Column: the Power of Words

Crystal Blanton —  December 16, 2017 — Leave a comment

“No matter what people tell you, words, and ideas can change the world.” ~Robin Williams

It is usually at this time of year that we see plenty of articles and blogs reflecting on the “best of” the year. We take a look back at the best movies, albums, fashions, and moments that wrap up our experience of the closing chapter. It is not unlike our own similar Pagan and Polytheist community traditions: best blogs pieces, best quotes, most popular sites. But this year has been unlike any other and many of us are grappling with our feelings of the past 300-plus days.

[Wikimedia Commons.]

2017 has been plagued with what appears to be the warring of words among many factions of society. From the larger political arena to local community politics, words have continued to be weaponized. There have been plenty of twitter fouls from the current president, fear inducing speeches given around the world, and the use of language to marginalize vulnerable populations.

This year, 2017, appears to have exceeded the patterns of 2016 in the war of words.

While the power of words are sometimes minimized and disregarded within some communities, they are highly regarded in others. The impact of what we say can have significant ramifications in our micro, mezzo, and macro worlds. How we speak to ourselves, to one another, to our families and within our communities do have an impact. How we speak to our gods and the spirits matter as well.

While intentions are definitely important, intention does not negate the impact of our words. Words have the ability to express our needs, to give comfort and love, to show appreciation, and show others who we are. Words also have the ability to promote healing. In his book Love as a Way of Life, Gary Chapman refers to words as “bullets or seeds”’ This powerful image gives a strong visual of the strength and impact of something so often taken for granted. Bullets tear into the flesh and seeds sustain life.

In a community that ritualizes and often ceremonializes offerings of incantations, poetry, prayer and worship, modern Pagans and Polytheists are not isolated from a deep understanding of the impact of words. While it appears that our community is challenged by some of the interpersonal and group issues that arise in ongoing interactions, skillful use of words in magical and spirit-filled spaces are plentiful and often discussed.

Science corroborates the belief shared by many Pagans concerning importance of language; words are instrumental in achieving different states of mind. Transitioning in and out of magical states of consciousness has long been a topic of study within our interconnected communities and an essential piece to successful magical practice. Similarly, scientific studies show that certain words trigger psychological and physiological changes in the brain, from the release of neurotransmitters and hormones in the body, to the activation of certain parts of our brains. Words become a part of the way we experience the world on a conscious and unconscious level.

When I reflected on this past year, I found that there have been so many words used as bullets. Therefore, I decided it would be refreshing to reflect on the seeds. Not only has the ongoing warring of words continued to shape our daily experiences, it has also been a catalyst to the types of workings many Pagans and Polytheists have been participating in. Despite the negativity and its intensity, there have been some amazing expressions of hope, reflection, and love shared within our communities.

Words have been used to inspire us and forge strong connections with one another, the earth, our ancestors and our gods, so instead of a list of (insert your preference here), I find it just as useful to look at some of the words that have helped to keep us connected in 2017.

We are all connected to the land. It is, at the very least, the one commonality we all share, whether we realise it or not. We are all of this land, of this earth. We all have nature in common. We all have that animating spark, the fire of the gods, within us. –  Emma Kathryn

There are people. And people share stories. They make music and art. They bake bread, and brew whiskey. People do other things, too. People speak truth to power. People intervene. People band together to say: Enough! We’re through! Plus: Babies laugh. A lot. And people feed one another. And we keep finding ways to help. And to create. And to listen. And to understand. There is a way out of this. There always has been. The way out of despair is through the loving care and fiery strength of those who insist on reaching out a hand. – T. Thorn Coyle

The thing that I love most in the world, other than people of course, is poetry. And thus, by extension, religion and philosophy. Which causes me to love justice and seek truth. Which forces me to admit that the world is currently ruled by injustice and lies. Which drives me to anarchism and revolution.

Poetry is at the heart of my reality; it is how I feel anything at all. It is how I understand what I feel. It is how I express it. When poetry is used in the service of horror and ugliness, I call that an obscenity. I call on my gods for the strength to defeat it” – Christopher Scott Thompson

These leaders are here now, doing the work, taking their share of the burden, and helping those that are struggling with theirs.  These leaders are often young , sometimes unlikely, they come from generations of powerful people, raised on stories of rebellion and resistance, their earliest memories rich with strength of character and the toppling of unjust empires and they have a message for the monsters.

