Thursday, October 6, 2011

We are all Fair to middling today, fair to middling.

Southern Pagan Etiquette:

I don’t have a clue as to what the etiquette in your areas are; but I do know what are some of the rules of etiquette around these parts.  So I thought I would share them with you all, mostly because the Pagan community is growing very rapidly.  With more and more new and eager fresh hearts and faces coming in it cannot be expected that they just “know” how things are done. The irony here is that most of these rules were passed down verbally and in small covens that branched out, hived, joined, combed and then became the present community we live in here today. 

When I say I am only telling you how it is in the Midsouth what I literally mean is Tennessee, Mississippi and Arkansas now I understand that in the Eastern parts of Tennessee there is a whole ‘nother set of Cumberland region rules I am not query to.  I do keep in mind a lot of us here came from people (myself included) who moved to these areas from those red crusty mountainous regions.  They carried with them their poultices, remedies, songs, spells, quilts, and traditions.    I am not trying to preach to anyone; or get a point across to a particular person I am just being the “Miss Manners” of these here parts and sharing with you all some general “ways of being” so that you understand how we do things; and what is expected here. 

    1. Never go to another person’s circle and touch their altar.  You can look at it, but do not touch it.  It is considered rude.  In fact, many witches or groups do not want you to step in their circle BEFORE the ritual because they just cleansed it.  So no matter how curious you are; wait until after the ritual and then ask the facilitator of the ritual if you can look or touch.

    1. Never go to another Pagan/Witch/Wiccan’s house and see their personal altar and touch their things.  It is okay to ask the owner about the altar, but unless you ask for permission and are given it…do not touch.  Only observe.

    1. If you go to an event and are introduced to an Elder or Highpriest or Highpriestess be respectful.  This means in actions, words, and deeds, for this is the way of acknowledging their time and effort given to the community you are just starting to sniff around. You do not have to fill their coffee cups every time it is empty, but it is nice!  When greeting them bow your head slightly, and if they are sitting and you are standing either crouch down to their level or bend your knees so that you are lower than them.  Why?  This is body language respect and they are the matriarch or patriarch of that group you think you might want to be part of.

    1. Never ever go to an Elder or Highpriest or High priestesses house for counseling or PERSONAL lessons and not bring them a gift.  If it is something special like you find out they like such as boysenberry pie then you score extra points!  If they are a shaman it is highly likely tobacco is considered a standard gift.  It is disrespectful of the spirit and the person for you to expect they give and give and give to you, and you do not acknowledge their gifts. The job of an Elder or Highpriest/ess is not to SERVE you; it is for a reciprocal relationship with spirit they open doors and hand you keys.  They aren’t a Gas Station folks!

    1. It is considered bad form to go to a circle at another person’s circle or home and for you to immediately ask that they move their circle to your home.  You just met them!  You have not taken in what they do, you have not thanked them for the gift of their time, the energy they gave you for the ritual, or even the food they laid out and fed you.  ALWAYS thank your host, but do not start out asking them for what they can do for you and telling them how they should move their circle and all their work to your convenient location.  It is their circle, they built it up from ground zero RESPECT that.

    1. Do not judge people you just met!  First impressions are hardly enough ground for you to tell enough about a group, its members, or its Clergy/Highpriestess/Highpriest for you to know what they are about.  You should take the time to go to the rituals at least three times before getting a “feel for them”.  DO though ask their experience if you are thinking of joining you really don’t want to join a group that has a leader who just “DUBBED” themselves leader do you?  See if they have roots, and people in the community that is respected that would recommend them.  Checking recommendations is not a bad thing. 

    1. You see those people standing next to you in circle? They are a lot like you!  They too are scared, and shy, and awkward feeling.  They have just made a BIG step!  They decided to take a risk and gamble and try to practice their faith with other people.  Respect that, be nice, be friendly, make friends…but do not try to use those people to “stir up the cauldron” or to “start your own group”.  We all drink from the same well of the Goddess.  If you want to start your own group, that’s cool do it!  However, going into other people’s circles with the intent of farming for a group of your own only starts “bad feelings” in a community. Try to remember that everything is done with a “group” in mind not just for “you” the individual and yet for “you” the individual. There is a community bigger than you out there; please be gentle with it.

