Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Struggle with the Language of Witchcraft


I get really, really uncomfortable talking about the experience of spell work and ritual. This is particularly a problem considering I produce a blog and YouTube channel on these subjects.

Have you ever heard someone waxing on their personal gnosis and relationships with spirits and gods: how a certain god gets pissy if things on their altar aren’t just so, how the spirit that lives in their toilet bowl sings every time they provide it with an offering, and they can hear tomatoes scream when they’re picked off the vine?

Hyperbolism, aside, it’s hard for my rational brain to come to terms with these fine folks without using the term “fruit loop.” While I accept the cognitive dissonance of being a spiritual AND scientific person, I do not particularly want the labelling and social stigma that comes along with being counted among them.

The stigma related to how we sound when we use the above language to describe witchcraft does not entirely fall on our more eccentric members. It is exacerbated by the English language specifically as it relates to witchcraft. None of the various English-based dialects have given us a lot to work with when it comes to describing the personal experience of doing this type of work.  We generally fall back on the use of scientific terms such as “energy." When used in this context and in such a logically minded society, it just sounds wrong and a little "whoo-whoo."

When not co-opting well defined scientific terms, we fall back on very vague, abstract language of “feelings” and “power”, often creating narratives for the experiences we have which include gods or spirits.  Thereby we end up sounding a little more like those wonderful fruit loops I mentioned earlier.

For their part, in this country, the Christians are probably the best at describing these things without sounding like crackpots. They get feelings that “god was with them”, see “lights at the end of tunnels,” or feel “rapture.” While we still think they sound a bit weird, generally no one in larger society instantly thinks they’ve spent too much time in a drum circle or had one too many pot brownies. Fair or no.

So what is a scientifically minded pagan/Wiccan to do when wanting to talk about these things while maintaining a semblance of credibility in their mundane life?

As of late, I have been trying to emphasize and refer back to more psychological terms and concepts as I try to convey my experiences. I like to use words like “brain chemistry” and “blood sugar” because these are things that we know can produce specific effects that we feel. I also try to tie my experiences to emotions that are much more relatable and keep an ear to the ground for new scientific discoveries that might provide new ways of speaking about them.

For me, our bodies are governed by the principles of a scientific world. How we experience the world is the heart of both our soul and our Craft. Understanding the world's mechanics doesn't take away from our faith. It only gives us a greater appreciation of it.

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