Wiccan Vocabulary Lesson
Words have both connotative and denotative meanings but they can also have power. When there are misunderstandings or misconceptions about words, particularly when they are used as labels, that power can get twisted and misaligned. This is even more true when it comes to words and labels outside of “mainstream” culture. As a Wiccan, I have received a wide array of reactions to some of the words that surround us. Some people are fearful, others try to “save” my soul, and still others are curious and open to dialog. Let’s take a look at some of these words:
Wicca: I’m completely at ease with this word. While it is a very broad brush, Wicca relates to a nature-based spiritual belief system. It is a religion that covers a wide variety of spiritual paths under a single umbrella term. When people outside of our circle hear the word Wicca, many of them jump to the Witch label and the assumptions they bring with it (devil worship, blood sacrifice, etc.). While many Wiccans practice Witchcraft, not all of them do.
Witchcraft: Again, this is a comfortable word for me. It’s part of my practice, though this isn’t true for all Wiccans (or even Pagans). Witchcraft tends to be one of those labels steeped in the unknown, and for the general population, the unknown is something to be feared and destroyed. Witchcraft is a lot more open than it once was, and there is a lot more tolerance disguised as general acceptance but it can still generate animosity.
Power: I don’t have a problem with this word but then again I don’t define it like most people do. Nature is powerful, but it doesn’t seek to control people or things with its power; nature just IS. Often, those in the general population perceive power as threatening, that those with power will seek to control those with less power. This misconception often leads to fear and mistrust of those who are perceived as powerful, and we all know where fear can lead.
Ritual: Another comfortable word, Ritual invokes the idea of a repeatable pattern of behaviors designed to invoke repeatable outcomes. Rituals exist everywhere in our lives (look at athletes and their rituals) as part of the human condition. For me, rituals help me align my focus with my intent, like a gateway into the energy around me.
Magic: I don’t have a problem with the word magic, regardless of how it is spelled, but the dictionary (and accepted) definition of magic is “a power that allows people (like witches and wizards) to do impossible things;” What the general masses call magic, I call energy, and this energy exists in all things. Anyone can draw on this energy, but so few people remember how. When someone is able to do something seemingly impossible, it’s easier for the audience to label it “magic” than to try to understand that there is knowledge out there that they don’t have. Some people are fascinated by magic while others fear it (and fear can lead to…).
Occult: While I understand this word, it’s not one that I use with any regularity. The meaning of this word relates to “supernatural, mystical, or magical beliefs, practices, or phenomenon.” Since I believe that being able to tap into and redirect the energies around us is absolutely natural, you can see why this word isn’t one I use. While I know the word has some negative connotative meanings, it’s just a word.
Pagan: As I noted above, Wiccan is a large umbrella BUT it falls under the general Pagan umbrella. I’m comfortable with both the word and the label. I believe reactions to this word from the “outside” are similar to those for Wicca, though I think fewer Pagans are accused of “black magic” than Wiccans are.
Spell: This is another word that’s part of my everyday life. A spell is another tool used to focus intent when manipulating energies. By taking the time to align my thoughts into careful word choices, I am clarifying and manifesting my intent. I could argue that a spell is simply a more focused prayer. I’m not really sure how non-believers react to the word Spell because it’s not something I readily talk about with them.
Earth-Religion: This isn’t a phrase I’ve heard very much but at the same time, it doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable. Wicca is a shamanic belief system, where we honor and respect the Divine in all things. Earth-Religion is as apt a label as Wicca is.
Each of these words can evoke different reactions in different people. No one cannot control this, nor would I seek to. I can only control my reactions to the people around me. These words, regardless of who is using them and how, are ultimately only words and as such they only have the power that YOU give them!