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Circle Etiquette
October 20th, 2010 by admin

Before entering circle:
1. Do not go where you are not invited, part 1
2. Check on the dress code.
3. Determine what you should bring.
4. If you are a visitor somewhere, determine what the ritual will be like
5. Prepare yourself physically to be in ritual space.
6. Prepare yourself mentally/emotionally/spiritually to be in ritual space.
7. Do not go where you are not invited, part 2
8. Don’t touch (part 1).
9. Don’t touch (part 2).
In circle:
10. Don’t talk or be disruptive.
11. Respect the High Priest/High Priestess.
12. If you leave ritual space, insure the integrity of the space.
13. Respect sacred space.
After circle:
14. Be a good guest.
15. Follow up.

Before entering circle:
1. Do not go where you are not invited, part 1

Just because someone you know has been invited to an event, don’t assume it’s a general invitation. Have your friend contact the person who invited him or her and ask whether or not you may attend. Again, don’t be offended if the answer is “No.” Generally, people will want to meet you and probably get to know you a bit before you are invited to a celebration, ritual, etc. If you’ve heard of an Open Circle, you should still verify with the organizers that it will be okay for you to attend.

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2. Check on the dress code.

When you are invited to an event, for example an Open Circle celebrating one of the Sabbats, it is a good idea to ask ahead of time what the dress will be like, what the ritual will be like, and if you should bring anything. Dress may be “street dress” which means regular clothes but please no ripped t-shirts, etc. “Robes” means folks will be wearing ritual garb. If you don’t have a robe, ask the organizer if it is okay for you to wear street clothes. Some groups worship “skyclad” which means nude (clad only in the sky).

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3. Determine what you should bring.

For many events, everyone attending brings a food dish to share. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, but you’ll usually want to bring something. Again, ask the organizers what would be good. You don’t want to bring hamburgers to a Circle full of vegetarians. Talk to a vegetarian and learn what they will and won’t eat, and learn the meaning of the more restrictive diet of vegan. Unless you are a vegetarian, don’t assume you know what it means without discussing it with vegetarians.

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4. If you are a visitor somewhere, determine what the ritual will be like

Especially if you don’t really know anyone in the group, ask what the ritual will be like. You may want to determine if you will be expected to participate in any way. You may want to ask how the Great Rite is celebrated. (If you don’t know what the Great Rite is, should probably do more research first.) Find out if you will be allowed back into circle if you need to leave.

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5. Prepare yourself physically to be in ritual space.

This means you do your best to make sure you will be comfortable when you are in circle before you actually get into circle. Go to the bathroom. Put on a sweater if you think you are going to be cold. Take off a sweater if you think you are going to be hot. If you think it will be necessary, ask if you can bring some water with you. If you are prepared beforehand, you will be less likely to disrupt ritual by needing to leave.

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6. Prepare yourself mentally/emotionally/spiritually to be in ritual space.

Even though some groups don’t specifically ask you to ground and center before entering ritual space, do it anyway. Your mission here is to calm yourself and, at least for the time of the ritual, forget about your daily tensions. Don’t take anger and frustration into ritual space. It isn’t good for you and it is disruptive for everyone else. If you aren’t familiar with grounding and centering, take three deep, slow breaths.

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7. Do not go where you are not invited, part 2

Do not go into ritual space until you are asked to go in. Usually those leading ritual will be preparing the space before all the participants are asked to enter. Entering the space uninvited is disruptive. Also, often ritual is held in someone’s house – don’t go roaming around willy-nilly.

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8. Don’t touch (part 1).

You will meet people with all sorts of interesting jewelry and carrying neat objects, and the room may be decorated with fascinating art and sculpture. Do not touch anything without permission. Much of what you will see will have either strong personal meaning or will have been consecrated or magically charged. It is considered disruptive and generally bad form to touch these things without permission. Don’t be offended if you ask permission and you are told “No.” You can ask about the item in question, just do so politely.

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9. Don’t touch (part 2).

