On invitations and Etiquette

Originally from a comment on Patheos)

You know, after some time to sleep and think about it clearly, something else you said and hasn’t been thoroughly addressed bothers me:

As for non-Witchen Pagans, IME they don’t necessarily wait for an invitation (which I extend whenever the situation arises),…

I had previously, correctly, pointed out that you can’t invite someone who already lives here. So why would you feel us “non-Witchens” even need an invite, unless your assumption is that we’re two different communities, doing completely different things, perhaps only barely related at best?

Let’s analogise a house with university students: Jerry and Johnny want to have a house party. Tommy lives in the third bedroom, pays his part of the rent and everything. Do Jerry and Johnny invite Tommy to the house party? No, he lives there, so they ask him if he would consent to the house party as well, or if it would be best if they waited for him to be out of town to throw it –because he lives there, so he doesn’t need an invite. If they were to throw the party during a day he was there and without his consent, he would be well within his rights to find a new place to live.

When you imply that us “non-Witchens” need an invite, you’re saying we’re not a part of your community, that we are, indeed, doing something completely different, something that you may not even understand. Furthermore, if you imply that we need and invite, as you have, and then dare to speak for us, as I know Frew, diZerega, and others have, then that is an eggregious breach of etiquette, to put it politely.

Polytheists didn’t ask to be lumped in with the pagan community, but by happen-stance, here we are, a part of the community, whether you or I or others like it or not. Some of us keep our distance from the community for often personal reasons, some of us maintain a relationship with the pagan community for often political or social reasons (though it’s ultimately up to each individual polytheist why they do or do not participate in the pagan community).

If you maintain that we need to be invited, then you are maintaining that we are a completely separate community, and certain etiquette needs to be taken into consideration, should we take that invitation.

If you maintain that we need no invitation, then why not treat us with the respect to practise our own rituals as we see most fit, and maintain our own sense of piety and devotion that everyone else who lives here gets?

I now propose the following standards of etiquette for respectful relations between the Neopagan and Polytheist communities:

1) When invited to Pan-Pagan events, Polytheists are correct to assume that certain extents of hospitality are to be expected from Neopagans. Polytheists shall be allowed to present a ritual as simple as their traditions will allow, and in accordance to a ritual script belonging to that tradition. There shall be no expectations to alter the ritual any further to make it appear more closely to a Wiccanate or Neodruid or any other ritual script. This includes, and shall not be limited to, no circles cast nor quarters called unless those traditions actually require it for the type of ritual presented by the polytheist group.

2) At the end of the ritual(s) presented by the polytheist group(s), it shall be expected to refrain from accusations of “confusing” or “hard to understand” when, in reality, the ritual was only “different from Wiccanate Neopaganism or Neodruidry”. Imagine yourself starting out in Eclectic Wicca or Neodruidry, especially if you came from a very different religious background, such as more plain Christian traditions. Your first Wiccanate ritual might have seemed very strange, even if you welcomed the change. You might not have understood what you should do, until it was explained to you or you learned through observation. While you are certainly welcome to participate in certain polytheist rituals as an outsider (certainly any held in public pagan spaces), you are no more allowed to expect the ritual to conform to what you’re used to than a Catholic or newly ex-Catholic is allowed to expect a Wiccan ritual to to resemble a Catholic service.

3) Wiccanate Neopagans, Traditional Wiccans, and Neodruids shall make no attempts, in any setting public or private, to speak for traditions that one has not actually been a member of. If one is not currently a member of a certain tradition, but now a Wiccanate, etc…, then one will make every attempt to clarify that one cannot speak to the current community of that religion.

4) If a polytheist states that they have been discriminated against in pagan space, then the ethical response is to take them at their word –even if one was there and does not believe discrimination happened, but otherwise agrees with the facts of the occurrence. Discrimination that typically occurs in pagan spaces against polytheists includes, but is not limited to, being asked to modify polytheist ritual to conform to Wiccanate models of ritual, or being asked to water down their theology to be more palatable to panentheist monism. We cannot be trusted to adequately judge discrimination from a position of privilege, so logically the disempowered position is the one that is most likely to be accurate.

About Ruadhán McElroy

Ruadhán has been a traditional Hellenic polytheist for about a decade, and has also maintained devotions to Eros and Apollon most of that time; his status as a devotee of Nyx is more recent. He also paints, makes music, makes jewellery, and writes novels set in the Mod Revival (UK) and Swampie (Oz) subcultures of the 1980s. He also gets a lot of odd little experiences that he jokes will forever render him an insufferable Goth.

