Pagan Perspective: Labeling Issues [7.9-7.14]

Labels Are for Soup Cans

This is an interesting concept in Wicca because you actually find the same dialogue being espoused in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community. Of course I agree you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone else but as I do find it can be difficult to engage with like-minded folk without a few descriptors being involved. Sometimes this involves developing other people’s mental associations beyond the primary label being used so for instance – I’m not a gay, disabled, English grad student, occultist and witch even though these can be very informative of my opinions and interactions with people. Assuming such is problematic because some people guess my sexual orientation and some don’t, most never guess that I have a disability or what’s classed as one in Ireland because it’s classed as a Hidden Disability and as the label suggests its hidden but it’s effects are no less poignant on my life. Conversely, my grammar isn’t too good now either so I often giggle when I see people recoiling for fear that the mean English Graduate student is going to correct their grammar all of a sudden. Much like the Hidden Disability my occultism and witchcraft isn’t something someone on the bus is going to know though I am open amongst friends – both other practitioners and non-practitioners.

Wednesdays with Eric: Labels

Eric takes up the mantle of the social creature. I tend to share Eric’s view that labels can provide a jumping off point for discussion. Interestingly, Eric comments that “there is no set in stone label I could set on myself” and does indeed call himself by a few different labels within various discussions.

As Eric identifies clearly the problem with labels in modern paganism is that what someone calls Pagan can be very different in practice compared to someone practices. There is obviously a bias and prejudice as Eric points out but my own stance is one of “story-teller syndrome”. Now STS is a fun social condition wherein no matter what I saw to someone or how clearly I express it it WILL be misconstrued through ‘Chinese whispers’.

Names and Titles

Here we come into my own sphere of dialogue here with Arianravenheart as she begins with Traditional Wicca as borne by Gerald B. Gardiner. Traditional Wicca was/is a part of the greater Western Mystery Tradition with rites, rituals and traditions held in secrecy between initiates. The rocketing of the label “Wicca” into the public sphere has brought about new understandings of the term but a recent backlash has been to ascribe non-initiated Wiccans as “Neo-Wiccans” or “solitary, eclectic Wiccans”, which some argue is a bit too oxymoronic to work.

My only issue with this addition is that it refers to finding “The Craft” online, this infers that the Craft is a homogeneous whole rather than a descriptor for individualistic practices with shared themes. For instance saying the Craft to a Freemason means something slightly different than it does to a Wiccan. So, realistically speaking as ARH describes her relationship to the Wiccan Rede, which has been publicly explored many times online and understood to be an anarchism of the word Rede meaning advice rather than rule we can start to see how “Names and Titles” convey a variety of meaning to different groups and individuals.

Thankfully ARH does surmise by asking a person not to feel obliged into being pigeon-holed into certain descriptors.

Identity

PurpleKillJoy adopts a rather Individualist mentality as he sees religion as a living tradition approach to the whole dialogue. Thing is PKJ identifies that books will say one thing about labelling as a means to self-identify when comes to Wicca and what he’s read enables him to claim a right to the use of Wicca as a label but that many Traditionalists have taken umbrage with this.

Ironically PKJ seems to chastise those who don’t read the material or work with the correspondences and associations of the Elements and the Sabbats yet the question remains what has he NOT learned that exists in Traditional Wicca (Wica) that would have people in that social/religious grouping feeling a bit irked at his labelling. To be honest I tend to get the feeling that policing the labels is done through how much knowledge or information one can retain or present. Problematically PKJ ascribes the role of decider to Society yet the Global Society is too large and removed to understand the sub-society of Neo-Paganism in my view. Someone who is experienced enough must be leading Society to determine the right use of labels here, so who?

Truth in Labelling

DancingRabbit (author of The Way of the Horned God: A Young Man’s Guide to Modern Paganism) comments on the group label as the group mind comes into effect. He takes up a ethnological view of the development of the meaning vs interpretation of certain labels.

Basically DR sees a labelled-group as somehow unreal or cerebral in nature rather than hosting or being ensouled as an egregore. An egregore has a spirit behind it which is powered by the group. Obviously this assumes the group we’re speaking about is structured around a magical purpose (i.e. Initiation, Healing, Divination, Magic as a whole), indeed DR made a few misnomers himself when he was writing his novel and marketed as Paganism but considerably taken from Neo-Wicca themes rather than wider Pagan practices.

DR does offer the handy advice that understanding the label is as important if not more important than claiming the label. I have called myself by a few labels now mostly because since I originally planned to share this post I’ve read a lot of interesting labels but also because I’ve enjoyed playing with expectations of meaning. For me personally, I have found that playing with labels allows people to ask more about my personal world-views and such.

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