Pagan Titles

As regular readers will know, I’m not that keen on authority or power structures. Titles that are all about seeming important make me edgy. However, not all titles are simply self-given manifestations of self-importance. They also function, at least in theory, as meaningful labels that allow people to better understand what we do. “Celebrant” announces a willingness to take bookings for rites of passage. If you’re calling yourself a wise elder, you’d better have a grey hair or two to back that up with, and so forth.

A label can be a statement of intent. There’s a fab blog post on this very subject here –

Quite often what happens though is not that we wake up one morning and glue a shiny title to ourselves, but that it comes in from outside. You get labelled as a teacher the moment someone asks that you teach them and you don’t run away. You become a ritual leader the first time you step into a circle to run it, and a grove mother, or father, at the point of there being a grove. Sometimes that’s chosen, sometimes it happens.

There’s an interesting thing about naming. On the landscape history side, the names given by outsiders are considered more useful than those given by locals, in the past. If you live round here (wherever here is) there’s The pub, The church, The fields. If you live somewhere else, and look at it from the outside, there’s that really good pub, the particularly badly built church, the very muddy field. Old names, given by outsiders, often say more about a place than what the inhabitants called it. Let’s not ask what happened to Chipping Sodbury. (Although Chipping means market and bury implies Saxon fortification, so I’ve just foiled my own gag. Never mind, we move on…)

The names people give us may be better indicators of us, than the titles we would choose for ourselves. I find it hugely reassuring that other people are willing to call me ‘Druid’ and ‘author’. Mind you, I’ve also recently been called a filthy urchin, which is not wholly lacking in appropriateness. The titles we give people can be reflections of respect, or derision. One only has to look at politics to see the difference between the titles they give themselves, and the titles others bestow upon them. Can I mention swivel eyed loons now?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

4 responses to “Pagan Titles

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    That is quite true! And I(though I am “me” more than anything, no matter what others use as titles for me), ran into a bit of back-off when I get these: describe yourself things – because what I consider objective of “me” is one thing – (I play fiddle, I like to read, I compose classical music and write lyrics, etc) – provable actions/doings) – vs the Subjective! Because “How I am”, is NOT what others are necessarily going to see! I have had long time acquaintances tell me all about how they are” – (and yet, knowing them, I see them invalidate easily about 70% of what they are saying they are “like”. (It reads like, “think of all the best virtues that everyone would like, and then say that). So I am leery of telling people what I am “like”, because it’s rather like the old saying, “**Whatever conceit**, is in the eye of the beholder”. Live it, see it, make your own decisions about me -it’s ok! your label needs to work for YOU – not me.
    But it is really an acute insight that place characteristics, are often seen totally different when one is not local, (or in the same time/frame! lol. I still think of England a bit romantically spiced up with the B.C.E., medieval, Renn. Victorian, etc, etc, and earlier folklore traditions. (like everyone should be pleasant, chubby, and running around in mummer’s costumes carrying May baskets-type thing). LOL! I recently won a free copy, (and read), a book, called Americashire; – about a couple that (the husband’s a brit) – move back to England from the US, (His job) and buy a cottage in the Cotswolds, and how things go and are, from a current viewpoint. Boy! Was I surprised somewhat! Things I had never thought of (such as the equine madness that abounds). I had no idea there was still a big horsey set, as I am usually buried in words and music, etc). So I have gotten very careful about labeling things for others – (although I have my own opinions.) – Good post!

  • Angharad Lois

    What you said about place names is particularly resonant when it comes to my relationship with my ancestors (admittedly, Brian Friel’s “Translations” was a huge influence on me as a teenager). Earlier today I had to bite my (virtual) tongue when someone described my country, yet again, as that place of swirling mists and folkloric heroes – which, in a sense, I suppose it is, but I enjoyed the contrast provided by a conversation with my partner about place names in an area where we hope to live:
    “Pontcysyllte! That’s quite a name! What does it mean?”
    “Er… link-bridge”
    The folkloric heroes, similarly, are grounded in a very practical reality: as a child, I was told very matter-of-factly that this was the stone with a hole through it, caused by Llew Llaw Gyffes’ spear; that was the lake of the fairy who gave birth to the physicians of Myddfai. And as for the mist, well, it looks more romantic when viewed from afar!

    All of this is quite a tangent from your original post – which I really enjoyed – but I suppose I only became “the Welsh one” (or “la galesa”) when I left, and this is part of what it means.

  • Angharad Lois

    …oh no, I can’t edit comments, so I have to add all the bits I left out in another comment here!
    I loved how the place-names in Sussex preserve their traces of their Anglo-Saxon past – like Rottingdean, the valley (dean) of the people (inga) of Rota. From the other side of the Severn, I’ve always found English place names more evocative and romantic for that reason – wave after wave of settling peoples leaving traces of themselves. By contrast, in my misty faraway land of all things mythical and Celtic, I grew up near a village called “The church on top of the Hill”, in a Hamlet called “the Hamlet with the Mill” 😀 (they didn’t rhyme in Welsh!)

    **here endeth the extended digression**

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