Be Specific. Use Their Names.

One of my biggest pet peeves, in the interfaith community and some parts of the pagan community, is this tendency to use vague terms in prayers and offerings: Oh Spirit, Great Lady, Oh Goddess… 🤦‍♂️

Which one?

Be specific. Not only could you inadvertently be giving offerings and prayers to some entity you didn’t intend by being so vague, but it’s simply put an insult. Or did you want your prayer for a good wedding and happy, fruitful marital life to be answered by Sekhmet in bloodlust? Albeit that might explain Game of Thrones’ infamous red wedding… (yes I know the plot reason for that fictional scene, I’m making a point).

The spread of Christianity focused on stripping our Gods and Goddesses of their names to destroy their identities. Their idols were destroyed or defaced, their holy shrines destroyed, their worshippers killed, oppressed, and sometimes even enslaved.

We know in ancient cultures denying someone their name was to curse and destroy them. We see this often in the archaeological record in Egypt as just one example.

By refusing to be specific, you are an active participant in the undermining of these Ancient polytheistic traditions. You are in fact being a destroyer.

Words have power and meaning and nuance, and we know in many instances the words and meaning of name behind a deity showed that power too. When you lump sum deities as a vague unspecified group, you say they aren’t worthy of learning more about their individual uniqueness. You are saying, even unconsciously that they are less than.

These Gods and Goddesses had names. They were worshipped by Their names. People died in worship of Them, so use Their names.

And if you’re still resisting this concept let me ask you something:

How would you feel if for the rest of your life every family member, friend, lover, co worker, neighbor and stranger merely addressed you by : ‘hey you’, while everyone else was also called ‘hey you’.

Imagine if you ask ‘hey you’ to do something, it’ll probably get ignored because how does anyone know who the request was for?

Pour out your devotion to Sekhmet, Thor, Brigid or Dionysos, and whatever specific God(s) or Goddess(es) you feel pulled to worship. 🏺

So use Their Names. Be specific in your prayers.

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10 thoughts on “Be Specific. Use Their Names.

  1. I can’t love this entry enough. Yeah, it’s a huge pet peeve of mine as well. It’s also a ritual taboo of mine. I refuse to get into sacred space and participate in ritual if it turns out no specific names are being uand no specific being, deity, entity is being called upon. Using vague titles like that is just asking for all kinds of trouble. Hell, if I find myself already in sacred space and someone decides to use vague and/or neutral titles instead of using actual names and calling on specific beings, I’m going to jump ship as quick as possible. Because I don’t want to be a part of the folly of insulting various beings, deities, entities, spirits,and the like, and I sure as hell don’t want to be dealing with in one way or another with someone or something that is unknown. So many ways of inviting trouble and harm in that kind of situation.

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    1. Yes. Anyone who hosts or conducts a ritual to my mind is responsible before the rite begins to outline what the expectations of behavior are. To that end if I was hosting or conducting, since I’m a Northern Tradition polytheist, I’d specifiy things like: please only call upon the Gods and Goddesses from Northern Tradition pantheons. I’m not saying Sekhmet, or Brigid, or Apollo are not worthy, but there are different ritual energies, and different nuances when you call outside the pantheon. You can respectfully decline the horn. Use specific names for a deity, we believe each is unique, not one face of a vast amalgam. Etc. When in doubt, you can ask me or the horn bearer before you speak over the horn.

      It never ceases to amaze me how th majority of gatherings don’t do this. It’s important, there’s so many different styles, we don’t have consistency. You put your guests at ease by understanding what is coming, but also eliminate so many problem by using a little prevention.

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  2. Pingback: Be Specific. Use Their Names. — Wyrd Designs | Temple of Athena the Savior

  3. This is one of the reasons I will not capitalize god and goddess: in English, that means it’s a name. I don’t know those wings and I prefer to use names when I mean them.

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    1. Like many pagans and polytheists I grew up with a Christian background, it’s common with that background and throughout Western literature that the God of Abraham is always capitalized when using uncommon nouns and pronouns” He, His, God, Father… because of that tradition, I try to mirror that with our deities, the God Odin, the Goddess Freya, HIs ravens, His ordeals, etc.

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      1. Yup, you’re far from alone. I recognize that it’s capitalized as a proxy for Yahweh in an effort to avoid the commandment not to take that name in vain. I refer to that god by name, and even though I’m not Christian I wouldn’t take it in vain because that’s just rude.

        Calling a god “god” feeds into the monotheist narrative that there is only one, and also gives people the impression that capital letters are a gesture of respect, which is not their purpose in this language at all. I’ve yet to be convinced that aping monotheist practice serves polytheists, but as we are steeped in that culture I’ve coke to expect defense of it (sometimes in strong emotional terms). I completely understand why this is your habit.

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  4. ganglerisgrove

    i see this all the time in the interfaith community. it was pandemic at The New Seminary regardless of what I and other deans said. to be specific involves being invested in one’s spiritual life. It means not being lazy about one’s devotions. It means not being spiritually shallow and in the case of the seminary, not seeing out “ordination” (their program is very lax) to show off and virtue signal and instead doing the hard, wrenching work of the soul to be right with one’s Gods. so much easer for these people to just say “oh spirit” and think that they are spiritual. it’s pure laziness and self-absorption.

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