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Author Topic: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)  (Read 9633 times)

Sage

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #60 on: July 21, 2014, 06:12:41 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153545
Aren't we all scholars here? What are you speaking as a scholar of?


Catja is an actual scholar - that is, someone who does academic work for a living. She's a folklorist which means that she studies folklore professionally. (I believe she has a PhD but am not 100% certain on her credentials; it's been awhile since I've read them.) So no, in that sense we aren't "all" scholars because Catja is speaking about a very specific kind of scholarship: the professional kind. Therefore when she talks about folklore she's talking about a professional perspective that nonfolklorists do not share.

To contrast, I'm an amateur with an interest in folklore. I have an undergraduate degree in religious studies and know perhaps more than the average bear about how some religious/mythy stuff works... but there's a lot I don't know. Specifically, there's a lot I don't know in regards to how the study of folklore actually works. So, when Catja talks I defer to her in the same way I deferred to my religion professors as an undergrad to explain how to study world religions in an academic context.

Or, in a simpler fashion: being an armchair/layperson folklorist is not the same as being one with academic training.
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What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #61 on: July 21, 2014, 06:19:33 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153545
Aren't we all scholars here?


No.  I would say that most of us are, in fact, not any sort of academic.  I'm certainly not.

(Catja, on the other hand, certainly is, being, you know, a professor who's done actual published research on folklore and all.)

Quote
I believe you and I are on the same page and always were. I may hold to the "paganism is anything non-abrahamic" structure of my definition but the definition can build from there.

 
The problem is that that definition was created as a form of colonialist oppression, and there are many people who do not consider it appropriate to perpetuate that sort of thing.  It is really hard to build something that is not racist, colonialist, and oppressive on something that only exists because of racism, colonialism, and oppression.  Better to reject the parts of the usage that are, in fact, fucked up, so as to have a better chance of not fucking up.

Pagan as used to mean "anything non-Abrahamic" was explicitly created as terminology in order to paint non-Western cultures as primitive, undistinguishable, and entirely unworthy of being treated with meaningful respect or granted the basic acknowledgement of their own names.  That is not something that can be disappeared.
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Sage

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #62 on: July 21, 2014, 06:27:39 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153546
I agree with this individual. The post was argumentative and didn't need to be. I also have an issue with people starting things off as "as a scholar..." as though that makes their word golden. We are ALL scholars here. I too have a university degree and I don't feel the need to start conversations stating that.

Anyway, moving on. It's easy to read things as angry or offensive when the sole mode of communication is text. I am hoping the post was not meant to cast offensive labels at me or at the others who used "pagan" to mean anything non-abrahamic. Calling someone a bigot and a racist is quite strong and I would hope the post meant that the word itself has been used in racist contexts (which we all know it has).


With the risk of speaking for Catja and with the understanding she may very well pop in later to correct my reading of her posts:

The sense I get from Catja's post is that she was replying to the thread in general and offering advice from a folklorist's perspective on why "pagan" can be a problematic term. Given the quoting rules at TC that require all posts to quote (in order to provide a clear understanding of how conversations flow) sometimes this means that users must pick a post to quote that isn't necessarily responding directly to that person. The phrase I've heard used is "somewhere to hang my hat": that is, there's something that needs to be said and someone's post needs to be the hanging point of that reply.

Catja did not specifically name any TC members in her reply unless I am dreadfully missing something. She also tends to be one of our blunter members (which I do appreciate about her) so it is unlikely she was passive aggressively speaking about someone without actually calling them out.

I imagine part of the reason Catja identified herself as a scholar is that she is, in fact, a professional in the study of folklore and therefore has professional insights that laypeople do not have. I'm getting my MLIS (Masters in Library and Information Science) and while I do scholarly things, my field has nothing to do with folklore. Therefore, while I can speak with some teeny bit of authority on the LIS field, I have no such authority when it comes to folklore. Such clarification helps tremendously when delving into these topics, especially on an online forum that encourages members to cite their sources and be clear about agendas/positions.

