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.

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.

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.

  • Karantha Ladouceur

    I have one to add, that goes along with being prepared for ritual. It is not nice if you drive an hour, and then have to sit in the hosts driveway past the start time because they are not even home. Going out for wine or other things for ritual the hour before people show up is not good, and shows poor planning. If you forgot something critical, I am sure anyone coming to ritual would be able to pick it up on the way.

  • http://silvercircle.es/ Alder Lyncurium

    3 hours for an initiation ritual? That’s what I call a quickie!

    • JasonMankey

      It might have been longer, and considering the wait for it to start, from arrival to finish it was more like five hours.

  • Vivianne Crowley

    Some very useful pointers here. And it’s great to offer your space, but you don’t have to do all the preparation yourself. it’s fine for the first ten years, but decades on it can lead to burn out. You can always ask someone is the group to co-host each time. Learning what’s needed to create sacred space – from flower arranging, to altar preparation, stocking up on ‘essential paper supplies’, and operating the contemporary besom – the vacuum cleaner – is important learning.

    • Natalie Reed

      Yes, this exactly. It was just about ten years when I decided I needed to break up the responsibility or I was going to have to jump ship. Ritual had always been at my house, I always wrote and lead ritual, and I always made the main dish. Now, while ritual is still at my house (I have the ritual space), we rotate writing and leading ritual. We also rotate pot luck dishes. This has lead to a more well rounded group – we all learn from each other and have a chance to hone our priest/ess skills in safe space. And I have less chance of losing my mind.

    • Ember1

      And if someone has the space and is open to doing it all of the time, regulars should be chipping in for not only ritual expenses (like charcoal/incense/etc) but really should consider donating toilet paper or paper towels or other things used to make the space function. It makes it much less onerous if one isn’t budgeting for an extra few rolls every get together.

      • JasonMankey

        We keep a donation jar out for our coven when hosting things. I don’t talk about it, I don’t ask people to put money in it, it’s just there. Without fail people contribute. Those same people will also bend over backwards to help out in anyway pre-ritual to get the house in order.

        • Ember1

          When I worked with a coven there was one couple able to permanently dedicate a room to coven use. As we were active as a group and in the community, this meant groups of people two to three nights a week. We had to talk about it. Sometimes I think we (pagans as a community) shy away from talking about certain issues to our detriment, and money/expenses tends to be one of those issues we are most afraid of.

  • Lori Dake

    Thank. You.

    As I posted on my Faceypages:

    Hahahaha I can cite at least a few of these
    things, and it usually revolves around overall cleanliness. Like the
    author says, if you’re inviting people into your home, for whatever
    reason, but especially for gatherings, rituals and business, it should be a no-brainer the place is ready for company.

    We both smoke, indoors, and we have an orange tabby. We’re also huge
    fans of Febrese, scented candles, lint rollers and the vacuum for the
    area rugs. Oh, and yes, Mr. Clean, Dawn with her boyfriend Dobie and
    their buddy Swiffer join in on the fun, too. (I heard about Swiffer’s
    mom; she’s hot!)

    I have people who visit my home all the time
    for lease signings, so I always do the smell test before they arrive –
    standing in the hallway for a few moments then enter. If I smell
    cigarette smoke, more Febrese. And, I’ll smoke outside an hour before
    plus clean out the ashtrays.

  • Courtney Weber

    Great article–thank you! I plan to share this as a gentle reminder….although I think most NYC Pagans will be too jealous over the yard and indoor-washer/dryer to even think about things like clanging jeans or poo-poo!!! Thank you again for this. :)

    • JasonMankey

      The yard was much more of a Michigan thing than a California one. I have a yard now, but there’s an in-law cottage in the back (think garage, with a one bedroom apartment attached to it) so no privacy. Our washer/dryer is one unit . . . it washes and drys in the same compartment all in order to save space.

  • g75401

    Good grief, a thousand times yes. I went to a “Yule Brunch”…The house smelled of smoke, the was no TP in a filthy bathroom that doubled as the cats’ full litter box site, and the TV was on-tuned to xtain programming for the visiting sister and nephew, who did not participate. We had a signup for potluck. I would have happily brought TP, too, in addition to chorizo/egg/cheese breakfast tacos if asked.