The Naming of Magic

Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name: His ineffable effable Effanineffable Deep and inscrutable singular name.

- Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, by T. S. Elliot

I am, in the shortest possible terms, a witch. But I am not a witch.

On the back of the book of my life, there is more to be learned. I am a hard polytheist, a diviner, a spiritworker and a druid. But that is a mouthful at the best of times, and according to some people contradictory at the worst.

It’s easy for someone to say “screw labels”, and I’ll be honest; most of the time, I’d love to. But it’s not something that it’s easy for everybody to say, and June is one of those months where the need to be known, to be seen and to be understood is stronger than ever. Ever since Martha P. Johnson threw ‘the Shot Glass that was Heard Around the World’ at the Stonewall Inn in 1969, LGBTQA+ people have come together in June to give the middle finger to those who would kick us to the curb and celebrate our queerness and our love. (Well, my city comes together in July, but that’s not the point.) And so as a closeted queer and a closeted ‘witch’, every year that Pride comes around I’m left feeling… a little unsure of where to stand.

I could talk about my gender identity - or lack thereof - until the sun comes up, and so instead I’m going to talk about my magical one. Being genderqueer, the term ‘witch’ has never felt right to me. Now, I will be the first to defend the right for any person of any gender to call themselves a witch (if you’re here to say that men aren’t witches, it’d save us both time if you close the page now) but in the same way, I don’t feel an attachment to it myself. To me, the term witch carries with it certain connotations and struggles that I don’t feel I can relate to, as well as an expectation of a more active spiritual path that… well, I’ve made a name for myself on tumblr as the person who gives Odin poptarts. Enough said about the reverence of that.

So if I’m not a witch, what am I? When I think long and hard about it, I do a lot of things that one might point at and say ‘if it looks like a witch and acts like a witch…’ I read tarot cards and runes, I’m learning how to be more attuned to my pendulum, I’ve spent the last week or so taking notes on a small mountain of crystals I’ve accumulated over the years, I’ve an interest in astrology and the history of witchcraft, and I have what could loosely be called a Patron deity (if I wasn’t also not entirely sure about that word). So that makes me a witch, right? It ties my mind in knots.

There’s other words I could use, other hats to try on. I could choose one of the ones from the list above, and just introduce myself at that, but it feels that to hone in on just one brushes important parts of who I am under the rug. I can go for a different word, like wizard, or magician, or warlock, but those hold connotations of more ritual, Kabbalistic or Chaotic Magic-with-a-k that I don’t practice outside of, depending on how you look at it, sigilcraft. I could look to the Norse and call myself a Seiðkonur/man or a Vísendakona (after all, I work primarily with Odin) but my practice isn’t all that shamanic and I also work with galdrar, but then I self identify as ergi and that’s the realm of seiðr…

We’re going in circles, again.

How about adept? Not a master. Heathen? I don’t just work with the Norse. Bard? Still training. Magus? Too Dragon Age. Pagan? Doesn’t quite fit either. The more names I look at and throw away, the closer Odin gets with the book he’s ready to smack me over the back of the head with. Hopefully I'll get the point he's trying to make before it lands.

When I talk about my LGBTQA+ identity, I settle on saying “I’m queer”, or “I’m ergi”. I’ve reclaimed them. They’re mine. Everything fits under the umbrella, and the words don’t have semi-gendered hang-ons that activate my dysphoric fight or flight syndrome. And in reaching that decision, I made peace with who I am and who I love. The same is strangely… harder, for magic. Perhaps because - most years - I can walk amongst people like me, all dressed up in rainbows, who recognize the specific colours I’m wearing too. Perhaps because for one month of the year, strangers say ‘I name you’, and yet maintaining a relationship with my birth family means never wearing my mjolnir around them.

Most of the time, like I said, I’m fine to pick one of the terms that works for the situation and roll with it. But sometimes, a little part of me wishes there was some collection of buttons I could wear so that everybody I meet knows the kind of practitioner I am without asking questions. Sometimes I wonder if I am ever going to find that “deep and inscrutable singular name”.

Will I ever throw my own shot glass? Probably not. But can I love myself, in all my queer and magical and clumsy glory? I can do that. And hopefully, when the next young person looks at me and wipes tears from their eyes and tells me they don’t know who they are, I’ll be able to look them in the face and tell them that they don’t need a name or a title to know themselves. They’re magic. I see them. And in the end, it’s just a matter of repeating that until it sinks in.

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