Inappropriate Language
In The Pagan Community.

An Essay by Helena Handbasket.

Deborah Kest, ever gracious, has allowed us to elaborate on an incident that had befallen her, and to use her unfortunate experience as an example of the problem of Inappropriate Language in the Pagan Community. Deborah had the misfortune, during a World Tree Grove ritual, to accidentally light fire to her hair, and, upon discovery, shout,
“Jesus Christ! My hair’s on fire!”
When it was pointed out to Deborah that that particular Deity was inappropriate for a Greek-inspired Pagan to invoke in time of need, she replied, quite irrelevantly,
“I don’t care, my fucking hair’s on fire!”
Sad to say, Deborah’s example is only one of many. To my dismay, I have frequently heard many Pagans using Inappropriate Language in this manner. Jesus Christ was simply not the right Deity for that particular situation.
I would suggest, perhaps,
“Hecate’s Tit, my fucking hair’s on fire!” or,
“Great Pan’s Dick, my fucking hair’s on fire.”
Or the ancient and ever popular,
“ ’E Gads!” (which is a corruption of “Ye Gods!”), “My fucking hair’s on fire!”
Think about it. We could say,
“By Odin’s Eye!”
“Great Dagda’s Club!”
“Athena’s Shield!”, or
“Morrighan’s Piss!”

...etc. etc.
and “Mama!,” of course, will always work.
We polytheistic Pagans have a much, much wider choice of invectives to choose from. It seems to me a shame that we keep automatically using the same few tired Deities that the rest of the English-speaking world invokes. Dr. J. N. Adams, of Manchester University in England studied swearing by the ancient Romans, and found that they had 800 ‘dirty’ words to choose from.(1) We make do with a paltry twenty or so. Perhaps we could reclaim those other 780!
“By the Wolf’s Tit, Gaius, I blew 500 gold pieces on that Vulcan’s Breath of a charioteer!”
Helena’s First Rule Of Pagan Language Etiquette is to Know Whom You Call! Remember that these used to be called ‘oaths’, and when you ‘swear’, you are ‘swearing by’...
“Yowee!” and “Zowee!” are both corruptions of the Judeo-Christian Yahweh.
“Gadzooks!” refers to “God’s Hooks.”
“Great Jumping Jehosaphat” is actually a fanciful, rather athletic description of the old Hebrew Sky God Jehovah.
When in doubt, one can always fall back on the old scatalogical terms, “Piss” and “Shit” to fertilize our conversations, or “Piss, Shit and Corruption”, a victorian expletive your grandmother might have used.
“Fuck!” can also be used, but remember that “all acts of love and pleasure are sacred....”
I would say that “Damn” is inappropriate, though. Where would you damn to?
And “Motherfucker” is an integral part of the beloved Pagan Wheel of the Year!
“Blasted” and “Blooming” and “Bloody” are perfectly fine, though, and can be combined to make quite lovely taunts!
“You Blooming Bluddewedd!”
“Blasted Bloody Bastard!”
I don’t know, is ‘bastard’ at all relevant in a polyamorous, Goddess oriented society?)
“Bloody Menopause!” or “My Bloody Lady!” should both be acceptable in proper Pagan conversation.
Or... “Od’s Bodkins”, which refers to Odin’s shoes, or, perhaps, “Odin’s Balls!”
I’m sure that all of you get the idea, and can think up useful phrases perfectly well on your own. As time goes on, and our religion matures, I’m sure we’ll continue to develop the proper language for all our diverse discourses.
So, the next time your fucking hair catches fire during a ritual, stop and meditate, and carefully choose the appropriate Deity to call upon for help, praise or blame.

Until next time—

Helena Handbasket

(1) From The Mother Tongue, Bill Bryson, William Morrow, 1990, p.214