Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

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Ask Boss Warlock: How Do I Delete the C-Word from My Vocabulary?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 Killing a Grizzly the Old-Fashioned Way: With a Longbow and a Stone-Point  Arrowhead

Dear Boss Warlock:

Help! I've been a witch for 25 years but, come December, what with all the presents, trees, and parties, I keep hearing the C-word slip out of my mouth when what I really mean is "Yule". The other night, one of my students actually corrected me. It's humiliating. What can I do to exorcise this foul demon?

Retrogressive in Raleigh


Dear Retro:

I hear your pain. Verbal precision is one of the truest arrows in the witch's quiver.

Here in the US, the C-word is so pervasive that to eliminate it requires an act of will, if not one of magic. Fortunately, you're a witch, so you've got plenty of both.

After all, what's the witch's most important tool? (If you're thinking “athame,” think again.)

As pagans, of course, we're so often out of synch with the overculture that, come Yule, it's easy to stop swimming and just let ourselves drift along on the current for a while. But, in fact, despite the overlap of season and a certain amount of iconography, our Yule and theirs are really two very different holidays. (I mean, really, just look at the names: Yule and C-day. One is taut, muscular, sexy; the other slack, hissy, frumpy.) It's vital here always to remember that Yule came first. That's historic fact. Yule isn't our C-day; C-day is their Yule.

If you're really serious about this, Retro, my recommendation is that you go cold turkey. Eliminate the word from your vocabulary entirely. (Boss Warlock is not too proud to borrow a page from Uncle Al's playbook here, though you may want to keep him away from the kids.) Don't use it even when wishing friends and colleagues best wishes for a holiday that you know they celebrate. Euphemize instead. (“Have a good holiday!”) If you slip up, correct yourself, immediately and out loud.

Eventually—I promise you—you'll get to the point that you can safely begin to re-introduce the C-word to your vocabulary, but only when you're referring specifically to That Holiday.

It may take a while, but persevere. Tens of thousands have been where you are now, Retro. They did it, and you can too.

Best of all, you'll be a better witch as a result. As I say, verbal precision is one of the truest arrows in the witch's quiver.

Good Yule and good luck,

Boss Warlock




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Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


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