Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Ritual etiquette? OR how not to be a Jerk

Ok this is a term that comes up quite often in pagan circles. What they are usually talking about is behaving yourself during ritual.It is not the main part of my blog today, however since it comes up so often, lets skim itTurn your cell phone off (and leave it outside circle) also don’t talk away during ritualDo not disturb the people running it to enforce YOUR wishes. If the ritual is not being run in your preferred style (and face it there are many styles which work and exist) do not come back, or politely discuss why it was done a certain way, AFTER the ritual.Do not walk in and out of circle (unless you are told you can).Be straight (in chemical dependency terms) so do not be drunk, stoned, high, smokes a cigarette.Find out the dress code before hand. By this I mean, if it does not explicitly state, “sky clad” do not come into circle naked and wonder why they are not happy.Don’t carry your atheme or similar ritual tool in a menacing manner.What happens in circle STAYS in circle. Unless otherwise stated.That is a quick and dirty run down of what is usually expected. Many variant forms exist, but the general rule is “do not be a jerk” and you will be fine.Ok my blog on ritual etiquette is actually about how I think you should act to other beings during a ritual.This post stems from a list post to a group I belong to. Some one who has a Ceremonial Magician friend was wondering about this Ceremonials shock that the group I belong too (the ADF) not having what he considered “appropriate countermeasures” for the beings we deal with.It simply is a difference in attitude and etiquette.How do you deal with the various beings in your rituals and occult life? This CAN be humans (and I will give examples) but also deities, land spirits, ancestors, demons, angles, power animals etc (note I don’t actually deal with all of these and shall limit my self to Land spirits deities, ancestors and “out dwellers” but feel free to work out how your various beings fit into this :)In any ritual I design, run, or have a say in. I tend to take the same approach to “mystical beings”. Which is, be respectful, but don’t grovel, and treat them as any other being. Again do not be a jerk.I never invoke or evoke a being in a manner, which seems to order them, command them, or tell them what to do. I invite them in.For example I will invite the deities of the ritual in by name, asking them to join us.Similarly I will ask the spirits of the land and ancestors of those taking part to be with us.No “I command you to appear”. To me the Gods and Ancestors are respected members of my tribe/clan/tuath. I would not want a kid in my family telling me to “come here now” and be rewarded with me doing just that. It is bad behavior. So why would I do that to my Gods? I show particular reverence to the Irish Deity known as the Morrigan. Anyone who has read the stories of her knows what pissing her off does. It is not a great way to live a long life.So I invite them in. If they choose to come. More power to me (and them). I also offer them hospitality (a drink and a bite to eat). It for me is the traditional and ethical way to honor a guest.So The Gods Spirits of the land and the Ancestors are each asked to attend. There is no command. It is a simple non RSVP invitation.Which brings the subject of what is to be considered a God, a Land Spirit and an Ancestor.I am using terminology, which the ADF calls the 3 kindreds. But the premise is, that there are three types of spiritual being which you might interact with.There are Ancestors. Most commonly these are blood relatives, recently passed, or long gone, but long remembered. It can also be heroes of your people (I would cite Sir Edmund Hillary and Sir Peter Blake as two for me, being a New Zealander).Spirits of the Land. Various cultures give them names. They are the spirits that inhabit a piece of land. They are unique to the place. They may be primal or sophisticated.Deities. Ok this is where Pagans usually have the most difference of opinion. As a hard polythiest, I am of the opinion that every deity is unique, and real. Including the Abrahamic one. That being said. To me there is no supreme being, they are not omnipotent or onipresent. They are fallible. That being said. There are my “Gods of worship” and within those my Matron, the Morrigan. I develop a personal relationship with them, and her in particular.Other deities are still deities, just not MY deities. I am polite, but disinterested.Some pagans see all deities as a face of a whole (be it all goddess are an aspect of THE Goddess, and all gods are an aspect of THE God, or be it every deity is a piece of the whole).What about out dwellers and Outsiders?Ok So Outsiders I have touched up. Outsider Deities. Gods and Goddesses who I do not worship. Be they not part of the pantheon I follow, or be they something else (like