Pagans in general tend to be very huggy people. It is not unusual for people to give hello and goodbye hugs at events and in circle. It is important to note, however, that not every wants to be hugged, and that is okay. It is wise to check first when meeting someone new. In addition, respect personal space. Just because someone is willing to give a hello hug, it does not mean that you are welcome to touch them in other ways. For example, just because person A gives person B a shoulder rub, do not assume that you are entitled to get a rub from person A or can give person B a rub. If you are in need of healing, ask, never assume. It is quite likely that A and B have known each other for a while and have established a relationship where this behavior is acceptable. You don’t know everyone’s history, what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable, and how an individual may react. Let your friendships with people grow naturally.

In circle:
10. Don’t talk or be disruptive.

Unless it is your turn to speak (such as during Cakes and Ale), please keep your talking to a minimum. If you must speak to someone, do it quietly and unobtrusively. If you must say something to the group, make sure it is appropriate. This is not the place to be class clown, especially if you are a guest. Avoid other disruptive behavior as well. Remember that the ritual is about celebration in community, it is not about you. Your political views might be unwelcome in the group, especially in ritual space but also everywhere during a religious gathering, even views that would be welcome within the group at ordinary social occasions.

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11. Respect the High Priest/High Priestess.

If you are a visitor, the odds are they will be doing something different from what you are used to – remember that it is to be expected. You may find yourself comparing (“we do it this way”) but do not make it a judgment, rather, it should be a learning experience. It is not about a wrong or right way to have ritual. You may very well find something you would like to do when you lead a circle. Also, the HP or HPS may make a flub, lose their place, trip on their robe, etc. Do not make fun, scoff, etc. Outside of Circle, you may or may not respect the individual, but you must respect the position in the group and within ritual.

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12. If you leave ritual space, insure the integrity of the space.

The Silver Phoenix and other groups have a Guardian. If you must leave the Circle, ask the Guardian to cut you a door and wait for him or her to do so before leaving the Circle. Other groups may not have a Guardian, but you must still have a door cut. If there is any chance at all that you will need to leave the Circle somewhere where you are a guest, ask before you go into Circle if you can cut your own door or if someone else should do it for you. If you have to cut your own door, cut a space counter-clockwise, exit the circle, and seal the door behind you (clockwise). One of the purposes of casting a Circle is to keep energy contained until it is released. Opening doors allows an energy leak and it is disruptive. Many groups will not allow someone back in once they have left. If you go back into the circle, again ask the Guardian to cut you a door or cut it yourself if appropriate. Again, if you cut a door to get back in, close it behind you. You may find yourself being blamed for the energy leaking from ritual space. It is not unknown for someone to find themselves disinvited to return for this disruption of a circle.

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13.Respect sacred space.

Treat sacred space as if it is sacred space. Do not eat or drink in sacred space except as part of ritual. If you need to bring in a drink of water, this will likely be okay, but ask the organizers and then be responsible for it. Do not place anything on an altar that doesn’t belong there. Altars are not merely tables with “stuff” on them. They have been consecrated. For homes that have a permanent sanctuary space, these concerns apply to the space at all times, not just the time when a circle has been cast.

After circle:
14. Be a good guest.

Many groups have a social time after Circle. If you’ve brought food, see that it gets put out. If you have brought something that folks might be allergic to (containing nuts, for example), let people know. Enjoy the food but don’t hog. Help clean up afterwards. I present some specific (and basic) examples. If you spill it, clean it up. If you use the last of the toilet paper, replace it, and yes this may involve asking where the TP is kept. Do not leave empty glasses, cans, cups, or plates floating around the house. Someone is being generous enough to invite you into her home. That does not make this person your mother/father/maid/slave. Clean up after yourself. Generally, do the kind of things your mother probably told you to do when visiting relatives.
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15. Follow up.

If you were a guest and you enjoyed yourself and would like to visit again, don’t assume you are welcome back. Before returning, check with the person who brought you and with the High Priest/ess and ask if you could visit again. In general, your behavior related to items 1 – 14 will likely determine the answer you get.


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