Part of the beauty of Pagan and Wiccan paths is the richness and diversity that you can find in the rites, celebrations and workings of various groups and Traditions. Pagan and Wiccan ceremonies can be as different as a Catholic Mass compared to a charismatic Pentecostal prayer service. Both are valid religious services, but the rules of conduct for both the congregation and the clergy are very different. While most of us would have some idea about appropriate and acceptable conduct in either of these Christian services, we may not have such clarity in regard to Pagan and Wiccan circles. The diversity across, or even among Traditions makes the idea of a standardized set of rules untenable. Basically the thing to remember is that the person(s) officiating and the Tradition hosting the event make the rules. Also remember that you are attending a religious event, not a block party or pep rally.
The first thing to consider is the type of circle or celebration. Is it public gathering or open circle? Is it a semi-open event where friends and guests are permitted on an invitation-only basis? Or is it an event that is closed to all except Coven members or Initiates of the particular Tradition? Obviously, rules of acceptable conduct will likely narrow as you move down this list.
What is perfectly acceptable at an open circle may be totally unacceptable at a closed Coven event. For example, children (under supervision) may be permitted at an open circle, but not at a semi-closed event, even if the two events are hosted by the same Coven or Tradition. If there are no children below the age of 13 allowed in Circle, it is inappropriate to ask for an exception even if your eight-year-old is an "old-soul." If you have a question about an event or ritual to which you have been invited, by all means ask prior to showing up for it. If you ask, and do not receive an answer that is acceptable to you, do not attend the event.
There are some common-sense rules that apply to most circles (and even to mundane social situations).
- First and foremost, have respect and consideration for others.
- Prepare yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally for the Circle. Take a bath; clear the cobwebs out of your head; and ground yourself. If you are disturbed by outside events or pressures, or problems that interfere with your ability to focus, it is probably better to stay home.
- Be punctual — do not assume the group hosting the event is on Pagan Standard Time.
- If you are asked to bring something, do so, or let someone know well in advance that you cannot.
- Dress appropriately. When in doubt, ask.
- Do not handle Altar or Ritual items without permission.
- Do not enter the Circle until you are invited to do so. Especially do not disturb the High Priestess and High Priest when they are in their pre-ritual preparations.
- When you enter the Circle, you have entered Sacred Space. Be respectful of the Ancient Ones, and of those officiating the rite. While there probably will be occasion for some spontaneous mirth and revelry during the ritual, the place for frivolity is outside the Circle.
- Be attentive and involve yourself in what is going on. Be in the moment. If the Circle is cast or Quarters called in a way that seems unusual or strange to you, just "go with the flow" and ask about it after the Circle. Do not "correct" or interfere with anything that is going on unless it is gravely dangerous or illegal.
- Enjoy your time "Between the Worlds" and your communion with the Ancient Ones.