Posts Tagged ‘virtues’


Chives emerge from the herb bed after a long winter. Photo by M. A. Phillips

The last few days have been tense. My county currently has zero confirmed cases of the new corona virus, my state has quickly jumped to the top of the pile. While schools just a couple hours away are closing for two to three weeks, we’re all waiting and trying to maintain normalcy.

We see the panic and fear on the internet as people post photos of empty toilet paper shelves in store after store. My colleagues who are older or have compromised immune systems teeter from nervous to petrified. The kids are flippant to skittish.

I’m trying to maintain calm and yet be a healthy level of prepared. Seeing examples of kindness buoy my spirits: friends and acquaintances in other hard-hit places offering lunches to kids at home without other food, reminders to donate to pantries, people opening their homes to others in need, and helping strangers find and reach supplies in grocery stores.

Druidry values hospitality, and I see that alive and well. Sure, someone posted a video of people fighting over TP, but I see an overwhelming and heartwarming flood of helpers.

I went outside today to get some fresh air and discovered the chives are waking up. It’s another reminder that the hard times come to an end eventually. I pray they don’t last long, but at least I’ll have some herbs to share soon.

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m working through the Initiate Path of ADF. The Dedicant Path took me three years to complete. The IP is taking much longer. The biggest hurdle for me is finding the quiet time and mental space to complete the work. My career is exhausting. Keeping house is exhausting. My daughter – I love her- is exhausting. When I do have free time, most of it goes to my fiction writing these days. It’s fulfilling, and has given me a different way to connect with my spirituality. I thank Brighid daily for the inspiration she’s blessed me with. Other hobbies are easier for me to do surrounded by the chaos of childhood – belly dance, gardening, watching anime. Reading and responding to academic texts is so, so hard most of the time. I lost count how many times I was interrupted as I tried to write this…

Yet I still aspire toward completing the IP, and eventually I would like to work through the clergy training program. I need goals for when my daughter is less mommy focused, right?

I’ve had to restart my Divination 2 journal several times. Today, I decided to restart it again. The reason is probably one many of you are familiar with. At first, you consistently record entries for a few weeks, then something happens. You’re tired one day, then family visits, then you’re sick… Before you know it, you’re looking at three weeks of no entries, and no recollection. Flubbing it is antithetical to the purpose.  And so, if you’re like me, you grumble and start again because perseverance is a virtue.

But so is wisdom.Wisdom is gained through the triad of learning, experience, and reflection. So I thought about what was and wasn’t working. The most frustrating thing about my having to restart the journal is that I do a daily divination almost every day as part of my devotional! I’m doing the work, but failing to document it! I prefer typing, so my journal has been housed on my computer. I do not turn my computer on when going to work. On weekends, my family gets so busy, that I often fail to think of documenting my divination!

I recently bought a set of two little Moleskine journals. I’ve carried one in my purse for over a year, filling it with random inspiration, thoughts, and dreams. It was nearing time to replace it, but the set came with two. What to do with the other? Today I realized the second would be my divination journal. I’ve even placed it on my altar so I see and remember to record. Even if I quickly jot down the ogham I draw, I can come back to it later in the day to ruminate further. Let’s hope this is the time I actually keep my journal for five months.


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My spiritual community was recently rocked with news on allegations of sexual misconduct by our late founder, Isaac Bonewits.  While the initial accusations occurred before ADF was founded, others have come forth with more experiences.  Like others in ADF, I’ve felt a mixed bag of emotions.  Mostly, disappointment, sadness for the victims, confusion, listlessness, and even anger.

Despite it all, I continued to drag myself to my altar in the mornings to perform my daily devotionals.  The first time was difficult.  I hesitated as I called to the ancestors.  I had to consider my words carefully.

I never met Bonewits, but his ideas have had a major influence on my life.  One of my dear friends lent me his classic Essential Guide to Druidism.  I eagerly read about, then joined, ADF.  It clicked with me, and the community was already widespread and active compared to the still small and fragmented Celtic Recon community that also interests me.  As I worked my way through study programs, I found myself learning more from his other works, especially NeoPagan Rites.  He inspired me.

