Ritual and Festival Etiquette
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Mark: Welcome back to The Wonder: Science-based Paganism. I'm one of your hosts.
Yucca: And I'm Yucca.
Mark: And today we are going to talk about ritual etiquette and festival etiquette. One of the things about paganism is that we tend to gather for rituals in groups and then also.
Most of our community forming is because we're so sparsely distributed and there are so few of us in most places, our gatherings tend to be festivals where people travel in order to congregate, and we have workshops and rituals and socializing and all that good kind of stuff. So we wanted to talk about safety in all of those contexts and and respectfulness.
And just kind of give some thoughts and guidelines about how best to manage various different kinds of concerns and considerations during rituals, and then also during festivals.
Yucca: Right? And that's both from the perspective of a participant and as an organizer, we'll kind of be flowing back and forth between both of those.
Since those are roles. We both play, right?
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. And you know, some of this. In the next few weeks, we're going to be going to the Sentry retreat in Colorado. And we're starting to think about festivals and the weather is getting warm and it's getting to be festival season. And it appears that COVID has kind of waned.
Yucca: Yeah. So hopefully this will come back and to being a more regular thing that we haven't been able to do for the past few years. Right. Right. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. But first, why don't we just talk about group rituals? We, we were talking before we started recording and when it comes to solo rituals, you know, if you offend yourself, that's your business and
Yucca: maybe a good thing is we were saying yes, probably there probably there's some progress happening there.
Mark: exactly. So we're not really gonna talk about solo rituals because you know, your etiquette is your own and If you, if you provoke yourself in some way, then you're probably growing. So that's a good thing. But when it comes to group rituals there, there is a lot to say, there are a lot of things that can go wrong in group rituals.
And there are ways that people contribute can contribute to things going wrong, or can contribute to things going with. So, let's, let's talk about some of those.
Yucca: Great. And also starting by saying that. These rituals are going to be happening within a larger cultural context as well. And what may be normal for mark?
And my experiences might be very different if you are in. A different place with a different cultural base than what we're going to be talking about. So there's that first step of just being aware of, you know, what's, what's the background that people are coming from and what's, what are some of those basic cultural assumptions that, that are coming in?
Mark: Right. For example people who are Initiated Gardnerian witches, you know, traditional, British witchcraft folks. They, if they're, if they're really sticking to what Gerald Gardner stipulated, then they're meeting sky clad or unclothed. That's not for everybody. And well, we'll, we'll talk about.
I mean, a lot of what we're talking about here has to do with respectfulness and consent versus coercion. So w Yucca and I, for example, would never announce a ritual where it was said that it was expected that everybody show up with no clothes on, right. Because that's not what you do. What you do is ask people if they would be comfortable or, or instead say, wear whatever you're comfortable in.
Yucca: So, and just, just going back a little bit where I was coming from with that is for instance the, what people's expectations on personal spaces and things like that vary from culture to culture. So just to make some real broad generalizations here, if you're in a Mediterranean country, there's probably.
Your personal space boundaries are going to be not as big as somebody from Northern Europe, right? There's a lot more touching. There's a lot more. And I'm sure this has changed a lot over the last few years, but, but greetings with kisses on the face and things like that, where you're unlikely to get someone from Norway to be comfortable with that just on a basic cultural.
Level. So that's what I was saying about the starting with, and then, like you were saying, mark, within paganism, there are going to be different traditions with different expectations.
Mark: Right? Right. And, and culture is of course a function of who's there. Right. Yeah. So if you are having a pagan festival in Wisconsin, then the people that are there are likely to be mostly from the Northern Midwest, and they're going to have a particular way of interacting with one another.
That may be different than people in the south or in California.
Yucca: Right. And even differences, you know, between, if you're thinking California and Northern and Southern California. Oh, yes. To me, is someone from outside the state, it seems like different places, very different, culturally different,
Mark: well, I mean, Los Angeles is almost 400 miles away from me.
California is a big place. I have to drive for nine hours to get to Los Angeles. So it's. Yeah, it's a, it's a bunch of different places actually like all really large states. Yeah. So getting back to our, to our subject what are some of the things that, that need to be addressed? When introducing or providing the invitation to a ritual.
And what are some of the things that can arise during the ritual that you want to have some preparation for?
