After several days of talking with students, reporters, and others who are curious about being pagan I am acutely aware of how, as pagans, we lack language.  I woke up with this thought yesterday morning and after a full day of answering questions have come to accept that we, as an English-speaking people, do not have a common language when it comes to spirituality.

I have always known that it can be difficult to talk to someone who is not pagan, or at least familiar with pagan beliefs and practices, on what it is we do or believe.  Heavens, a good portion of the time we don’t have the words, the language, to talk to each other!  But we do work through it when we are together.  There is understanding of some basic practices that most of us learned when we first began to explore the craft that we can draw on as common ground.  But that basic understanding isn’t there for non-pagans.  I was asked yesterday if “Pagan Chaplain” wasn’t a contradiction; I had to agree it really is in my opinion.  Pagans don’t have chaplains.  We have a priest, priestess, HPs and HP, Arch Druid, witch, coven leader, gothi, gythia, and a multitude of other titles, but we don’t have Chaplains.  We only have chaplains when we are working in and with institutions that have been created within the frame work of Christian based language.

I suppose that it could be argued that any clergy assigned to a particular group of individuals, such as a prison or a university, regardless of religious affiliation is a chaplain.  But it still seems awkward and I could be comfortable with the inconsistency if it was the only one, but it is not.  We don’t go to church or synagogue for a service, we circle or gather for ritual… or blot.  As pagans we talk about deity, spirit, energy, guides, ancestors, the fae, gods, goddesses and the list of being goes on and on.  They are not the same thing as the Abrahamic god or angels; so to say they are is not giving the correct impression to the non-pagan.   Trying to explain the difference can cause greater confusion and some frustration.  But these are the easy things to talk about.  Right?

What about magic, or is it magick?  Explaining that becomes very tricky.  “Can I make my keys disappear? No, can you make yours disappear?  If you can will you please tell me how?”  A variation on that conversation happens with each interview or discussion.  Explaining magick (yes with the k to distinguish it from stage magic) can be difficult at best.  Then there is energy work, the Great Days, rituals aligned with the moon cycles and those not, spell casting, journey work versus meditation, and the list goes on.

So what is my thought on all of this?  We need new language or to at least interject language that allows for a variety of traditions to talk easily about their belief systems.  That will require people of varying faiths to be willing to learn new language, words, and meanings in a way that is respectful of everyone.  The old terms need to be willing to make room for new thoughts and when that happens hopefully we will have language that encompasses all faiths equally.

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