I remembered hearing a story about Bonewits bringing a bag full of condoms to a festival, but I didn’t really think much of it at the time.  It made me chuckle.  It reveals my naivety about sexual relations in the past.  I’ve been lucky that my sexual experiences have all been consensual.  Back then, my idea of rape was that it was always forced, either through violence or the imposition of mind altering substances.  My mother taught me to fight – kick, bite, scratch, and do anything necessary to get away.  Reading about other peoples’ experiences would later teach me that it wasn’t always violent.  It could simply involve fear, an imbalance in power, coercion, etc.  I hadn’t thought of the condom story for years, but I recalled it with each new allegation, and it was no longer amusing.

Like many in my community, I’m still processing everything.  I’ve read reactions from people who have been friends with Bonewits, victims of sexual harassment and abuse, people who worry about due process, and people who work with convicted sex offenders.   We are experiencing something that the rest of my country is also grappling with.  Change is afoot, and transformation is often messy.  Mistakes will be made, but hopefully, lessons will be learned.  My hope is that ADF, like the rest of the country, can move towards something better for the next generation.

I want to help make the world a better place for my own child.  I’m pleased with the Mother Grove’s responses to this, and the work they’re doing to strengthen our sexual misconduct policy with training on creating a culture of consent.  As a senior druid, I look forward to future training and bringing it back to my own grove.

As others have said, I believe that ADF is more than Bonewits.  We cannot ignore or hide our past, but our roots go even deeper than our founder.  The ideas that he organized were inspired by older teachings.   He stood on the shoulders of others, just as we all do.  We each contribute but none of us represents the whole picture.  And beyond it all, the gods and goddesses themselves stir the cauldron of wisdom and ignite the flames of inspiration.  We have more to draw on than the work of one man.    My brothers, sisters, and teachers at Muin Mound Grove shared their hospitality with me for years, helping me grow on the path.  My dear friend in Ithaca who is now starting her own grove continues to grow with me.  All the fellow Dedicants I’ve worked with as a reviewer have shared their own perspectives with me.  The priests, priestesses, initiates, solitaries, bards, artisans, warriors, flamekeepers, and many, many others who have played a part in my own spiritual journey.  And, of course, my own grovemates who are a spiritual family to me.  I’m so proud of the work we have done to grow, not only in developing our liturgical style and traditions, but in creating a safe, family-friendly atmosphere.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s been more rewarding than not.  I intend to keep up the work, not for the sake of our flawed founder, but for the sake of my community, and the spirits who called me to do the work, to persevere.

May Brighid wrap her healing mantle around the victims.  

May she bless us with the warmth of compassion.

May Lugh bring justice as it is deserved.

May he teach us the skills we need to improve and build.

May Morrighan wake our inner warriors with her mighty call.

May she grant us the courage to continue the hard work ahead.

– Grey Catsidhe, 2018






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A cesarean section is an excellent excuse for not running.  Because of that, and the other demands that come with new babies, I gave running up last year.  I still went for walks, danced when I could, and did yoga once (something I’d like to do more of).  Weretoad and I said, “next year.”

Well next year has arrived!  Now that the snow is gone, we’re on vacation, and have more flexibility in our schedules, we can work on running together once more.  Thanks to inspiration from my friend Grey Wren, today I got out of bed, told my husband what I was doing, invited him, and that was that.  Bee stayed with family so we could once more start Couch to 5K.

I was worried about the first time we tried this almost two years ago.  The very first day of Couch to 5K consists of very short intervals of running divided by slightly longer intervals of walking.  Yet the first time, we couldn’t finish.  That’s how out of shape we were.

This time, after the first run, we looked at each other and thought, “Wow.  That didn’t seem very long at all.  I think we can do this!”

And we did!

It was wise of us to start at the very beginning though.  We started to get a little winded towards the end, but we persevered and finished!  (See how I’m finding Druidic virtues in our running?)  Both of us felt amazing.  What’s more, we had a great time outdoors!  I’m very excited to take this first step towards getting back in shape.  I hope we can be better role models for Bee from now on.  I want her to see us up and exercising our bodies as well as our minds.  There’s probably something in there about moderation and integrity…

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This post has been a long time coming.  It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot…

