I’ve been thinking a bit about labels and titles in regards to my path and practice, recently. It began because I was tidying up some workshop outlines and proposals, and for some of those I had prepared short bios for the event programme. Then I looked at the bio I have on my website, which I haven’t updated in a while, and as thoughts often do, it started simmering away in the back of my mind, now and then bubbling to the surface in the form of a short phrase. And what better month than June to consider labels?*
For a few years, now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to condense myself down to just a few phrases — a line I could fit beneath my name on a business card, if I were to print one. Most business cards have titles on them: Assistant Manager, Software Engineer, Senior Partner. I don’t really have titles that are easy to claim, though, as my craft is more esoteric. And some titles that resonate with me are not mine to claim for myself — they must be bestowed by one’s community.
Freya and Hela have called me völva, starting before I was trained in Hrafnar-style Oracular Seidr, but I believe that’s more the path I’m traveling down, not a destination I have already reached. Now that I’m doing oracular seidr, or spae, work for the community, it is beginning to fit more, but spaekona fits better. It’s descriptive: “one who does spae” (in the feminine — the masculine is spaemadr). But that’s only one part of my practice, and the term is only recognizable to a few.
The Morrigna (and also Lugh and Flidais 0n occasion) have called me banfháidh, a seeress or prophetess, and again, that seems more like a path I am traveling down, a winding road of seership and poetry and ogham study. A stream of living culture and practice that I’m joining, not a place I already am. The Fairy Faith I practice is also in this stream, and bean feasa (literally wise woman, though sometimes in English they are called fairy doctors) is another title that one cannot claim for themselves. It is bestowed by the community once someone is doing the work and getting results. I have been called a “Fairy Lawyer” (though I think “Fairy Intermediary” is possibly more descriptive of my actual work), and I expect that even if I do become known for this sort of work, it won’t carry an Irish title. Mine is a very different situation, immersed in a very different culture, even within the Irish-American diaspora that forms one of the circles of my cultural venn diagram.
Bast and Sekhmet, when they asked me to begin delivering their messages, instructed me to call myself an “Oracular Priestess-Novitiate” and then after a few years, an “Oracular Priestess-Initiate”, and I expect I’ll drop the “Initiate” in a few years when they think I have completed my training period. I do not know what the term would have been in Ancient Egypt for the service I am providing, nor have I found any good resources on the training of oracular priests, generally. But this is a third stream of my practice on the theme of oracular seership, in the context of serving a community. “Oracular Priestess” would seem to fit, then, but that seems almost too static, implying a single relationship with a singular deity when in fact I serve multiple deities and also deliver messages from the Dead. After much thought, I finally settled on “Oracular Cleric”.
One term decided, I returned to the idea of a business card, outlining the ways I might serve others, but decided that first I ought to clarify my general theological position. If I’m a cleric, that implies a religious background. This one was fairly easy, though I moved it around a little to attempt to remove the slightly annoying rhyme, before giving up. I settled on: Polytheistic Pagan Mystic. I believe in the reality of multiple distinct deities. I am working within a neopagan paradigm, though my path is informed by the ways of the past, and parts of it are Reconstructionist or Revivalist in bent. And “mystic” is the best way to sum up my relationships with the gods and other spirits. I commune with them in trance, through otherworldly encounters, and ecstatic experiences. My practices are more sensory and experiential than book-learned, though I believe books and other studies play an important role as inspiration and basic instruction.
But what should go with that, to explain the rest of my work? One of the largest remaining streams is healing, whether through energetic ministrations, assistance from spirits, or magical craft. I am trained in Usui Reiki through the William Lee Rand lineage, and that informs my work and serves as the scaffold for much of work for clients, but my healing work is broader than just Reiki. Though I could put Reiki Master Teacher on a business card (because I completed the Mastery course and have taught my own courses), that seemed limiting. I opted instead for “Spiritual Healer”, because I think that best describes the whole range of my work. I’ve used “Energy Healer” in the past, but that doesn’t really cover my work with spirits. On the other hand, I think people will recognize that Spiritual Healing includes energetic work.
