The voice any of us write with can seem like a very personal, natural thing, but to some degree it’s a construct. I did a degree in English lit a long time ago, and one of the ongoing effects is that I am very conscious of voices in writing, both my own, and other people’s. I write erotic under another name, and I have a whole other voice for that; arsey, darkly playful, much more evil than my regular self. That voice exists to do a job, and I created it in a very deliberate way.
One of my first Druid teachers was in the habit of saying ‘in Druidry we…’ which drove me nuts. Normally ‘we’ ought to be an inclusive word, but when you hear a lot of ’in druidry we do something entirely different from this thing you want to do’ it can become remarkably exclusive. Even so, I probably default to the language of ‘we’ more than anything else. We can do this. We can try that. I use ‘I’ to talk about things that seem passably unique to me. Okay, this is all a bit navel gazey and meta bloggy, but I think it’s worth a thought.
Language, in its subtle nuances conveys all kinds of information. Who has the power and authority here? Am I telling you what to do, telling you what I do, talking about what I do, suggesting what we could do… it all creates different vibes and will impact on how you, dear reader, experience my words. Now, if there was just one of you and I knew who you were, I could tailor it, but I’m also very conscious that there are quite a few people reading this, scattered about the world, coming in from different language backgrounds, with various levels of experience and different needs and expectations. You, dear reader, are a creature of many faces, voices and identities, and to treat you as one person may be convenient from a writing perspective, but ultimately feels a bit weird and probably doesn’t work.
That whole ‘dear reader’ thing is one of those charming Victorian conventions that modern authors aren’t supposed to dabble in. Ah well.
Some authors use the third person, and that voice is laden with authority. Here we can see that the author is a person of great insight who is handing out the facts in a calm and objective way. Only, all authors are people, and that objective third person voice readily disguises opinion and assumption as unassailable truth. Do not be seduced by the authority of the third person voice! (There, I said that in an authoritative, third persony sort of way, is that irony?)
This is not just an author issue. We voice our Druidry in ritual, and at other public gatherings. How much ‘I’ and how much ‘we’ needs to be in that mix? Well, that depends a bit on what you’re doing. If you are calling to Spirits of Place on behalf of a whole circle, you have to be offering your voice on behalf of everyone. It would be weird to say ‘spirits of place, I honour you’ at that point, it would leave everyone else out! I’ve also heard people in ritual call to Gods or Goddesses on behalf of everyone and felt uneasy because they hadn’t been asked to do so, and these were not my deities.
How we use language can have massive impact. I’m conscious that fellow blogger Cat over at http://www.druidcat.wordpress.com frequently talks about what she is doing, and rounds up by asking, what are you doing? A most direct challenge thrown out to the reader, a separation of ‘I’ and ‘you’ that always has a discernible impact on ‘me’. Am I really doing enough?
No matter where you are working, you are speaking and writing and interacting as a Druid. Your ‘natural’ voice is full of your beliefs and assumptions, and it is worth sitting down and poking it. (There, I went all I-you, conveying my authority and your need to do something different… fascinating, isn’t it?)
The devil is in the detail. I’m quite convinced the Druidry is in there too, more often than not. It’s amazing how much space you can get inside a detail… is it time to go all Doctor Who now?