This article by M. Macha NightMare appeared in the Summer 1995 issue of the Reclaiming Newsletter.
The greater community of Witchcraft- throughout the U.S. and abroad- has a few rules of etiquette of which to be cognizant. I am well aware that ours is not a religion of “rules” (especially in the ecstasy-based Reclaiming Tradition), 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 and to protect those whose identity as Witches were it revealed, would compromise them in their mundane lives, it is imperative that everyone 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 and all participants should conduct themselves in a manner respectful to the Goddess. If one is not prepared to focus and contribute his/her attention and efforts to the ceremony, one does not belong in the circle. If one does not wish to participate, s/he should excuse her/himself before the pre-rite meditation and grounding begins.
2. The taking of photographs is inappropriate and impermissible. As noted in item 1 above, the ritual, and memories of it, are to be carried in one’s heart; they are not a proper subject for objective observation and documentation. 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.
3. Craft groups and circles are not inviolably solemn, but they are serious in central purpose. Inappropriate talking, joking, laughing, etc. are not only rude and disrespectful of the Goddess, the Mighty Ones, the priest/esses of the ritual and other celebrants, but also they interfere with concentration and continuity of the ceremony. She commands us to have mirth and reverence; humor and laughter are gifts of the Goddess. 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 object easily absorbs energy (becomes “charged”), tools, such as wand, chalice, athame, jewelry, drum and other ritual regalia, should not be touched by someone other than the owner without the owner’s express permission.
5. Once the circle is cast, all celebrants should consider themselves in it for the duration. It is preferable for one to take care of personal needs before the ritual is begun, but if one finds it necessary to use the toilet, feels faint or whatever, one 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 drunk, stoned or otherwise inebriated does not belong in circle. In addition, the use of drugs or alcohol (this includes the smoking of cigarettes) in circle is unacceptable behavior; it can show disrespect and it puts the user(s) on another wavelength than the nonuser(s). The exception to this is when the use of chemicals is sacramental and understood and accepted by everyone in the circle.
7. People who invite others to rituals are responsible for preparing the guest(s) as to what is expected of them, how to behave, etc. Guests cannot be expected to know what’s going on all on their own, especially if it’s their first Craft ritual, but much can be done by the person who invites them to make them feel more comfortable and included by giving them some information ahead of time about how things work and how people are expected to behave.
8. What occurs in circle is sacred and not to be talked about with those who were not part of the circle. This mainly applies to small, private rituals, and we in Reclaiming are more casual about rehashing big public ones, but if one is invited to a ritual presented by another Craft tradition, this rule is inviolate.
The above guidelines are freely adapted from archival material graciously provided by Valerie Voigt.
Many thanks for reading and observing these few, simple, common-sense, but essential, guidelines.
M. Macha NightMare, P & W
17 Aug 1995