Those three terms – Polytheistic Pagan Mystic, Oracular Cleric, and Spiritual Healer — do a good job of explaining the work I do for others, and would fit well on a business card. While I was coming up with these, I considered coining a term to replace the rather clunky first phrase, and toyed with the idea of “Numinant”, from “numinous”, but I decided straightforward language would probably be best for printing on a business card. Still, I was really drawn to the word “numinous”, and came up with three short phrases that may make it into my new short bio: “aspirant to the numinous, denizen of liminal realms, visionary weaver of magic”. Magical practice is the largest remaining stream of my work, but that work is not usually for paying clients who are strangers to me. The magical work I do for myself, for people close to me, for my communities, for my spirit allies, and for my Deities. For that stream, I have a label I’ve been using for a couple of years: hedgewitch. But what I mean when I use that is a discussion for the next blog in this series!
* If you didn’t already know, I’m queer. I use several labels, and some of them overlap or fluctuate: bi, or pan, for pansexual or panromantic but grey ace or maybe demisexual. Agender or genderqueer or nonbinary. I don’t fit labels well and while I like them, I feel most authentic swimming in a sea of them, a sea I call “queer”. My pronouns are she/her or they/them, or the gender neutral neopronoun of your choice.
3 thoughts on “Labels, Titles, and Updating My Bio: What Is It That I DO?”
I feel you in a lot of ways with this. I’ve been playing around with various titles as well, trying to boil things now in as smooth, neat, and easy way to relate to people as possible. I’m a wordy person by nature, and most of the ways I’d like to describe myself at length tends to take way too long.
Also, I now work with and worship members of six different pantheons, and juggling things attached to each one in a conversation can get tiresome at times, if not clunky and problematic.
I also feel you on the not being there yet. Many of my Irish gods, Brighid and Oghma specifically call me a Fili, but I got a long way to go before I ever even begin to feel comfortable with that term. I’ve called myself a Bard in the past, but they mean slightly different things to different Celtic cultures, and I practice Irish Paganism as much as I do Welsh, so I’ll just go with Poet most of the time. Problem is, most people wouldn’t understand what a Poet or Poetry has to do with a magical practice, or at least that’s my experience.
Same with Seidr. I’m going down that road, practice it and other things similar to it, but I’m not even remotely comfortable or ready to even properly touch that term. I’ve also tried looking at groups to get formal training, but most of the folks I’ve come across only teach in their local area or if they do teach it, require you to have a relationship with either Odin or Freyja….I don’t have a good relationship with either of to say it in the most polite terms.
At this point, I mostly refer to myself as Diviner, Healing, Magician, and Spirit Worker when I need to give a basic description of myself on the basic level, and will only go deeper when asked o need to.
It’s still not a satsfactory answer to me, but it works for now. I’m sure I’ll keep working at it until it feels about as best as I can get it to be, if that makes any sense.
Yeah, I feel you. I don’t think I’m going all the way to Fili, though poetry does have a role to play in my oracular work. And for the most part, my relationships are with two pantheons: Tuatha Dé Danann, and Vanir. The Eyes of Ra are sort of their own little side gig, and I’m still not exactly sure why they wanted to employ me! I do have working relationships with a number of others, as I like to keep lines of communication open in case I need to call on someone else’s gods in my healing and divinatory with.
My seidr/spae group does require at least a cordial working relationship with Freyja, Odin, and Hela, but we’ve been discussing the possibility of doing online classes, now that we’ve figured out online rituals.
I am not really drawn to the word diviner as a label, because I feel like that’s more an art than a calling, but it does overlap with the oracular work, and it is definitely a thing I do for others. I think that’s more wrapped into my hedgewitchery, from my perspective.
So far, I’ve been cobbling something of a Seidr practice, bit by bit, through personal research and deity/spirit teaching for what it’s worth. Hel seems to be my patron in those arts, which is interesting, as a small part of the Norse side of my poetic practice is dedicated to her, mostly in the form of recording and telling the stories of any departed spirit that comes my way, though Loki seems to be the main big cheese forthe Norse side of my Poetic practice.
Yeah, I’m still getting adjusted to having six groups of deities in my life. It wasn’t by design for sure! But that’s how it goes sometimes, and how my more longtime gods seem to want things to work out, so shrugs. It’s been a crazy and rewarding experience, rebuilding relationships with gods I used to interact with, and building new ones with those I don’t know all that well yet.
Anyway, it’s surely a tricky road to figure out the best way to word one’s practice!