I hate acronyms.

There's something inherently ugly, opaque, even anti-poetic about them. If I could, I'd do away with them altogether.

Oh, I'll concede them a certain prosaic utility. The term DNA has saved a lot of time and breath down the years.

Point conceded. I would, nonetheless, contend that their use is best restricted to secular contexts. They have no place in religious vocabulary.

Let me pick on a particular example. The term UPG—that's "unverified personal gnosis" to the uninitiated—has gained a certain currency in pagan circles since it was coined some time in the late “20th" century.

In the thought-world of modern pagan experience, this is a useful concept. The name, however, is unworthy of the concept. You-pee-gee: "yew-peg," one could say, by notarikon. Can you imagine Snorri Sturluson using such a term? Indeed, the ancestors wouldn't have needed it. Some word-smith would have crafted a worthy word instead.

Where's a skald when you need one?

Myself, I'm not sure I have a better suggestion to make. (The best proposal I've heard so far is “dream-lore.”*) But let me go down on record as contending, at least, that we do indeed need one; the incumbent is not nearly strong enough.

To be the pagans that we need to become—to become the pagans that the world needs us to be—we need to think carefully about the vocabulary by which we define ourselves and our experience. We need worthy words, before the unworthy ones petrify into tradition and give us all a nasty case of mental gallstones.

Our new pagan language needs beauty as well as precision and utility, and acronyms like UPG can never fulfill that requirement, because they are incapable of it.

In our day, the rent fabric of paganism requires reweaving, to be sure.

But for gods' sakes, let us do our work worthily.


*Old English dréam meant both “joy, gladness, mirth” and “music, song.” The Modern English word derives its sense of “sleep-vision” from the Norse cognate draumr, “vision,” as in the Eddic lay Baldrs Draumr, “The Vision of Balder,” in which he foresees his own tragic demise and, ultimately, that of the world. So dream-lore would be something learned (“lore”) in a vision (“dream”).

In Old Craft usage, the “dream-sabbat” is the visionary sabbat, as distinguished from the hooves-on-the-ground kind. The term also refers to "ritual-as-conceived" (as distinguished from "ritual-as-performed").