As a final note: when I talk about authority, I don't mean that Catja is an unquestionable folklore deity from on high, but rather that she has specialized training most of us do not have. My professors in undergrad were authorities in their specific fields of religious studies. My UU minister friend is an authority on theology within the Unitarian Universalist faith. I'm hoping to become an authority on library stuff one day!
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #63 on: July 21, 2014, 06:47:59 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;153551
No.  I would say that most of us are, in fact, not any sort of academic.  I'm certainly not.

(Catja, on the other hand, certainly is, being, you know, a professor who's done actual published research on folklore and all.)

 
Yeah, this. The fact that I have a degree in First Nations Studies does not make me a scholar on that subject (or any other subject). Does it mean I might know a bit more than your average bear about the subject? Sure. Does not change the fact that I'm not a scholar.

(Nor does it change the fact that my degree is not required for me to have this knowledge. Did it make it easier? Yes, in a lot of ways -- doing the program taught me what to try and access, and in what order, and how to approach the literature. But I could also give someone a list of books to read and they'd get a pretty good grounding in the subject, no degree in it required. So.)
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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #64 on: July 21, 2014, 06:54:57 pm »
Quote from: Morag;153556
(Nor does it change the fact that my degree is not required for me to have this knowledge. Did it make it easier? Yes, in a lot of ways -- doing the program taught me what to try and access, and in what order, and how to approach the literature. But I could also give someone a list of books to read and they'd get a pretty good grounding in the subject, no degree in it required. So.)

 
Really, I'm glad degrees aren't required to know things, given that I don't have one in anything. ;)
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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #65 on: July 21, 2014, 07:52:10 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153546
Calling someone a bigot and a racist is quite strong and I would hope the post meant that the word itself has been used in racist contexts (which we all know it has).

 
You don't need to merely hope. If you reread Catja's post, you will find that she was indeed speaking of how the word has been used that way (and indeed, as Darkhawk points out, that particular sense of the word was created for that purpose), and did not, anywhere in it, call anyone 'a bigot' or 'a racist'.

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #66 on: July 21, 2014, 08:55:44 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;153560
Really, I'm glad degrees aren't required to know things, given that I don't have one in anything. ;)

I'm the same. And even when I do get back into school, it won't give me a degree in the traditional sense. Damn you, art schools!

Quote from: SunflowerP;153565
You don't need to merely hope. If you reread Catja's post, you will find that she was indeed speaking of how the word has been used that way (and indeed, as Darkhawk points out, that particular sense of the word was created for that purpose), and did not, anywhere in it, call anyone 'a bigot' or 'a racist'.

Sunflower

I honestly feel horrible that I started this whole thing by thinking I was being singled out. The past week has been so unbelievably stressful that I'm now taking it out on members of the one place I feel like I actually belong.  I'm sorry for all this, guys.

But at the same time, it's brought some serious information to the surface. Like the origin of the word pagan being used to oppress, colonialize, whatever it was. (I'm on Tapatalk so I can't go back to look.) I never knew that, and will no longer use it in the sense of "anything non-Abrahamic."
Quote
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BrighidsAura

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #67 on: July 21, 2014, 09:14:46 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;153573
I'm the same. And even when I do get back into school, it won't give me a degree in the traditional sense. Damn you, art schools!


 
I honestly feel horrible that I started this whole thing by thinking I was being singled out. The past week has been so unbelievably stressful that I'm now taking it out on members of the one place I feel like I actually belong.  I'm sorry for all this, guys.

But at the same time, it's brought some serious information to the surface. Like the origin of the word pagan being used to oppress, colonialize, whatever it was. (I'm on Tapatalk so I can't go back to look.) I never knew that, and will no longer use it in the sense of "anything non-Abrahamic."

