With only a few exceptions*, the thing that all of our Goddesses and Gods have in common is names. Sure we also use a plethora of titles, and rightfully so.
I’m sure that most of you reading this are already nodding in agreement with thoughts of “of course it matters,” “it is only respectful to use their names,” and “duh, how else are they gonna know we are talking to them?” Beyond matters of practice though, it also matters.
It matters that we use names for a couple of other reasons though. Our orthopraxis nature has room within it for beliefs that run the gambit. We have everything from polytheists through monists on over to atheists and everything else in the cauldron of possible individual beliefs. Although this is true and perfectly as it should be, in my opinion that is, the fact that we use names in said practice shifts us into a different perspective in how we think about spirituality.
In doing so we force the conversation of theology and religion as whole to hold room for us. It isn’t always an easy conversation. Challenging others assumptions never is. As a Witch I’m a fan of transgressive religious practice and so this is perfectly fine in my book.
I’ll give an example. Last week in a conversation I had with a Religious Studies scholar the question was posed “can religious experience or a philosophical argument ‘prove’ the existence of God?” Here you see is where names matter. Because the question is in such stark contrast to how I think about my Craft my knee jerked. I couldn’t even start down the road of the meat of the question because we were not only in two different ball-parks but playing different games altogether. Almost without thinking, I forced the conversation that followed to include us. You see, my knee jerked and my mouth uttered before the brain thought it through. I asked, “Which God?”
In regards to the story, the conversation that followed was awesome and can best be summed up with the following quote, neither from me or said scholar, but wholly relevant to the place the conversation ended up:
“One of the most common misconceptions about the world’s religions is that they plumb the same depths, ask the same questions. They do not. Only religions that see God as all good ask how a good God can allow millions to die in tsunamis. Only religions that believe in souls ask whether your soul exists before you are born and what happens to it after you die. And only religions that think we have one soul ask after ‘the soul’ in the singular. Every religions, however, asks after the human condition.”If you look at the base assumptions of any religion, you find will the questions that religion plumbs. One of ours is names. Knowing this you can extract the marrow at the center of the questioning; you can look your own beliefs square in the eye for scrutiny. There is a knowing that is accessable when you do so.
– God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World by Stephen Prothero
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”
*Cause there are always exceptions in matters of religion, spirituality, and the occult.