Pagans & Politics: The Power of Pagan Activism

Examine your feelings about political activism, from the smallest to the scariest steps, and find what you feel most comfortable with. Get in touch with your powers of manifestation as you move beyond self-directed concerns and integrate with your community, whether that be local, regional, national, or international. Feel your power to change the status quo and build solidarity with others who share your values, regardless of spiritual path. Power up!

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The power of discarding war language

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

As Pagans, we know the power of words. In addition to dancing, drumming, and other power-raising activities, we use words to manifest positive things in the world. But what happens if we don’t interrogate the language that we use? What if we just repeat language we hear in our everyday lives? Changes are we will be manifesting the opposite of what we intend, not to mention adding to the negativity in the world. 


The chief culprit is “war language” or “crisis rhetoric.” War language is the use of war analogies to describe reality, whether it’s an institution that’s “under attack” or Pagans “fighting for their rights.” And of course, there’s the oxymoron “war on terror.” War language and rhetoric thoroughly permeate our popular culture, from the “healthcare crisis” to the “war on drugs.” There’s a “war” among the sexes, a “fight” for the environment, a “cultural war,” and even a “fight against violence.”


Crisis rhetoric is used to up adrenalin and panic in people and is in common usage on cable news. But it’s also used for fundraising purposes by almost all non-profits. It is used by those on the Right and Left, as well as non-mainstream groups. It is so firmly embedded in the culture that we don’t even hear it. Look at the latest mail you’ve received from a civil rights group. Chances are it spells out dire warnings coupled with a hard request for financial support. Crisis rhetoric and war language are used liberally by all kinds of groups to make us frightened or angry and thus more likely to hand over cash. It’s not bad to support the causes you believe in, but continued exposure to this language leads to fatigue and eventual tuning out and a feeling of powerlessness, the opposite of Pagan energy.


War language is often used to distill complex issues into two extreme camps of opposition. But if our only actions are reactionary and oppositional, what are we really changing? Using the tools of the overculture won’t change it. In fact, it just entrenches it more. Political parties come and go, but little gets fundamentally changed. Why? A variety of reasons but largely because they just repeat what has been said before and thus end up acting in the same way even if the policies are different. 


The end result of so much use of this language is apathy and weariness. One can only have an adrenalin rush for so long before needing a rest. One can only see pictures of suffering children so many times before they cease to trigger compassion within us. We cannot be angry all the time. Sooner or later we withdraw, go numb. 


If we really want to create change, from our manifestations to societal change, that means examining how we unconsciously perpetuate the status quo. Why do so many popular revolutions end up with the same type of repressive government in place? Partly because the rebels don’t have a fundamentally different worldview tat triggers deep change. It’s a cliché that it’s easy to be against something; more difficult to be for something. If we want to end discrimination against Pagans, for instance, it’s not enough to say, “We’re not gonna take it anymore!” This narrow view is simply interest group lobbying; my way at the expense of yours. If we want to end discrimination, we need to cultivate respect. It is not enough to be against something; we must articulate what we are for.


We should always keep in mind that we have a certain level of command over how we control ourselves. Decide for yourself if you want to be angry; don’t be pushed into anger by someone else, especially by those who have a financial stake in your anger. Sensationalized, angry protests are completely counter-productive— images of “radical” protestors, never inspire informed, rational debate. If you want to change people’s minds, listen to them. Look for common ground. Speak to that common tie of humanity to get out of the “enemy” category.


If you really want to change yourself, change your language. Some people don’t see a connection between language and behavior, but it’s easy to corroborate. Try saying the N word. Feel an emotional response? You should. It’s not a neutral term. Few words are.


As your thoughts change, your actions change. As you embrace peace language, you find yourself growing more powerful. So listen for war language and crisis rhetoric and note the physical reaction in yourself. Does it make you a change agent or merely another cog in the overculture’s machine?


I don’t think it can be said enough: you will never truly change a culture unless you construct a different worldview. Many Pagans have that worldview but get tripped up in language. Don’t let others define the terms peace, success, crisis, debate, values, or war for you. Then begin to reach out. If a friend uses war or crisis language, unpack that with them. Above all, work to manifest the best of Pagan culture: respect, generosity, and an understanding of interdependence.


We must act from love and strength, not fear and anger. There is a place for anger, especially in cases of injustice. But think what you can do with that emotion, and what long-term effects it has on you. Will it help people to make people feel anxious without ggiving them the tools to change it? It may be more effective to ratchet down your rhetoric. The American public square is filled with angry words and fearful spite. Let’s take a rest, calm down, clear our minds, do a little ritual to become centered, and come back to each other as neighbors trying to solve a problem. 


We are a strong people

We are a story people

Our song will never die


[Image found on Patheos]

Last modified on
Cairril Adaire is a solitary Celtic Witch and lapsed Discordian. She is the founder of Our Freedom: A Coalition for Pagan Civil Rights. She is an entrepreneur and also a professional musician with the world music ensemble Kaia. She blogs at  


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 25 September 2019

    When I got a copy of "Powwows; or the Long Lost Friend" off of Ebay, it was part of a two volume set. The other book was on Hawaiian magic. In the Hawaiian magic book there was a chapter devoted to language. The specific example the author gave was the use of "Damn it all", he suggested instead that the reader try saying "God Bless us Everyone". I never finished reading the book, but I still catch myself saying "damn it" then saying "God bless us all".

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