Tag Archive | wicca 101

The Gathering Part 2 or We’re Here!

The first thing you must do is check in. They need to know if you are there and where you are camping in case of emergency. And if the people running the event have done this before they may make you park facing out and leave your keys with Check in. This is in case of having to move people out in an emergency.

Note to those running an event: if you decide to run a workshop on orienteering or a treasure hunt involving a compass, do not run it through the parking lot. A car’s engine makes the needles disoriented and all cars are north.

Now get a program of events and settle down in your nicely set up campsite to pick your workshops. Go to something new that you haven’t tried before. Have fun at the rituals.

Have fun! Make new friends! Be tolerant of others. There are many, many different flavors of pagans here. Don’t laugh at the Klingon bridal party. There may be all kinds of special rituals such as handfastings or wiccanings. If you are invited go and participate. Find out what Asatru is about. Explore different pantheons of deities.

If there are vendors, support them. It is always nice to go home with something handmade with love by another pagan. There are very few pagan shopping malls.

The same rules apply as for going to your first public ritual so maybe re-read those chapters.

And when its time to go, leave the place cleaner than you found it. If necessary take you trash home with you to dispose of it.
If you had a really good time volunteer your time to put on the next one. Thus insuring there is a next one.

The Ritual or How many Priestesses does it take…

The Ritual

or

How many Priest/esses does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Okay how many people do you need to put on this ritual? As many as it takes to get all the jobs done. Don’t try to do it alone. You need people to call corners, and the deity. You will need people to do the meat of the ritual such as a guided meditation, craft project, blessing and purifying, spellwork or to raise energy. These people can all do double duty but if this is your first time as many people as you can get is best.

Assign people or ask for volunteers for each job and have a back up person to help if something happens to the first person. There is nothing like being in charge if a large event and landing in the Emergency Room at 2:00 in the morning and realizing you are the only one who knows where everything is and who is doing what; or that you are the one with the keys to the building or site.

Write everything out and distribute it to all participants. You can even work out the kinks via email between planning meetings.

The first few times you do a public ritual have people write out what they are going to say and memorize it. After you have done this a few times you can be extemporaneous but wait until you feel comfortable.

If you have included a chant or song in your ritual practice it with all the participants before the ritual starts. Make sure everyone can see a copy of the lyrics if it is long enough to make it difficult to remember. Have some one designated for each part if it is a round or canon.

If there is something you want everyone to do such as go up to the altar for a blessing or any action where in a small ritual you would do it one at a time, have multiple stations. Have something else going during this like a simple chant. If you are having a particularly large group and the action will take a while even with multiple stations have more than one chant. Nothing is a bigger turnoff to public ritual than having to sing, “We all come from the Goddess” for an hour. You will have rebellion at the very least and lose the energy you are trying to raise at worst. You could even have people leave and never come back because they think you are a bunch of first-rate primal bores.

If you are having a fire have one person in charge of it at all times. Make sure you have built safely in a safe place. For instance, don’t build it under a tree. Have a bucket of water and a bucket of sand. Sometimes sand will smother a blaze faster and with much less hazard than water. If you have a very sappy log water may even make the problem worse. If you haven’t done it before practice before hand or find an ex- Girl Scout to do it. Keep it small. It’s safer and better for the environment. Fire is a major air pollutant. If you are going to have a ritual where people are going to jump the fire, how about doing the jump over one of the small cauldrons or over a lantern. Flaming Pagan is generally not part of the Cakes and Ale at the end of ritual. And who wants to explain to an emergency room doctor what you were doing dressed like that. Miss Kat has had to put her keester in a lake after everyone noticed that the butt of her jeans were smoking.

Have a designated greeter or two. Please choose a person that is outgoing and can make people feel comfortable from the very beginning. New or shy people have a hard enough time getting the courage up to go to and event. Please don’t scare them off before they get in the door.

Have a person designated to corral the food offerings and take charge of serving and cleanup. Better yet have a team of people to do it. It’s very bad manners to leave one person with a messy kitchen or area to clean up.

Have one or two people at the most in charge of the event. Democracies and consensus are nice for running an organization but one person needs to coordinate all the chickens running around with their heads cut off.

When it’s time for the ritual to begin have an explanation time. You may have new people who have never been to a public ritual. You may have guests from other traditions. Explain the history of the holiday. It will also settle the participants down if they are having a major case of stage fright.

