This article was originally published on my defunct website. I was lucky enough to find a digital backup copy. It has been edited only for formatting on this blog.
What do labels do?
If I said that I am a panthistic – animistic neo-pagan eclectic Earth mystic solitary ritualist herbalist healer or that I am monotheistic Christian Southern Baptist Prayer warrior evangelist, would you know what I meant and how to relate to it and to yourself? More likely not.
Labels fascinate me. A single word to describe an object, place, or ideal has such hidden power. In a way to know a “thing” you must be able to define that “thing.” In a full detailed definition, the secret of that “thing” is clearly stated. I wanted to unlock the secret of my belief’s. Wadding through terms I’ve rarely heard I started collecting them. Defining the many terms has been nightmarish. A good dictionary has been invaluable but people don’t always stick to those meanings. Often I am left to figure out what they meant by context and by their actions rather than to rely on the “standard definition.”
Understandably, English is a living language and it changes and grows. Meanings change. For what I was asking a static definition would be useful. I’ve used the Merriam-Webster dictionary that is available online as that static tool. For example to ask an audience for the definition of the term “Pagan” is asking for insanity. The term is still in great upheaval and dispute. If I could recite all the different meanings and uses of “pagan” I would be writing a dictionary. It is so important to have a set and commonly known meaning for words. It allows a common ground of knowledge between two people so that they can interact without misconceptions. I have had to rethink many writings in light of the dictionary meanings versus my personal definition.
I started to label my own beliefs by shoving them in the neat little boxes even though a precise match was not always found. I’ve realized that the more I’ve tried to define my beliefs the more confused I’ve become. Labels are a way to identify an item but perhaps not the best way to identify religious beliefs. I’ve tried to construct a simple category breakdown that could be applied to different people with different beliefs. I was hoping that I would find common ground between various beliefs other than the categories. I did not. I found that the further I tried to break down the religions into categories and labels the larger the variations became. This should have been self evident.
What was surprising to me was my own use of labels that don’t fit in the dictionary. I use labels that I may be the only one to use them. What is an Earth mystic anyway? I couldn’t find a easy definition, and I have a hard time trying to define it still. It is more in the realm of a personal label than any other term that I introduced to my breakdown. Below is my work in progress. I am offering it up for review. I have omitted definitions for the terms and categories. I am hoping that between the questions and examples, my meaning will be clear through the context. Try it out and please let me know what you think.
Here is the label breakdown and some of the questions that I posed to myself in trying to find the boxes that I could fit in. It is still a work in progress and has many bugs still in it.