It’s hard to say ‘be polite’, since etiquette does vary from community to community. These tips will set you up well in interacting well with many Pagan communities.
Give and take
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. (Check out the brief bios article for more tips on what to say.)
“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.)
Help others connect with you
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, it’s a consent thing. Some people aren’t comfortable with hugs from strangers or other people, 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, if people go out somewhere together. Tipping a little extra (for those in countries where tipping is common, like the US) is a nice thing to do.
Updated July 2020. Reformatted November 2020.