If you have a plan most everything will go smoothly and it goes even better if you can manage to have a rehearsal before the ritual. Don’t run every minute of the ritual just the order and things like the chant. Try the craft project before hand if you’re having one a few times so you know all the ins and outs of it. It saves embarrassment in the long run.

Some things you should to know about doing ritual; Try to be sensitive to the flow of energy; you may have to change things as you go along. Be flexible! Don’t expect to be perfect but expect to have gotten as much out of the doing as if you were a participant not just a priestess. Most important of all HAVE FUN!

After you are all done get together and brainstorm what went right and what went wrong. Give yourself a pat on the back because public ritual done correctly can be very difficult and very hard work. If you tackle it deserve a pat on the back.

Preparing to put on your first public ritual

Oh Braveheart, you’ve decided to put on your first public ritual. There are some things you need to decide. Is this ritual at a gathering such as Pagan Pride or Merry Meet? Is this an open ritual done for your local pagan community? Who are your potential attendees? What do you have to offer? Is this is a group of strangers? Do you know these people from past gatherings? Is it a mixed group of known and unknown quantities? Are you only going to be open to certain groups of invited people?

First, make a plan. What do you want people to go home with? Are you celebrating a holiday? A healing Circle? Is this a political Circle? If not, what the heck are you doing it for? Decide how long you want this ritual to last. Anything longer than an hour to an hour and a half becomes taxing and begins to resemble an early American Puritan service. If it’s to be longer advertise it as a vigil. After an hour and a half you run into barriers like bathroom breaks and bad knees and backs and babysitters. You also are limiting your attendee’s abilities. If you want people to stand for a long length of time you inhibit accessibility.

Do you need to reserve space? You can’t just show up at a public park without reserving space. You may want to alert local authorities that you are having an event. This depends on your local political climate. Suggestions for spaces include your local Unitarian Universalist Church, public group campsites where you can rent an entire campground, public beaches and parks, Community recreations centers. Sometimes even local libraries and banks have spaces for non-profit groups. Doing ritual in people’s houses should be avoided if possible. You are opening up the householder for all kinds of liabilities such as stalking and other unpleasantness.

Have a clear idea of what you want accomplish and break it down into its component elements. Have an outcome or objective even if it’s to go home with a fun arts and crafts project.

Buy more supplies than you need. It’s better to have too much than not enough. Do you need a small donation to cover the supplies and/ or the rental of the space? Can you get some of it donated? Do you need or want a sponsor such as a local metaphysical shop? Do you need to ask people to bring food to share? A lot of groups also do a community service project with their gatherings. Do you want to collect clothes or toys for a women’s shelter? How about food for your local food bank? Those are easier to collect than money for a cause and are more immediate in their effects.

Do you have enough parking? Are you telling people they need to carpool?

Make sure you have enough people to cover each task. Do not try to do everything unless you like sitting in corners and muttering dire things to yourself.

This to some will look like you are limiting the spontaneity or cramping some free spirit’s style but the best things are always well planned. That is how you make it look easy. Preparation is everything!

All this and we haven’t even gotten to the ritual yet.

Finding your ritual tools or it costs how much????

When you start in the Craft you get all excited and want run out and buy every tool but you don’t need to do that. The best way is to take your time and find the right tools. Where? In the places you sometimes least expect them. Keep your eyes and ears open and pray to Zelda the goddess of shopping and you will be surprised at the places you can find things.

Yes, going to an occult store is fun and sometimes necessary and by all means support your local community store but if you are on a limited budget there are other ways to obtain them. And yes, the Pyramid Collection catalog and Ancient Ways website are addicting to look at but so can shopping at thrift stores and swap meets. And some pagan stores cultivate an atmosphere that is down right scary, if it scares you than that isn’t where you need to buy your magickal goods. Unless you are really into having to cleanse your tools in a real big way then go right ahead. There are some pagan stores Miss Kat has walked into and walked right back out again because they have oppressive auras and nasty things for sale. Find a store that doesn’t cater to the Necromicron crowd.

The best pagan stores feel bright and open. They have friendly people who don’t ignore you and make you feel like you walked into a secret meeting of a terrorist cell. They don’t try to impress you with how much they know and you don’t, especially if they have no clue who you are and what your experience level. If you local metaphysical shop is reputable and feels good please use them and support them but sometimes you need more than they can carry and then its time to explore.

