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28 November, 2012

L is for Lord

It amazes me sometimes how touchy a lot of pagans are about the concept of entities with power.  For all that there are folks styling themselves Lord Thissythat and Lady Suchandso, the concept of lordship, of actual power and authority, that's a thing.  I mean, there are branches of pagandom who react to any overt acquisition of power as "power-over" which is defined, for some reason, as a bad thing in and of itself.

Hierarchical structures are anathema to a lot of pagans, I've noticed.  Knee-jerk reactions abound, whether it's to bowing to the restrictions placed by a teacher, having a person make a decision rather than coming to some form of consensus, valuing the input of people with greater experience commensurate with their knowledge, or to respecting the gods.  Obedience is frequently equated with abasement, and "... is whatever you want it to be!" is a fucking battle-cry.

And I come into this and refer to one of my gods as Neb.y - which means "my lord".  I come into this as someone who has heavy power-oriented Stuff in my sexuality which I am not ashamed of or willing to repress.  My skills are in realms of support rather than governance, and are best used in support of a competent governor.  None of this is stuff I'm willing to set aside in order to pay lip service to a community that treats distinctions of status as illegitimate - because in that community I am unable to do my job.

And that's what some of this stuff is about, the job.  I Am My Own Authority only gets me so far - because while I may be my own sovereign, I do not command the resources to do everything I want to do.  I have to deal with other entities, each of themselves sovereign, to get what I want, rather than declare by fiat.  I may make long-term agreements about relationships with those other governors, mortal and divine both.  (I may have my name on the deed, but the bank still holds a mortgage, okay?)

The appearance of power is pretty commonly appealing - Lardy Whoosisface is proof enough of that - but the entire shape of actual power, which comes with both responsibilities and the ability to change the world - that's a touchier thing, now, isn't it?  People don't want a god that gets called Lord, that's too Christian after all, isn't it?  And it suggests that there might be a rank difference, that someone might be able to make a decision that other people are expected to care about.  And we can't have that, oh no.

Back in the dark ages, I took a summer course in etymology.  One of our assignments was to go into the Oxford English Dictionary - an epic exploration involving the full-sized volumes in the college library - and investigate the origins of a common word.

The word I was assigned was "lord".

It derives from hlaf-weard (I may be spelling that wrong).

Which means "bread-guardian".  The governor of basic sustenance for the community.


Anonymous said...

couple of observations:
-maybe the whiteness of paganism ties into this? I'm white but I'm interested in Chinese traditional religion, where divine titles are kind of a big deal.
-it's funny that pagans do this when so many are willing to call themselves 'High Priest/ess Of' whatever.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

One of the factors in North American paganism is the influence of Starhawk and her Reclaiming tradition, which is very second-wave feminist and thus has injected a lot of the popular discourse with very second-wave feminist discourse about power. (I mention this primarily because this is a thing I have a burr up my ass about, and thus it comes readily to mind.)

But yes, some of it is whiteness beyond that, I suspect. And countercultural stuff about knee-jerk reactions to authority. And knee-jerk post-Christianism in which 'Lord' is equated with 'monotheistic god, the one I don't believe in', and.

(And I will be going into this more when I make W is for Worship, which will come up later, I just didn't want to do it in immediate sequence in my random catching up....)