 
Something along the lines of 70%+ of the intended meaning is lost when communication is done through writing/reading alone. You shouldn't feel bad. You technically started nothing since I took offense by tone and only agreed with your post AFTER I took offense. Notice here I am talking about "tone" over a message board :) I read the post with a tone in my head and it affected the way I responded. This goes back to 70%+ of meaning being affected by what "tone" the reader reads it with! It's happened before and it'll happen again.

Thank you, all, for the information regarding the word "pagan". I found it quite interesting.

catja6

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #68 on: July 21, 2014, 09:22:53 pm »
Quote from: BrighidsAura;153546
I agree with this individual. The post was argumentative and didn't need to be. I also have an issue with people starting things off as "as a scholar..." as though that makes their word golden. We are ALL scholars here. I too have a university degree and I don't feel the need to start conversations stating that.

Anyway, moving on. It's easy to read things as angry or offensive when the sole mode of communication is text. I am hoping the post was not meant to cast offensive labels at me or at the others who used "pagan" to mean anything non-abrahamic. Calling someone a bigot and a racist is quite strong and I would hope the post meant that the word itself has been used in racist contexts (which we all know it has).

 
The part of your previous post that got me started was this:

Quote
If you called a Hindu a pagan, they would probably just be like "umm no, I'm a Hindu." But yes, as an umbrella term, it does encompass anything that isn't Jewish, Christian, or Muslim.


It very much looked like you were defending the usage of "pagan" over and above the objections of the people being so defined. I wanted to point out that, as Sunflower and Darkhawk said, the history of the usage of that definition in that way is colonialist, racist, and religiously bigoted. Because it is. I figured that having that info would be very useful for you and anyone else reading, in case they didn't know that. I didn't soft-pedal the way I put it, because colonialism, racism, and religious bigotry are serious things, and downplaying them doesn't do any good.

I prefaced my comments with "as a scholar," because I was in part talking about the way the term "pagan" gets used specifically within the academic fields that deal with these things: since I was talking about academic usage, I figured it would be helpful to know that I wasn't just, like, pulling that out of my ass. :)

I am a professional folklorist, with an MA and PhD, and I'm a tenured professor at a Canadian uni. While I wish it did make me an All-Knowing Folklore Deity (or at least a Super-Folklorist, Scourge of Criminals), it just means that I've got a specific body of knowledge and type of training; since this board is full of people who use and enjoy scholarship, it comes in handy because I can help out with context that isn't necessarily spelled out in the books people are reading--especially things like history of theoretical positions and terminology and stuff, and also general things about "how academics write" and the like.

There are a ton of extremely knowledgeable people on this board--whether they acquired it formally or not--and they share their expertise, and I'm glad of it. That's what I love about TC: people know their shit, and will lay it out in a clear way, and it's awesome. I've learned at least as much here at TC as I have in academia.

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #69 on: July 21, 2014, 09:37:41 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;153573
"

 
Hey, no worries. :) There's no crime in not knowing stuff--if there were, I'd certainly be sentenced to one million years in the dungeons. (Though I hope some of you would speak for the defense: "Catja once told me what can be done with a dried chicken anus.")

BrighidsAura

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #70 on: July 21, 2014, 10:37:54 pm »
Quote from: catja6;153580
The part of your previous post that got me started was this:



It very much looked like you were defending the usage of "pagan" over and above the objections of the people being so defined. I wanted to point out that, as Sunflower and Darkhawk said, the history of the usage of that definition in that way is colonialist, racist, and religiously bigoted. Because it is. I figured that having that info would be very useful for you and anyone else reading, in case they didn't know that. I didn't soft-pedal the way I put it, because colonialism, racism, and religious bigotry are serious things, and downplaying them doesn't do any good.

I prefaced my comments with "as a scholar," because I was in part talking about the way the term "pagan" gets used specifically within the academic fields that deal with these things: since I was talking about academic usage, I figured it would be helpful to know that I wasn't just, like, pulling that out of my ass. :)

I am a professional folklorist, with an MA and PhD, and I'm a tenured professor at a Canadian uni. While I wish it did make me an All-Knowing Folklore Deity (or at least a Super-Folklorist, Scourge of Criminals), it just means that I've got a specific body of knowledge and type of training; since this board is full of people who use and enjoy scholarship, it comes in handy because I can help out with context that isn't necessarily spelled out in the books people are reading--especially things like history of theoretical positions and terminology and stuff, and also general things about "how academics write" and the like.