Their message is, We are the children of the Rebel Alliance, the Fellowship of the Ring, and the Browncoats. We are the inheritors of the Civil Rights Movement, the Indigenous Solidarity Movement, and of Stonewall. Our sense of justice comes from these modern myths and current struggles and encompasses rooting for the underdog, fighting the good fight, and doing the right damn thing.  As things get worse in the world around us we will come together despite our differences to fight to protect our communities. We will stand side by side and do the work that must be done to create and maintain a safe and just world for everyone. And in that is where I lay my hope. – Brennos Agrocunos Gunn

As images of hurricanes scroll over the TV, what I see is the Earth reminding us that we don’t have control, only possibility. I know that is a hard thing to imagine- possibility. But I also don’t see something fearful, instead  I see truth. What might it be like to allow permission for truth. The truth is that everything manifests in a cycle that is sometimes wonderfully bountiful and other times painfully barren. That the more we hold on to the stake in the sand, the less likely we are to actually be free. Maybe the hurricane is actually the Goddess- reminding us of stagnation and inviting us to move towards freedom. And it’s going to be ok. – Erick Dupree

Let the warlike ones come, let the howling ones come, let the pure ones come. And may the rattlesnake that is the embodiment of the black and brown ancestors come and heal the air and the water and the earth. – Heathen Chinese

The Earth is very much alive. The ground is filled with secrets. It holds the past in its decay. The dynamic ground swells and moves. It undulates with deep stirrings. Most importantly, the ground is sacred. Who we are, what we are and where we are is entrenched within it for this emanation of our life. – Suzanne Tidewater

Meanwhile, we are too little connected. We are too much connected. We are connected in ways that all too often do not include the touch of voice or hands, or a clear way forward. So what do we do? As always, we find ways to reach out and do what we can. We find ways to show up, to offer, to listen, to ask.

The other thing we can do is to remember to refill the well. Drink in the scent of pine or amber sweat. Drink in the taste of water on our lips. Drink in laughter. Drink in poetry. Drink in music. Dancing. Squirrels and pigeons. Crows and love. Datura and bougainvillea and roses and mesas and mountains and oceans and street art and apples and children and books and sun and wind.

Don’t give up. Life isn’t only a state of emergency. This work we’re all engaged in with one another? It’s a long haul. It always has been. Take a moment. Breathe. Refill your well. Then find a way to pour. – T Thorn Coyle

[Pixabay.]

The power of our voices and the use of words as tools can serve to remind us of the accountability of how we engage with one another. Utilizing our tools to promote those things that support one another can be an amazing exercise in community, love, and magic.

There are many examples of words used as seeds, rather than bullets, for growth from this same year that saw so much warring. There are many examples of how connection to each other is a goal that can potentially bring about lasting change. As we bring 2017 to a close, there seems to be a plethora of reasons we should all work toward sustainable methods of health, love, and community. 

Whether we aspire to or not, the reality is that we will inevitably take in the words of others into our spirits, bodies, and minds. While most of us work hard to filter the messages to which we are attached, we must recognize that some of that attachment is outside of our contro. However, what we can control is what we hear ourselves say and what we say to others.

Equally as important, let us not ignore the incredible power that our words have on the way we see ourselves, our own power, our magic, and our potential. Our words are just as impactful in how we see our place in the world as they are for others.

I am choosing to be reflective about the close of 2017, focusing on what I want from the coming year and the power of the tools we have at our disposal. Too much pain, marginalization, disconnection, directed anger and confusion have been actualized in this year. What happens if we take the intentionality and words of our magic into our everyday relationships? What impact could we have?

Words can equate to change. Words can be the catalyst for hope. Words can bring about revolution.

As we turn the corner of this year let us choose our words wisely, speak with integrity, inspire one another, and follow the path of our gods. Happy Holidays and blessed calendar new year.

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The views and opinions expressed by our diverse panel of columnists and guest writers represent the many diverging perspectives held within the global Pagan, Heathen and polytheist communities, but do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wild Hunt Inc. or its management.

Crystal Blanton

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Crystal Blanton writes the monthly TWH column. She is an activist, writer, priestess, mother, wife and Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the California. She has published two books "Bridging the Gap" and "Pain and Faith in a Wiccan World," and was the editor of the anthology "Shades of Faith; Minority Voices in Paganism." She also writes for the magazine Sage Woman.