Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why I (Still) Reclaim Warlock

I wanted to share with you one of the best "I've been a Witch for over two decades but somebody just decided to treat me like a newbie and used the word 'muggle' while he did it" moments of the year:

Text: thing like a witch not a intellectual "muggle" a true witch would no use the word that to others intent is a not a slur--but a curse and a warning. Intention is important including other people's. Look here at all the other comments--that's what I meant by keep looking...because your ignorance is dangerous. You also insult the male witches. You should know the term applies to women as well. The term witch has never been a slur. As for research--in my page [redacted] there are several posts about the word--it's derivation and use.

That was the response to a comment I left about the word "Warlock" and the fact that I identify as one, from the admin of the group.  And I don't want to deal with this absurdity too much because I feel like most people who read my blog already will see the intense amount of ignorance in statements like this one (Caring about history makes you an "intellectual muggle?"  Oh, you think "Witch" has never been a slur?  Give me a fucking break.) but it did inspire me to go back to my piece on why I reclaimed Warlock that I wrote four years ago.

The thing is, I realized that it doesn't really explain well why I reclaimed Warlock... it just goes into how Witches are wrong about it being a uniquely bad term and especially wrong about its history.  The whole idea that a Warlock historically meant somebody who was a coven betrayer or a traitor to Witches?  Bullshit.  Total bullshit.  But understanding this doesn't mean that you have to like the word, and there are plenty of people out there who understand this history, leave those of us who use it alone, and just don't like it used for themselves.

So why do I like it so much?  Well, some things have changed since then (I consider myself a genderqueer trans man rather than a 100% male trans man), but the reason is largely the same:  I've reclaimed a lot of feminine elements and I reclaimed my estrogen, but male mysteries and masculine Witchcraft are extremely healing for me.  Example:  When I was at Pagan Spirit Gathering and trying to decide whether to go to the men's mysteries ritual or the all-gender ritual written by some great non-binary folks, it didn't take me too long at all to decide to go to the men's mysteries ritual.

Since I'm now genderqueer I'm more apt to use "Witch" than I would have been four years ago... but if I'm honest, I do still prefer "Warlock."  And it has a lot to do with why I pick words.

I like harsh, unsanitized words.  These carry a lot of personal power for me, the same reason I prefer "genderqueer" to "nonbinary" and a number of other terminology differences.  Although "Witch" doesn't feel wrong, there are a lot of people calling themselves "Witches" today who have lent to it a softer connotation than Warlock has.  This is somewhat unfair--there are plenty of badass Witches out there--but the number of Witches who do things like cast pathetic spells trying to get politicians to change their minds about being bigoted assholes... well, there's an association between "Witch" and "white-lighting" that grew over the two decades I've been practicing.

"Warlock" has a very different connotation.  This is a word that gives off multiple impressions that I really like.  A Warlock isn't the kind of person who is going to just cast a binding spell on someone genuinely harming him or his loved ones, a Warlock is somebody who is going to do what needs to be done, who is going to protect them as well as himself.  The word "Warlock" carries a connotation of a Warrior, but a particular type of Warrior.  This also gets white-lighter gourds for the same reason some of them refuse to use athames in ritual unless they can re-cast them as a kitchen knife and pull the teeth from the whole concept.

In fact, part of the reason I like it is because so many white-lighters hate it so much... the ahistoric, pearl-clutching fuckers who make claims that Witches they don't like are "Warlocks?"  They make it really appealing to be called a "Warlock," because the last thing I want to be is liked by somebody like that.

"Warlock" is also very masculine.  This is, in fact, one of the reasons (and a valid one at that) that some men reject this word... because they feel it is unnecessary gendering that separates Pagan women and men inappropriately.  I can understand that conceptually.  But for my own part, again, I am a masculine genderqueer person who is very focused on masculine mysteries work, and so the use of the term "Warlock" is--like I've said before--healing (it's the same reason I will always go to men's mysteries rituals when given a choice even with a non-gendered alternative available).  I like using terminology that is markedly masculine because that sort of terminology has been historically denied to me.  And I'd be fine if a woman wanted to call herself a Warlock, too, but for me, the general underlying masculinity of the term is a huge plus.

During my use of this word throughout the years, I developed a different reason to keep using it:  Using Warlock, I own that there are oaths that need to be broken.

I started thinking of this when I was reading Starhawk's "The Twelve Wild Swans."  There's a chapter in that book in which the wild swans--who were once twelve brothers--break a wicked oath they had made to kill the first girl they saw after becoming human.  And after that, I started noticing all sorts of great reasons to break oaths.
My own oaths were largely done by others on my behalf (as in the case of my infant baptism) or in the context of robotic mimicry (like the Pledge of Allegiance or one of the many other "pledges" I've been obligated to recite).  Am I bound by these "oaths" I made before I had the ability to understand them?  Christians of antiquity would have probably thought so.  Patriots today certainly think so.  Breaking those oaths is not just an option, but a right.  And a rite, come to think of it.  And my oaths were pathetic in comparison to other oaths that have been or should have been broken.

I think of my great grandma, who stayed with an abusive drunk of a partner her whole life, who smiled at his funeral, and how much happier she would have been if she would have gotten divorced.  When her son's wife divorced his ass, he whined and whined about how back in his mother's day marriage was forever.  But my aunt's decision to break that oath was probably one of the best damn decisions she ever made.  Leaving a cult is breaking an oath.  Being a whistleblower who exposes government abuses is oathbreaking.  I mean, Bruce Willis's character in Armageddon?  Fucking Warlock, and he saved the planet in doing so.

Again, I do not use "Warlock" as a generic term for male Witches.  I call male Witches "Witches," like other Pagans do.  But there are plenty of great reasons to use "Warlock" if that word speaks to you, so don't let some ill-educated Witch tell you otherwise.