There are a ton of extremely knowledgeable people on this board--whether they acquired it formally or not--and they share their expertise, and I'm glad of it. That's what I love about TC: people know their shit, and will lay it out in a clear way, and it's awesome. I've learned at least as much here at TC as I have in academia.

 
Thank you for responding to me very professionally and kindly. I know where you are coming from now and understand why many people find the term "pagan" to be offensive. I actually had no idea about its history. Thank you for sharing it with me.

Hopefully it's uphill from here on out :)

ps- I'd love to know what kind of folklore you specialize in. I had a professor at my University who taught a class about African folklore and the man was just unbelievable. The things he has experienced and the things he knows....his mind is a jewel. He basically learned Xhosa fluently and walked along the bottom and the Eastern boarder of Africa sitting with Storytellers and recording their stories.

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #71 on: July 21, 2014, 10:59:01 pm »
Quote from: missgraceless;153339
So it depends on your definition of witch. I'm honestly a fan of Elphaba (AKA Wicked Witch of the West), Charmed, Buffy, ALL the pop culture references. As long as they don't portray said witch as evil/bad/villianous, I'm good.

 
Ah, see, I like the evil witches. Give me the orgies and pacts with the devil and all that other pop culture shit. It's delightful. XD

carillion

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #72 on: July 27, 2014, 10:56:01 pm »
Quote from: Queen of Wands;152686

Wiccan is closer - but again, for me personally - I'm what is referred to as eclectic, since I don't follow any traditional forms. And, to be fair, my practice is more spiritual, everyday and even sometimes mundane; more so than religious.

So, I come down to the word "witch". And I don't like it.


Is there a better word for what I am seeking? Has anyone else struggled with these definitions?


I have deep reservations about whether the term 'witch' can ever be reclaimed as a positive term. Historically and geographically 'witch' and 'witchcraft' have/are seen as from unsavory to down right deadly and bad to know.
It is also not a very portable term. Anywhere outside urban, westernized area, declaring one is a witch can be an iffy proposition. And as has been mentioned, in some countries it could be suicide to claim such a title.
While doing some reading about folklore and legends of northern U.K. I ran across the word 'spey-wife' . I rather fancied that. If you just google it all it shows is someone who foretells the future but if you read more widely you'll find some were considered to run to quite a full line of , umm, alternative? methods of getting things done;) . In fact, a lot of things we would associate with the term 'witch'.

But I've never been around anyone who would ask what my 'beliefs' are so it never comes up. Lucky me, I guess.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2014, 06:46:11 am by HeartShadow »

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #73 on: July 28, 2014, 06:20:50 am »
Quote from: carillion;154140
While doing some reading about folklore and legends of northern U.K. I ran across the word 'spey-wife' . I rather fancied that. If you just google it all it shows is someone who foretells the future but if you read more widely you'll find some were considered to run to quite a full line of , umm, alternative? methods of getting things done;) . In fact, a lot of things we would associate with the term 'witch'.

 
The term spæwīfe is actually rather specific and implies the use of a specific toolkit of seership techniques.
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carillion

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Re: I have a problem with the word "witch" (and I would like your help!)
« Reply #74 on: July 28, 2014, 01:47:59 pm »
Quote from: Allaya;154147
The term spæwīfe is actually rather specific and implies the use of a specific toolkit of seership techniques.


Yes, I know. Let's not even get into cross-overs with the islands, different mainlands etc. re: spellings and usage. And also, how that 'tool kit' altered depending on location.

 I mentioned it here as possible alternative to the more negative term 'witch' , not assuming everyone would have done the reading but rather that someone might *do* the reading if they were seeking an alternative, if you see what I mean.

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