Pagan Studies

An author and editor looks at how we use language to communicate with other Pagans and those outside our community.

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Vessels of Thought

Speech is one of the oldest forms of magic. I’m not just talking about the fact that it’s long been used in incantation or divination (runes being one example); it’s much more fundamental than that. Words are vessels designed to contain thoughts and transfer them across time and space from one mind to another. If that’s not magical, I don’t know what is.

On its surface, the process appears simple. We insert a thought into our chosen vessel and send it on its way. We trust that it will arrive at its destination, dutifully delivering its precious contents to our intended recipient(s).

What actually happens, however, is far from simple. The vessel we’ve chosen may not be the one best suited for the journey. Even if it is, it still may run aground on the rocks of differing perceptions or bias. We may think our words mean something altogether foreign to our hearer’s (or reader’s) understanding. No matter how careful we are, the transfer will never be seamless. We will always be, to some extent, speaking different languages because we come to the conversation from different backgrounds, with different agendas and with different vocabularies.

It’s not enough just to know how to communicate; we have to know how to communicate with the people to whom we’re speaking. While the Internet offers us the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of people across great distances, it creates a great temptation to take shortcuts: simply to speak to others as though they were mirrors of ourselves, without even bothering to get to know them. It’s far too easy to depersonalize others as screen names and two-dimensional purveyors of familiar ideology, when in fact their opinions are full of nuance and subtlety that get lost in a hurried translation.

This space will explore some of that nuance and subtlety with regard to the written word, oral conversation and nonverbal interaction. I hope that, through your responses, I’ll learn a little about you and - so you’ll know my points of reference - I’d like to provide you a short interaction concerning my background.

My field of greatest interest is the written word. I’ve worked as an editor for nearly three decades. I have also done some classroom teaching at the primary and secondary level, and most recently, I’ve embarked on a second career as an author - my original passion. In the past year, I’ve published eight books touching on everything from wisdom literature to dystopian fiction, from a children’s book to an examination of religious history.

I personally spent more than a decade attending a charismatic Christian church before embracing a form of eclectic Paganism that included elements of Taoism and Gnosticism, among other things. I also identify heavily as a freethinker: I like to ask “Why?” a lot. I enjoy trying to figure out what makes things, and people, tick - both on a personal level and a societal/historical level.

We all bring our own preconceptions to any discussion. Some call this, in negative terms, “baggage,” but I prefer to view it as a richness of experience from which we all can benefit, as long as we remain civil and open-minded. I hope to share some of the richness of my own experience in this space, and I hope to benefit from the feedback others have to offer.

Finally, if I’ve failed to communicate any of this effectively … please let me know!

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Stifyn Emrys is an editor and author of eight books. He has worked as a columnist, blogger and educator. He has written both fiction and non-fiction works, including "Identity Break," "Feathercap," "Requiem for a Phantom God" and "The Gospel of the Phoenix."


  • Cat
    Cat Sunday, 30 June 2013

    Looking forward to your words, sir! :)

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Sunday, 30 June 2013

    "It’s not enough just to know how to communicate; we have to know how to communicate with the people to whom we’re speaking." Excellently expressed. Thank you!

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