Yucca: Right. Well, I mean, one of the first things to think about is the. It's going to be age. Right. And is your ritual going to be dealing with adult themes in which it really would not be appropriate to have young children around?
If not, if it's something that could have children around, how's that going to be handled? You know, how is there going to be a space created for them or letting people know the expectations? Because if, if you are going to do the style where, where the little kids can kind of just run around and do whatever little kids do, then, then people need to know that coming in because there's often people who aren't used to kids might be a little bit flustered by.
By the wildness. There's a reason we call them kids. Kids is actually the word for a baby goat, not the word for a baby human. We, and we call them that because if you've ever been around goats and they are hyper creatures that are going to jump on everything and taste everything. So, so that's something to, to think about and be really clear with the communication, if you are organizer.
And if you are a family, then this is probably already on your mind, but thinking of. You know, what is, how welcome is this? What is the expectations for, for the, the multi-age. Yes, I have a
Mark: ritual. Right, right. And I mean, it is perfectly legitimate for you to say, you know, 18 and over please, or, you know, 14 and over, you know, whatever, whatever it is.
But that said, I mean, My personal prejudice is to try to be as inclusive of people, of all ages as possible. I just feel like that's more community building. And the only exception that I would make to that is if there are explicitly sexual themes in, in the actual ritual that it's inappropriate to expose young children to.
Yucca: Right. So the particular holiday that we're coming up on right now is one in which there might be. Some sort of, you know, strong sexual themes in that, that you definitely want to just be aware of, you know, who's, who's going to be there,
Mark: right? Yeah. And if it isn't appropriate for kids to be in that ritual, then having some other activity supervised by one or more adults during that ritual is a really great idea because then families can still participate.
They just don't it just that the kids. In the ritual circle at the time that they're doing that. So that's a way that we can be respectful and considerate of families that have children while still being able to do the thing we want to do. Right.
Yucca: And, and if they, and if it is something in which the children are.
I'm invited to be participating in. It's also really important to be able to let the caregivers be able to take them out. If that's what they need right there, it needs, there needs to be the, the understanding that. The caregiver's going to go. Okay. Okay. You're not here. You're not in the Headspace. You're you're pulling on everybody's beards or whatever it is.
We're going to move along and go over and hang out by this tree and have it be that. There is a physical way for them to do that. And then it's also socially acceptable and that people aren't going to be weird about
Mark: it. Right. And that brings us to another ritual etiquette topic, which is the understanding of what the ritual container is and how it should be dealt with how it should, how it should be managed.
I've been in some circles where. You know, it was very formal and the idea was, you know, if you must leave for some reason and it has to be really imperative, then you have to do this sort of unzipping motion
Yucca: like this. Cutting. Yeah. Cutting it, sealing it up. Yeah. And that's, I've been in ones too, where people have been, that's been really, really important and it's, you know, a very big deal.
You know, we've created this space. Don't be crossing over any lines, especially if something was physically drawn on the ground right now. And that, and that's something to be aware of. If you're coming into the pagan community, maybe you're coming from like the atheist side and you're coming in and you might be going to a pagan ritual.
Isn't specifically atheopagan, but it's rooted in another tradition, just, you know, maybe be aware, kind of ask some questions about that and see where people are at with that, because that could be something people take very, very seriously.
Mark: Right. Right. And I mean, obviously in the middle of a ritual, isn't really a great time to be asking those questions.
So one thing to be doing is just observing what other people's behavior. Yeah. That said forcing you to stay in a, in a ritual circle when you really need to go to the bathroom or something that's abusive. Yeah. You should always feel that you have the personal autonomy to leave and attend to your needs, whatever they are at any
Yucca: time and whether that's a physical need, right.
Like you really gotta use the bathroom. Or you are just really uncomfortable with what's happening. You don't have to be there and it's, and it's not okay for somebody to force you to be. Right.
Mark: Right. Participation in ritual is, is a consensual act. It's something that we agreed to do with one another for our mutual benefit and edification.
And that means that you can withdraw that consent at any time. And we'll be talking about consent more as we get later in the podcast
Yucca: right now do be respectful about it. If it's uncomfortable to you, you know, don't, you know, necessarily throw your hands up and start cussing at everybody unless something really warranted that.
