You’ve read 92 books. You’ve watched Scott Cunningham’s Herbal video. You’ve memorized To Ride a Silver Broomstick. You saw the special on A&E on witches and you’ve corresponded with people on the net and you think you are ready to step out into the big wide Pagan world.
Here are some basic tips about attending your first ritual. If you pay attention to these helpful hints no one will laugh and point at you causing to relive your first day in Junior High.
Before you attend your first public ritual:
Make sure you have the instructions for getting to the ritual site correctly. Maps and the GPS apps can be very helpful or better yet, ask if you can ride with a more experienced group member. You can save the planet and you might learn a lot about the group.
The first time Miss Kat was invited to meet a High Priestess by a friend she gave her the wrong address. Luckily, She had a map and could sit and figure it out. She got there and was met by an impressive and hugely smiling woman who turned to her friend and said, “ I told you if she was meant to find it, she would.” This left her nervous, uncomfortable and ready to clobber her friend. This wasn’t the most auspicious of meetings but it was her introduction to formal Craft.
So try to arrive at least a half hour early. This gives you a chance to meet a few people and to see if they are your cup of tea. If they aren’t, please feel free to leave. Listen to your inner bell. If it’s clanging like a freight train maybe this isn’t the place for you and some other ritual or group of people would suit you better. This religion is about personal responsibility. There are no ritual police to come and haul you out of an unsafe situation.
After you know these people – Be on time! Pagan Standard Time is just plain rude. Some groups lock their doors after ritual starts. Breaking and entering either scare the whatsis out of your hosts or get you banned for life. Miss Kat does not care for that joke – “What time is it at midnight? Time for the eight o’clock ritual to begin.”
Always inquire as to how you should dress for ritual. If the ritual is in a public park there may be restrictions on attire or about carrying edged weapons in sheaths. Sometimes they aren’t allowed. Sometimes they have to be peace tied. (Tied to the sheath). Sometimes the only restriction is common sense.
Always ask before deciding that you MUST worship skyclad. Is any one else naked as a jaybird? If not, don’t! Miss Kat has seen some horrifying sights in the name of religious freedom. Even in Southern California it can be cold enough at some times during the year to make your teeth sound as if they were castanets.
If there are parents with children its probably best to keep your clothes on. Some of those tattoos can be downright embarrassing. We really don’t need to know that you had a certain body part pierced AND put a bell on it. Let’s keep some mysteries. Some times you just don’t know wear to look!
Miss Kat had the misfortune to attend a pagan party many years ago that had a hot tub in the backyard. This was fine while most people were there but a couple of people arrived late and promptly doffed their clothes and jumped in without asking or thinking. There were 2 small children there and their parents and a non-pagan spouse who were not very pleased with this event.
Also, a few of her friends were watching me to see if she would freak out. Just because she is a lesbian it does not mean she’s going to run screaming at this sight of a penis. She found out that she wanted to giggle hysterically because she discovered that she was a size queen and the attendee was nothing to be concerned about.
If you have a nice plain ritual robe or simple black dress you have all you will ever need to wear for ritual. Some public park rituals are jean and t-shirt affairs so as not to scare the populace. Or if you have Renaissance Faire garb you can always wear that and no one in most places will look at you twice.
Please no Harry Potter wizard hats or faery princess cones with veils. You won’t be taken seriously unless you are partying with the Radical Faeries or in West Hollywood.
Wearing the largest pentagram you can find will get you pegged as a novice faster than you can say “ Salem Witch Trials”. Be discreet. After you’ve attended a few rituals then you can start looking like you are ready for the pagan jewelry 10-yard dash. The person who wins the race is the one who gets to the starting line and can still stand with all their jewelry on. No one ever said pagans had taste.
Pie plate sized pentagrams are good for target practice by the local yokels not for group ritual. Unless you are planning to bring a pie on it for Cakes and Ale leave it home.
Ask if you should bring food to share after ritual. Also ask what kind of food to bring. Showing up with your best pot roast to a vegan circle will not win you any points. Remember to bring utensils to serve it. Remember to return to take your dish home. It’s really distressing to be cleaning up after ritual and have 3 unclaimed casserole dishes from the after ritual feast.
Be mindful if some one tells you the group is clean and sober. If you drink yourself silly and land in the shrubbery no one will tell you where the next ritual is going to be.
Do not take drugs other than those specifically prescribed for you before ritual. And even if they are prescribed please don’t take heavy-duty painkillers. These alter your perceptions and your reality. A couple of aspirin or an ibuprofen are fine. Stay home if you are on painkillers, please, for your own safety and others. You are not Carlos Castenada and a public ritual is not the place for an altered reality. Most of all, do not drop acid on Samhain. Besides being illegal you really, really don’t need to make the veil any thinner than it is that night. Miss Kat knows of a Circle that has done that and she bets they wish they knew what they were doing all those missing hours.
Keep your sense of humor intact at all times. This is not brain surgery. The world will not end if you goof up and some awfully funny things can happen in Circle. Try not to wear flammable clothing. Go with the flow and be flexible. Things will not be like you read in a book. Miss Kat guarantees it. Ladies, and some men, long flowing hair is lovely but in a large public ritual where participants are carrying candles wearing your hair tied back or up is probably safer. Burning hair stinks to high heavens and burns very quickly. Miss Kat’s eyebrows and bangs will attest to that. You might not want to use a lot of hair product, as these are also highly flammable. A little glitter is nice and looks good by firelight.
It is recommended that you make yourself a traveling witch kit with things like glitter makeup, one of those glowing chemical light sticks for camping, a small Mag light flashlight for those nights when they hand out words to the chant but don’t give you any light to see them by (or print them on dark paper or in red ink both of which are pretty but become virtually invisible in the dark), a few tealights, a sacred Bic flamethrower or lighter, a scarf or bedspread for sitting on, spring water, charcoal for burning incense in a airtight container, some incense or a smudge stick., blessing oil, sea salt and a crystal or two. With these implements and your own two hands as your power tools you have everything you need for ritual. You can add other things to your kit later.
N.B. on the smudge stick if it’s sage please be careful. The smoke can sometimes be harmful to a fetus. So please ask if anyone is pregnant.
Smile! This is your best advertisement. Have a firm handshake. No one likes grabbing a hand that resembles a cold fish or some boneless thing. This is not about you. This is about people’s perceptions of you.
And last but definitely not least, Bathe and use deodorant. Even if this Circle is in the woods at a large pagan gathering. A bucket, soap and a washcloth can work magic. Not everyone appreciates your dark musky aura. The other attendees don’t care if your worship Pan. Also, please don’t wear cheap cologne; watching people try and hold their breath is not good during the guided meditation. Trust me, being clean and presentable is enough.