Why do we need titles?

Milfoil

Recently I was reading an interesting blog about witchcraft. The author made many (MANY) distinctions between all different kinds of magical practitioners, healers and religious followers etc. There are so many titles and names that people call themselves and I would imagine that most of us only know a little bit about some of them so our perception of these titles may lead us to a few ill-conceived judgements.

Some of the more common ones are:

Witch
Wiccan
Hedge witch
Rood worker
Priest/ess
Pagan
Light worker
Medium
Trance medium
Psychic medium
Traditional witch
Hereditory witch
Neo pagan
Cunning folk
Wise woman
Crafter
Mage
Sorcerer
New Age witch
Chaos practitioner
Shaman
Shamanic practitioner
Shamanista

You get the idea. Now I know there are some clear and some more subtle differences between all these titles but what really has me wondering is why any of them are really necessary in the first place?

If someone wants to describe what another person does to their friend - they may use one of those titles and the friend may or may not really understand what that fully entails.

However, when a person uses one of those titles (or any other!) to describe themselves, that is another matter. It denotes what that person wants the world to understand about them. A projection of their life and self image or (as is quite common) a projection of what they wish they were, aim or aspire to be.

There is such an overlap between many of them, including the use of tools, trance, altered states of awareness, ritual etc that I wonder how many of these titles are really necessary? Can't we just be and do what we do without having to define it to the last degree and award ourselves a title or are such titles necessary?

What do you think?

Personally, I fall on the side just getting on with something and doing it. Forget the titles and just do what you do, keep evolving and growing and learning. There is already too much arguing over who is a 'real' witch or a 'real' shaman or a 'real' whatever. Perhaps we need to go through this to remember the old ways and one day we will just have 2 or 3 names for this kind of thing as other cultures do.
 

PathWalker

Oh I'm with you on this - but then I do what I do as solitary; perhaps folks who "do" groups and mingle a lot prefer these things?
I have a wild name - and I announce myself politely when I'm working, or meeting a tree or whatever, but that's it :)
 

HearthCricket

I completely get what you are saying. You forgot Green Witch and Kitchen Witch. lol I feel this way when I go into a Metaphysical/New Age/Witch/Pagan store (see...it is everywhere) and start browsing through the books. Some paths can be quite different and others overlap in many areas. It is 50/50 with me. It can sometimes be a pain in the neck because I just want, as you said, to get on with it. Give me a subject and let me read about it and see what will apply to my own path, be it a little bit or a lot. The heck with titles. But I also get the reasoning behind titles or the desire to want to define something.

Accuracy is the best thing that comes to mind. Letting someone know immediately where you are going, who you are, what you stand for. To find like minded souls. Maybe a strong sense of being or belonging. Here is a quick example. Indian turned to American Indian, then to Native American. Some will call it politically correct, but really it is accuracy. We have nothing to do with India. That was a huge geographic mistake on the explorers part. Then you can even go further with it. Are you a "native"? Well, for me native is just off a bit. My people were mostly in New York State and a bit in the western side of MA. A Cherokee is not Native to New England. Nor is Lakota, etc. A sense of accuracy, belonging.

One can look at tarot decks. Themed ones. Fairy for example. Mystic Faerie, Victorian Fairies, Fairy-tale, Fairytale, Dark Fairies, Fairy Lights, Wisdom of Fairies, Celtic Fairies, etc. They are all fairies. All part of a tradition, a legend, a belief. But this categorization process puts them in the comfy cozy corner. Are they cute or dark or both? Are they from stories or 1st hand experience? Are they from a particular corner of the earth or universal? Accuracy and a sense of belonging. Like files, like putting letters in alaphabetical rows of pigeon holes. Organizing life.

So back to titles. Do we need them. Apparently, because it seems we have been doing that since the beginning of time. We name ourselves, we name our cottages, our villages, towns and cities, our states and countries, our people, religions, paths, planets, solar system and everything in it. Because the world is such a melting pot now I think this title list will only become larger with time. But some paths may meld into others and their own may fade away. Some of us use bits and pieces of various paths and there isn't anything wrong with that either. Let the non-believers or purists whine all they want. If they want us to respect their path and journey, they need to learn to respect those of others. I suppose this is when the word "Eclectic" is tremendously useful. ;D
 

EmpressArwen

It's the same thing for me but in a different "genre". I say I'm Catholic but that is just because I was baptised and confirmed...and the RARE times I go to church I go there. But I don't adhere to most of the beliefs...so then I could say I'm just Christian, as I believe in Christ but then again, that gives the impression that I adhere to the beliefs of Christians as a whole (the average believer)..which I don't.