Right. But for the most part, just, you know, just. And, you know, just kind of bow out. Right. And what I mean by that is hopefully nothing like this would happen, but you know, somebody starts groping you or something like that, then, you know, then that didn't make a fuss. But if it's just that you you're uncomfortable, you know, just kind of read, read the circle, let's say, say yes.
Mark: It is appropriate. If there's, if something is happening that you think is unsafe. That's another time when it's appropriate to say you know, put your hand up and step forward and say I hate to be a wet blanket here, but this feels really unsafe to me. And I don't think it's what we should be doing.
I've seen that a couple of times and I felt like it was appropriate in both cases. And, you know, one of them was just, you know, people jumping over the bonfire at Mayday and, you know, people with trailing gauzy, fairy clothing, and, you know, they were trying real hard to light themselves on fire. And it was just like, okay, that's enough for this.
This has to stop.
Yucca: Right. I'm glad you gave an example. Cause I was wondering about that as what would be the, what would be the things happening in our rituals that we might need to. Slow down about,
Mark: well, I mean, and I haven't seen this, but understanding how uh, loose boundaries can be in the pagan community, you know, it could be like, okay, the next instruction for, you know, casting the circle is we're going to count off ones and twos and ones and twos turned to face one another and kiss.
No, it's not okay. That's not okay at all. Right. It might've sounded really great when somebody was designing a ritual because it sounded like a really sweet thing, but it doesn't include the human factor of consent.
Yucca: Right. Or maybe it worked would work with. Group that you're with, but now this is a larger ritual with other people in.
Yeah. Right. And also it might be things to like, you know, grab the other person's waist that might seem. At first, like maybe that's okay. But that might be something not for a lot of people. People might, that might be, you know, too personal, too intimate. Yes. So, and this is coming again from the organizer perspective of designing the ritual, but then as the participant then you also have the right to go that I'm not okay with somebody touching me that.
Mark: And it's important as an organizer to let people know. I mean, it it's a terrible thing, but we learned in experiments like the Milgrim prison experiment, we learned that people will go along with what everybody else is doing to an extent that is really, that can be terrifying. Yeah. It is very important as an organizer that you communicate upfront, we're going to be doing this and this, if you don't consent to doing.
Here's your alternative. You can step back, take one step backwards. You're still in the circle, but you're not participating in that activity. Right. Or whatever it is, you know what, but you, you're the decision maker. You decide whether or not you consent to what we're going to do here. And here's, here's your, your option.
If you don't want to do that. You know what that
Yucca: reminds me of is those exercise videos. Where like they give the differ, there's the main coach, like doing the exercise and they're like, okay, well here's the variation. Okay. Watch Jenny over here. If you need the, the modified pushups or, or something like that.
That's what that makes me think of. Right. So that everybody can be doing it even if, even if they can't be doing one of the other things. So.
Okay. Well, what else do we have?
Mark: Well, there are other things that organizers can also make clear to ritual participants. And this is always a bit of a juggling act because to some degree it can be very powerful and effective to have things that happen during a, which will be a surprise because it takes you into a novel experience that.
You don't have a map in your mind about where it's going to go, but you always need to be cognizant that if you have expectations of how people are going to behave in the ritual, you need to spell those out for people. So for example, many Neo pagans operate in a clockwise direction. In a circle. If they, if they move around the circle, they do so in a clockwise direction and there are explanations for why that should be.
So, but that's beside the point. If you expect people to move in a clockwise direction around the circle, spell that out for people. When you, when you brief them before the ritual about what you're going to do. Because. You may have someone there who's coming from the atheist community and doesn't have any idea about day sill and widdershins sure.
Yucca: And maybe use your hand to show which direction you mean too, because on that particular one, Saying clockwise and counterclockwise or, or widdershins or whatever, whatever can be kind of confusing to people. It might just help to, you know, do some physical movement
Mark: too. Right, right.
Yes. We're going to move to the left. So all of these are important pieces and. As event organizers. And as you can see, a lot of this, some of this is around just traditional protocols, right? We, we usually move in a particular direction. We usually cast a circle in a particular way of someone needs to leave.
We usually do that leaving in a particular way, but a lot of what we're talking about here in terms of ritual etiquette and festival etiquette boils down to the concept of consent.
Yucca: And consent.
