We've all had it happen. Someone has dribbled candle wax into the ceremonial cakes, or a sleeve has caught on fire because we got too close to a sacred flame. Fortunately, the universe has a sense of humor, so when ritual goes wrong, it's often just a small blip on the cosmic radar. However, every once in a while you encounter a situation in which things just don't go wrong, they go REALLY WRONG. As in, the sort of ritual where all you can focus on is which way you'll run if something explodes. Laura Patsouris over at Pantheon describes this very thing in her essay, When Ritual Goes Wrong, and touches on some really important points.
Of note, she points out that if you're leading the ritual, there is a certain degree of responsibility that comes with that role. If your ritual procedure is sloppy or half-baked, you're going to pass those bad habits on to the other people in attendance. Often, if you have people in the group who are new to Paganism in general, or who typically practice as solitaries, there's a good chance that they're going to think that what you're doing is par for the course. As a leader/HP/HPS you owe it to those in your circle to do your absolute best as the individual in charge of executing ritual.
Does this mean everything has to be perfect? No, of course not. But it does mean that there are certain standards you should try to adhere to. We owe it to the gods of our various traditions to be respectful of them, and of the sacred space, but we also owe it to ourselves.
OK, readers, I know you've got some doozies out there. Share your Worst Ritual Experience Ever in the Comments section!