1. Pick one faith and stick with it. Dilettantism is the mark of the amateur.
2. Avoid needless embarrassment. Practice the correct pronunciation of your god’s name in the privacy of your room before chanting it in public. Flash cards are often helpful.
3. Never invoke anything bigger then your head.
4. Avoid all cabalistic jewelry over ten pounds in weight. You’re just asking for trouble.
5. Citronella candles may not be used in rituals. I cannot stress this enough. Pastel-colored candles in the shape of cute animals are like beacons to the Dark Lords.
6. Always keep your kit with you: candles, chalk, incense, silver knife, thugee knife, service revolver, garlic, cab fare, condoms, and change.
7. Never be a cultist that goes to rough up the heroes. Ransacking hotel rooms is probably safe, but going ’round to beat up the good guys is a definite no-no.
8. When Black Mass goes awry, stay away from the cult leader. Enraged demons always go for the pompous.
9. Don’t gloat.
10. If you do gloat, never reveal your plans.
11. If you gloat and reveal your plans, never leave the heroes to die slowly. They don’t.
12. If you do gloat, reveal your plans, and leave the heroes to die slowly, don’t have the audacity to look surprised when they show up to foil you.
13. Heroes always arrive at the last moment to foil you. Start a half hour early. They hate that.
14. Select ceremonial robes that are easy to run in while still affording ample concealment.
15. When a religious artifact begins emitting light, CLOSE YOUR EYES. Thousands of cultists could be saved every year if they’d just remember this simple safety tip.
16. When mutilating cattle, avoid the ones with testicles.
17. During ritual sacrifice, taking bits home “for later” is now considered bad form.
18. Blood tests are now required of all sacrificial victims before the ritual. The effects of HIV-positive offerings on the average malefic deity have never been witnessed by anyone living, or even intact.
19. Contrary to historical belief, drugs and incantations do not mix. When the crap hits the fan, it is vitally necessary to be able to discern between the gibbering monstrosity to throw the holy water on, and the gibbering monstrosity that will go away after a few hours, some B-complex, and a nice hot bath.
20. Never have sex with anything whose genetic structure you are not absolutely comfortable about.
21. Never admit to having sex with anything whose genetic structure you were not absolutely comfortable about.
22. Never play strip Tarot.
23. Piety and belief are powerful things, and few forces in nature can stand against one who is true to his faith, his god, and his soul. However, it is also true that God is on the side of the heaviest artillery, so be prepared to change sides at the drop of a hat.
24. For those situations where a fresh, living sacrifice is just not feasible or even possible, the lower ranks of demons can be fooled by microwaving a previously frozen chunk of ex-victim and cleverly jiggling it. However, a mock-victim sculpted from Spam™ will be all right, too.
Originally published in “The Unspeakable Oath,” April 1993, Pagan Publishing. It started popping up online after that, with occasional changes or additions and often without my name on it, but the original is mine.