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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Language of the Goddess

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Why 'Goddess (Adj.)' Still Bothers Me

“Goddess temple.”

“Goddess religion.”

“Goddess people.”

After nearly 50 years in the pagan community, I have to admit: these phrases still set my teeth on edge.

It's not the content of any of them that bothers me: it's the delivery.

Goddess (adj.).

The Goddess is the great unstated fact of Western culture. “God” implies “Goddess,” and always will, so long as (and wherever) English is spoken.

The flexibility of English is one of the language's great advantages: nouns regularly change to verbs, verbs to adjectives, and the reverse.

But to my ear, there's something wooden about goddess (adj.), something inelegant. It has the advantages of being practical and comprehensible, but (let's admit it), it's utterly lacking in beauty.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Flowers in Amber

The ancestors are still speaking.

One of our very greatest inheritances from the forefathers and mothers is language. If we listen closely, we can hear their voices today.

2500 years ago, the ancestors bound their thought together with alliteration, what we may think of as initial rhyme. Many of these phrases—hundreds, if not thousands, of years old—are with us still.

 

Might and main. “Might” is physical strength; “main” (OE megn) is non-physical (psychic, spiritual) strength—“soul-strength,” one might say. To do something with all one's might and main means to use all one's available resources. Those seeking a word for “energy” that doesn't reek of patchouli may wish to consider “main.”

Kith and kin. It's interesting how frequently these inherited alliterative phrases refer to a totality. “Kith and kin” means “everyone”: both those that you're related to (kin), and those that you know (kith). Preserved like a flower in amber, the ancient word for “know personally” also survives in “uncouth,” originally meaning “unknown.”

Bed and board. Tables take up a lot of room. In the houses and halls of the ancients, where interior space was at a premium, at mealtimes it was customary to set up trestles and boards to eat from. Hence, board, pars pro toto, came to be short for “table.” (“Table” is a French word. The Normans, of course, were the aristos; they could afford to have tables sitting around, uselessly taking up room. Every word's a story.)

Bed and board,” then, means home: where you sleep and eat.

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Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    Thank you for the House and Home paragraph. I have a house but it is not yet home. I have often caught myself saying "I want to

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Gods Are My Co-Workers

150,000 years of pagan history, and it took the so-called 20th century to reduce the gods to the level of co-workers.

“I work with [Name of Deity].”

How many times have you heard this expression?

Note who's the active agent. Note the nature of the partnership. Note the implied equivalence.

The ancestors would never have used the phrase “work with” to describe their relationship with their gods. They might have worshiped a particular god. They might have offered to a certain goddess. They might have made their prayers to said gods.

But—for the most part—modern pagans are afraid of worship. (Why? Another day, another post.) Mostly we don't offer to our gods. We're not particularly strong on prayer, either. I.e. we have rejected the spiritual technology of the ancestors.

So much the worse for us.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    "Note who's the active agent. Note the nature of the partnership. Note the implied equivalence." Hear, hear!
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Well said, Greybeard, the negative associations with "that other religion" were all a big part of my points. I also agree with y
  • Greybeard
    Greybeard says #
    I don't much like the terms "pray" or "praying." Praying for God(ess) to do something is a lot like acknowledging we don't have
  • Meredith Everwhite
    Meredith Everwhite says #
    Times change, Steve. People change, spirituality changes and, again, people have every right to define their spiritual relationshi
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I can't hear Sappho saying, "I work with Aphrodite." I can't hear Erik the Red saying: "I work with Thor." As a primary descriptor
The Mountain Mother: Reading the Language of the Goddess in Ancient Crete

Before he told the story of how his people received the sacred pipe, Black Elk said:

So I know that it is a good thing I am going to do; and because no good thing can be done by any man alone, I will first make an offering and send a voice to the Spirit of the World, that it may help me to be true. See, I fill this sacred pipe with the bark of the red willow; but before we smoke it, you must see how it is made and what it means. These four ribbons hanging here on the stem are the four quarters of the universe. The black one is for the west where the thunder beings live to send us rain; the white one for the north, whence comes the great white cleansing wind; the red one for the east, whence springs the light and where the morning star lives to give men wisdom; the yellow for the south, whence come the summer and the power to grow.

But these four spirits are only one Spirit after all, and this eagle feather here is for that One, which is like a father, and also it is for the thoughts of men that should rise high as eagles do. Is not the sky a father and the earth a mother, and are not all living things with feet or wings or roots their children? And this hide upon the mouthpiece here, which should be bison hide, is for the earth, from whence we came and at whose breast we suck as babies all our lives, along with all the animals and birds and trees and grasses. And because it means all this, and more than any man can understand, the pipe is holy. [italics added]

In this passage Black Elk illustrates the multivalency of symbols: the sacred pipe does not have a single meaning, but many meanings, in fact, more meanings than anyone can understand.

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