At some point in our paths we have the opportunity to be a part of either public or privately held circles. Being a part of a circle is a powerful experience, builds community, cohesion, and helps to deepen our spiritual path. I have always held the best way to teach our path is to be an active part of the path, not only by books alone but by experience.
Most of us started our spiritual path in some form of Christianity with a regular church attendance. With this in mind, there were certain observations one had to make so the service was not disturbed and everyone could benefit from the experience. While Pagan circles are not usually as formal as Southern church services, there is still a certain amount of etiquette one should observe when attending either public and privately held circles. Generally, it’s just common sense and common courtesy.
13. With social media making it very easy to locate and attend circles knowing when to RSVP and when not to can be tricky. Generally if it is a public circle and it states specifically to RSVP, do. The coordinator will probably want to know how many to expect for refreshments or other post ritual arrangements, the amount of supplies necessary, space, and parking. If you are planning to bring a guest please have them RSVP also, or RSVP for them.
12. Coordinators will generally include specifics such as whether or not a children may attend, if a sitter will be available (usually for a split fee for the parents or a split fee for each child), or if you should make other arrangements. If you choose to bring your children, or can’t find a sitter and none are available, there should be at least one adult per family with children that can supervise the children especially in private settings. In any event, children should never be left unattended. While ideally it would be ok, we all know we do not live in a perfect world where everyone plays by the rules. If the coordinator makes this a part of the event he or she is concerned for the safety of your child. It is not personal.
11. This is a big one. I’ve gotten so many questions about this and so many who have told me they wouldn’t attend a community circle because they didn’t want to take anything off. Most modern Pagan rituals are not Skyclad. By all means ask if you’re not sure about this detail, but usually the coordinator will specify if attire is required (such as ritual garb, capes, themed attire, or casual). Don’t show up and start disrobing. Unless an event description says specifically it is clothing optional don’t start taking anything off.
10. Remember the old joke about PST (Pagan Standard Time)? It’s a common phrase meant to make light of being late. I’m guilty of being late to events and I bet one would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t been. Nonetheless, try to be punctual. Life happens and most people understand that. If a circle says it begins at a certain time, try to be there a few minutes ahead of time especially if you are not familiar with details of circle.
9. Newbies can be expected to attend at least one circle in their lifetime and they are usually brimming over with questions. The coordinator should explain the aspects of circle prior to beginning circle. Any questions you may have about circle should be addressed before circle begins or after it is over. The time to ask questions is not in the middle of circle. Likewise coordinators should make every attempt to offer as many details as possible about the evening’s ritual.
8. Which brings us to the next point, and this is a particularly big pet peeve of mine. Before you enter circle or begin a class, turn your phone off or leave it with your other belongings. Ritual should not be disturbed by the beeping, tweeting, and chirping of cell phones. It is common courtesy to give an event, teacher, reader, or speaker your full attention. You should especially do so when seeking communion with your gods.
7. Circles are not the correct time or place for gossip, debates, or casual chatter. Conversation should be put aside until AFTER circle is over or before circle begins. Circles are also not the place to air your dirty laundry or angst. Deal with your personal issues before coming into circle. This brings negative energy into the space and negates what everyone is trying to accomplish.
6. Sex and circles. Circles are not orgies. They are also not pick up points, hook up events, or events for solicitation. There is a time and place for everything. The time and place will not usually be in someone’s back yard, in a public space, or in someone’s private home. I’m sure not everyone will be monogamous but everyone will also likely not be polyamorous. Respect the boundaries of others be it their person, their partner, or their home. A wise Priestess once said, I don’t fart where I eat and I don’t f*&k where I worship.”
5. Once circle has been cast it is usually expected that barring an emergency most will remain in circle. The time to use the facilities is not in the middle of circle. Find the facilities and take care of your needs before circle or after. In some circles once circle is cast members who leave may not be allowed back in and that is completely at the discretion of the host.
4. While some circles may opt to not make use of a formal altar, some may. Most will have personal books, tools, altars in their home or on the altar for that ritual. Remember when you were a wee one and your mom told you not to touch things that didn’t belong to you? That most definitely applies here. Tools are personal spiritual items consecrated and charged for the use of their owner. They are not items in a shop. If it’s not yours, don’t touch it.
3. In the Sharing, and sometimes Over Sharing, Age, people tend to feel very comfortable sharing every life experience and photograph. While you may wish to document your first circle, community gatherings, and so forth many states have laws regarding filming and taking photos of people without their express permission and especially of their children. Even if everyone knows each other, they may not know everyone on your social media hangout and may not want their photo or video shared with people they don’t know. If you must take photos or videos, ask first. This also goes back to keeping your cell turned off during circle. If you wish to take photos of the altar, do it after circle has closed and with your hosts’ permission.
2. Circles are sacred spaces where you commune with your gods. Don’t discuss details of your circle with those who are of a different path, or in some cases, who were not there. For many this is a sacred, private thing and details should not be spread around.
1. This is probably the quickest way to make sure you will never be invited to another circle. Do not show up at circle inebriated in any fashion whatsoever. Do not partake or even bring illegal substances to circle. To do so is desecrating the circle and endangering both the event and participants. This is especially important if there are children present. What you do in your home is your business. What you carry to someone else’s is something different entirely. Inebriated individuals are not in control of their energy, can not properly focus, raise, or control their actions during ritual. They place everyone in danger of causing undo and unwanted attention that could be detrimental to everyone involved. That being said, it is disrespectful. Inebriation has no place within circle. Even in states where certain herbal substances are now legal not everyone will be enthused or welcoming. Legal or not, there is the comfort zone of the host to consider. If you can’t hold on until you get to your personal residence, don’t attend ritual at all. Likewise regular cigarettes should not be lit during circle. Alcoholic beverages should wait until after circle and some will request a designated driver attend if you plan to imbibe in alcohol. Most hosts would rather you leave your car and pick it up the next day rather than have to ID you at the morgue.
Ritual should be a time for serious energy work. If you have any questions contact your host ahead of time, observe common courtesy, and enjoy yourself. Circles and rituals can be a great source of education, spiritual growth, and communion but with all things they are what you make it.