I’ve met some shopkeepers who would ignore Starhawk because she didn’t impress them. More fool them! My personal favorite places to look are my local Scottish Highland Games and the various Renaissance Faires in my area. In your area there are probably lots of different cultural events go and cruise the booths. Even in the most isolated areas there will be some type of Craft Faire. You may have to drive a ways to get there but day trips are always adventures. Sometimes you can even find thing by the side of the road. One of my first coven sisters got the urge to drive out in the rural parts of our area when we were supposed to be getting the materials for our coven cords and when she felt something tell her to stop, she did. There by the side of the road under the oaks was a ball of yarn in the right color. One never knows, does one?

You can also make many of your tools. Take a ceramics class and make your chalice. Take some silver-smithing classes and you can make your whole coven jewelry just for them. Investigate the Extension and Adult Education classes at your local college or university. They are usually inexpensive and fun. It gives you the opportunity to try something and see if you good at it without a huge investment or embarrassment. Who knows you may find something to do that takes you the next step on your path.

In the search you may find your personal tools are not what you expected them to be. Your athame and wand may be far different from the so-called “norm”. If gardening is your passion then your tools may be a shovel, a trowel, garden shears and pots. Buy the best quality tools for this and they will last you forever. Who knew Home Depot and Loews carried ritual tools? There is nothing wrong with a potting bench as an altar.

If you become a smith of any sort your tools may be pliers, hammers, cutters, a torch for fire ( well duh?) and your pentacle is an anvil. If you love sewing your machine, your needle and thread, scissors and pincushion are your tools.

There is nothing wrong with having your tools suit you. You are your own Priest or Priestess and your tools should reflect that passion because where your passion is there will be your magic. Who knows? Miss Gulch may really have been using that bicycle in the Wizard of Oz for a ritual tool?

Look for the supplies you need in your daily practice of the Craft in the Yellow pages. There is nothing wrong with finding a factory outlet to buy your candles for instance, in the Los Angeles area there is General Wax and Candle. A lot of the candles you find in stores are made in their factory and they have a store attached. You can buy a case for very reasonable amounts. They also are on the web and have a catalog.

You can hit your local Ikea for bags of a hundred tealights if you are planning a large ritual and want everyone to light a candle. Cost Plus World Markets, Pier One Imports, Joanne’s Fabrics and Target are wonderful sources of magickal tools. Check out the seasonal departments around Halloween; the garden departments for gazing globes and garden gnomes.

We all need baskets and fun ritual foods for Cakes and Ale. Michael’s Craft stores are very dangerous places. Miss Kat can never go in there for just one thing. You can get concrete and molds with glass mosaic pieces and make corner stones for elements to place in your garden. Your local Nurseries may carry all kinds of fairies to come bless your garden along with all the basic herbs and plants a hedge-witch would ever need.

Need ritual jewelry? I have yet to meet a witch who wasn’t a magpie with a weakness for sparkly things. Your local bead store is a very fun place. They may even teach classes in thing like beading, glass work, gourd crafts, silver or tin-smithing, wirework and metal casting. Your local rock hounds may put on a Gem and jewelry show. Every large city has bigger Gem and Jewelry shows, sometimes several times a year.

And then there are the catalogues. If you start ordering from one you will soon get lots of others. Try Fire Mountain Gems or Rio Grande for jewelry supplies. They have reasonably priced goddesses, totem animals, and wonderful assortments or different kinds of beads and semi-precious stones.

Toscano is a fun catalogue for Egyptian and some goddess things. Sacred Source is a catalogue with more deities than any pagan could ever dream of. And those are just a few.

Herbs can be found in the spice aisle or at a health foods store or from places like Red Rose Farm or Herb Products if you can’t grow you own.

Half the fun is the hunt, you can even get fun things besides books on Amazon.com. Miss Kat who never liked Barbies while growing up has to admit to having a bunch of Barbie goddess dolls on an altar. What’s not to like about having Brighid, Kwan Yin, Freya, Isis and the Faerie Queen for $19.99?Tools can be found everywhere all you need to do is be open and look for them.

Did you have to bore me sooo bad in the guided meditation?

There seems to have become a standard guided meditation that goes something like this: You are in a wood. You look around you and see a path through the woods. You walk the path and find a cave. You enter the cave and find a pool. Beside the pool stands a woman. It is the Goddess. The Goddess meets you in some guise and gives you a gift. You take the path back and somehow in your infinite knowledge know exactly what this gift means. Phoooey!

