Thursday, July 28, 2011

DEJA BROOM: Miss Manners For The Pointy Hat Crowd

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

Did you know that there are delicate matters of etiquette and protocol you are expected to know and abide by when attending a ritual, even an open, public one?  Are you aware of what is expected of you as a guest to someone's covenstead and circle, so you don't make an embarrassing faux pas or accidentally insult your hosts?
 Some of these tips below are common sense and a few are requisites for the more traditional type circle arrangements, but it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of decorum even if attending a non-specific ritual gathering.

Ask permission before bringing outsiders with you. The reason for this is two-fold: unless otherwise stated in the invitation, it may extend only to you because of your relationship with the hosts. Outsiders, even spouses or family members may need to be cleared with the hosts or the other participants first. The second reason is that the hosts may be using the RSVP’s to their invite for a head count so they have enough supplies for the ritual or enough food for the feast.

Don’t come empty handed. This is, foremost, a hospitable ‘thank you’ to your hosts for all their planning and gracious use of space. A dish for the potluck feast, a bottle of wine or mead, flowers for the altar….all is wonderful gestures. Additionally, some invitations cite that the host group may be collecting canned goods, clothing or other items to give to charity. Or that they may accept, or even require, a monetary contribution to cover the expenses of materials used or the space rental if in a large forum. Sometimes these monetary contributions are on a sliding scale, but don’t be so gauche as to expect to not pay anything at all if the hosts have alerted you about this up front. Springing a “pass the hat” on you without prior warning, however, is tacky on their part.

Have robe, will travel. Most invitations will state whether or not street clothing is acceptable. And it is pretty darn unlikely that a semi-public or public event will be skyclad. For the most part, it is customary to have your own ritual robe to wear while in circle. Some hosts may have a spare for guests to use in a pinch, but don’t assume they will have one set aside for you….or that it will fit! If you don’t own a robe, usually Renaissance wear or all-black attire is a good choice for a substitute. Do not wear anything with monstrous logos --- save your Dickies shirt or your favorite sports team jersey for your own time!!

Bring your own personal working tools. Just like the robe, you should have your own personal working tools with you and not expect them to be provided. It goes without saying that you cannot expect to borrow any old athame! Should you find yourself without yours, just use your finger. Be aware that in some traditions, female witches are also “required” to wear a necklace of some sort. If you don’t have one, ask the hosts to borrow something.

A simple, yet powerful word: Hygiene.  It may sound ridiculous to have to put this on the list, but I can attest to having been in some public circles where this should have been on the loudspeaker. Brushing one’s teeth and bathing are mandatory. Some covensteads may offer facilities to freshen up if you’ve traveled some distance to attend, but don’t rely the hosts giving you a place to take a full-on shower if you’re coming to circle straight from your workout or whatever. Please arrive clean and groomed. Also be very sparing with your cologne/perfume; better to skip it entirely. I’ve been to rites where the person next to me was so overwhelming as to distract or clash with the incense. Please know that eau de parfum is not a substitute for soap and deodorant!!

Let your hair down. Again, according to myth, folklore and what is mandatory to some traditions, your hair should not be plaited or bound during ritual. Some say it is the work of the faery, some say it knots up the personal magic, some say it tangles the energy of the circle. Whatever the reason, it is nice to be completely unfettered during the rite…just be careful if you’ve got waist-length locks and are dancing near the quarter candles!!

Be on time….or if you’re unavoidably running late, do the courteous thing and CALL.  I cannot stress enough how completely obnoxious it is for people to use that lame-ass excuse of “Pagan Standard Time.” It is unaccountably rude to your hosts and the other attendees who have managed to arrive on time to have to alter their schedules to wait around for you. It may be that the ritual itself has a time-sensitive component which cannot be halted because you got caught in traffic, couldn’t find your keys or whatever. If you’re running late or have a flat tire, please be mindful that the universe does not revolve solely around you and call your hosts. Allow them the option of continuing to wait for you, to start the rite and cut you into circle late or else ask that you skip the rite this time.

Make your own babysitting arrangements.  Do not assume that it is ok for you to bring your kids or pets to the hosts’ home and that they will find something to keep them occupied while the adults are in circle. Either find a babysitter or call the hosts to ask if it is alright to bring your children. If you are allowed to bring them, you are responsible for their behavior and responsible for keeping them busy/occupied during the circle. Don’t expect that your hosts will have entertainment set aside for them or allow constant interruptions of the rite to cut you in and out of circle to attend to your children’s needs.