Mark: Yes, yes. To paying attention and consent. And that's really an important topic for us to talk about in relation to the pagan community, because we have had many incidences of interactions which have not been consensual up to and including assaults.
At festivals over the course of the 50 years or so that the Neo pagan community has existed at least in north America. The, you can search online for examples of that. There's been a lot of talk about it. My feeling, my very strong belief is. Consent and conduct standards need to be spelled out in writing to every participant in an event.
Right. And, you know, they need to be given a copy. Yeah. Right, right. And they need to sign when they sign a liability waiver that needs to include, you know, I've read the, the conduct standards and I agree to them because Back in the battled sixties and seventies there was so little understanding of the nuances of what it means to be sex positive.
Yucca: Yeah. People confused it for just. Yeah, just being
Mark: right. And if you were resistant to any of that, then you could be accused of being approved or yes. And a lot of people got hurt. A lot of people had experiences that they did not want to have. And a lot of people got hurt. And then of course it was mostly women.
Yeah. So. When we talk about consent, let's, let's kind of spell out some about what we mean about consent. Consent is something which has to be affirmatively presented. A lack of know is not, is not consent.
Yucca: And if somebody can't say the yes, if they cannot communicate right then that isn't, you don't have consent.
Mark: Right. Right. W whatever means that person uses to communicate whether it's sign language or
Yucca: right. Yeah. It doesn't necessarily have to be verbal, but if, but if it's somebody who, you know, if they're not
Mark: if someone is falling down drunk, for example, in slurring their speech, it's obvious that they're not in a position to make right decision to be to be consenting.
Um Hmm. Consent to one action does not imply consumption consent to other actions. Consent to an action at one time does not mean I now consent to that action forever going forward.
Yucca: Right. People can change their mind to think that they were comfortable with something and realize that. No, you know, I'm not, this is not working anymore.
Yes, yes. Yeah.
Mark: And it's just really important to check in with people about, you know, is this okay? Would it be okay if and that is.
It's something that some people within the pagan community have really bristled at, particularly people that come out of that late sixties, early seventies counter-culture because the free for all that was mostly enjoyed by men mostly. I mean, and I've heard from women who, you know, also enjoyed the free for all.
So it's not exclusively men, but it was mostly man. They, they miss that sense of boundaryless Liberty, right? We don't live in a world where that is appropriate or possible. And that is for all kinds of reasons. It's for health reasons, it's for mental health reasons. It's for simple respect reasons of one another.
And if that means that the. The, the sexy party atmosphere of pagan festivals is reduced somewhat because there is this ongoing negotiation process between prospective partners. Then that's what it means. And. Sorry for your loss, but you
Yucca: lost there. You can find somebody who's into that right there into that.
Great. Awesome. But you know, that's not, but the people have gotta be into that. Right. And we're talking a lot about this in terms of sexual consent, but it's not just about sexual acts. It's also. Just any physical holding hands is anything that's about that person's body that, about that person, right?
You know, this is something that's not quite the same, but it drives me crazy when people, you know, insist that children give them hugs or they, they tickle them. And the kid says no, and they keep tickling them. And it's like, no, that's no. That they're not consenting to it,
Mark: right. That's abuse. Yeah. You may not think it's abuse, but it's abuse.
And then lots of people have memories of that uncle who wouldn't stop tickling them. Right. That are not pleasant memories. Yeah.
Yucca: And another thing with the tickling is that will we teach kids that their, that their nose don't mean? No. Right. And so sometimes there are kids who will you tickle them and they like to be tickled and this, and they go, no, no, no, because that's what they've been taught to say, but they don't really mean the no, but now are no, doesn't have it.
Doesn't have the same power. So it's really important that no is no. Right, right. And it, and this takes work, but it doesn't have to be perfect. Like, you're not a terrible person, a few. If the kid doesn't want to be tickled. Right. Right. If the, if somebody doesn't want to, isn't comfortable holding hands with you and in the ritual, like it's not, it's usually not about you.
It's about them, right? It's like there, maybe it is. But most of the time it's about them and their comfort. And you know, if you're insisting on it and pushing your feelings on top of theirs, I mean, you know, that's, that's not safe,
Mark: it's not good. It's it's abusive. And, or, or at the least intrusive in a way that's that pushes beyond people's the boundaries that people have a reasonable right.