More often than not you daydreamed and never got to the path. Or the Goddess was your Great Aunt Hattie who terrified you as a child and who stared at you in disbelief and didn’t give you anything and you feel let down or ready to run. Or worse you aren’t somebody who visualizes well and went nowhere.

And to make it even worse everybody else is describing the wonderful things they got and you’re sure they made it up. Guess what? They may have and it’s okay. Guided meditation may not be your thing. Or the person leading it isn’t very good at it. The timing may have been off, for instance, right after a big lunch in a warm dark room. Or you have been or done that same stupid unimaginative meditation so many times you are bored out of your flaming skull. You may have the attention span of the average five year old. They may have an odd way of speaking and you end up thinking about that instead of meditating.

Not everything done in ritual works for everyone. It is just a fact of life. It’s something most teachers don’t tell you because they want you to try everything. Learning to visualize if you must do it can take time. You may need to hold one object in your mind at a time. Or you may not be dependent on sight and sound. You may need to do a moving meditation like yoga or Tai Chi or dancing.

If you are new you want to be able to do everything. We don’t all have every talent. Let it go and maybe farther on you will get it. Or you were right in the first place and the leader is a bore and didn’t do the meditation well.

If you are leading a guided meditation use your imagination. Do something different. Put it somewhere besides a cave or by a pool. Keep it at a steady speed this is neither the 10 yard dash nor a marathon. Try to follow what you are saying yourself. This is not performance art or a theatrical presentation. Their eyes are probably closed, remember? Try to memorize it, reading it can be distracting. Have a reason to do it other than the outline for this ritual called for it. Are we gaining something in knowledge about this sabbat? Are we trying to achieve personal goals?
But however it turned out, its okay if nothing happened this time. If nothing else you relaxed for a few minutes and studied the insides of your eyelids for awhile. In this day and age that isn’t necessarily a bad thing either.

I only had one sip from the Chalice, why the hell am I drunk?

Well, the simple answer is, you aren’t drunk you just feel that way. What you are is ungrounded. A lot of beginning ritual presenters and old timers who think you ought to know better will not tell you that you have to ground your energy when you end a ritual.

The beginners left it out because they have probably forgotten to do it too and the old timers because they figure you’re a grown up and don’t need to be reminded to do it but Miss Kat knows what it’s liked to come home from ritual and still be wide awake and watching an infomercial because she forgot to ground.

When you leave a ritual or better yet before you even leave the Circle, bend over if you are able, if not sit quietly and concentrate on sending the wonderful energy you just raised by being in a Circle back to the Earth. Relax and send it back with your thanks. Loosen your muscles and give yourself a good shake like a dog shedding water if that feels right but remember to ground yourself.

Even if you think you don’t need to, do it! Symptoms of not grounding can be as light as being unable to sleep post ritual and can be as severe as being nauseated or being intensely dizzy and off balance like being carsick or having labyrinthitis. In Gaelic they call it tuaicheal ( Sometimes heard as twollin) literally moving left wise or having been hit by an axe. You can feel very sick especially if it was a very large Circle.

If you are running a Circle you also need to be careful where you point that energy. Several years ago Miss Kat and her coven refused to attend a ritual at a large gathering because they were going to hex someone the Circle organizers disagreed with and that was outside the campsite and we were in Yosemite. Our coven doesn’t believe in performing negative magic and we declined to participate in doing so and so we all did other things. There was a problem with this as our small encampment lay southwest of where they were doing the circle and that was the direction that they let the energy go in. Miss Kat happened to be asleep at the time and got it through her body that was as close as Miss Kat has ever come to having a seizure and she doesn’t ever want to go there again. It took some one else to ground her, she couldn’t do it herself. Other effects of that night were that people got lost trying to find a campsite they had been camping at for three days already. Lovers had minor spats and friends had disagreements. So if you choose to work that kind of magic, WATCH WHERE YOU POINT THAT THING!

Okay, You’re here at your first ritual, Now what?

