Thursday, March 31, 2011

On "reclaiming" words

To anyone who's been paying attention to news in paganism lately, you're going to rightly assume that this train of thought is inspired by Christian Day's public use of the word warlock to describe himself, in an attempt to reclaim the word.

My own research agrees with his, that the word really does not mean "oathbreaker", and that the Llewellyn books are mistaken.  Personally, when I hear "warlock" I think of Uncle Arthur from Bewitched, so it always makes me smile.

But back to my real point, does "word reclaiming" ever actually really work?  I know there are some women who feel they've reclaimed the "B" word as a show of their strength, but while that may be great for them I think for the rest of us we generally think "unpleasant person" about that word.  While we in the pagan community are pretty comfortable with the word "witch", do any of us check in with our non-pagan friends/family to hear *their* reaction to the word?

I thought we'd reclaimed "witch" ages ago, but was surprised to learn recently that my non-pagan friends still think of "witch" negatively, unless they're thinking Harry Potter, Bewitched, or Charmed.  There are always going to be the folks who like the word because they think we have "ooky powers and stuff"  (quoting an old friend), but lots of folks still have a fear reaction to the word, or at the very least discomfort.

I am by no means intending a criticism of anyone, but I'm wondering how many of us are a little deluded about how much reclaiming words really works?


  1. I think this really says it all

  2. LOL, that illustrates the point very well, Flame :) The intention behind him saying those words did not affect the reaction of the people it meant something else to. A non-pagan friend of mine said "if your pagan folks think they reclaimed the word witch, they need to know it didn't work"

  3. LOL, well, I never tried to reclaim anything. I embrace all that witch implies, good and bad. But I understand how others might wish to remove the stigma.

  4. I think it's important to use these words. Success of *reclaiming* might happen tomorrow or 100s of years from now. It took a Long time to ruin terms like Witch and Warlock - so it's silly to think we can fix everything in 50+ yrs. But we still need to make them apparent so the old stigma fades - little by little.


  5. Good point Sabrina, perhaps what's really important about "reclaiming" is our own self-perception related to the words? Educating people one by one as the subject comes up may be enough. After all, how many of us witchy/magical folks *really* care about what society at large thinks of us? Anyone adequately trained knows how to shield themselves from the incoming negative energy, after all.