Monday, July 25, 2011

Warlock: To Be or Not To Be

“Some men who are Wiccans are reclaiming the name “Warlock” in the tradition of women reclaiming the name “Witch”. Warlock is commonly said to mean oath breaker. What do you think? Can it/should it be reclaimed?” - Pagan Blog Prompts
Cute, but evil... right?
 Wow, what a topic. I decided to weigh in on this mostly because of how solid my answer is, though it is usually mitigated by the "politics" of other people's beliefs.

To me, the answer is simple: use whatever you want to; just don't complain about it when you have to explain YOUR meaning to everyone and their dog.

There are many people, particularly Pagans/Wiccans, who have this firm idea that certain words mean just one thing. This, I understand, to a point. Using just the right word for the meaning you wish to convey is a practice I fully participate in.

Whatever you do, don't
call him a "wanker"...
seriously, do you SEE
the gun?!?
The issue I have is when this is taken to the point where words are not allowed to evolve. I speak English, a language that wouldn't exist without the evolution of words, by co-opting words from other languages, stringing multiple languages together (which is pretty much how English originated), or using words that mean one thing and using them to mean another (fat/phat, anyone?).

We use phrases and words in ways that, literally, make no sense. We get used to slang from one generation and invent new slang for the next one. Even someone from the early 1900s would have a difficult time understanding us today. The deviation of the English language in America vs. Britain is practically a one-liner joke... to both sides of the Atlantic.

I am woma-an, hear me roar!
We have "reclaimed" words throughout civil evolution, including the feminist sisters: "witch" and "bitch." Why shouldn't we reclaim warlock?

If words have power, their power is in the meaning and imagery that the word invokes. This is why words can cut you down or build you up. Why "\ˈī\ \ˈləv\ \ˈyü\" can heal all wounds, rather than being a string of less-then-random syllables. When we talk about "reclaiming" words, we are talking about CHANGING the meaning and imagery, the POWER, of those syllables that make the word in question.

"I was once asked why I don't participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I'll be there." Mother Teresa 
If words have power, wouldn't the most powerful thing we can do be to change the meaning, the power of words to something better?
The old meaning for "witch"...
The new meaning for "witch"...

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