Introduce yourself to as many people as makes you comfortable. Dark and brooding standing in the corner is not a way to get yourself invited to other rituals. People will just ask each other, “who is the weirdo in the corner?” The key is to make friends and you may be looking for a teacher so make nice. Even if you are shy speak up. No one knows you here. They don’t know what you are like outside of Circle. This is a chance to be a newborn creature. Nobody cares if you were the weirdo AV guy or a nerd in high school. They probably were also. The Craft seems to attract more than its share of interestingly odd people. You may even be one of them but there is a difference between interestingly odd and serial murder scary. Most people in the Craft can be called eccentric at best. We are usually more well-read than the mundane world and we don’t take the world at face value. We tend to have an open mind and to be tolerant of others.

But for Pete’s sake do not refer to male witches as warlocks, especially if you happen to be male. The term “warlock” means traitor or betrayer and was said to have referred to the men who infiltrated covens during the “Burning Times”. (This may or may not be true.) If you want some one to lose interest in knowing you fast that would be the way to go about it. Just the thought of it makes Miss Kat testy because YOU look like a pompous unprepared doofus.

Remember the talk your mother gave you about strangers? If this is a large public gathering you might want to recall that talk. New pagans often shine like bright shiny new pennies and there are predators out there who are attracted to the shine. If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, pay attention and take action and find another person to talk with there. Unfortunately, bad people sometimes are out there ready to manipulate and to do harm. If you listen you will know who they are. Of course if they announce they were Grand High Priest of Atlantis and he needs you to follow him and him alone you should get a pretty good idea to RUN! But most people aren’t that blatant. And, by the way anyone who tells you sex is required in their coven is not a reputable or trustful source of the Craft.

Ask if you can help set up or if they will need help clearing the space afterward. This will make you big Brownie points and endear you for life to the powers that be, running the gathering. It won’t hurt you either. Anyone can put chairs up or serve food or clean a few pots. Many hands get the Priestesses in bed before the dawn comes.

Watch what everyone else seems to be doing. Follow their lead within reason. Do not bother harassed looking people and insist on discussing what the latest book you read told you about ritual. If you bug the High Priestess or High Priest when they are following some inner checklist they will not be happy. For your first few times being quiet and attentive is as the Goddess Martha Stewart says: “It’s a good thing”.

You do not necessarily want them to remember you when you come to the next ritual. We humans tend to remember the people who annoy us or did something fantastic. The first ritual you attend and participate in, you won’t be perfect at so try not to join the annoying category. There will always be something unexpected and you may wind up sitting when everyone else is standing or in the wrong part of the circle (like the middle), relax.

Ritual tools

Do not bring your brand shiny out-of-the-box new tools to ritual. Leave them at home on your altar. This is where they are best used. If you really want to make a good impression, take matches or one of those really cool fire starters lovingly referred to in our coven as the Sacred Bic, (or the flying fickle finger of flame) to ritual. A flashlight isn’t a bad idea either. Now that everyone has quit smoking, matches or a lighter are a hot commodity. See prior ritual kit idea.

Ask to see if will be appropriate to use your athame in Circle. Sometimes only the Quarter Callers, Circle Casters or whatever they are calling them this week are allowed to use athames and/or swords. Another reason to request whether using pointy objects is allowed is could be the size of the ritual space. If it’s a small space the person in front of you may not be into kinky things like pierced vertebrae or keesters and could reciprocate.

If you are in charge of blessing and purifying the space and you are using incense, respect the fact that some people are allergic to it. Waving a stick of incense in somebody’s face that doesn’t wish it could get that stick of incense placed where the sun doesn’t generally shine.

Please do not pick up anything on the altar without asking permission. Some people are very picky about their tools and besides it could be loaded.

Who the Heck is my personal Goddess and where is she?

They aren’t talking to me! Or Why it’s okay not to have a personal Goddess or God.

Miss Kat sees way too many new people and sometimes more experienced ones in the Craft frantic to obtain a relationship with a personal deity. (She was going to call them patron deities but a respected elder said personal is a better term.) People obsess over this like they are afraid they will be the last chosen kid on the playground. Chill out! You will be fine. You can go many years in the Craft and never ever have an experience with deity and indeed some never have one and it is okay.

It’s rather like looking for the perfect soul partner and it is something that should not be forced or you could find yourself in some interesting consequences. This includes taking a God or Goddess for a magickal or Circle name. This leads to the year of living dangerously if you ask me. Miss Kat can think of several examples of this practice has gone way wrong. For instance, women who take the name Kali without thinking awhile about it and wonder why their life goes to hell in a handbasket, Well Duh! What were you thinking???

