One of the great truths which we learn from an early age is that words have power.
“Baby’s first words” are a much anticipated moment of celebration and achievement, captivating every parents attention. And from there, their power only grows and expands, shaping the way we think, and molding the universe to our will, one small piece at a time.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…,”
There are not many passages from the Christian Bible that I’ll agree with as wholeheartedly as those first few words from the Gospel of John, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.
The Word, however, is not any individual God, it is a power that WE share with the gods, it is that which makes them our kin, which draws their attention to us, and ours to them.
Language is the medium through which the human will finds its greatest expression.
Words are power!
Even, sometimes especially, the bad words.
Which is why our parents take such pains to make us understand that certain words are beyond us.
These are the naughty words. Not to be used or even thought of.
Because we haven’t earned the right. Because we don’t know enough, as children, to take responsibility for the power in those words. And because it’s embarrassing to have children throwing around phrases that you yourself normally wouldn’t use in public.
But the children see, and they listen most intently, and they learn.
They learn far more than we adults might want to believe.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
And if you believe that, you were probably raised by wolves.
Words can and do hurt you, as every child knows.
Why else did they invent the counter spell?
You caught that, right?
“Sticks a stones may break my bones…,” seriously, think about it.
Think back on your childhood and say it out loud. Feel the sing song cadence in the words weaving a web of protection around you, diminishing the power behind the curses hurled at you by those other kids.
Because they ARE curses you know.
As kids we called it “cussing” but to cuss is to curse, it’s the same word.
I guess most of us never realized that the schoolyard was a hotbed of magical combat.
“I’m rubber and you’re glue…,” is another common counter spell used among the kiddos. This one is actually pretty sweet, as it is designed to not only shield against an offensive curse, but to reflect the power of that spell back upon the child who uttered it.
But as children we never realized what was going on beneath the surface. We just steadily increased our personal arsenal of “mean things to say,” picking up more colorful phrases from our parents and friends and media, along the way.
And these come in a number of categories.
There’s a whole litany of racial slurs available to bigots of every stripe.
I am happy to say that over time I have fully excised these from my speech, and with them, that specialist subcategory which deals exclusively with sexual orientation. I was never particularly comfortable with this branch of profanity anyway.
Then there are the “dirty” words, those of a specifically biological nature and frequently sexual.
Convenient? As fuck.
This whole category of words exhibit tremendous versatility while still retaining their inherent shock value, this despite repeated use in modern media. Judicial use of profanity is one of the rights and privileges of adulthood. Whereas, tossing these words around lightly and frequently is typically seen as the juvenile behavior of someone trying to prove something.
And finally, there is Blasphemy.
And this is a category that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
Here’s where we get into the real meat and drink of cursing.
“God Damn You!” – is a curse of the highest magnitude, essentially beseeching the Christian deity to cast your enemy into the pit. As curses go, it’s both blatantly sinful and in most instances, extreme overkill.
This goes for most variations of that particular theme.
Even just uttering the word “God!” in either exasperation, disgust, or if you’re very lucky, extreme pleasure, is held as a sin of the first order by most of the modern monotheist traditions.
Now for those of us who don’t follow those traditions, it’s not that big a deal.
Atheists aren’t traditionally worried about offending anyone, particularly not folks they consider imaginary.
Polytheists, don’t typically believe in a hell to which anyone could be damned.
I usually just leave the damning business to the book thumpers.
“God” however, is just too ingrained as a part of speech for me to drop it entirely, so I just slap a plural on it and let the “gods” work it out amongst themselves who I’m talking to.
But now we come to the man himself.
“Jesus” – to his friends.
“Jesus Christ” – if you feel the need to be specific.
“Jesus H Christ” – on those particularly formal occasions.
“Jesus F*cking Christ” – if you accidentally drop a heavy weight on your foot or discover a family member listening to conservative talk radio.
What to do about Jesus, when you don’t believe in Jesus, but he’s stuck in your subconscious and pops out every time you’re stuck in traffic.
Well, for the longest time I tried not to worry about it.
Not my god, I thought, not my blasphemy.
But more and more, I’m thinking Moses got it wrong when he carved those tablets.
Any publicity is good publicity, and here I am, spitting out the name of a deity I don’t believe in, under my breath, and doing it with energy, with emotion, putting real energy behind the words. It’s some kind of stealth proselytizing!
It’s doesn’t matter if I’m doing it with negative intent, I’m still evoking the name of “the Christ,” lending power to a spiritual construct that I firmly believe has been dragging our society down since the time of Constantine.
I am in no particular hurry to offend my gods, but I really think that we polytheists and pagans need our own blasphemy.
Why should we keep sending all that excess energy into the opposing camp?
So I’ve been experimenting lately.
Trying things out, but with limited success.
“Jesus Christ” is just so ingrained at this point, and the cadence of the words, in English at least, is a perfect bit of marketing genius.
So, coming at it from an Irish Celtic perspective, I’ve been trying…,
As an expression of anger or disgust, invoking a deity who lost his hand and his kingship in a single blow feels somewhat fitting.
“Nuada’s Shining Hand!” For when you need that little extra oomph!
I don’t know.
It’s the best I’ve come up with so far.
I’ve been trying to meditate on them, to find that spot in my head that Jesus occupies and to transpose one god for another, but it doesn’t quite feel natural to me yet.
And that in itself is irksome.
If anyone out there has suggestions for me, I’m open to hearing them.