No talking or giggling during circle.  You would think it obvious that folks who attend the ritual would want to pay attention and participate fully, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, there are always a few who think it is playtime and who find that if the attention isn’t on them, that it is appropriate to make comments under their breath, make sound effects, start giggling or goofing around or otherwise draw attention to themselves. If you cannot control your borderline ADHD behaviors, perhaps you should rethink your participation in a group setting. For all intents and purposes, you are like a visiting dignitary in someone else’s kingdom.

Treat the hosts with respect and you will be treated likewise.  Do not critique the ritual while it is in progress; besides, most folks don’t want to hear “in my group, we do it this way” sorts of feedback. Even if you have something nice to say, please save it for private disclosure after the rite.

No drugs or alcohol prior to the rite.  This too goes along with being responsible for your behavior…..hello Rede anyone? Intoxicants and hallucinogenics alter your cognition and perceptions. Those around you in circle who come to expect a certain level of perfect love and perfect trust from their fellow attendees cannot be confident that you will behave accordingly if you are drunk, disorderly or spaced out. If the objective of most rituals is to get everyone on the same mental/emotional/spiritual plane, it is immensely difficult to do if a participant is whacked out on something. This may also include the ingestion of some over-the-counter cold or allergy medicines too. So if the warning label says “do not drive or operate heavy machinery,” chances are it is probably not good for you to take prior to ritual.

If you’re sick, do not share in the communal cup or do not attend the ritual.  Please don’t spread your illness to others, especially in light of this latest round of cold and flu season! If you’re sick, stay home. If you’re recovering from being sick, please be considerate and not partake of the communal cup. Asks the hosts to give you your libation in a separate vessel or else just “kiss the cup (at the base)” when it is passed ‘round the circle to you but do not imbibe.

Find your own transportation.  Kindly make your own arrangements to get to and from the ritual site. It is not the responsibility of the hosts to retrieve you from the airport or the train station. If you don’t have your own vehicle, call a cab or share a ride with other attendees, etc.

Disclose any allergies. This may seem a bit silly, but it is practical. Outdoor rituals have the episode of bee or wasp stings. Some indoor rituals are hosted in homes that have pets and if you’re allergic to fur, feather or other pet dander you could be in for a sneezy night! Same goes for food allergies. Best to know up front if you should skip partaking in the ritual cakes if they might contain tree nuts or other ingredients which would make you need a trip to the ER. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

When proper, do not disclose real names of participants. Out of respect for privacy, there are some events where the participants may wish to be known by a pseudonym or “circle name” only. Do not “out” anyone by their real-world name if you happen to know it unless you have permission to address them as such.

Always move deosil in circle, unless expressly directed to do so by HP/HPS. A good way to remember this is always walk with your right side facing the center of the circle. Perhaps it is a superstition, but for some traditions, this idea is further extended in that you are not to do any ritual movements or gestures using your left hand (even if you are left handed). You may want to either ask the hosts or just observe what is customary for that group and follow along.

Try to stand in alternating ‘Male-Female-Male-Female’ while in circle. Again, this may be a strict rule for some groups and an ideal situation but not mandatory for others. When in doubt, it seems best for energetic purposes to position participants in this manner. Take a cue from the host group as to whether or not they observe this custom.

Go to the bathroom beforehand. Just like when you leave for a long car ride, please take care of your private business before things get underway. It is disruptive to the circle’s energy to have to cut people in and out of the sacred space for potty breaks. Pregnant women do get special dispensation for this though. *grin*

Shut off your cell phone, Bluetooth, iPod or other electronic device.  It is all about not disrupting the flow of energy folks. Not only should you NOT have such electronic device with you in circle, but please turn them on mute or completely off during the rite. Nothing shatters group concentration like hearing your annoying ringtone or the rhythmic buzz of your cell in the background of a meditation or during a pinnacle point of the ritual.

Be aware of any “home court” rules. Different covens or groups have their own local preferences. For example, if they put their altar in the East and you’re used to working with yours in the North or the Center, you have to abide by their local customs while on their turf. Do not expect to impose the version of ritual style you may be used to working in someone else’s ritual space. If you fear something may be so distracting or abhorrent to you that you do not wish to participate, ask to be cut out of the circle and quietly, peaceably leave the ritual. Do not wage a formal protest in the middle of the circle.