Another instance was one of my students who took the name Hestia, Goddess of hearth and home, and ended up housebound for a year. And last but not least, my first co-teacher in my first Wicca 101 classes. She took Lakshmi and gained weight like crazy. Not surprisingly, Lakshmi is a Goddess of plenty.

Be careful what or whom you wish for you may get it.

Miss Kat never had an experience with a deity until she was at least 10 years into the Craft. She felt sooo left out. She’s glad she waited because the experiences she’s had since have been so meaningful that she would not trade them for anything. But she also had to deal with the images of a Judeo-Christian god she was raised with first or the idea of the great Oneness that may indeed exist but is sometimes hard of a person in need to deal with. If human beings invented deity we did it for a reason, sometimes it is nice to call on someone bigger than us like a celestial parent of teacher. It’s nice to have someone else to talk to after you’ve driven your friends crazy.

Calling a goddess or god to talk to is different than having a personal deity. A personal deity will usually come to you and makes themself known to you in a dream or a stressful situation.

Calling a Goddess to a Circle is something we do to honor Her. We are asking to work with Her for a specified time period and when the Circle is over She leaves. Having a personal deity is a lifetime or long-term relationship. They hang around for awhile.

My first time was surprising and wonderous and I still have trouble talking about because these experiences are intensely private. And I’m not going to describe the exact encounter because it was so private. It was not someone I expected. Indeed if a deity had ever shown up I was sure it would be a Goddess. Up to that point I had been Dianic and while not a stomping, obnoxious, separatist like some I knew. A God was the last thing I thought I needed. I was wrong and I should have known better. Images of this deity had been appearing to me for years. I love gardening. I have ever since I was a child and even when things were frightening or painful knew I could talk to a tree and it would listen.

One night this Being showed up and He spent the night and I have never felt so loved or cared for or protected before or since. I know we talked and I know there were some initiatory aspects involving water but there are great chunks I don’t remember and I kept waking up and going back into the dream with wonder. Who showed up? The Green Man. And it’s a night I will treasure for the rest of my life even if He never shows up again but I hope He will. He showed up when I was dealing with some male issues from childhood when I didn’t feel safe. He made known to me the aspects of a loving protective male parent that I had missed as a child and healed a very hurt child. It’s something I will carry and cherish but it does make you stick out in a feminist group. And I still am the only priestess in our Temple of Isis group that is ordained to a God as well as Goddesses.

But I don’t think I would have had this experience if I had not been open to it. I have had dreams of another God since who is not my patron. I asked Him why I always had Gods in my dreams and His reply was that I was the Goddess and they didn’t need to come. That took me by surprise and woke me up in shock before I went back to sleep and back into the dream. These kinds of dreams are also the only dreams I’ve ever had that were fully interactive. I couldn’t direct the action but I could walk and talk and be fully me.

When I have had contact with Goddesses the interaction has been intensely practical, little things like saving my life. For years I had had a statue on my dashboard of Kwan Yin. I mostly bought as a protective car amulet. A bunch of us were in a tourist trap in Ports of Call and were goofing around. I had brand new car and there was this little plastic fake jade figure next to the Jesuses and Marys for the dash and I bought it and put it on my car. Many years later a woman ran a red light and hit me broadside and I rolled the car three times coming down upside down and taking two large divots out of the asphalt. But I knew I was going to be okay because as I started to roll I heard a female voice. The voice said, “Stay still and you will be fine”. Not having anything better to do I hung on to the steering wheel and somehow relaxed. When the car stopped rolling and time started again I got myself out of the car very slowly. I didn’t even hear the man screaming at me to get out because the car was smoking. The car was crushed and the sidewalk curb crushed the top of the car where my head was. Every window broke but my driver side window and every seat came unbolted except mine. I had a big “who’s on first?” type of argument with a policeman at the hospital later about who had gotten me out of my car. He wouldn’t believe I got myself out of the car with no help.

I had people yelling at me when I got out that I must had my neck broken. I even had an argument with the paramedics about it that I lost. I still ended up on a backboard, heart monitor, neck collar and oxygen. They never told me the top of my head was bleeding, sheesh. I was very bruised and concussed but other than that no broken bones which the ER doctors could not believe. The tow truck drivers the next day couldn’t believe it when I showed up to clean up my car. They kept saying, “you were in that and you aren’t in the hospital?