    1. That circle you are connected too is part of a larger community!  That Highpriest and Highpriestess they know all the other Highpriest’s and Highpriestesses in the area and most if not all the Elders.  Keep in mind, that once you burn bridges in one circle…it will follow you.  It is inevitable.

    1. If you feel that the circle you are in is doing something “unethical” well I can understand why you would leave.  However, do not post it on Facebook or Twitter go to the people involved and sit down and talk to them about it.  You might come to understand that your viewpoint on the situation was skewed; or maybe you will see that your ethics and theirs do not congeal but it is never ever okay to be cruel, slander, or try to tear apart a person.  It is totally against the ethics of our path. Leave gently, and find the right group for you! b

    1. Never ever go to a circle drunk, or stoned or even on prescription medicine that alters your state of consciousness.  Do not go to circles bringing alcohol or firearms.  Most of these people running public circles are doing all they can to keep it open, and that means they have to keep the law.  Would you go to a church of another denomination and bring beer or guns or dope?  No, so why would you expect your church (and that is what a circle is) to let you do that and turn their head? Remember that, a circle is a church …your church so act that way. 

    1.  A lot of groups offer training programs, and have Highpriestesses or Elders or Clergy that teach.  These classes cost money out of the facilitator’s pocket.  These classes take time, out of the teacher’s world.  These people felt CALLED to teach you.  They have years and years of experience (usually ten or more) and they have learned things they want to share with you to make your path easier.  However, they are not going to spoon feed you.  They are not “at your beck and call” they have lives also.  Did you know that they all work jobs, and have families, and relationships, and children or grandchildren of their own?  It is okay to ask them questions regarding your class homework (and please if you take a class do the homework) and the day to day lessons else you are wasting your time.  It is okay to go to them for counseling if you have personal issues. 
It is not okay for you to expect them to just wave a wand, and you be where they are at (it is more insulting to them personally and your spiritual path than anything).  In fact, it is impossible!  YOU have to put in the years and years of training (and I do not mean two) and constant practice.  YOU should listen to them because while they do not know everything they do have your best interest at heart and you might be surprised to see how much they worry for you and pray for you, and think about you while putting together that lesson plan and trying to find a way to connect and reach you so that they can make your path easier.  Teaching is a calling and not all can do it.  So be nice, give them a break, and be realistic.  You are not going to be a Highpriestess tomorrow (unless you cheat and give yourself the title) but remember this is a path that is steeped with traditions, you are taught them, you pick the ones that work with you, and you hand them down.  That is why they call it a PATH and why there is one. Someone, allot of someone's, walked it before you got there.
“To those who went before me and taught me…I thank you.  To those who come behind me, and I share my energy with, I pray I make your path’s easier.”
Now I am sure you all can think of other rules of etiquette that if you are outsider coming in to your area that people ought to know.  I have not written up clergy or Highpriest and Highpriestess “codes of conduct” yet; but trust me I am going to share a few because I think they are important and I like to know rules and “ways of doing things” in other parts.  These are not “social pagan festival rules” I know you all understand that festivals are a whole different kind of hunting dog.  

I also want you all to know I have been new to a few areas.  I have stepped on toes unintentionally and have learned from mistakes and years of experience some of these things I am sharing with you.  In fact, I have to go into other people's circles and areas all the time; and I try to mentally remind myself to observe respectfully.  To be quite and see their way of doing things and if you know me that is HARD for me to do.  Etiquette is different for every circle, every grove, every coven, every church but GENERAL rules they don't change and what does it hurt to be more respectful than necessary?  It might just help you make a new friend or get an ally or two.!

