It's no secret that Pagans love a good festival. At certain times of the year, there are public events all over the world for Wiccans, Heathens, Druids, and other Pagans to attend. However, just because there's no set of Pagan rules doesn't mean there aren't a few basic guidelines you should follow when you attend a public event. After all, the organizers went to a lot of trouble to put this thing on -- the last thing they need is a bunch of people creating problems simply because common sense got left at home!
Let's break it down into the Do and Don't categories. Naturally, some of these may be flexible, depending on the nature of the festival itself, but the bottom line is if you're in doubt about something, check with the organizers of the event.
- If you're asked to do something by a festival or event coordinator, please do it. These people are volunteers, and if one of them asks you to help out in the kids' area (assuming your kids are present and enjoying the festivities too) for an hour, or carry a bag of trash to a dumpster, help out and take care of it. It will free them up to do what they're supposed to be doing - coordinating.
- Bring your own supplies. If you know ahead of time you're going to be attending a workshop or class, bring your own craft supplies, magical tools, divination materials or notebook/pencil when possible.
- Be respectful of presenters. If you're attending a seminar or lecture, bear in mind that the presenters often are giving their time as a donation -- or that the organizers had to shell out a good amount of money to book them -- and many drive long distances to come share their knowledge with you. Don't monopolize their time, and don't talk during their class. Save the chit-chat for afterwards.
- Make a donation or a "love offering" if the opportunity presents itself. Nearly every Pagan and Wiccan festival is put on by non-profit groups, which means they have to pay for the site rental, food, entertainment, and presenters all out of donations. If you have a chance to toss a few dollars in a pot, do so.
- If you're attending a multi-day event, be sure you bring enough food for yourself. No one wants to have to go around begging the last three days of a campout because they've run short. The bigger problem is that other people will have enough for themselves, but if they share with you, then THEY run short. Plan ahead and bring a little more than you think you'll need.
- Pay attention to rules regarding nudity. Some events are clothing-optional, and if they are, they'll say so. However, just as many festivals take place in locations that forbid nudity, such as public parks or beachs. Also, in many cases organizers don't want any nudity because they're trying to promote a "family friendly" atmosphere. While there's nothing wrong with nudity, not everyone wants their child to see total strangers naked.
- Be respectful of others' beliefs. You may be pretty certain that your version of Wicca is the best one, but you don't have to belittle the beliefs of other paths in the process. That includes being respectful of non-Pagan paths such as Christianity.
- Do practice safe sex. If you're going to hook up with someone you met at a festival, please do so responsibly.
- If you bring your children, please keep an eye on them. It may be difficult and you may have to miss a couple of workshops, but they're your kids. If you can't watch them at the event, find a sitter.
- Do NOT take pictures of someone without their permission. Many Pagans and Wiccans are still in the broom closet, and that's their choice. If you want to take a photo of a friend, make sure there's no one in the background who can be identified, unless you've checked to make sure it's okay first.
- Don't touch other people's stuff. Most Pagans and Wiccans are very particular about the handling of their magical tools. To pick up someone's wand or athame and gush about how nice it is... well, it's a HUGE breach of protocol. This rule also applies to drums and other musical instruments - many drums are consecrated as magical tools by their owners. Ask permission before touching anything.
- Don't argue with vendors about the worth of their merchandise. Believe me, there's nothing worse than knowing a person spent literally weeks crafting a beautiful object, and then seeing someone haggle because they don't think it's worth it. It's one thing if you're short on cash, but don't ever tell an artisan that their time and skill is valueless.
- Don't be late. Unfortunately, the notion of Pagan Standard Time has become more and more of an issue -- the idea that all Pagans show up twenty minutes late. That's unacceptable if you're attending a scheduled workshop or class. When a presenter is in the middle of a session and half the group saunters in late, it's practically a guarantee that the organizers won't get that person back next year.
- Don't throw anything into a ritual fire unless you are specifically invited to do so. It's not a place for you to toss your trash, and certain herbs can cause allergic reaction in some people. If there's something you'd like to add to a fire, ask one of the fire handlers to do it for you.
- Don't complain about a lack of volunteer personnel. Volunteers are just that -- volunteers! If an event is short of them, then it's because not enough people were willing to donate their time and energy. Instead of complaining, offer to help out with future events.
- Don't interrupt people who want privacy. It's not uncommon to see someone meditating, alone, at a huge festival. If you stumble across such a person, don't bother them. Respect their need for solitude.
- Don't show up intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. If an event is held in a public place, you could find yourself ejected for disruptive behavior. Remember, you're entitled to have a good time, but you're not entitled to ruin everyone else's fun.
- Don't disregard personal hygiene. A number of readers have commented that a gallon of patchouli oil is no substitute for a shower and a bit of deodorant. If you're at a multi-day campout, in particular, try to be considerate and wash up regularly.
So there you have it -- a few simple, common-sense guidelines that will not only allow you to have a great time at a festival, but that will also allow others to enjoy it as much as you. Now go forth, go to your event, and may it be a wonderful experience for you!