My coven sisters showed up at my car by chance (?) about 10 minutes after it happened on their way to work and the fire dept kindly told them I was alive and where I had been taken. They assumed I was dead because every firefighter was standing around the car staring at it, which tends to be what they do when they are waiting for the coroner. When they showed up in the ER I burst into tears because I hadn’t had a chance to call anyone and I looked up and there my beloved sisters were.

But when we cleaned out the multitudinous crystals and other protective spells in the car we found my statue of Kwan Yin but she was missing something, her head.

I do like the practicality of Goddesses. I have had other experiences with aspects of the Goddess. Not as violent but just as practical.

So, my suggestion on patron deities is too wait and see who shows up. If you don’t like them you can always ask them to leave. It is a two-way relationship, you know. You do get a say in it.

Sooo, you’re going to your first public ritual

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.

Covens and Groups – How to be a good member and should you be a member at all?

This covers the different roles of group members and what is expected of them.

They came out of my many years of being part of and of leading groups, everything from being a sorority Pledge Mistress to Camp Director to teaching Wicca 101 and 102 groups. Every group has things in common which can make or break a group.

Roles in a group:

Beginner – Entering a group can be a stressful thing. These people have developed a common language, jokes and rituals of worth to them and you don’t know any of them. This is a difficult and uncomfortable place to be. However, if you truly want to learn from them and what they know is of value to you, you will stay. Your role is to make a place for yourself. It is to listen to what they say and what they don’t say. It is to observe the group dynamic. It is to try to keep a sense of humor about yourself and to take yourself lightly. Be patient. Realize you can’t know everything now. Otherwise what would be the fun of learning new things?

Do they treat each other with love and respect? Would you like to be treated the way they treat each other?

Questions to ask yourself:

Do I like these people? Can I put up with all things I don’t know about them long enough to learn? Is this group worth my time and energy? After all your time is valuable too. Do I want what they have constructed for themselves? And will my behavior upset the balance?

What a beginner should be careful of doing:

Taking responsibility for others behavior. Remember the Rede if for no other reason that the only responsibility you have is for your own beliefs, feelings and actions. No one else’s. Do not caretake for other members. They are only responsible for and to themselves. Later they can worry about the group if that is the way the group normally behaves. If this is a study group, you are only responsible for what you are to learn not what others are learning or not learning.

Group members – Your have made a living entity which now exists. It is your group what ever name you call it, i.e. coven, circle, study group et cetera. Your group is now a living breathing thing that has a personality all its own. You have your own language, jokes, shorthand, and history. You all know that you are talking about. You care about each other and now you are being asked to grow, can you do it? Remember only to share what you feel comfortable sharing, be genuine and be honest.

Remember what it was like when you were new.

Questions to ask yourselves:

Who or what is this group? Do you like what you have created? Are ready to let other people enter? Can you be open enough to welcome people? How do you treat yourselves in front of others? How flexible are you? Do you want to be?

What a group member should be careful of doing:

Being a closed group while pretending to be open. Not sharing openly what you know and do not know. Not being welcoming but also not bending over backwards to help a new person if that behavior is not going to continue through the life of the group. Be careful of sharing too much information about the group unless appropriate to the situation. Beginners may not have enough background yet to see what you are truly saying. Are you ready to mentor someone? Do you want to?

Leaders: Your role is to facilitate the energy movement between new and old if appropriate. To teach the members the things on your agenda. To share what you know at the proper time. To not share what you know just because a group member is pushing to learn something, it may not be within her grasp yet; Or it may not be something she needs to know from you; Or may be something she must learn on her own. You are responsible for the material but you are not responsible for their learning process only they can do that. Take yourself lightly and keep a sense of humor about everything. You are going to need it. Be excited about teaching. Nurture the fledglings while letting your eaglets try their wings.

Questions for the Leader/teacher:

Are you ready to teach? Have you planned out as much as you can while trying to be flexible to the groups needs? Can you take step back and let the group go where it wills? Can you not caretake and be responsible for more than you need to be? Can you be a friend as well as mentor/teacher/leader? Can you be yourself?

What a leader should be careful of doing:

Caretaking individuals who are old enough to take care of themselves. Giving more information than the group is ready for. Getting a guru complex or taking yourself too seriously. Overwhelming your students and yourself with the tasks ahead.

We all have jobs to do in a group just be sensitive and aware and it will be fine. Above all love and communicate.