Lastly, say 'Thank You!'  A little courtesy is worth a lot these days.  Showing appreciation for the amount of time and effort your hosts have put into the event is gratifying....and may garner you more invites in the future!
Should the ritual you plan to attend not advise you of these things by word of mouth or as a part of the written or online open invitation, it is in your best interests to contact the hosts in advance to make inquiries BEFORE the event. Chances are they will be busy on the day of and may not have time to answer you properly or fully, so be contentious and ask them well ahead of time.
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DEJA BROOM: On Being a Skeptical Witch

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I'm not saying this tale is the end-all, be-all, but I can tell you it is a frequent enough refrain that it leaves a trail marked with breadcrumbs that folks who have been a part of the pagan scene for more than 10 years can attest to the truth it belies.

Everyone who first comes into the Craft starts out with such puppy-dog enthusiasm and excitement for all of it. The idyllic concepts of gods who are accessible to us, the understanding that magic is both real and attainable, the real and deep interconnectedness with ALL THAT IS! How empowering! How full of delight and love and joy!

This state of exuberance, like everything is all Midsummer Nights' Dream, generally lasts for the first months or a few years. Gradually, as one participates in "pagan community" to some degree, there is a space of deflation, disenchantment that comes along.

Of finding out that things aren't all happy-sunshine and hearts and flowers between the participants. That there are egos which grandstand and merchants who take advantage of those who think the trappings of faith are imbued in the latest fancy-schmancy tools and accoutrements. There are charlatans and liars and idiot savants and average, patient folks who want to put their efforts towards creating something worthwhile and meaningful.

There is an awakening that no matter how positive and lofty and ethereal our initial spiritual goals, we still have the real-time human element to deal with.

We still have to operate in a mundane sphere while we juggle our awareness of the Otherworld and Underworld. Our religion does not segregate and cloister us away from our day-to-day world, but instead challenges us to find the mystical inherent in it despite all the muckety muck muck of running a household, paying bills, going to a job for 40+ hours per week and paying our taxes to a government we may or may not fully trust to do what is in our best interest.

Like that old gem about how young lovers cannot truly sustain themselves by living only on love for each other....they have to eat, sleep, move, better their surroundings, too must the modern witch get over the lofty and pipe-dream idea that there is a way to circumvent life in order to be some fairytale caricature of our spiritual endeavors.

We do not have the luxury of living in a sequestered commune, set apart from the human thrall, only dispensing our wisdom and power when approached like some divine intercedant like the Pope, the Dalai Lama or one of a hundred historic guru-figures. We are practical sorts who are given to do what needs to be done, in the moment, in the dirt, in the messiest and fully-alive parts of our lives. In pain, in terror, in ecstasy and in fully blown desire.

Ours is not the path of wishing for beautiful hippie-resonating notions of universal peace and unconditional love....nor is it about fears of Mayan calendars forewarning the apocalypse. Ours is the path of struggling to balance the individual, personal moments of life and death and love in our lives and letting those be exalted expressions of our path, everyday. Every. Day.

The cynic in me, the jaded person who once wanted all those glittering and wondrous childhood dalliances to be true when I "took up the pointy hat" is now happy to be a practicing skeptic AND a practicing witch. When I dropped those expectations of BS, I came to know from experience that there is beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility and all those illuminating aspects right here, right now, exposed and visible in my life, if only I take the time to breathe and seek them in the moments apparent and around me.

My wish, if I dared to notice it, has already come to pass. I just have to uncover it, a bit at a time, and take it into my heart. And I love watching others wake up to this. Rather than being saddened by their dreams for witchery being broken and found to be rippled by too much wishful thinking and not enough reality....most of them learn that there is enough here to feed them. To give them a new sort of hope and outlook.

I've heard this saying ---and if you know the author, please tell me!!--- and find it speaks exactly of this moment: "Many people are drawn to the Craft for what it isn't. Those who stay in the Craft appreciate what it is."

DEJA BROOM: Debatable Intelligence

"DEJA BROOM" denotes a blog repost from my old site.  Feel free to read anew, or refresh your memory to re-live the ranty goodness.  Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to more modern mayhem

I believe 95% of people come to blogs, online forums and chat groups to learn from each other.
Yes, we do get that small percentage of folks that come looking to get their ego stroked as if they are reincarnations of Merlin or Gandalf, Morgan le Fay or Glinda the Good witch. We do get those who want pity for their self-imposed victimhood, or those who want to make a buck off somebody buying their spells, online books, phone tarot readings or emailed sparkly doo-dads with crystals attached.
But pretty much the rest of us are here to exchange info and trade resources.  Young and old, new and seasoned....I don’t believe that the majority of people here in internet-land are attending merely to brow-beat and argue without purpose.

