Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Definitions- Why I need a new word

The beauty of language, any language, is that it adapts to our needs.  If we invent a new concept, we invent a new word that describes it. If we tire of the common use of a word, we can find some other way to communicate our ideas.  We borrow form other languages, we remix words into new ones, and so we are rarely left without a way to give the world our ideas.

Sometimes, though, our thoughts outpace our language for change.  I, and many other people I interact with in the spiritual communities, have found ourselves at this point.  What do we call ourselves when a word that have relied on to describe us morphs into something evokes an image we can't live with?

When I began using "Pagan" or "pagan" to describe my faith, it was less used. It kept me separated from the Wiccans, but still labelled me as an identifiable "other".  Now, I find Pagan to be dominated by Wiccans and, even when it's not, It's too broad a term to have any meaning for most people.  It no longer describes my path, and the label now chafes.

More than the label, I'm frustrated with those who would speak for me. I don't see common values, beliefs, or customs among the Pagans I know, but I see an awful amount of writing that claims otherwise. I cringe when I see the phrase "real witch"; I get nauseous whenever I see anything that claims to illuminate pagan values.  I laugh when I see how paganism is portrayed int he media, even media that is attempting to be fair to Pagans. I rarely see anything in these that I can identify with, and my sphere of friends and acquaintances often say the same thing.  When a label restricts us, and imposes artificial and arbitrary boundaries, it has to be replaced.

I am need of a new way to define myself, but I haven't figured out how, succinctly to do that.  I am not alone in struggling with the label of "Pagan", and in all the discussions I have on the topic, no one has yet found descriptor that fits perfectly. Some of us are leaning away from any label, while others are combing through documents, stories and forums for a term that may work.  More than anything, I am trying to stay true to myself and not allow myself to be defined by other people for any reason.  I used to think that we could, as a community, try to pull together to use the umbrella of Paganism, but I think that is a dream that won't come true, because there are always those people who will scream louder, attract more attention, and misuse a perfectly good word until it loses it's meaning or changes into something uncomfortable.

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