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Circle Etiquette

by M. Macha NightMare © 2000-2001

The greater community of Witchcraft throughout the U.S. and abroad, and no matter what tradition has a few rules of etiquette that every student of the Craft should be aware of. There was a time when Witches were misunderstood and persecuted for practicing their spirituality.

Fortunately, those times are rapidly fading with our emergence from our broom closets. Unfortunately, this understanding and tolerance is not universal so there remain those who must protect their identity as Witches in order not to compromise themselves in their mundane lives.

Ours is not a religion of "rules," but in order for us to be free of inhibitions, to feel we are in "safe space," to get the most out of what we are doing, everyone needs to know and agree to abide by the following general policies:

1. First and foremost, a magickal circle is not for observers; it is participatory and experiential. A circle is a religious rite where all participants should conduct themselves in a manner respectful to the Goddess. If you're not prepared to focus and contribute your attention and efforts to the ceremony, you don¹t belong in the circle.

2. Do not take photographs. The ritual, and memories of it, are to be carried in your heart. The exception to this is when all participants have been asked before the ritual has begun, and all agree; or when the ritual is "staged" specifically for the taking of photographs, filming or videotaping. Photographing rituals requires special tact and sensitivity. Sometimes a person will ask to photograph an altar or an individual, or a particular part of the ritual can be re-staged for a photograph.

3. Craft ceremonies are not inviolably solemn, but they are serious in central purpose. Inappropriate talking, joking, laughing, etc. are rude and disrespectful of the deities, the priest/esses of the ritual and other celebrants, and they interfere with concentration and continuity of the ceremony. Goddess commands us to have mirth and reverence; humor and laughter are Her gifts. Our attitude, conduct and energy should reflect both the joyousness and the solemnity of this our celebratory religion. There will be a period within the ritual for the sharing of food, drink and good wishes, and time for conversation and merrymaking.

4. Since traditional lore teaches that consecrated objects easily absorb energy (becomes "charged"), do not touch anyone's tools, such as wand, chalice, athame, jewelry, drum and other ritual regalia, without the owner's express permission.

5. Once the circle is cast, it is sealed. Usually someone will announce that it¹s time to take care of your personal needs before the ritual begins. However, if you find it necessary to use the toilet, feel faint or whatever after the circle has been cast, you can either ask for assistance or "cut a door" in the circle and leave, carefully closing and sealing it afterwards. The circle is intended to contain the energy and focus, and when it is casually entered and exited, that energy can become dissipated or lost and focus shattered.

6. Anyone who is inebriated in any way does not belong in circle. The use of drugs or alcohol (including cigarette smoking) in circle is unacceptable; it shows disrespect and it puts the user(s) on another wavelength than the nonuser(s). The exception to this is when substances are used sacramentally and their use understood and accepted by everyone in the circle, or prescribed medications such as insulin for diabetics.

7. What occurs in circle is sacred and not to be talked about with those who were not part of the circle. This rule can be stretched in the case of public rituals.

By observing these few, simple, common-sense, but essential, guidelines, you'll find a welcome place in open circles. And that could lead to invitations to smaller, more intimate private rituals.

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