Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blah blah blah blah blah (aka Word to your Great Mother)

I posted a rant a while back about the 5-fold Kiss. The crux of the rant is that the language is sexist ("breast formed in beauty" for a woman vs "formed in strength" for a man). Janet Farrar pointed out that Doreen Valiente wrote it. My first thought was that I was right, someone who never thought of a woman's breasts as anything but "beautiful" wrote the language. Next thought: She wrote it in a time when women were thought of as sluts for wearing pants and smoking cigarettes and were expected to be at home with the children and not have a career. I don't know how correct the second thought is, but if she was writing in the late 1950s - early 1960's, I might be in the ballpark. To differentiate between "beauty" and "strength" like that is sexism plain and simple. Tonight I was treated to a wonderful rant by Deborah Lipp who was responding to a Huffington Post article about a survey reporting 50% of men saying they would leave their wife if she gained weight:
"In the patriarchy, we women are the "sex class;" we are the object, not the subject, of desire. No matter how aware or how feminist a person is, we've still internalized the values of the patriarchy, and that means both men and women care about women maintaining our appearance (and therefore our value as sex objects) but neither men nor women care as much about men maintaining their appearance (because they are the consumers of, not the objects of, sexuality).

Quick quiz: In your mind's eye, illustrate the word "sexy." Most of the time, even a straight woman is going to see a sexy woman, not a sexy man. Because women are the "sexy" thing, men are the "aroused" thing.

The patriarchy: You're soaking in it."
So when do we say "these words no longer reflect our values" and move on to language which fits the current zeitgeist, or at least the one we want? Why is it that when someone objects to certain language used the response is "it's only words" and therefore shouldn't matter? Well, if it's "only words" then why are they clinging so hard to the old words? Most no longer use animal sacrifice. Most only use a symbolic Great Rite. If those things are taboo, why can't sexism be taboo too? Is it because sexism is still rampant in society at large? Are you defining or restricting your Pagan practice according to the judeo-christian mores of your family? Heh, the later is something Gavin Bone mentioned at the Trance workshop. 

Since repetition is invocation, when is it ok to change the words? It's ok when you understand and have experienced the concept behind it. Intention, I believe, is more important than the words used. Yes, words have vibration and energy, but your voice, which gives birth to those words, is the source of that energy. The voice demands, the voice supplicates. The word is the body of the intent, but the tone is the mind and the voice is the soul. If you can embody the spirit of the intention in a different word, if different words will get you there, go ahead. However, if you're just starting out, or have never done a certain spell or rite, do it as written, even if the words written bother you, and do it with an open mind and heart. This will give you the information you need to make it your own. I titled this post "blah blah blah blah" because I believe you can do an effective ritual or spell just with the word "Blah" because it's all about how you intone it.

There are spells and incantations and rites which require precise words to access their power. Grimoires do because you're tapping in to a specific stream of energy and the words are keys to that energy. Novenas mostly do, if you want them to work quickly, and for the same reason. You can also create your own novena prayer to an entity/saint but when you do that you're almost starting from scratch with building a relationship. That's perfectly valid, but perhaps not as quick as another set of words or recognized method. As with anything, you have to find the balance. Don't go throwing out the spell book because you've written everything from scratch yourself!

We should honor those who have helped to revive The Craft including Doreen Valiente who is falsely credited with writing The Charge of the Goddess. She just turned the information Leland received from Italian Witch Maddalena into a poem. She changed the words. What? Uh huh. She took something that actually had been handed down and changed the words! So if anyone takes issue with my changing her words to better fit the current zeitgeist, I will point you to the original Italian Charge of the Goddess and her english alterations!

I started this post in regard to a comment from Jannet Farrar, so let's conclude with one from Stewart Farrar. He wrote the forward for Mario Pazzaglini's Aradia or the Gospel of Witches A New Translation (which corrects Leland's translations of the Italian from the original papers):

"The Book of Shadows, which every Gardnerian copies out by hand, was alleged to have been thus passed down over the centuries; but although it certainly includes ancient traditional material, only the most naive would deny that in its present form it was compiled by Gardner himself. Proof that it is a recent compilation can be drawn from the fact that it includes at least one passage from Aleister Crowley's Gnostic Mass, a slightly altered Kipling poem, some identifiable Masonic phraseology, and elements from Aradia, Gospel of Witches.

The most clear example of this is the Charge, a beautiful and moving declamation by the High Priestess as representative of the Goddess, which is used by every Gardnerian and Gardnerian-derived coven, and which begins: "Whenever you are in need of anything, once in the month, and better it be when the moon is full, then ye shall assemble in some secret place, and adore the spirit of me, who am Queen of all Witches..."

This, and about the first third of the Charge, is almost a literal translation of the passage... in chapter 1 of Aradia...

Leland's gifted research into a "dying" tradition has made a significant contribution to a living and growing one... the particular forms he discovered were part local, part universal. They expressed something that is as old as humanity itself. Something, in his own words, of "a kind of vitality and of independence which indicated great power." Otherwise they would not have survived the Etruscan, Roman and Christian times. If some of their seeds have taken healthy root in British and American soil, it is because they find an echo there, merging naturally with the native stream because that stream ultimately has the same source.

So a Witch in London or New York or Yorkshire or Idaho can use without strangeness the words which Maddalena learned from her Tuscan forebears: "Whenever ye have need of any thing, once in the month and better it be when the moon is full..."

So there we have Stewart Farrar not only acknowledging the origins of The Charge, we have him lauding the survival of La Vecchia in Italy. It survived for thousands of years, from the Etruscans through the 1890's when Leland wrote about it, but didn't manage to make it through those that last 65 years before Gardner came along and used material from it? Or the 60 years since? I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn to sell you...

I started out with a mature rebuttal to an emotional rant, and found myself in the middle of new emotional rant. Two for the price of one. Perhaps it's more appropriate to say I'm up on my favorite soap box (I didn't copy and paste the quote, I typed it while reading it out of my Pazzaglini book. That's dedication!) So let's bring this back around to the start with another quote from Stewart Farrar's forward in the Pazzaglini book:
"[No coven] but the most unimaginative (and therefore most sterile) confine themselves to the Book of Shadows as though it were holy writ."


1 comment:

  1. I rewrite invocations to reflect my Goddess-oriented path, changing the words to suit my practice and beliefs. Patriarchy permeates our society and even the artes of witchcraft. I don't really think Doreen would have an issue with anyone rewording her invocations to more fully reflect their path. I have reworded her Witch's Creed just a little here and there. We have spoken that creed for years now and it is very powerful. Words are very powerful and so what is spoken needs to reflect what is felt deep within.
    As for Leland, Gardner, Valiente and the Farrars - they contributed to an ongoing, ever evolving tradition - whether 60 years old or 6000. Our artes will keep evolving - I've seen tremendous changes in my 35 + years. And so it should be.