To expect as sovereign individuals. Right. So this, I mean, Can feel kind of funny when you first start doing it. Right. Because you know, there's this elaborate protocol, you know? Hi, I'm I noticed you were looking at me around the bonfire and I think you're really attractive. Would you like to spend some time with me?
Yes. Well, what would you like to do. And there's this negotiation function that, that enters into the conversation that made seem sort of awkward, but I'll tell you I'm seeing what I'm seeing from young people in their teens and twenties is that you can effortlessly incorporate this stuff. If it's what you're accustomed to doing in the same way that you, you know, announce your pronouns.
Yucca: Yeah, right. Where we're totally used to doing other things, the other cultural things that just become something that is just part of the culture.
Mark: Right. Right. And so this is a way of our culture becoming more respectful and more safe. And
Yucca: and, and, and like anything, this is not about beating ourselves.
Because when we're making a conscious effort to change from, from what we're used to, what we're ingrained to the culture, the behaviors that we have grown up with these are habits. These are strong things that are hard to break. And when you slip up it's doesn't mean that your, a bad person or your, an abuser or abusive and all that, the behavior.
Okay, but that's, but you acknowledge that and you know, you might need to apologize if you can. Right. If that's, if that's going to be welcome, if that's not, maybe that's worse. Right. Maybe the person just needs to not engage with you alone, right? Yeah. Because it's not about you, it's about them. Right.
Right. And just to move on and try and do that. The next time without making it, you know, we don't need to be whipping ourselves here. Right.
Mark: Right. And in many cases, Rejection is also not about you. It's very, very hard to feel this. It's very hard to understand someone, you know, rejecting your advance as not being about you.
And of course it has some relation to you, but who knows what's going on with the other person? You know, you, you have no idea what's going on in their head and you know, it, maybe it could be anybody that they're not interested in.
Yucca: And even if, you know, even if there would be people that they'd be interested in your, not it, that's not a reflection on your value.
No. Right. And so it probably wouldn't have been a great situation anyways, if they weren't into, I mean, would you really want that somebody who wasn't into you. Obligated to do something with you. Cause like, I dunno to me that would feel worse. Right. Find out later that like, oh, they just fell obligated.
They weren't. Yeah,
Mark: yeah, yeah. That's no good. So, so what other protocol things re etiquette things, can we think of about festivals?
Yucca: I mean, just again, really kind of reading the room on that, you know, what, what is, what's the Acceptibility in terms of the, the level of the type of dress code or the use of particular substances or not like, that's something you're going to want to check before, but also.
You know, if nobody else is doing it and you're new to this situation, you might want to kind of check like, Hey, is it okay to be drinking here? Or is it okay to be doing whatever, you know, a lot of states it's legal, recreational marijuana is legal now. Like, is that okay? Is that not, you know, are there miners here?
Just kind of that basic, you know, Decent person awareness stuff. I think we just have to be, you know, hyper aware of that when we're in group situations and especially new situations,
Mark: right. Understanding the context is so important. If you're coming into a new situation with a community of people that you haven't met with before, then there may be.
Things that are kind of under the surface that you're not aware of. And it, it helps to ask questions and find out the answers to them. And this brings me to my pet peeve, which is the mess that some pagans can make. Yes, I am adamant about cleaning up after yourself. I mean, By any reasonable measure of campsite or a retreat center or any gathering place where a festival takes place, that's occupied by pagans for several days should be spotless when it's done, because we're about the earth.
We're not about clusters of beer bottles left in the, in the grass and cigarette butts and rappers, rappers, and you know, all that kind of stuff. It's, it's just, that's not. The way we ought to be rolling. And I, I really have a bee in my bonnet about this I'm I'm I'm careful about it myself. And I really think, you know, for God's sake, bring a, bring a reusable grocery bag.
Tuck stuff into it and take it back to your campsite when you're, when you go to bed. It's not hard to do.
Yucca: I was at an a said phone, which is like the national Welsh gathering in Wales with poetry and the bards and everything is amazing. And was camping out there in the big field. And I really liked what they did is you couldn't check out until after they handed it.
Trash bag and he had to go fill it up before you were allowed to check out. So I think we should not get to that point in the first place, but I liked that that nobody's going until this campsite, because, you know, there were hundreds of tents and, and, you know, not again to make too many generalizations, but folks in Wales, like.