So I'm with you, titles are becoming more and more unnecessary and less clear when used as a description. I say give yourself no title or make up your own. Titles feel like being boxed in...and I want no boundaries on who I am or what I believe.
 

Milfoil

Hi Pathwalker - you have a point, it possibly is easier when you are a solitary practitioner.

Hearth Cricket - yes, when we use language, there has to be some way of defining a place, person or object and this does sort of fall into that category. In a way, I have no problem with that, it's the adopting of a name or title to define oneself, like putting on a new hat or persona, rather than a way to help others understand you which is the subtle difference. The two may overlap but are distinctly different in their aims and outcomes.

EmpressArwen - That is a very good point. The act of defining ourselves is an act of imprisonment. At that point, we are chained to a definition which may (and probably should) change over time as we grow and the world around us changes. Change is an inevitable part of life and though our essential beliefs and ways may not change, how we see ourselves could but can we be held back by adopting that title or definition years ago? Probably.

I know that when I meet someone 'interesting' and we talk, I can form my own inner approximate definition of what they do and how that fits in with my own beliefs. However, when someone meets me for the first time and announces to me that they are an 'insert pretentious title', then usually my first gut response is to take a step back and observe because anyone who is experienced and comfortable with who they are has no need to announce themselves like this to strangers.

Once upon a time we identified ourselves by our Ancestors and our Clan. Ie, I am Jane, daughter of Janet of the clan Smith. We were proud of our lineage. Not so now, now many are bereft of place, identity and heritage so in order to be a someone in such a crowded world, they choose to add a metaphysical title.

In the past, of course, it would have been difficult to announce to those who have known you since you were born, as being something you were not. They had to earn the right to be called a healer, midwife, shaman, seer etc. So those titles were bestowed by the community in recognition of the actions of that individual. Where did we go wrong?
 

Disa

I know that when I meet someone 'interesting' and we talk, I can form my own inner approximate definition of what they do and how that fits in with my own beliefs. However, when someone meets me for the first time and announces to me that they are an 'insert pretentious title', then usually my first gut response is to take a step back and observe because anyone who is experienced and comfortable with who they are has no need to announce themselves like this to strangers.

This.

I do know someone who has the need to blurt out to anyone she meets no mater what the setting that she is a Catholic Witch. I happen to know she isn't completely comfortable with the term Witch herself, so it's interesting to watch the reactions of others towards her declaration and to see her work through defining that title to others. It's hard to tell if she's trying to convince them or herself.


I don't really define myself as anything when I meet people. I'm just me. I don't really define myself as anything to myself, either. I do have a card with my name and contact info on the front and the different things I do on the back. This is only ever given out to people when the subject comes up and they are in need of such services or we want to keep in touch. It's for people I meet with similar interests, or I guess it could be seen as more of a business/networking type thing.

I do see why some want to define their paths by titling it, to aid in clarification to others. The thing is the lines are somewhat blurred when paths cross or overlap. Then I find people need to "re define" and start all over.
 

Milfoil

This.

I do know someone who has the need to blurt out to anyone she meets no mater what the setting that she is a Catholic Witch. I happen to know she isn't completely comfortable with the term Witch herself, so it's interesting to watch the reactions of others towards her declaration and to see her work through defining that title to others. It's hard to tell if she's trying to convince them or herself. . .


. . . The thing is the lines are somewhat blurred when paths cross or overlap. Then I find people need to "re define" and start all over.

Yes, I met someone like this, he went round everyone new to him at a meeting, loudly declaring himself to be a Chaos Wizard and how he had done this and that. When, inevitably everyone backed off and didn't ask what exactly a chaos wizard was supposed to be, he told them anyway. You could see people visibly uncomfortable in his presence but he seemed to revel in it, putting their reserve down to encountering his power! He even bragged about having this effect on people (I don't think he had any clue how sad and deluded he came across) and how it proved his beliefs. Perhaps his medication was wearing off, I don't know but he was an extreme example, most people are more subtle or they feel it their spiritual duty to build a little empire by announcing to everyone what they think they are and pushing their latest book/workshop whatever into your face.
 

celticnoodle

It's the same thing for me but in a different "genre". I say I'm Catholic but that is just because I was baptised and confirmed...and the RARE times I go to church I go there. But I don't adhere to most of the beliefs...so then I could say I'm just Christian, as I believe in Christ but then again, that gives the impression that I adhere to the beliefs of Christians as a whole (the average believer)..which I don't.

