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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in language of witchcraft

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Flowers in Amber

The ancestors are still speaking.

One of our very greatest inheritances from the forefathers and mothers is language. If we listen closely, we can hear their voices today.

2500 years ago, the ancestors bound their thought together with alliteration, what we may think of as initial rhyme. Many of these phrases—hundreds, if not thousands, of years old—are with us still.

 

Might and main. “Might” is physical strength; “main” (OE megn) is non-physical (psychic, spiritual) strength—“soul-strength,” one might say. To do something with all one's might and main means to use all one's available resources. Those seeking a word for “energy” that doesn't reek of patchouli may wish to consider “main.”

Kith and kin. It's interesting how frequently these inherited alliterative phrases refer to a totality. “Kith and kin” means “everyone”: both those that you're related to (kin), and those that you know (kith). Preserved like a flower in amber, the ancient word for “know personally” also survives in “uncouth,” originally meaning “unknown.”

Bed and board. Tables take up a lot of room. In the houses and halls of the ancients, where interior space was at a premium, at mealtimes it was customary to set up trestles and boards to eat from. Hence, board, pars pro toto, came to be short for “table.” (“Table” is a French word. The Normans, of course, were the aristos; they could afford to have tables sitting around, uselessly taking up room. Every word's a story.)

Bed and board,” then, means home: where you sleep and eat.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for the House and Home paragraph. I have a house but it is not yet home. I have often caught myself saying "I want to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What Do You Say When a Witch Dies?

What do you say when a witch dies?

Well, witchhood is a kind of tribal affiliation.

Those who have no tribe often find it difficult to understand the depth of the sense of belonging that comes with tribal identity. Those that do, know that, naturally, when you die, you don't want to come back just anywhere; you want to come back to your people, to those that you love.

Uncle Gerald got it absolutely right when he says in Witchcraft Today (140) that our hope beyond death is for rebirth among our own.

Once a witch, always a witch, they say. Not even death takes that away.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Well now it's odd. Today at work an idea popped into my head of a group of witches at a funeral all dressed up in black robes and
  • Helga Hedgewalker
    Helga Hedgewalker says #
    I think it's true. I have many times in this life met people who became important future coven-mates and just KNEW they were impor
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I'll note with amusement that in the WT passage cited above, the witches tell Gardner that to be reborn among one's own is a rewar
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    From what I've read in books on past life regression we do have a tendency to reincarnate in groups. Apparently a lot of American

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gods Are My Co-Workers

150,000 years of pagan history, and it took the so-called 20th century to reduce the gods to the level of co-workers.

“I work with [Name of Deity].”

How many times have you heard this expression?

Note who's the active agent. Note the nature of the partnership. Note the implied equivalence.

The ancestors would never have used the phrase “work with” to describe their relationship with their gods. They might have worshiped a particular god. They might have offered to a certain goddess. They might have made their prayers to said gods.

But—for the most part—modern pagans are afraid of worship. (Why? Another day, another post.) Mostly we don't offer to our gods. We're not particularly strong on prayer, either. I.e. we have rejected the spiritual technology of the ancestors.

So much the worse for us.

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  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    "Note who's the active agent. Note the nature of the partnership. Note the implied equivalence." Hear, hear!
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Well said, Greybeard, the negative associations with "that other religion" were all a big part of my points. I also agree with y
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    I don't much like the terms "pray" or "praying." Praying for God(ess) to do something is a lot like acknowledging we don't have
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Times change, Steve. People change, spirituality changes and, again, people have every right to define their spiritual relationshi
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I can't hear Sappho saying, "I work with Aphrodite." I can't hear Erik the Red saying: "I work with Thor." As a primary descriptor

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Darrins, Marindas, and Coven-Spouses

The non-witch husband of a witch is, of course, a darrin; everybody knows that.

Call it a Classical reference.

But what do you call a witch or pagan who is partnered with the member of a coven, but is not him- or herself a member of the same coven?

My friend and colleague Magenta Griffith raised this interesting question at a recent Full Moon. Hey, we're a youthful religion, and we're still getting our terminological ducks (so to speak) in a row.

For my coven, this is a particularly pertinent question, since we've got several such folks who regularly attend our holiday events—in some cases, for decades—but who do not themselves “belong” to the coven. (Our unofficial “No couples” policy has served us well over the course of the last 37-going-on-38 years; it's certainly at least one reason why, as a coven, we've managed to last so long.)

Well, taking darrin as a paradigm, are there any examples in the “literature” (I use the term loosely) of one witch married to another who doesn't belong to the same coven?

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I've always liked "consort": I have a fondness for that peculiar group of words in English (there are about 100 or so) that mean o
  • Jan Erickson
    Jan Erickson says #
    I prefer witch's consort... Blessings! Jan
What Do You Shout While Leaping a Bonfire?

Most languages have a certain number of words-without-meaning called vocables, words that are all connotation, no denotation.

Hurrah would be one such, along with its variants: hooray, etc. Any native speaker of English can tell you about hurrah. It's a cheer, signifying enthusiasm, but it doesn't really denote anything.

So how do you say “hurrah” in Witch?

No, don't huzza at me. (Huzza is the Elizabethan ancestor of modern hurrah, derivation unknown.) I'm sorry: huzza stinks of Renn Fest. It's affected, hopelessly attainted, and there's simply nothing to be done about it. Next.

Open your Books of Shadows, please. Kindly turn to the Bagabi lacha bachabe chant. Read down to the very end. There.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
You Are What You Worship

I would say, We're of the Old Religion, but that's not what the ancestors would have said.

The ancestors didn't even have a word for religion.

No; if they'd deigned to tell you at all, they would have said: We're of the Old Worship.

And that's much Truer.

Some people are what they believe. We're not.

We are what we do, and there's something else that we know.

You are what you worship.

Some of our people these days get squeamish around the word worship; to them, it's come to imply self-abasement and power-over.

But that's not worship at all. Or maybe it's one kind of worship, but it's certainly not ours.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Och, Robert, your question is so evocative that I want to reply with a post. Keep with me and I'll have it for you as soon as may
  • Roberto Pagliaro
    Roberto Pagliaro says #
    Thank you. Please don't forget me and if you have any more ideas please let me know. Someone has recommended Poseidon because I am
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    As I understand it Florida is having a problem with salt water encroachment into their water table. I can see how Poseidon might
  • Roberto Pagliaro
    Roberto Pagliaro says #
    I read your excellent RTicle. I am a novice and quite unsure of where I can find paganist groups in my location, though I am sure
A Few Friendly Tips on Choosing a Coven Name

Take your time. In the initial exhilaration of coming together, it's altogether tempting to want to name your new coven right away.

My recommendation is, don't. This is really far too important a decision to rush into.

Names are Wyrd-ful things. A coven name is aspirational, yes: but though it shapes what the coven will eventually become, it also needs to reflect what the coven already is. And sometimes that can take a while to "firm up."

So go slowly, and hold out for quality.

Avoid the humorous. Really, will the joke still seem funny 25 years down the road, after the ten thousandth repetition?

Probably not.

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