PLEASE post below and share some rules you can think of you see people breaking in their eagerness to join and please state it gently, let us be nice, for what good does it do to harm another?

 Lastly, but most importantly, thank you for the gift of your time!


  1. Well put and on the mark, for the most part. There is one point that I do not nor cannot agree to:
    " The job of an Elder or Highpriest/ess is not to SERVE you;" If the Clergy do not serve the people of the community, who then do they serve? Why should those Clergy then earn my respect? As Elders, Clergy, even the High Priest/ess, they should always serve unto the people AND the Gods, through acts of libation, acts of hospitality, acts of kindness, and acts of sharing. Words alone do not 'show' our community what we are or can be or even has had been.
    In our community, equal respect between the clergy/elders and the community members exists as we serve the community and lead our community in action, and our community respects that action and joins in the actions. Our students in our classes attend to learn new things and absorb from our knowledge base, yet they challenge us and teach us to always remain mindful and open to other or outside information and observation, which we, as teachers/elders/clergy respect and in return the respect us for their chance to learn.
    The ethics in relationship between Clergy and community is one of equal value and should not be demanded, but can be commanded. Same is true between the Gods and the community, between friends...ect. If someone demands respect from me, and I do not agree, it is not a sign of disrespect, it is a lack or refusal to give an honer to one whom I do not have a reason, or know any reason, to give it. Instead, I observe them with 'mutual' respect that I freely give all civil and natural beings, and see them as equals in a co-created world.

  2. Thank you for posting this article Sonya. This is beginning to be a major problem in the Pagan community. And if you look you will notice that many Elders are disappearing from the community.

    Yes Sean...we are here to "serve" you but there is the sense of entitlement and lack of respect that is so apparent beneath the surface... No thank appreciation....NOTHING is given in return in return for "serving" you.


  3. lj,
    I think you missed my point and my implied point as well. It should be, and is, a privilege to serve, an honor, and an obligation. To serve with honest humbleness, to respect all within the community even when you disagree. Respect is a two way avenue, and traffic can be directed, and is so, in both lanes by the actions and words of those who would be a vehicle.
    If clergy/elders or the high priesthood 'serve' and expect or demand respect, that alone is disrespectful of the honor of the position. Ours is the position of servitude to the community, and the Gods, not the other way around. In Paganism, there is no need for the 'priesthood' to be able to worship the Gods, we tend to fill the rolls of organizer(s) and council. Those two positions alone can be very demanding, but we, as clergy/elders/priesthood, should not be demanding.

  4. Sean I meant it exactly the way lj meant it. People come entitled and expecting me to drop everything twenty fours hours a day. I have known elders or highpriestess to run to my home to :"hide" because their people constantly constantly "came to them with even the smallest issues" like can I have a ride to work, can I sleep on your couch.

    Spiritual service should not expect an elder or clergy to pay your bills, or lend you money, or drop their family life to come running right then for you like a pouty demanding child. We live in an era of entitlement and consumerism that feels that they should get something for nothing.

    I am sorry I stand by my statement, and the elders who shared this with me and ONE was your teacher and made you clergy feel the same.

    Clergy are here to listen, the refer you to counselors. Clergy are the facilitators between the Gods and the people. You never expect people of a Baptist church to think their Pastor should serve them like slaves with no health benefits, etc.

    Maybe when we start treating our clergy with respect everything will fall into place. Also, Clergy serve the community they made, and if lucky are asked to serve others...but they cannot serve everyone and take care of their families, work jobs and have a life.

    Our gods put us here to share their wisdom...not to throw everything aside (family included) for a CHURCh or COVEN. That is not balance and our PATH is not about titles, it is about sharing and balance.

