The other day I spotted a friend using “pword” in their vernacular, another friend messaged me to ask what it meant in my blog post, while another friend discussed why they didn’t identify with “Pagan.”
And I thought: This blog really needs to have it’s own FAQ or guide to the weird words and phrases I use. I forget that new people find it everyday, and probably don’t go back to the beginning. (Hey, we passed the 1 year anniversary of moving over to Patheos!)
Welcome to my world. I’m well-known (possibly infamous) for coining new words and crafting bizarre phrases that take on new meaning. Seriously, there are people in my circles known as the “inappropriate scribes” who write down the “revelations” that always find their way out of my mouth at workshops. That’s what happens when you have a right-brained overthinker running their mouth at 90 mph in front of people after spending most of my time alone in the studio with cats.
Pword (or p-word) is the term that gets me the most amount of inquiries (currently right after manifest birches.) So to get that FAQ going, this will be the defining blog post to cover it.
I’ve been on this path now for over 20 years – and not just as a casual observer or participant, but rather I pretty much hit the ground running backwards into being a community leader/writer/visible person. I founded the Cauldron of Annwyn Pagan Society – which started off as a college group and become a large regional open path group. We had regular meetings and organized festivals and outings. I become an/the Associate Editor of Crescent Magazine: A Pagan Publication of Art Philosophy & Belief. I held the first Rhode Island Pagan Pride Day and was the regional coordinator for New England before moving to California. All by the age of 23.
And all without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs (unless you count cookies.) Throughout those years, there were various discussions about the use, meaning, and history* of the word Pagan vs. Neo-Pagan vs. Heathen vs. other things I can’t even remember. As well as all of the books mentioning, debating, or rationalizing the use of the word Pagan. This was also about the time the movie The Matrix came out (there were no sequels btw, despite what you may have heard), so “Neo-Pagan” especially seemed a bit weird, cause everyone knew the name Neo from the movie. But really, the consensus (for as much as there could be one among so many diverse groups) is that Pagan makes an OK umbrella word. OK – not great, but alright enough, until we come up with something better.
Shoot forward a decade or so when I’m slowly easing my way back into community-stuff. I see the increasing popularity of “polytheist.” Then people arguing about what that meant or didn’t mean. And who was a Pagan Polytheist and who didn’t like the word Pagan, and who wasn’t earth-based or nature-centered (though their celebratory calendar worked according to the seasons and planting schedules.) Then throw in “pantheist” for good measure, rope in “animist” for something more current, and so forth. Oh, and don’t forget the agnostics, atheists, theists, and blending of various religious paths and identities.
And here’s me going, “Oh for fuck’s sake. How do you write or say anything without getting someone worked up about it? Fine, I’m going to call you all P-words.”
But now I’ve started dropping the hyphen. Because I can. So Pword is my umbrella word for Pagans/Polytheists/Pantheists/Path of Choosing – or whatever I feel like the letter P stands for that day. And it seems to be catching on. Though I’m not sure if we’ll get to calling things Pwordian events. Maybe though.
(FWIW, I go by the label of Witch. But none of the Pwords give me hives as a label either. Except peanuts. Peanuts definitely give me hives.)
*I have pretty much read, seen, and heard every interpretation and theory about the roots, origin, usage, reclamation, defamation, context, and issues about the word Pagan. You don’t need to tell me about it.