ADF Druids spend a lot of time examining things in light of the Nine Virtues, of which hospitality is one.  It’s always been a quality I struggled with.  Not that I don’t want to be hospitable.  It’s just difficult for me given my own idiosyncrasies, upbringing, and society.  Having a baby really got me reflecting on this challenge of mine because everyone I know wanted or wants to meet her.  As my pregnancy reached its conclusion and Bee entered the world, I was really stressed, uncomfortable, exhausted, and, well, grouchy!  I’m not ashamed to admit it.  I had a wonderfully ideal pregnancy right up until the last couple weeks.  The resulting cesarean immediately after moving into a new apartment only made me less interested in socializing.  I wanted my mother and father – that was it.  No doubt it was primal urge to be taken care of after having my abdomen sliced open.  I posted on FB about not wanting visitors.  Some may have viewed that as melodramatic at best or rude at worse*, but seriously – we all react to drastic life changes differently.  As I recovered and grew used to having an infant, my husband and I ventured out to visit people on our terms.  That meant we didn’t have to worry about cleaning, unpacking, or entertaining beyond our energy levels.  When we were tired, we headed home.

I reviewed my DP essay on hospitality to help me reflect.   Little has changed except that I now realize, in addition to my mother’s great hospitality, she has also been incredibly insecure about having people over.  As a result, we rarely had people over except for special occasions! The home was never clean enough for her and, upon entering, our guests were greeted by an apologetic hello, complete with instructions that they shouldn’t look around.  I feel that I’ve inherited this insecurity.  Indeed, I’ve caught myself saying those very things now!  With pets and now a baby, keeping the home “magazine clean” is harder than ever.  And yes, I know real homes are seldom kept that tidy, but it’s very difficult for me to shake my nagging worries that our home is never clean enough, that the pet smells we are so used to are overpowering to our guests, that the furniture is covered in too much cat hair, that the living room is too cluttered with art projects and supplies, that there are too many dishes in the sink, that there are too many wires on the living room floor, that there’s not enough room for people to sit, that the living room is too hot because we choose not to have an AC, etc, etc, etc…

The insecurities about my home are only compounded by my own social insecurities that I’m only just realizing.  My home is my safe place.  It’s where I can relax, let loose, and recharge.  It’s very difficult for me to let just anyone come in to begin with, let alone spend a day or two.  I have to really trust people and click with them.  I have to feel safe and free to be myself without fear of angst.  Most times, I have to mentally prepare myself for having people over.  I do not do well with unannounced visited at all.  It’s something that has always stressed me out.

There’s also a fear of strangers.  When I was younger, my parents put the fear of strangers into me.  There’s a definite positive side to that in that I’m alive and well, but it also nourished a real fear that persists, for better or worse.  Strangers could be thieves or could out my spiritual values to the wrong people!  Letting strangers into my home brings in unpredictability – and my home is not supposed to be that way!  It’s my safe place.

I both admire and tsk tsk groves, circles, and covens that welcome anyone into their homes.  While on the one hand, it is the easiest way to start a group, especially if you have land, but on the other hand, it just makes me nervous.  Most robberies are usually perpetrated by people you know, or so I’ve read somewhere.  I’m also a believer in psychic vampires – people who, knowingly or unknowingly, feed on energy.  I don’t want people who knowingly do that to others without consent entering my home either.  In my experience, they create drama and feed off it or wallow in it.  If people can’t keep their emotional shit together, I don’t want them in my home!  And, unfortunately, I’ve met a lot of people like that in the Pagan community!  It’s a big reason why Northern Rivers has membership levels.  We occasionally do things at members’ homes but nobody wants strangers over.  We keep our High Day rituals open to the community at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center.  If, after getting to know you, we think you’re a decent, respectful person, we may eventually invite you over to a private gathering.

Having a baby has only made these issues come to the fore of my mind.  With regards to just having folks over, taking care of an infant is hard enough!  To entertain guests for a long time is, well… the thought is just exhausting right now!  Especially when it comes to feeding guests.  My husband and I live on such a tight budget and have so little time to prepare meals between feeding, changing, and entertaining Bee.  When more people are added to the equation and need breakfast, lunch, and dinner – it’s just too much for me to handle right now! And I have so little me-time to recharge.  Bee is the center of my universe.  I love her but I spend sooo much time nursing her and comforting her, especially at night after work.  I crave me-time more than ever**.

And in regards to having strange Pagans in the home with an infant?  No way.  You can bet I’m going to be even more selective of who can pass my threshold.  Again, people may think I’m being crazy or rude, but that’s fine.  The moment that baby came into my world was the moment my Mama Bear Mode was activated.