  5. You are partially right Sonya, but so is Sean.
    On the one hand, service to the Community as the High Priest/ess of a group, as Clery, as an Elder, even (to some extent) as a Teacher, is NOT something one chooses. It is something one is called to do. The difference is subtle, but it is there. It is manifest in the expectations of the individual serving that role: Are they serving their gods and their oaths first and foremost? Or are they doing their "service" with the expectation of accolades and glory and perhaps some reimbursement from the community they serve?
    Is it nice to be told "thank you" every once in a while for advice or service given, or to see some sign that those who are served get and respect that their clergy have lives and responsibilities of their own? Absolutely! It is these little acknowledgement's (in my opinion) that help refresh our resolve and make us truly feel appreciated for everything that is done in service. Just because one is called to serve does not turn them into a doormat to be used at the convenience of anyone who'd rather look outside themselves first anytime life throws them a curve ball. Just because one is called to be Clergy, or an Elder of the Community, does not mean they are called to be peoples personal ATM's, Bed and Breakfast's, childcare, or chauffeur's. Those called to serve may indeed do these very things occasionally, but they do so because they were called to serve, not to be taken advantage of. Those that are served must eventually take their own initiative to learn life's lessons, to think for themselves, and to take accountability for their own actions; and when they do, they'll give their teachers and clergy far more than a simple "thank you" or cash donation could ever convey.

  6. This post is perfect as it stands.40 years into and on my path, I must agree that those who feel an entitlement to all my knowledge and all the wisdoms it took me a whole lifetime to learn will NOT be given to you in two lessons, nor will I be able to make you into an Elder,high priest/ess or even someone moving up that ladder if you cajole, call me all the time with fundamental questions you SHOULD KNOW or can easily study up on. Respect is a mirror with two faces, yours and mine. I will respect yours, but you MUST respect mine.
    I so respect Sonya..Her heart is Pure, lighter than the feather of ma at. Her love for her Pantheon is pure and golden. Aho...

  7. :) oh thank you so much Pagan in the Bible belt I really needed a sweet smile today

  8. Grynner, I am a little confused as to where money ever came up. These rules of etiquette are how to "respect your elders" in body language, in words, and in deeds.

    I think you and Sean both took this post in a direction I cannot really foresee. BUT, I did ask and consult the Elders in the Midsouth about it plus add in the things I had picked up that had helped me along the way.

    This is all the post was about. If money were an indication of respect then some of our greatest Elders got none. If actions and how you treat people "naturally arise" then some of our greatest elders dead and living are not "having it arise".

    I have watched how the elders and leaders of the community have been treated for quite some time, and I stand by my statements. SHAME on us for not teaching manners, and respect.

    We teach it to our children...why not to our students and community?

  9. Thank you, Sonya, for posting this. As an elder, I see respect for us disappearing as well. I've been publicly humiliated and pilloried on forums when I had a creative idea I wanted to share. I don't share ideas any more except with trusted friends. In one instance, it was done by a Pagan journalist - IMHO, they should have known better. The elders have given their lives over to developing Paganism and gaining acceptance in the mainstream. I am not one of those elders, I wasn't there in the '60s, 70's and '80's but I know many who were and they faced worse than discrimination. They literally put their lives on the line and I hate to see them not appreciated. I think all of us need to make a concerted effort to emphasize the importance of respect, civility and politeness.

  10. Thank you totally understood what I was saying.

    Blessings to you!

  11. Over the years I have taught classes, been in many circles, groups (and I use that word loosely), ..I however have not seen anyone in my community disrespect anyone, which is good. I dont believe those who teach should be waiting on people hand and foot. I dont agree about bowing before anyone, sorry aint gonna happen with this witchypoo... respect is earned not a given. While I respect the time a teacher may have put in, that doesnt mean I become some groveling postulant either (and I have seen that in peeps/groups too) (another good reason to be solitary I have found)... I think respect should be given to those whom it is due however if I do not know the person directly it is still like meeting a stranger. I have met so called priest/priestess and then later come to find out about them to be known abusers of...(whatever pick your poison)..or even wanted by police ... LOL. So I believe people must be discriminative, and careful with whom they circle.... just because someone gained a title does not mean they are entitled to walk all over you either.