So I'm with you, titles are becoming more and more unnecessary and less clear when used as a description. I say give yourself no title or make up your own. Titles feel like being boxed in...and I want no boundaries on who I am or what I believe.
same here. I do say I am a Catholic also, but yet, I do not abide by all their rules and thoughts. I also RARELY go to Mass/Church. I have my own beliefs about my true spirituality--much which does come from the Catholic faith, but also a variety of other faiths too. I do not really have a title to it--as it is not needed. I am always changing anyway.

This.

I do know someone who has the need to blurt out to anyone she meets no mater what the setting that she is a Catholic Witch. I happen to know she isn't completely comfortable with the term Witch herself, so it's interesting to watch the reactions of others towards her declaration and to see her work through defining that title to others. It's hard to tell if she's trying to convince them or herself.
a Catholic Witch, eh? Interesting! Never heard of this before.

I don't really define myself as anything when I meet people. I'm just me. I don't really define myself as anything to myself, either. I do have a card with my name and contact info on the front and the different things I do on the back. This is only ever given out to people when the subject comes up and they are in need of such services or we want to keep in touch. It's for people I meet with similar interests, or I guess it could be seen as more of a business/networking type thing.
yes, exactly. I don't really define myself to a specific title either. I am whom I am. I am always changing too--as I grow.

I do see why some want to define their paths by titling it, to aid in clarification to others. The thing is the lines are somewhat blurred when paths cross or overlap. Then I find people need to "re define" and start all over.
yes, me too. Doctors, Dentists, Priests, Lawyers, etc. I can understand why they define themselves, because the way our society is set up, we need clarification at times, when we seek their services.
 

MandMaud

At at slight angle to your real question - because I'm not quite thinking about a belief system, as such - I have for a long time tried to "define" or find the "right" label for what kind of healer I am.

With regard to my spiritual/religious beliefs I feel no need to put it into words, into a category, because I know what I believe, what I don't, and what I'm still deciding about, and I don't need to make sense of it for someone else to understand. I very rarely discuss it with others, not that I'm secretive but it rarely comes up; if someone does ask, I fall back on the "spiritual though not religious" cliché.

But with regard to practising healing, for some reason I do have this wish to know what the word is for it. If I mention it to anyone, they usually ask what kind of healing and I end up saying, "Yeah, that hand-wavy kind" and feebly trying to modify the impression that gives with something about "channels" and so on.

What someone hears when you say "healer" depends very much on what they already know on the subject, which may be a single opinion from one person and may be very misleading. (Same with "Pagan" or "witch" or the word "magic" or any other term.) That's a large part of why I hesitate to talk about healing with people I only know slightly. For example, "spiritual healer" means spiritualism to many, which is within Christianity, which is absolutely NOT what I do. Talk of channels and meridians means nothing at all to most people.

(I once asked someone if she used homeopathy, and she said, "Oh yes, we go to a cranial osteopath." :bugeyed: It's easy to forget how much I've learnt since getting into "all this stuff". To her, saying "healing" would have said that I practised acupuncture, herbalism, and probably naked dancing. :laugh: It's better not to put it into words, if words are going to mis-communicate!)

Anyway, when I examine the meaning of "magic", the way I see it healing is the same thing. Manipulation of energy, with intent. But if I advertised as a "magical healer" clients would come along expecting something entirely different from those answering an ad for a "spiritual healer". See what I mean?

My preferred term is probably "energy healing" but again, that needs just as much explanation for most people as simply saying "healing". For that reason it isn't a useful label.

Sorry to be long-winded here - it happens when I haven't reached a conclusion in my thinking! :) You have made me wonder why I feel the need for a descriptive label for my healing when I don't for my beliefs. The two are practically the same area in my mind, after all. I don't know why I do, I'll keep wondering. :)

And I expect you were talking about using labels (even "label" seems not quite the right word) within the community of people who are already fairly well-informed about this kind of thing, and I'm talking about talking to people who aren't into it at all but just asking politely what I might do for a living. Maybe my thoughts aren't useless though, I hope. :)
 

Milfoil

You have made me wonder why I feel the need for a descriptive label for my healing when I don't for my beliefs. The two are practically the same area in my mind, after all. I don't know why I do, I'll keep wondering. :)

Perhaps because you are so comfortable with your beliefs and who you are, the title or description you seek is to aid others in their understanding of what you do? That seems to be the other side of the blade. Mind you, if people sought out healing simply based on recommendation then the method or description wouldn't be necessary.

We are, however, surrounded by so many scammers and charlatans that nobody knows who to trust or what anything means any more. So people go with what they know and believe in - that means they need a title or description to base their beliefs on I guess.