The letter ‘I’ kind of snuck up on me this week. I’m going to blame the fact that I actually wrote two entries for ‘H’, and not the abundance of other blog prompts I seem to have piled on my plate recently
I mentioned in a previous article that the concept of word ownership is something that really bothers me. For the most part, I find it a sort of blasphemy. I believe that the voicing of thought is inherently magical, and those who think that they can own magic like they own their car are just begging for a lightening bolt in the butt.
It may sound superstitious, but if you take a look at the traditions within many Pagan religions, you will find similar beliefs. Words have power, that’s why they need to be chosen carefully when writing a spell or invocation. Names also have power, thus the secretiveness of many traditional Wiccan covens with the true names of their god and goddess.
This belief in sacred speech has been twisted by modern society into a concept of word ownership. You can’t use the term ‘shaman’ unless you follow ‘this specific definition’. You can’t call yourself ‘Wiccan’ unless you fit ‘this random arbitrary definition’ (often decided by those who are not themselves Wiccan). Facebook has even somehow managed to trademark the word ‘Face’.
White liberal guilt runs rampant within the Pagan community as so many seem to be scrambling to be ‘more politically correct than thou’. And as everyone is twisting themselves in knots to keep from offending anyone, a vast and gaping hole has sprung up around us. The hole is where the answer to ‘What is a Pagan?’ should be.
With the vast eclectic population reverting back to the label of ‘Pagan’, the word itself has lost all meaning. It’s become defined by what it is not rather than by what it is. It’s lost its power.
Many would claim that the same will happen to the word ‘Wicca‘ if any Witch is allowed to use it to describe hir path. Further, there are those who would claim that being Wiccan doesn’t necessarily mean that one is a Witch (which is bs if you ask me).
The label nazis scream at us from their high horses ‘Get your own name! Be creative!’ This is fine if you have or are creating a tradition that you plan on teaching to someone. But what if your path is meant to be your own? What if you believe that each must find their own way? Are you doomed forever to a non-label? Or do you live with an hour-long description of what you believe and what you do?
Do you think that the mainstream public knows what ‘initiatory mystery tradition’ means? Do you think that they care? Your average joe on the street thinks that Wiccan = tree hugging hippie who thinks s/he’s a witch (or angsty goth teenager seeking to freak out hir parents) – assuming that they know that Wicca exists at all.
So then, who are we – we Pagans of varied belief and practise, we herd of cats, we who can never and will never agree on a positive definition of ourselves? At the end of the day, in front of the altar, it doesn’t really matter. The gods don’t care if you call yourself Wiccan, hedgewitch, kitchen witch, traditional witch, wicked witch or bubble gum rainbow pony. They know you without names or labels.
Language evolves, the meanings of words change and evolve as well. I don’t have an answer to the identity crisis the Pagan community finds itself in. A big part of me thinks that we are all too different to be united, and that we should give up on defining Pagan. And yet again and again, we band together as ‘the Other’ for the protection that can only be achieved in numbers.
What I do know is that just as giving voice to a thought has power, so too does keeping silent. There is power in the unnaming, in the thought that cannot be described in simple words.
I am many things. I wear many labels. But, my faith – my spirituality? I choose for it to be unnamed.