Yet the thing is, I so want to be hospitable!  I occasionally pour over Pinterest for party inspiration because I so adore throwing them!  I love to spend time with friends and I love making meals to share!  I enjoy having the Folk of Northern Rivers at my home for meetings, small rituals, and general chatting.   A couple years ago, I finally procured a lovely tea set that I enjoy taking out and I desperately want to have some of my lady friends over for regular tea parties!

What can I do to work through my insecurities?  How can I be more hospitable while still maintaining the boundaries I so need for my physical and emotional well-being?

I’d like to, ideally, put aside time one day per week to clean the home to my liking.  This will require equal dedication and help from those living with me, but it will making having visitors less of a stressful ordeal.  I need to plan ahead when having people over so I’m not freaked out about the state of the home.  I also need to just trust that my friends love me, understand that I’m a busy new mum, and won’t judge me harshly for some extra cat hair!  I also need to be firm when I have people over and admit that I just cannot afford to make a huge meal myself and either suggest a potluck or that everyone contribute towards ingredients and putting the meal together.  In fact, that could result in some wonderful parties!  Taco day, veggie sushi night, pizza parties, etc…

To any dear friends or family reading this: I pray that this entry doesn’t come across as mean-spirited.  Rather, I hope it shines some light on my hermit-crab tendencies.  As we get into a better routine with Bee (and thus I get more sleep), I will feel more up to having people over regularly.

To my readers: do you struggle with any virtues?

* Thankfully, many friends and family were very understanding of my desire for quiet and alone time with my little one.  Most who expressed this seemed to have gone through similar experiences or had a good sense of empathy!

** A big thank you to those who visited after Bee was born and brought me or made me food!  My mother was a saint and made several meals those first few days.  One of my girlfriends came over with homemade Indian food!  Oh, that was fantastic!  Another dear friend brought her special strawberry bread which was such a treat!  If you know a new mother and want to visit her or just do something nice – MAKE HER FOOD!  And do the dishes.  😉

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A figurine from my mother and baby’s first photo on our family altar.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012

I can’t remember the first time I considered raising a future child Pagan.  When I started down the polytheistic path, I was still quite young and wasn’t even sure I wanted to have kids.  I have memories of seeing the topic on forums and noticed a divisiveness about it.  People either felt strongly for or against it.  Little has changed!

I fall into the former category.  I intend to raise my child in a Pagan household.  I’ve come to see that this means different things to different people, and a lot of it probably has to do with our own experiences of childhood and religion.  As I’ve explained before, I was raised Roman Catholic.  I went to church on Sunday mornings (eventually Saturday evenings) with my parents.  I did the sacraments right on up through confirmation (when I was starting to feel it as all a personal charade to please my family).  I experienced religious education, family pressure, and that fun little guilt that comes along with Catholicism.  Somehow I emerged from it as an independent thinker, as a proponent of pluralism, as a tree-hugging Pagan.

I feel a lot of it had to do with my parents.  My father is fiercely independent.  Although his family was the biggest influence in my religious upbringing, he also values the American Constitution and the rights it promises us.  Although he initially had difficulty understanding my decision, he’s come to see it as my right to practice how I believe.  He also taught me much about respecting nature by planning various excursions to the Adirondacks and explaining the power of fire.  My mother is what I describe as liberal Catholic.  She introduced me to polytheism and magical thinking without even realizing it.  She taught me to pray to different saints with different concerns and she valued the divine feminine in Mary.  To this day, she keeps an altar to Saint Theresa in her bedroom.  She kisses the ancestors’ photos before bed.  She taught me that, when you find a fuzzy seed, that it’s from Santa Claus’ beard and, if you make a wish and blow it, the wish will go to him in the North Pole.  She taught me to believe in unicorns and the rights of even the smallest creatures.  She taught me to use the sky to divine the next day’s weather.  They both encouraged me to read, to write, to explore exactly what I was into – which turned out to be fairy tales, mythology, and ancient civilizations.  And they wondered how I came to Paganism!  Most importantly, they showed me love no matter what, which is why I believe I have a healthy, open relationship with them and a positive perspective on raising kids in a spiritual atmosphere.

