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Julia’s Guide to General Pagan Manners

Updated on March 21, 2007

Even though we're Pagans, we still live, shop, and work in a primarily non-Pagan world. For most of us, that's the world we were born and raised in, absorbing the manners and rules of social engagement to help us determine what is polite - -and what is not.

But the Pagan community, in some cases, has very different rules. Yes, we still say "please" and "thank you" and take a hot shower on a regular basis, but there are different rules that can be completely incomprehensible to newcomers and outsiders.

To further complicate matters, there are Pagan groups and individuals in the community that differ even from the Pagan norm! But the basics are pretty much the same for everyone, and you need to know them in order to get along with folks.

The primary rule for everyone in the community is: don't ever give out a Pagan's full name, contact information (including e-mail or cell phone number), or work location without prior permission - even to fellow Pagans. This is called "outing," and it is just about the worst thing you can do to someone. If you have a friend who wants to contact your High Priestess, say, take the friend's information (with permission) and give it to your Priestess. That gives her the option of giving her own contact information to your friend - or not.

The next most important rule, and one that is so often unthinkingly broken by novices and outsiders is: don't touch someone else's "witchy stuff" without their permission. This includes crystals, rocks, tarot cards, jewelry, robes or other ritual garb, familiars, and altar tools - especially athames (ritual knives). If the items are in plain sight, it usually means the owner won't mind your touch, but only if you ask first. A good rule of thumb is to ask even with the owner is handing something to you. He or she will appreciate how polite you are.

If someone bestows upon you the very great honor of letting you near his or her personal altar, don't even think about touching anything on it.

At some point in our lives, we've all heard the Golden Rule: Treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. Now that you're a Pagan, this rule still applies to you. Don't judge, gossip about, or be rude to someone just because he or she belongs to a different category of people from you or for some personal trait over which he or she has no control. This includes gender or sexual orientation, health conditions, age, weight or lack thereof (skinny people hurt when teased, too), race or place of origin, and dietary choices - vegan, vegetarian or meat-eater.

Here are some general etiquette points guaranteed to minimize your being a hot news item on Pagan Gossip Central if you follow them:

1. Politely avoid people you disagree with or feel are emotional or spiritual "bullies."

2. Saying "You are more powerful than me" is rude.

3. Saying "I am more powerful than you" is really rude.

4. There is more than one right way to practice Paganism. If it doesn't cause bodily harm or exploit minors, leave it be.

5. Don't cut down other people's Gods.

6. There is more than one way to do ritual,. Some are quiet and meditative while others involve dancing, drumming, and screaming. Both are acceptable, and meet certain needs at certain times.

All of the above is just to prevent you from making the most common newcomer's faux pas. One final note: with the exception of physically touching someone else's ritual "stuff," you are expected to follow these rules on the Internet, too.

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