Going to a public event

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This page focuses on general information about a wide range of public events – if you’re attending an open ritual, take a look at some ideas to help you feel able to participate there, as well.

Types of events:

There are many different kinds of events out there, and they serve different needs in the community. If one kind of event isn’t a good fit for you, consider trying others.

Conversational/networking gatherings are quite common.
These focus on general conversation and interaction. They go by different names in different areas, but common names include Coffee Cauldron, Meet-Ups, Pub Moots (common in the UK). Sometimes there’ll be a specific topic or short presentation. Others will not have any particular focus, just a chance for people of like minds to see if they connect.

Classes are also a great way to meet people in the Pagan community.
Many cover general topics, but even a class on a subject you know well can be a great way to meet people with similar interests, connect with a teacher for other reasons, or find other points of interest in the community. Classes usually have a cost, but often there are options in a particular community that are low cost (just to cover basic materials or space rental), or have sliding scale options.

Rituals are another good way to make connections.
Public rituals often include plenty of time to meet people and interact. Some rituals are open to anyone, others may require a RSVP for specifics.

Festivals (and conferences)
These are a longer, often more intense way to interact with others in the community, as they may last anywhere from a weekend to ten days. Often there will be some theme involved that ties many of the events together.

Public education events are a smaller category under festivals – Pagan Pride events, for example, are designed to help educate the public about Paganism, but they can also be a great way to connect with others in the Pagan community.

Who’s welcome:

There are three basic categories of events out there:

Open events are open to anyone. Generally the announcement will have the address and other information included, as well as any other important information (anything you need to bring, requested donation or cost, other basics.)

Semi-public events are only slightly different: generally they require some sort of initial contact before you get important information (often the specific location of the event). These are common if you’re meeting at a private home, or if the event needs to plan for specific numbers. Or, of course, if there’s a registration process or cost involved. Usually, they’re open to anyone who is interested.

Invite only events are what they sound like – for these, you need to be invited to participate. Often these are how small groups work, to make sure that there’s space in the living room or other meeting place, and that everyone knows what’s expected. There may be a pre-event step here: meeting someone at a coffee shop, an email explaining why you’re interested, a registration process.

Making the most of the event:

Know why you’re there:
If you’re interested in meeting people, you might want to pick different events than if you’re focusing on learning a skill or on learning about people’s ritual practices.

Know your event:
It’s fine to bring a friend to an open ritual, but don’t assume there’s space for a friend at a semi-open or invite-only event without getting permission from the person in charge of the event. Sometimes this is easy (as in a semi-open event), sometimes it may not be possible (like at an invite-only event that can only handle a few guests.) Sometimes the friend may need to go through a basic intro process with the people running the event, just like you did.

Plan ahead:
Do you need to bring anything specific? Usually these requests are pretty simple, especially for open events. If you have any questions, though, it’s much easier to ask ahead of time – the people running the event may not be easy to ask right before everything starts. You can check out other pages here for help with what to wear or some easy but good potluck choices.

Leave yourself choices:
Whenever possible, leave yourself multiple options. If you can, figure out how to get to and from the event without relying on anyone else for a ride. That way, you can arrive and leave when you need to. If something makes you feel uncomfortable (or you just plain need to get some sleep), you can go without feeling like you’re tearing a friend away who’s having a good time.  A little extra cash in case people go out for coffee or dessert afterward often doesn’t hurt either.

A notepad, index cards, or your favorite technology note-taking device can be handy:
Especially if you’re networking, you may meet people you want to get back in touch with. Having an easy way to write down names, email addresses, and so on is always useful.

Treat others well:

It’s hard to say ‘be polite’, since etiquette does vary from community to community. But in general:

Do your best to follow the give and take of the situation.
Help create a conversation by listening to others. If you feel nervous, ask in advance if there’s someone who can help introduce you around. If that’s not an option, a “Hi, this is my first time here – how do things usually work?” often works really well. (Or “Can I join you?” or whatever makes sense.)

  • Others will hopefully try to include you – having a sentence or two about what you’re interested in or wanting out of the gathering can be really helpful. “I’m new to the area, and looking to connect with other Pagans, maybe find a group” is great, or “I’m happy with my own practice, but want to keep an eye out for workshops on X” or whatever.
  • Shy? “I’d rather just listen right now” is fine, and lets people know you’re not feeling left out.
  • Got asked something a little too personal? It’s fine to say “Oh, I’d rather not go into that here. What do you think about X?” to people in the conversation.
  • Run into someone who’s not to your taste? Feel free to make a polite excuse and move to a different conversation. “Nice talking to you, but I should circulate a bit more. I want to get a chance to talk to lots of people tonight” often works well.

Give people a chance:
Often, these kinds of public events have a lot of different things going on: people catching up, people needing to chat about upcoming plans, people who have had great days and really lousy months. Sometimes great people can hit you wrong one month, and be really fantastic to talk to the next. That doesn’t mean you need to put up with someone who’s creeping you out, though – just move on (and let the event organizer know if that doesn’t work.)

Understated is good:
You don’t need to come in with a long title and big formal magical name. Something simple is often likely to make a better impression – a quick “I go by Jenett in Pagan settings” or “Call me Jen” is a lot more approachable than “I am Lady Morgan Faerie Windblossom”

Dress in a way that’s appropriate to the venue.
That doesn’t mean you need to dress in a way that’s uncomfortable to you – just that if you’re meeting in a coffee shop, wear something that wouldn’t be amazingly out of place at a coffee shop. If you’re meeting at someone’s home, ask if they’d prefer you change into ritual gear when you arrive. Things like that.

Mind your hands!
Ask before you touch someone’s jewelry, ritual items, or divination tools. And ask before you touch them, unless they’ve made it really clear it’s okay. Some people feel that items pick up energy from those who handle them. Other people have delicate items (or simply don’t want someone picking up something hanging around their neck).

And while Pagans tend to be relatively hug-friendly, some people aren’t, and some people have chronic medical issues that make hugs painful or very stressful. Asking’s always the safe and polite way to go.

Be sensitive to traffic.
If you’re meeting in a public space, don’t take over all the spaces between tables, too. Let waitstaff and other people in the space get by easily. If you’re driving somewhere, make sure you follow any parking instructions – sometimes people have a particular neighbor who’s extra annoyed by lots of guests on the street, for example.

And speaking of waitstaff:
Large groups can be a lot of work for them. Tipping a little extra (for those in countries where tipping is common, like the US) is a nice thing to do.

[last edited December 26, 2016]

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