When I say “raising a child Pagan,” I mean that he or she will be living their life in a largely Pagan household.  As someone who lives Paganism, I know that my child will see it and wonder about it.  There is no hiding my Druidic beliefs at home!  I have altars throughout the house, indoors and out.  I pray before dinner, before travel, before bed.  I leave offerings frequently.  I talk to the plants and I sing songs to the Gods.  The child will have a right to know, to be included.  Ancient and modern, Druidism was/is a tribal religion.  It is based on community and, although there are many solitary practitioners, the bulk of Druids come together to celebrate, even if it’s once a year.  My child will come with us to the High Day rites to sing, to pray, to laugh, and learn with the rest of us.  The child will be living Paganism because I live Paganism.  I can’t just stop being who I am.  My plan is not to isolate the child from other beliefs, to scare him or her into Paganism, nor to insist on it.  How could I?  My agnostic husband comes to the High Days but does not keep an altar.  He is respectful and supportive of my religion – and our child will also wonder about that.  He or she will be exposed to my husband’s way of thinking too, just as should be!  And the beauty of the Pagan community is that it is so diverse!  They child will be brought up in a world of varied thought and practice, seeing, I hope, that it is healthy and okay to think outside the box.

My plan for raising my child is quite simply inspired by how my parents raised me, although with more spiritual exploration and no hellfire sermons.

What It Shouldn’t Be :

  • Isolation from other spiritual paths
  • Threatening should the child show curiosity in other faiths
  • Indoctrination towards only one way of thinking
  • Boring or without consideration of child development
  • Forceful – if a child doesn’t show interest in a topic, make sure he or she understands enough to be aware but don’t press.  Not every person is destined to be a bard, an artisan, a historian, a warrior, a priest, etc!

What It Should Be:

  • Full of exploration – independent and with parental support 
  • Inclusive – involve extended family and friends who come from different walks of life.  Look at the Koran, light a menorah, visit a Buddhist temple, admire pentacles in jewelry and apples, and explore science museums.  Find the connections, marvel at the beauty, and model how a mature, well-adjusted adult behaves with others, even when you don’t believe the same things.
  • Respectful of elders – This will extend into respect for the ancestors once the child is old enough to really understand who they are.
  • Safe feeling – the child should know we will love him or her no matter what spirituality is embraced as a teen or adult
  • Full of honest discussion – children should understand your path but also know that not everyone believes the same way.  Children should feel safe questioning and disagreeing. Again, model how to do this with respect!
  • Celebratory and respectful of nature – regardless of spiritual path, a good Druid will raise a child to be aware of the environment, the interconnections, and the seasonal changes
  • Sex-positive in a way that takes into account the child’s development, safety, boundaries, and own self-worth
  • Fun – learning about life, nature, Druidism, and other religions should be joyful
  • Artistic – self-expression is an essential part of Druidism, and carries over into other facets of life and other spiritual paths.  Help your child find his or her voice!
  • Based on virtuous behavior – I will teach the child the nine Druidic virtues but, as he or she ages, we’ll compare them to other systems (that of Asatru, the ten commandments, the noble truths, etc) in the hopes of finding commonalities.  When paired with literature and personal experiences, children will soon develop a sense of empathy towards the world – one that can extend beyond a religious practice.
  • Magical – let children revel in the magic of the world.  Make wishes on dandelion seeds, plant love into the garden, stir healing into daddy’s soup.  Read fairy tales, folk tales, and mythology.  Talk about your dreams and encourage imagination.
  • Balanced – while teaching simple magic, don’t ever forget to teach science.  Name the plants, name the animals, look at the stars, and give magical and scientific explanations.  When you don’t know the answer, model how to find it.
  • Patient – children aren’t ready for everything right away.  Learn about developmental levels, pay attention to your child’s interests, and don’t automatically include your child in every Pagan practice.  Remember that kids sometimes just want to play on their own and may not be ready or interested in quiet meditation or involved magic.


My Favorite Resources:

To end with, I want to share some of my favorite websites on alternative parenting.  They’ve been very helpful in informing my perspective!

Offbeat Families – I was a huge, huge fan of Offbeat Bride when I was getting married, so it was only natural for me to turn to her other blog featuring families!  This site is great.  There are so many resources on different kinds of families, different styles of parenting and, you guessed it, religious pluralism!  It’s very inspiring and worth checking every few days.