the Abrahamic Deity).Outdwellers are beings at the edge, or beyond my cultural spiritual framework.Indo-European cultures had a caste based system. The intellectuals (Priests, Druids, Flamen, Brahman etc) the Nobles (the warrior elite) and the Producers (Farmers, artisans, etc). Each on some level had a fourth caste. Even if it was not formal. Thralls, those the Druids had removed rites of sacrifice (excommunication, but to the point of you having NO rights), the Hindu “unclean”. There was also the mad and crippled at the edge of society. Beyond the society there was the outsider, they had different rites in different groups at different times.Spiritually, there are beings like Angles and Demons, whom to me are Outdwellers. Not gods, but spiritual beings who are not part of my path. There are also beings like the Tuatha De Domman (Fomaire) Titans, They are antagonists to De Dannan. Also there are the Fir Bolg.You do not go out of your way to annoy them. Indeed I often make an offering before ritual for just them.So the first and most important rule is in many ways. Don’t be a jerk. Or more importantly. Be hospitaipal. Chances are they will be hospitaipal back.Now you are in ritual. Every one (human or spiritual being is behaving) and someone or something comes along and tries to mess with that. This could be the perennial “Sorry I am late can I jump in” pagan who is running on PST (pagan standard Time). Or it could be a nosey land spirit who was sleeping, a deity who crashes the party (I am looking at you Bacchus!) etc. The way to handle any of these is much the same.I prefer rituals with the warriors (or Dragons or some similar name for ritual security) on the outside (and able to come inside) prepared for this. You calmly explain to the being “You are late, if the preist/preistess want to let you in they will indicate that”. Generally people take this polite but firm “wait” with grace. If they do not, you call in back up. I’ve never encountered a spiritual being who did not wait. I have encountered humans who feel entitled to this.Similarly if you have a problem inside ritual. Chances are it is a human. I have seen rituals where someone spat (in disgust) at someone over a long standing (and childish) grudge. It was let pass at the time, and the person dealt with before the next time. But a Warrior could (if the person running it wants this) walk someone out of circle. It is again your job.Ok but what if a spiritual being acts up. Well personally the Gods have always been above reproach (this means they follow what the ritual is about, so if it is Beltane, the Dagda has been known to be frisky, Bacchus wants the grog, and Loki can play pranks, that might be a little cruel). The land spirits are similarly nice. Ancestors…. Those on the other hand might decided to chide a decendant. This is usually during Samhain (when they are in abundance).My advices… keep out of it. Help the person after, but don’t get involved in a “family domestic”.After the ritual is over. Don’t dismiss the beings. It’s again rude. They will stick around as long as they like anyway! Do not miss out on a chance to interact with them either. My best moments with the Morrigan are after ritual. I was chilling out, in the dark, alone. A raven settled near me and eyed me up. Then another, then a third. I shared my ritual bread with them, and felt at peace. It was quiet and deep.It returns to not being a jerk. Consider you ritual as a party (with a purpose) and the beings your guests. You should consider that some will hang around past when you are ready, and cope.For the Warrior, this means staying on guard. Know the local customs. One example I beat many Americans over the head with, is the First Nations peoples, in general, consider that the pouring of Alcohol on the ground, as poisoning the earth. I follow not doing it (I burn it like any good pyro). A person I know said when I stopped her “well they can get stuffed (actually they used an Anglo Saxon word) my ancestors did this”. While you can do it. Chances are YOUR ancestors did NOT do this in North America. They did it somewhere else, where it was seen as ok by the local Land Spirits (the way the alcohol is given to them in Germanic cultures was often pouring some on the land). Find out what you can, and develop a relationship with the spirits. Each is different than the other.After a ritual, watch to make sure people seem grounded. If they are not. Ask them if they need help. Or just listen, talk, be there. Clean up after every one (or ask them too help). This goes energetically as well.Before the ritual make sure every thing is in order. Fire permits, the authorities know you are there and why (if public land) or at least not to freak out. Every one is legally compliant (no weapons, drugs, etc). Ground yourself, and be ready.Etiquette is deeper than this, but this is a start. The beings are just as important as those humans taking part. Don’t be a jerk ;)