 The issue is that, I suspect, some folks who are not cemented with a firm footing in their own beliefs and understandings tend to mistake every dissention to their opinions to be a hostile attack from others.
Rather than seeing such things as an opportunity to scrutinize what they hold as a personal belief so that they may measure and weigh and test it to make sure it fit in a real scope...those who aren’t self-assured and actually practiced in their theories take any challenge on as a though it were the other party being mean, being needlessly abrasive.
To these folks I say: A challenge is not necessarily a conflict! An alternate view is not necessarily a threat! It is an opportunity to LEARN SOMETHING!!

If you hold a theory or opinion solely because you “just feel it to be true” and you haven’t road-tested it in practice….and then you are confronted by someone who challenges you and says they have road-tested such a theory and developed an alternate understanding about how realistic and practical and useful it is…..then yeah, you’re likely to feel like the other person isn’t being nice because they don’t just believe you because you say so.
In the end, it isn't about "the feeling that something is true" but the ability to prove it.
The proof must come from one's direct experience, and it is through experience that we can form an educated opinion. This educated opinion then, may be replicated by others, when they too take your same experience data and try it for themselves to reach the same conclusions you do.
This is what translates into provenance of factual data and historic reference.

If, however, the only "proof" one can provide for their theory or opinion when being given a challenge by others is "well...because it is my clever theory and I just feel it, ok?" Then that’s when the challenging opinion will cite evidence for why their theory is more appropriate.....when the other party produces factual-based evidence to the contrary.

Challengers won’t just say "I'm right, you're wrong, so deal with it!"...but if you take a deep breath and read carefully their responses without being immediately defensive, you too may see that YOU are the one who needs to step back and empathize. Test drive that opposing view and see how things look from that vantage point.
Now go back to your original theory that you just “felt” was true. Does your original opinion still hold water? Can you come up with justifiable, concrete evidence to counter this opposition and cite factual references beyond "well I just feel it?" as your reasoning?
At this crux, when opposing sides are engaged in a debate, that is when it is the mature tact to shut the hell up and listen. To see if there is a flaw in the logic being employed somewhere. To see if there was a miscalculation in the conclusions being drawn...or if logic was omitted entirely.
There is room for skepticism and fact in the Craft. Ours is not a religious persuasion rooted in dogma and scripture….ours is a founded in PRACTICE and the RESULTS achieved from the PRACTICE.
This is why it is a remarkably mature thing to do to sit back and be open to listening to others when they challenge you. Rather than being defensive and angered by someone questioning you, it takes strength to let your ego move out of the way so you can just allow the other opinions to come before you to be investigated further.....because you may find that what you held as truth may not be accurate after all.....or, you may find the means to gently explain to the opposition where their theory went awry.
You cannot accomplish intelligent debate through name-calling. Telling someone they are judgmental and short-sighted and stubborn and snobby and elitist and rigid and obsolete IS NAMECALLING.
You cannot win over the hearts and minds of others by "taking your conversation ball and going home" either. Doing the dramatic display of saying how everyone else is so close-minded and mean and then shutting down the conversation or deleting it is tantamount to throwing a tantrum and sticking your fingers in your ears.
No one can grow or modify or expand their understandings ….or to strengthen the resolve of their theories unless they have them challenged occasionally to see if they still hold true.

I've had plenty of pet theories of my own over the years, and been shown alternate viewpoints to them. The difference is, rather than dig in my heels and get defensive, I have learned to take a deep breath to squelch my inner warrior and now stop to listen and reconsider. To weigh the new info against my theory and see if my theory is still applicable. We all should reserve the right to augment, adapt or wholly change/rescind our latest theory based upon the new evidence and perspectives.
The most any of us sharing in this forum can hope for is that we come into occasional contact with folks we can relate to, whose opinions we respect even if we don't follow them all ourselves. The hope is that we are each adult enough to say, "Hmmm....I never tried that idea before, never considered things from that point of view, and so I'll have to take what you are saying under consideration."
At one time or other, every "truth" has been challenged.  The Earth was once thought to be flat. The Sun was thought to go around the Earth.
If it weren't for the light of new evidence, new expressions wrought with new facts shared, we’d still believe those things. That we have grown and shared and altered our perspectives, we have new theories today to believe and understand as truth.
Everyone has pet theories. And you know what? That is ok. You are still, despite the dissenting comments, entitled to hold to your opinion.