10 Responsibilities of a Host

As a collection of young faiths Modern Paganism often lacks institutional resources. This sometimes results in individuals having to host events in their homes. This isn’t all bad of course, a coven of thirteen people doesn’t need a giant sanctuary for ritual; a backyard, a living room, or an empty bedroom all work just fine. I’m always appreciative of those who open up their homes for rituals or workshops, but being a good host requires more than just opening up one’s home. Being a host is a big responsibility, it’s also a promise from the host that their house will be ready and prepared for guests.

If you are thinking of hosting of an event, I humbly offer these ten suggestions. If someone in your circle of friends is hosting things and not taking care of business be sure to share this post in a completely passive-agressive sort of way. The majority of folks who hosts things in the Pagan Community go out of their way to provide a good experience, but we all mistakes. I’ve been guilty of many of the things on this list myself.

The house should be clean. It’s surprising how often people who are hosting events forget what should be a no-brainer. Boxes of stuff scattered all over the living room, mounds of clutter on the dining room table, along with dirty dishes in the sink . . . . . . I don’t expect people to scrub every corner of their home before hosting a ritual, but things should be tidy. Vacuum the carpet, sweep the floor, don’t leave your laundry on the couch, these are all simple things that make a big difference.

Clean up after pets, and warn people about them beforehand. My wife is extremely allergic to dogs, and being in the home of a dog-owner generally results in her throat swelling up and her eyes watering. When we know about dogs in advance we prepare with generous amounts of Benadryl, and if there are a bunch of dogs around we simply stay home. In addition to my wife’s allergies, I was attacked by a dog when I was in the fifth grade and to this day I’m still a little scared of large dogs. There’s nothing worse than a giant dog immediately jumping on me upon entering a house, and dogs always sense my fear. A little FYI ahead of time, coupled with the responsible pet-owner keeping tabs on their dog, usually nips such problems in the bud. Cat owners aren’t exempt from responsibility either. I’ve been to a number of rituals where the entire house smells like a cat toilet. Clean out the litter box ahead of time.

Be prepared for ritual before the coven/circle/grove shows up. I was invited to an initiation ritual on a Thursday night several months ago with an announced start time of 8:00 pm. It’s a Thursday, and there’s work in the morning, but if I’m out by 11:00 pm things should be OK. I arrived on time and expected the ritual to start soon thereafter. After a half hour of chatting one of the hosts announced that they needed a ritual bath before the ceremony. Things started ninety minutes late, on a work night, not cool. When you are hosting you should personally be ready for ritual at the announced time.

Keep up with electronics and other household appliances. If you’re looking for giggles in the circle be sure to keep the dryer full of jeans running doing ritual. Nothing adds more to the Witches Rune than the sound of a dryer rattling like there’s a major earthquake going on. In addition to the washer and dryer, make sure any other loud household appliances are turned off and the ringer on the old land-line has been silenced. The TV, stereo and video-game systems should all be turned off as well.

Set up the ritual area beforehand. I host a circle at my house twice a month. Before anyone even arrives I’ve got our altar all set up and ready to go. A few of the other necessities pre-ritual are taken care of during our gathering time. If ritual is schedule to start at 9:00 pm I make sure to have everything ready by 9:00 pm.

The whole house is on board with the ritual. There’s nothing like doing a ritual in a big old house and then hearing the Beastie Boys during a quiet, reflective moment. If there’s a lot of distractions in the house, and that includes roommates who don’t care what’s going on, the situation is going to be less than ideal.

Be prepared for things to go wrong. If you’re hosting a ritual or an event, there’s always the chance that something could end up broken, stained, or scuffed. Most guests go out of their way to be careful, but we’re only human and things sometimes just happen. A host who is constantly “tsk tsking” and freaking out over every broken glass is someone who shouldn’t be hosting things. A good host has to be able to shrug off a little wine on the couch or a chipped plate.

Stock up on house necessities, especially in the bathroom and kitchen. There are few things more embarrassing than going to the bathroom, doing the deed, and then discovering that there’s not a sheet of toilet paper to be found. It’s embarrassing for the person in need, and also the host. Prepare for the worst, sometimes one extra roll of toilet paper just isn’t enough. Make sure there’s plenty of hand soap available in the bathroom too, along with a clean towel. In the kitchen be sure that there are plenty of clean plates, glasses, and eating utensils, especially if your circle feasts or snacks before/after ritual.

Outdoor rituals shouldn’t take place in a minefield of doo-doo. One lovely Beltane weekend my circle celebrated the holiday with an overnight ritual and campout. The weather was nice, the site was pleasing to the eye, it should have been a lovely time, but all these years later all I remember is dog poop being everywhere. If you are hosting something in your backyard make sure to mow the lawn beforehand and clean up any dog crap that might be back there. As a sandal wearer I’ll really appreciate it.

You love your house and we love you, but if you are a heavy smoker and do that indoors you shouldn’t be hosting. It’s 2014, we’ve all moved beyond smoky parlors and yellow walls. Second hand smoke is a known carcinogen and most people don’t want to leave ritual smelling like they’ve been to a bar circa 1975.

Photos:
1. It’s early January, and Bridgit looks especially nice on my living room’s main altar.
2. What evil lurks in the fur of my cat Evie? Dander of course. Ha-choo!
3. My circle cleanses with a pitcher and bowl, always set up before the ritual gets underway.
4. Not cool.

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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.


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