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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Yew Pegs and Round Holes

I hate acronyms.

There's something inherently ugly, opaque, even anti-poetic about them. If I could, I'd do away with them altogether.

Oh, I'll concede them a certain prosaic utility. The term DNA has saved a lot of time and breath down the years.

Point conceded. I would, nonetheless, contend that their use is best restricted to secular contexts. They have no place in religious vocabulary.

Let me pick on a particular example. The term UPG—that's "unverified personal gnosis" to the uninitiated—has gained a certain currency in pagan circles since it was coined some time in the late “20th" century.

In the thought-world of modern pagan experience, this is a useful concept. The name, however, is unworthy of the concept. You-pee-gee: "yew-peg," one could say, by notarikon. Can you imagine Snorri Sturluson using such a term? Indeed, the ancestors wouldn't have needed it. Some word-smith would have crafted a worthy word instead.

Where's a skald when you need one?

Myself, I'm not sure I have a better suggestion to make. (The best proposal I've heard so far is “dream-lore.”*) But let me go down on record as contending, at least, that we do indeed need one; the incumbent is not nearly strong enough.

To be the pagans that we need to become—to become the pagans that the world needs us to be—we need to think carefully about the vocabulary by which we define ourselves and our experience. We need worthy words, before the unworthy ones petrify into tradition and give us all a nasty case of mental gallstones.

Our new pagan language needs beauty as well as precision and utility, and acronyms like UPG can never fulfill that requirement, because they are incapable of it.

In our day, the rent fabric of paganism requires reweaving, to be sure.

But for gods' sakes, let us do our work worthily.

*Old English dréam meant both “joy, gladness, mirth” and “music, song.” The Modern English word derives its sense of “sleep-vision” from the Norse cognate draumr, “vision,” as in the Eddic lay Baldrs Draumr, “The Vision of Balder,” in which he foresees his own tragic demise and, ultimately, that of the world. So dream-lore would be something learned (“lore”) in a vision (“dream”).

In Old Craft usage, the “dream-sabbat” is the visionary sabbat, as distinguished from the hooves-on-the-ground kind. The term also refers to "ritual-as-conceived" (as distinguished from "ritual-as-performed").


Last modified on
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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Sunday, 05 July 2015

    Thanks for the term dream-lore. I rely on dreams and whimsy to guide me through the large amount of written material out there. Dream-lore is a useful term.

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Tuesday, 07 July 2015

    We, of course, distinguish between visions (which happen while we're awake, if possibly while in an altered state) and dreams, which happen while we're asleep. But so far as I can tell, this wasn't always the case. It certainly doesn't seem to have been so for the old Norse or the old Hebrews (those are the only two ancient languages with which I've got enjoy conversancy to be able to tell).

    Visions (to judge from those I've experienced myself) do tend to have that very dream-like solidity to them. So I'm glad you like the term. I plan to use it myself until (and if) something better comes along.

  • Erin Lale
    Erin Lale Monday, 13 July 2015

    I hate the term UPG. An essay on that topic (too long to post in a comment):

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information