Ozark Pagan Mamma – This fellow ADFer has been raising Pagan kids and blogging about her experience!  She shares a lot of wonderful seasonal crafts which I look forward to doing with the wee one.  In addition, she sometimes shares child-friendly explanations for holidays, the Pagan Otherworld, the Three Kindreds, etc.  I’m happy to have found a blog devoted to raising Pagan kids written by an ADFer.

Pagan Dad – Written from a male Wiccan perspective, this blog is still very informative since he’s had to deal with similar issues that I’m now considering – raising children Pagan, to “do” Santa or not, seasonal activities, etc.

Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom – Although not exclusively about parenting, Mrs. B has posted several things on seasonal ideas, introducing magic, and book reviews.

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I’ve been mulling over this post for awhile now because of things I continually see in the Pagan community.  Although some of us prefer to be solitary, there are plenty more who would like camaraderie.  Maybe it’s just to make friends so you have someone who already gets you and your bone collection.  Maybe it’s so you actually have people to celebrate or practice magic with.  Once you decide that these things are of value to you, what do you do next?  You probably do what most of us do – hit the internet big time.  The options are seemingly endless.  Meetup, Facebook…  Not to mention the plethora of smaller social networking sites geared towards Pagans.  But once you start finding Pagans in your neck of the woods, what do you do then?

Now I don’t count myself an expert on any of this, mostly because I’m still young, but I’ve had a fair share of experience in seeking out Pagan community.  I’ve been a member or visitor of various groups over the last decade or so.  I’ve also been part of forming, reorganizing, and joining well-established groups.  As I learn more about Druidism and Paganism in general, I also have learned what makes a good group.  To me there are three things that really matter: Is the group a dangerous cult?  Does the group have something to do with your path of interest or is it opened?  And finally –  Does the group possess a certain amount of etiquette?

 Etiquette.  Good behavior.  Decorum.  Courtesy.  Niceties.  However you put it, it all comes back to how you treat someone.  Some of that could go along with Isaac Bonewits’ cult danger.  If someone treats you as if you are below them, there’s a possibility that the group leader or member is part of something you don’t want to belong to.  But lets leave severe egomaniacs aside.

The following is a sign to me that the group in question is not worth looking further into:

  • If the group is supposedly “all paths,” eclectic, or a Pagan network, yet the focus is clearly on one specific path.  This is a tricky one sometimes because you might simply be a minority in an area that is heavily populated by another path.  Before giving up entirely, see if they are opened to a ritual in your tradition for an upcoming high day.  How do they react when you share your own beliefs?
  • If the group shoots down all of your suggestions, ideas, or traditions, especially if it is an open group with no established high priests or priestesses, do you really want to stick around?
  • If you are talked down to.  This is a big one, especially for people who already have some experience under their belts.  Nobody likes to feel as if they are a child.  There’s a difference between being a teacher to an adult and a teacher to a child, and you’ll know if you’re experiencing the latter.  Nobody likes it when someone acts as if you cannot read or don’t understand.  Nobody wants to have their suggestions continuously shot down by established group members.
  • If the body language of the leaders or more established members suggests that they do not care about your tradition or your beliefs.  Attend a few times but if you feel like you’re continuously hitting a wall, why bother?
  • If a group does not do an adequate pre-ritual briefing and then ridicules you, acts terse, or is gruff when you do something wrong.  A group that cannot explain how it expects you to move, ignores teaching opportunities, and fails to have a sense of humor or patience is not worth your time.  It can hurt to be told that a part of ritual you worked so hard on just didn’t go over well, but you have to be able to reflect on your failures and get over them.  Don’t take your blunders out on your ritual participants.
  • Group leaders should not expect that everyone comes with the same amount of experience or knowledge.  Even a more experienced Pagan could have been taught differently.  Group leaders should value those teachings and patiently explain new ways of doing this.  If a group leader acts as if you are unintelligent or that your previous teachings were all bunk, he or she is probably not someone who has the patience to be a good teacher.  Some material isn’t as good as others, but they should be viewed as stepping stones – schema – to better understandings.  The moment a group leader shuts someone down is the moment that person loses interest.