8 thoughts on “On invitations and Etiquette

  1. I think these are all perfectly reasonable. I am thinking of getting involved with Paganicon in the Twin Cities. I will bring this to the table if it seems to need addressing. Twin Cities Pagan Pride (who organizes it) has historically been pretty friendly to polytheists and non-Wiccan religions, but staying involved helps keep it that way.

    I will add the caveat that the word “discrimination” is used far too loosely by many people including pagans- often to mean social exclusion on a more informal level. I think that adds to people not taking it seriously. But in general, I agree we should take seriously any kind of complaint of discrimination or exclusion at pan-pagan events.

    • You know what? I’m going to be frank: There’s something about you I never liked. For the most part, I think your heart is in the right place, but I also think that you’re incredibly sheltered in many ways, far too much so to really have earned the right to call yourself an “activist” in any meaningful way. I think you’re painfully naïve on your best days and blissfully ignorant the rest of the time. I say this now, after holding my tongue on it for a couple years now, because I think the post you made in response to this one of mine is a prime example of why you just rub me in the way that you do.

      You clearly don’t understand how this sort of thing works. With regards to marginalised populations amongst the mainstream, the burden is always on the privileged population to be more accommodating to the less privileged. You wouldn’t tell a fag like myself to be “equally accommodating” to hets and their lifestyles and still expect to remain in my good graces, would you? I really hope that you would not. Why? Because as a queer, it can be safely assumed that I’ve spend a significant portion of my life trying to accommodate the hets of the world, to varying degrees –I try to avoid eye make-up when going to D&D night because, while these het men certainly know I’m gay and kind of a goth and even do drag nights, it has been drilled into me from a young age that men in make-up make “normal” men uncomfortable.

      Furthermore, as some-one who is also transgender (FTM), I am at a highly disprivileged position in the gay community (in addition to just about everywhere else) –to the point where I barely even flirt at the gay bars, because of the cultural assumption that trans people have to disclose even before the idea of casual sex with a potentially transgender person perhaps maybe happening crosses anyone’s mind, and frankly, I’m just not comfortable at all with rejection, so I’d rather let people approach me –which isn’t really me, at all, and essentially going out at all gets me in this ridiculous anxiety loop and I end up barely socialising. Basically, I’ve gone above and beyond any reasonable measures to ensure that every fag with a cock doesn’t accidentally come agross a vag in the night, so what reasonable person would “just make sure I know it works both ways” when I ask that gays be a little more open-minded, or at least polite about trans men in gay men’s spaces.

      I really do believe that the principle works out the same way with the Wiccanate majority in the pagan community with regards to how the polytheist minority gets treated and the proper response. NO SHIT, polytheists KNOW that respect toward the Wiccanate majority is the proper way to respond to

      • You words inspire me and I’m troubled that you have felt such ….. exasperation (animosity?) toward me. I will struggle with the points you make above and, with respect to my involvement on PaganActivist, I will be speaking with the woman who runs the site and invited me to be a part of it to see what her perspective on my work is (and has been) and to assess my continued involvement therein.

        If I gave the impression that the the burden of change isn’t on the privileged than I worded things poorly. But, the less privileged have to be a party to the process of change, too. For example, if you and others weren’t demanding that the analysis of Wiccanate privilege be undertaken, it wouldn’t be. In such a way, there must be a reciprocal relationship formed around such a situation, but it’s undeniable that while the less-privileged are a part of the change (largely because, in my experience, privilege is largely invisible to and/or denied by the privileged), it is the privileged who must actually change or be changed.

        That said, you’re correct that I am rather sheltered. I also avoid confrontation like it’s the plague so I tend to frame things in diplomatic, non zero-sum terms. In situations like this, that’s a poor choice.

        Finally, I’d like to set the record straight with respect to one thing: I am not Wiccan nor do I operate from within the Wiccanate framework. That may change (it certainly has before), but for the moment that’s why I’ve paid as much attention to this conversation as time and distance allow; it relates to me very personally.

        • If it troubles you to learn that you’re annoying, and I recall that it “troubled” you to learn that many polytheists feel they have nothing in common with the greater pagan community when you thought we were all just ‘wun big happeh famblie”, then I’d guess you’re probably too fragile to be blogging, much less blogging under the guise of “activism”.

  2. One thing not mentioned in the list that I would add in some regard is to not call events “Pagan” if they aren’t all encompassing to all the religions and practices underneath the Pagan Umbrella. In my experience with local communities (not necessarily online ones) is that when a group says they are “Pagan”, they mean NeoWiccan. The last pagan group I interacted with didn’t know what “polytheist” meant until I attended a meeting to explain. The “Pagan” rituals were the NeoWiccan Wheel of the Year.

    It’s very misleading and disheartening. And, to go with your analogy, just makes me want to move into another house if the other roommates keep throwing parties without informing me that I wasn’t expected to be involved.

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