alert to anyone that would welcome help. Assist them to find a campsite or area that minimizes walking to ritual areas, to the bathroom, to the eating area, or whatever. Help them to pitch their tent and campsite. Don’t make them feel unwelcome. Most handicapped people have worked extra hard on their magickal skills and may be able to add a great deal to the power in ritual and to the success of the gathering. Also if you are in need of special arrangements made due to physical limitations, please let the people planning the ritual you will be attending know ahead of time.
13. Never assume that a ritual will or will not be held skyclad. Always ask ahead of time. If you are the type that is uncomfortable with people being skyclad, don’t participate in the ritual if it involves nudity
14. Paganism is a wonderfully diverse religion and in that we revel. Please do not allow yourself to express judgments by categories. Whether or not you like or dislike African Americans, Native American Indians, Hispanics, Asian Americans, homosexuals, women, men, or whatever, keep it to yourself! If you really and truly cannot feel comfortable taking part in a ritual that isn't conducted according to the tradition you follow or if you cannot be pleasant in company mixed with groups you disapprove of, please just stay home.
15. The High Priestess is the Goddess among us, no matter who the HP happens to be. It is expected and proper to greet the HP first. The High Priest is the God among us, no matter who the HP happens to be. It is expected and proper to greet the HP secondly.
16. Whether you are new to paganism or not, it is always proper to thank your hosts.
17. Never name drop during a pagan gathering. It’s just considered tacky and a sign of social climbing. Very few people will care that your tent was next to Lady Famous Pagan’s tent at the Pagan Gathering last year.
18. Never assume that just because you have attended a ritual by a certain group that they will automatically make you a member or invite you to their next ritual. If you are interested in joining a group, politely ask someone in charge of the group. If you wish to be invited to other rituals or gatherings let someone in charge also know of this, but do not expect them to invite you back just because you want them to.
19. Psychic Vampirism or astral traveling to another person without their permission is a major no-no. It is one sure way to never be invited to any pagan gatherings or to make others avoid you entirely.
20. Being barefoot is not necessarily always required in circle, but definitely polite. In some traditions one goes unshod in respect of sacred space; and besides being respectful of others’ beliefs, you’re less likely to hurt someone by stepping on their toes if you’re not wearing shoes either. This applies to indoor rituals and to those held outdoors during good weather. Again it is preferable to check with the person performing the ritual ahead of time.
21. Unless specifically instructed otherwise, always move around the circle in a clockwise (Deosil) direction (E-S-W-N-E) Even if this has only symbolic meaning for you it is quite serious for others, who may be upset if you move counterclockwise (Widdershins).
22. Don’t make comments on the ritual, its leaders or the amount or quality of the energy raised during the ritual, unless opinions are asked for by the leaders. Save it for your friends, privately after the ritual.
23. Depending on the ritual setup, it can take a while for everyone to process in. This extra entrance time should be taken as a gift to more fully center and prepare oneself. Remember that the ritual is supposed to be outside of time – chill out and take the time to just be where you are. Please do not distract others by talking, etc. during the procession.
24. Robes are nice if you have them but not really required; loose, casual clothing or medieval-style garb is also common.
25. Some local traditions include a talking stick (or other item). The holder of the talking stick is allowed to say their piece without interruption, and everyone is expected to listen to them. How/when the talking stick is passed from person to person may vary. If you are given a talking stick and don’t have anything to say, you can usually just pass it on.
26. Many pagans can be touchy-feely in a loving, caring sort of way. This can be immensely comforting; however, each of us has a different level of comfort with the extent of touching. If you are uncomfortable with how someone else is touching you please don’t hesitate to communicate your feelings. Conversely, those who on the giving side of embraces, etc. should be sensitive to the feelings and reactions of others. Communication is vital. Remember that among pagans nudity is not an invitation to have sex; do not mistake the one for the other.
27. Watches may be frowned upon in ritual by some because the circle is supposed to be outside of regular time and space. (And, of course, it’s rude to keep checking the time.) Best to leave these in pockets.
28. If you see someone you don’t know, make an effort to welcome them. Don’t assume they are with someone; their sponsor may be talking to someone else, or they may be alone. If you are new, and no one is talking to you, try to find a couple, or someone who’s alone; it’s a lot harder to get noticed in big groups. Don’t assume you are being snubbed deliberately – some folks are simply shy about talking with newcomers, others are truly oblivious and eager to talk with old friends they may not have seen in a while; it’s a very human reaction.
29. IT IS ALSO UNACCEPTABLE IN SOME TRADITIONS TO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE SOMEONE AS LORD OR LADY WHEN ADDRESSING HIM OR HER IN PAGAN SITUATIONS IF THEY ARE INDEED THIRD DEGREES.
30. If a group or person is sponsoring a ritual you can rest assured that they had expenses. It is polite, and sometimes expected, to give a few dollars to help cover the costs. Local custom may or may not expect you to chip in; ask and find out.
31. The ritual fire is sacred. Please do not throw litter into it or light cigarettes with it.
Love and Light,