Pagan Manners

I can hear the outraged screams already. There are people out there who believe that the very idea of "Pagan Manners" is a conflict in terms; that "manners" are outdated, dishonest and hypocritical. Well, think again. Manners constitute the only successful technique ever discovered by humankind to enable groups and individuals, holding moderately disparate views, customs or beliefs, to get along together. There are things more important than manners; but, without manners, its unlikely that a discussion will ever go to them. Pagan manners are fairly simple and have nothing to do with which fork you use or how to word an invitation. They have to do with respect for others' feelings and beliefs. They most specifically have to do with recognition of the fact that you should "judge not the path of your brother or sister for their path is sacred." Manners are also the only way of attempting to grant everyone the personal space which each of us needs. There have been a number of attempts to write down a list of "thou shalts" and "thou shalt nots" which will cover Pagan life. Here are several tries made by four different people:

  1. Never assume that you are invited to a ritual or a non public gathering just because your friend is invited. Have your friend call the group doing the event and ask! (or call yourself).
  2. When participating in a ritual led by a group of which you are not a member, ask ahead of time what will be done. Should there be something in the explanation, or in the set-up of the ritual area which bothers you, just quietly don't participate in the ritual.
  3. Ask the person(s) officiating at a ritual before you place anything in the ritual area; wear clothing or tools which might be considered unusual; or add private energy workings to the ritual being done.
  4. Never just walk out of a cast ritual circle. Ask someone in the group sponsoring the ritual to cut you a door if your really and truly absolutely have to leave.
  5. Don't make comments on the ritual, its leaders or the amount or quality of the energy raised during the ritual unless such opinions are asked for by the leaders. Save it for your friends, privately, after the ritual is over.
  6. Vegetarians, Vegans, Strict Carnivores, Diabetics, and any others with very strong food preferences: no one minds your asking quietly and politely: "Which dishes have meat (sugar, spices, hot pepper, etc.) in them?" When planning a meal for mixed Pagan/Wiccan groups, it is strongly suggested that at least some of the dishes be vegetarian, sugar-free, relatively non-spicy etc. At all times, within and without the ritual context, always provide an alternative to alcoholic beverages.
  7. While many people have become far less secretive about their membership in a Pagan group, it is never, ever, permissible to "blow someone‚Äôs cover". Do not ever call a friend or acquaintance by their Pagan name or mention their membership in a mundane situation. It is also bad manners — and a symptom of social climbing — to call an individual by his/her mundane name in a Pagan situation. It always reminds me of an extra calling John Wayne "The Duke" at a local bar.
  8. Whether you drink, take drugs or indulge in other similar behavior is completely your own business. It is always wrong to urge such behavior on any other individual. The majority of serious Pagan groups absolutely do not allow anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol to participate in ritual. Do not be offended of you are turned away for this reason. If you are taking a psycho-active drug for a medical reason 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.
  9. Just because most Pagans/Wiccans are under 40 and in reasonably good physical condition, never assume that everyone is. Rituals and gatherings should be planned so that those with physical problems aren't barred totally from participation. Particularly in ritual, be aware that many more people than you might think are "mobility disabled." Group ritual 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 stand or sit. Please be alert to anyone to whom help would be welcome. Help them to find a campsite which minimizes walking — to the ritual area, to the privies, to the eating area — whatever. Help them pitch their camp. 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.
  10. When at any sort of gathering, please be thoughtful. Particularly please observe true quiet after midnight. No one minds if you and others want to stay up all night talking or whatever. Everyone else minds a great deal if you stay up talking and laughing loudly and/or drumming. Those hosting a gathering should take the responsibility of keeping the noise level very low in at least some of the sleeping areas — and designating it as a quiet area.
  11. Do not allow yourself to get the idea that you know the One True, Right and Only Path! 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 "shouldn't" be doing it. This is not to say that if you know of criminal behavior on the part of a so-called Pagan/Wiccan group you should not report it. We must also be responsible for cleaning up our own act. Paganism is glorified by its diversity. Please do not allow yourself to express judgment by categories. Whether or not you like or dislike blacks, Indians, homosexuals, women, men, or whatever, keep it to yourself! If you really and truly cannot feel comfortable taking part in a ritual which 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.
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