Friday, 31 January 2014

Book Studies in Beginners' Groups

I was invited to join a Beginners’ Group on Facebook.  I did so, partly out of curiosity.  It (so far) seems like a sensible group, it’s not filled with pointless memes and the love, light and unicorn farts that so many manage to nauseate me with (not to mention give actual beginners the totally wrong idea).

A book study was raised, with a request for suggestions about which book should be studied.  I said I was being cheeky, but could I suggest mine?  It was passed over for Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham.  The main reason, it was a book that most of us (who weren’t beginners) already owned.

Now, let me make this clear right from the start, I’m not in the least bit offended, I understand the reason for this and this book is one of the most recommended books for beginners.


It very quickly became clear, reading through the discussions, that most people had issues with the material.  Some of it quite historical and things that had been building up to rant level just waiting for an outlet for several years.

You see, while I was being cheeky and surreptitiously trying to promote my book (apparently something I don’t do nearly enough of) I also believe that this kind of book study would work best if everyone is somewhat unfamiliar with the material presented.  Make it a level playing field if you like.

When there is a book like Cunningham’s, every one has heard someone else rave over the bits they like, rant about the bits they hate, or just comment that it’s a bit lacking.  The popular opinions as to the worthiness or lack thereof are so well known that I find myself wondering if all of the people commenting are actually commenting on what they found worthy, lacking or thought-provoking or if they’re mindlessly regurgitating other people’s thoughts.

Most people seem to be so worried about the good opinions of random strangers over the internet that they won’t speak out against the flow of ‘popular’ opinion.  Want to test that theory?  Try saying that you’ve found any value in something (anything - even her fiction) written by Silver RavenWolf!

I haven’t bothered to participate in this book study, partly because I had too many other commitments - PaganFest took up most of my time when this book study was beginning - and because I’ve reviewed this book elsewhere already.  I also feel this book has been done to death. 

Now if someone wanted to do a book study on my book, something new and unfamiliar to most people, I’d be rapt.  I’d also be glad to be invited to answer or discuss any criticisms, I promise I won’t get stroppy, the main message of my book is to think for yourself not to become a mindless follower of my philosophies.



Monday, 27 January 2014

Misused Words

There have been a number of pictures and memes doing the rounds lately that point out commonly misused words or phrases in the English language.

So far, I'd have to say this is my personal favourite:

Now, at some stage or another, I'm sure most of us have been guilty of using some words wrongly.  Sometimes it could simply be a case of you've never seen it written down and are going completely by ear.

And sometimes it's just that maybe you didn't pay enough attention in school.

With kids, we're constantly correcting them on their words and while they may get frustrated, we usually manage to stop them saying things like "catched the ball" or "buyed it from the shops".  Our teens we work on the over used words that lose all meaning - "Like, actually, I mean, you know?"

Sometimes with adults it can be a little harder.  But generally, intelligent adults will look it up, feel embarrassed and make a point of not misusing that word in future.  "To be pacific, if it's any constellation to you..."

Why is it so different in spiritual circles?

There are a number of Hindi words that are commonly misused and I know there is no way to change it - that horse has well and truly bolted.  But when I have found myself educated on what the word (and underlying concept) really means, I have made a point of not misusing that word (or concept) any further.  Isn't that the right thing to do?  I don't see the sense in continuing to use it to mean something different "Just because everyone understands what I mean."

Karma.  Most commonly used to mean do bad things and bad things will happen to you.  Sometimes used to mean much the same thing but do bad things in this life and your next life will be crappy.  It turns out that both are somewhat incorrect.

A chap in several groups I frequent was raised Hindi, this is a bugbear of his.  He tirelessly explains (over and over) that it's not that at all.  Karma is tied to Samsara which is a purely Hindi concept.  If you're not Hindu, you don't have Samsara and therefore no Karma.  To break it down even further, it may be your Karma to be a shit in this life, there are lessons for your soul to learn by being a shit.  You might think (as many do) that by not being a shit and doing good things you are earning good karma but this is not the case.  You'd be going against your karma and therefore it would in fact be bad karma.

I really wish I'd saved one of his patient and polite rants to share it verbatim here.

Devas is another misunderstood term.  Deva means 'deity' - the feminine is Devi which means Goddess.  (And a source of amusement for me when my Indian friends couldn't pronounce the 'b' in Debbie and ended up calling me Devi).  This is the root from which Divine, Deity and similar meaning words in many European languages has come from.

In the Vedas and the Upanishads, there are 33 Devas mentioned.  Some are personifications (or deified personifications) of forces of nature and some are (deified) personifications of moral values.  The Vasus are the forces of nature - they are or represent; Earth, Hot Fire, Wind, Space, Eternal, Moon, Sky and Stars.

Somehow in modern usage, deva has come to mean the spirits of the land and plants around you.  I've read of this in books and heard it said (although not that commonly).

Again though, when the error is pointed out the response is "it's a widely used term known to mean this".

At what point does this sort of thing become okay?  If you know a word is incorrect, why would you continue to use it?  Am I a prat for pointing it out or are you the prat for knowingly misusing a word?