In this rambling I want to discuss words, terminology and humanities associations with them. I believe this topic relates to some of the misconceptions those raised with other doctrines experience when looking at Wicca, Witchcraft and Paganism. My thoughts here are in response to the many letters I receive relating to various aspects of the Craft and terminology used.
As usual, I'm going to wander around a little, but this is necessary to gain an overall picture and hopefully an understanding. At the very least, I hope it provides some food for thought.
When exploring or researching Wicca and Witchcraft, the apprehensions many of those raised with Christianity feel are valid. You have been taught to fear these beliefs based upon centuries of misconception. Even though much of what you may learn of our beliefs on this site may make perfect sense or closely parallels beliefs you have, you have still been taught to fear it.
In offering my perspective on these apprehensions, I feel the basis for these feelings resides solely with language. More specifically, words and our learned associations and perceptions of them.
To understand how this applies, we need to briefly move back and explore the fears, superstitions and mentality of the dark ages and medieval times. Back to the period when religious battles and the conversions permeated every aspect of life. There is perhaps no other time in history aside from the period in which Jesus lived that has left such an indelible imprint on human spirituality and perception.
In examining our spiritual evolution, one must first understand the foundations of Christianity were altered during a period when mankind's understanding of the earth, nature and the universe were very limited. Society was very superstitious and anything which was not understood was believed to be the work of spirits or an entity called the devil. People have always needed someone or something to fear or hate, and we have always done a wonderful job of creating plenty of them.
We must accept the realization that during the conversions of the dark ages and medieval times, the Church was a very political organization and still is to a great degree. History clearly shows they routinely incited and engaged in battles to overcome the followers of other beliefs much as we still see today in Ireland and the Arab Nations. There came a point however where the leaders of the Church realized continual bloodshed was not wholly effective and set upon a different course of action. The battle changed from one of swords, spears and bows to one of psychological warfare. It became a battle of words and associations of those words.
The leaders of the Church discovered it was very easy to use humanities limited understanding of the world around them to convert followers of the pagan earth and nature based beliefs through fear. This fear was amplified greatly when combined with the widespread hysteria of the inquisitions and Witch Hunts. This had a very deep impact on spiritual doctrine which we still see the effects of today.
Creating mass hysteria has always been a very easy thing to do. It is also interesting to note that certain passages of the Bible were rewritten during this period to aid this cause. As one example; the passage which states, "Thou shall not suffer a Witch to live." If one studies the ancient Hebrew dialects, you'll find the word Witch did not exist. How then did it find it's way into that passage? Simple mistranslation or intentional modification to suit a purpose? Who can say for sure.
Students of ancient Hebrew seem to agree that a more accurate translation would be, "Thou shall not suffer a poisoner to live.," which could mean one who brings harm to another. This clearly serves as an example of how words can be used, modified or altered to affect society.
Now let's move forward in history a little further.
As science and technology evolved, many of the old superstitions were dispelled. For instance, we now understand the earth is not flat. We also know the Sun and stars do not rotate around the earth. The examples could go on and on... In spiritual and religious matters however, the misconceptions and fears of the past have been continually embedded through generation after generation. Questioning or disputing mankind's, or a spiritual leaders interpretation of the Bible, was and still is a big taboo. Today if one questions or has a different perspective we aren't burned at the stake or beheaded for heresy, but here are still repercussions from the religious community, friends or family.
Terminology plays such a major role in all of this, before we can ever achieve true understanding and spiritual balance as a species, we must address this issue. Society and humanity as a whole places a great deal of emphasis on terminology in making associations. In many instances we accept that there can be more than one word used to associate or perceive something. At the same time, a single word can be used to describe several different things especially in the English language. Depending on the context, a single word can make you happy, sad, angry, uneasy, or afraid. This is based solely on the association engrained into our psyche.
A perfect example of this is an examination of the word Spell. In one context, I have spelled every word of this writing. These words may make perfect sense to some, to others, they may be deeply disturbing and bring a sense of uneasiness or anger. Changing the context again, if I were to spell a few words on a piece of paper called a check and also spell your name on it, that would most likely make you happy. Once more, if I use the word spell to associate an act of calling upon the divine while focusing and raising energy to accomplish a goal, that very same word can bring about a whole new set of feelings.
Now suppose I use a different word to describe this. What if I called that word prayer? Am I not doing the same thing? Haven't Christians used this same form of magick for centuries? Aren't group prayer meetings, group rituals where those present combine their energies and thoughts towards a specific goal?
In the purest sense, I think so. It is the terminology and association of words created by society, for society, that changes our perception but does not alter the act. Does the divine care what word we use? I cannot say. I do believe though the divine is more interested in the intent behind our actions. I believe it is what's in our hearts and souls instead of the words we choose that truly matters and I give the divine credit for knowing that intent.
Just my humble perspective...