For a Pagan group to continue flourishing, new members are necessary.  Nobody wants to become stagnant.  New members with fresh ideas are important!  Discussion about diversity is tremendously important and should not be silenced in open groups.  Even closed groups with a set tradition benefit from such discussions in a comparative sense.  Now, if people are very new, you want to treat them as a valued member. For covens or groves that have an established tradition, tactfully inform newbies when a suggestion doesn’t feel appropriate and explain why kindly.  When a suggestion isn’t something that is totally backwards to your workings, be willing to experiment a little.  Just as in a classroom, students learn best when they feel successful and creative.  Help them learn how to be both in the framework of your path.  Be balanced in how firmly you adhere to tradition.  If you are creative enough, you will find how to incorporate many new ideas into an established liturgy!

I was once told by another Pagan that I didn’t come to their group enough to have an opinion worth sharing to others.  At the time, I was more worried that I had hurt someone’s feelings, but I later reflected and realized how wrong he was!  I had every right to share my opinions about a group with another.  It’s said that first impressions are everything, and I had had at least five before deciding I needed to devote my time and energy to other things.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you don’t have a right to share your thoughts with others.  If you feel that a group just isn’t for you, then trust your instincts.

However, as someone seeking community, etiquette goes both ways. Keep the following in mind:

  • Established groups have a history that you may not be aware of.  Some resistance to your traditions may be due to the actions of a previous visitor who was not the best representative.  Visit more than once to see if the group is opened to trying again.  Pay attention to body language.  Sometimes it’s not worth the heartache, but don’t burn your bridges entirely.  You could be a better model.
  • Always be civil – even when your tradition is in the minority and may be misunderstood.  You may have to stand up for yourself, but always breathe and think before you speak.  Remember, in an open circle, you are a representative of your path.  Bring your Gods, ancestors, teachers, and spirit allies honor by acting the best you are capable of.
  • If you know the group you are approaching follows a specific path, do not insist that they change their ways for you.  A circle, coven, or grove established around a tradition or hearth culture different from your own is not going to change.  Visit if you genuinely wish to learn, but don’t go as a combatant or with a plan to usurp control.
  • When there is a potluck, always bring a dish.  Ask ahead about dietary restrictions (if any) and do your best.  Ask for suggestions if you’re stumped.  If budget is an issue, drinks are an easy and affordable option – brew some iced tea or bring a bottle of orange juice.
  • Don’t expect to lead rituals right away.  You should visit a few times.  Take smaller parts in ritual.  If something isn’t clear, ask.  A good ritual leader will inform you early in the pre-ritual briefing and have a time for questions.  If something is left out and you still don’t grasp it, ask after ritual.
  • Don’t expect all rituals to be the same.  This is especially true if you are visiting a group who follows a different tradition than you’re used to.  The Kindreds aren’t always praised, Outsiders aren’t always acknowledged,  four quarters aren’t always called, circles aren’t always cast, doors aren’t always cut, and not everyone thinks the same about the spirit world.
  • Don’t make assumptions, especially when it comes to communication.  If you have an issue, take it up privately with that individual or with the group leader.  Do not slander people publicly.  It just is bad form and makes you look crazy.
  • Know that the group does not revolve around you and your needs.  Often, a group meets with a specific goal in mind – a seasonal ritual, an initiation, etc.  Don’t attend and expect the ritual or magic to address your personal needs.  Most circles are more than happy to do healing rites, blessings, banishings, etc – but only in advance and with a majority of support!  If in doubt, ask the group leader(s) and try to arrange something.
  • If a group just isn’t right for you, don’t make a huge deal of it.  Move on.  Again, try not to burn bridges.  You can and should be friends with people in other spiritual traditions!  It’s how you keep learning.

I’m certain there’s more to be said, but I’ve encountered and heard about too many of what I described above that I’ve come to see these as common issues.  In the past, I have been guilty of one or two – and trust me, it’s not fun.  Nobody wants to attend a circle when everyone is tense.  It’s always unfortunate when there’s drama…  thankfully, I haven’t encountered much of it off the internet.  Most of the time, Pagan groups I’ve worked with are full of very wonderful people.  Kudos to the wonderful people!

Part of what I like about ADF is the emphasis on hospitality and reciprocity. Hosts are good to their guests and guests are good to their hosts.  If you try to be the best host/guest you can be, you should have a pretty successful experience with forming or joining Pagan groups.  You can disagree but everyone should be civil.  Etiquette can go a long way to making a better overall Pagan community, both online and off!

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