Drink and party and do all that. And so there were lots, lots of bottles to pick up. He couldn't go without, without bringing the bottles, even if you weren't the one who drank it. But no, I think that in the first place be mindful about that. Yeah. Right. Yeah.
And, and if you somehow doubt that it's possible to, to leave no trace in the way that I described, think of burning, man, that that is their ethos. You come, you have an amazing time for a week. There's this gigantic party. And then you clean up the area where you've been living until there is not one sequin on the ground, not one, you know, leftover tent, peg or nail or anything until it's the, the section of the Playa where you camped is absolutely bare.
And then you can leave.
So that's an important one to me. And I think that our community will benefit in terms of its reputation by conducting itself in that way. I also think there are some folks in our community who could really benefit by developing those habits because they don't have them now. Right. And, you know, I understand, you know, if you've had three beers, it can be a little bit harder to be mindful about or five beers or whatever it is, you know, it can be a little.
Mindful about, and, you know, you're having fun. You're dancing around the fire. You're, you know, you're interacting with people. It can be easy to forget about the stuff that you left on the ground, but it's so important to, you know, to recapture that stuff and make sure it doesn't end up off into the environment.
Yucca: Or, you know, I think that, that, I hope we'll see what happens now as we're moving. Into a post. COVID not the cope it's gone, but in terms of COVID having happened about people's awareness about sharing drinks and foods and bottles and things, I would hope that that would help people to be a little bit more aware of those personal items that are.
Mark: Yes. Yes. We will have an advantage at century retreat because the retreat center has a rule about no glass containers outside only, only within the buildings or the yurts. So, people will have to bring a tankard or a flagging. Or a
Yucca: coffee mug or whichever is more invested in keeping track of
And you only have one of them, so it's not like, you know, disposable bottles where you keep opening them. It's just a lot, a lot more efficient and. And easier
Yucca: to tell is when it's yours and not what's that yours was that one mind did I put my down over there? Oh, they have the same amount in them. Yeah.
Yeah. So whatever the, whatever the thing is. Right. So,
Mark: yeah. So. Those are the things that I can think of off hand that I think people should be aware of when going to a pagan festival. I want to say, if you haven't been to a pagan festival before, don't let this whole conversation about stuff scare you off.
You can have a wonderful experience at these kinds of gatherings need meet really interesting, really amazing. Sometimes very strange and interesting people
Yucca: to stay
Mark: creative and unusual and just, you know, some of the best people in the world. I mean, The reason that I ended up in the pagan community back in my twenties, you know, many years ago is because the people were just delightful.
And I continue to find people in this community to be delightful, you know, even all these years later, So, you know, given an opportunity to go to some kind of regional event or even a big one, like, pig and spirit gathering or rites of spring or a gathering it's circle, farm, really, you know, check it out, see, see what it's like.
I'm getting really excited about century Richmond.
Yucca: Me too. It's yeah, I just can't believe house. How soon
Yucca: just really right around the corner. I mean, it's spring now and it's just, and it's going to be for it's it's in the Rockies. It's just a lovely time of year and the Rockies and, oh,
Mark: What is it?
Six weeks from today will be. I think so. Yeah. Yeah. Six weeks from yesterday, we'll be broadcasting during the lunch hour. We'll do a live podcast during the lunch hour from century retreat and we'll buttonhole people and interview them about their experience and talk about what's been
Yucca: going on.
Yeah. Which I'm sure we will have quite a bit to say on that. And we've got some fun, fun episodes coming up between now and. Yeah, we have a plan.
Mark: We do. We have a plan. We've got what four episodes mapped
Yucca: out. I think so. Yes. We always are looking for episode ideas, things that you, as the listener would like to hear more about.
So please let us know if you have something that even if it's something we've talked about before, we can always revisit, or if it's something that we haven't talked about, do you want to let us know? Yeah, for sure. And that's mark, what's that email address?
Mark: Oh, that is thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
So it's the wonder podcast, all one word Q email@example.com. And we look forward to your comments and your suggestions. We always love getting emails from folks, so thank you for a great conversation. And What's the name, watching the calendar and watching those days countdown. That's right. All right, we'll see you next week.