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 – http://www.roundtheherne.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-name.html
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?