the enchantment of words
it’s the chief pride and pleasure of a good bard to use well-polished words, each like a gem, so that every utterance, whether poetic, magical or mundane, will be endowed with the right kind of magic, spruce and clean and clear as the first daisy in spring! so how does one begin?
break or cut a small branch off a tree (with the tree’s permission, of course), or just imagine one. choose a good straight stoutish one about as thick as your thumb and as long as your fore-arm.
call it a stick. look at it, its shape, colours and textures, touch it’s barky or woody surface, smell it, taste it, tap it against your hand, against another small branch, against something hard, something soft, whizz it through the air and listen to the sounds it makes. how do you feel about it? pleased? dissatisfied? neutral? does it feel like a friendly stick, or a stern, punitive stick? what images pass through your mind as you hold, touch, smell, taste, tap and whizz it about in the air? think about what uses might be found for it – nice ones, nasty ones…
now call it a rod. can you feel any difference in your subtle responses to this piece of wood now that you’ve uttered this new name over it? does the ‘rod’ feel different, inspire different feelings, attitudes or ideas in you, or does it motivate you to find different uses for it? do you think of a craftsperson’s measuring rod, part of a machine or chair or wooden rack of some sort, or is it a rod of discipline as in ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’’?
what happens if you call it a baton, a staff, or even just a piece of wood, for that matter?
whatever differences you notice in your response to that piece of wood in your hand, according to what name you called it by, are magical effects – the effects of the magical power of the words you uttered on your mind, mood and manner, and on the piece of seemingly unresponding wood, which is nevertheless energized by your attention and that energy is conditioned by your words.
now try calling your piece of wood a wand. perhaps you can feel the subtle changes in the energy of the wand, the sudden access of nwyfre that happens when you do. for most people this exercise demonstrates not only that words are indeed magical, but also that some words are ‘more magical’ than others.
well, maybe ‘more magical’ isn’t quite right if all things are magical. if everything is magical to repletion, no one thing can be more magical than another. just as everything has its spiritual dimension, so too everything has its magical dimension, its potency and power to act and react in relation to all other objects and events, and is magical to repletion.
when the magic of a thing, event, word, etc, sustains the prevailing or ‘mundane’ enchantment, it is scarcely noticeable, but nonetheless just as powerful in its own way as the magic of one that sustains a perceptibly extraordinary enchantment. school uniforms, fashionable hairstyles, conventional décor, mass media advertising, and myriad small details and broad trends sustain very different enchantments, but they are within the range we call mundane, so we seldom recognize how powerful they are.
normality is not unmagical, it is only that we are used to it. we quickly notice any significant variation in the enchantment of everyday life, and we often go out of our way to bring about variations that people will notice – by our choice of decorations for our homes or the fashions we adopt in clothing and grooming, the slang we use, our lifestyle choices. every detail of everything is magical.
and so of course every word is magical in that each utterance generates its own enchantment, mediates the enchantment of the utterer’s inner personality and modifies the existing enchantment of everyday reality.
think again of that word ‘stick’. let it have all its pleasant associations in your mind and all the unpleasant ones too. think of words that sound like it but mean something else – to stick to something, to stick something into something, or to stick out, a stick of licorice or incense, out in the sticks, quick-sticks! chopsticks, digging sticks, musical clap-sticks; and perhaps you had a strict school-teacher who was after all, not a bad old stick – and as many as you can find. notice your own reaction to each of these associations, and also try to imagine what others’ might be.
if they please you, let your mind roll on, explore the ideas and feelings, attitudes and inspirations that play about and feed and energize or weaken and distort your idea of a stick. here you may begin to feel yourself instinctively crafting the magic of your word ‘stick’. everyone does this instinctively – it’s just a matter of catching yourself at it. the process becomes much more effective as you consciously begin to participate in it.
your word ‘stick’ will be quite different from anybody else’s word ‘stick’, according to your own unique experience, and the differences, while not important in ordinary conversation, can be major contributors to (or detractors from) the good enchantment you wish your word to cast in a magical rite or spell-casting.
if the associations don’t please you, consider why. enquire gently, ask the word, ask your own soul, ask the awen. perhaps you might quickly enough dismiss your fear of its punitive connotations – you know it won’t be used for that. but feel the shift in the magic of the stick while it is in your magical hand as you reassure it, yourself, the awen, and all those around you that ‘this stick will never be used to inflict pain’. actually say it out loud, in the words of your choice. this will take the potential subliminal threat from your word.
if some association of the word annoys you, and you don’t quite know why or even what the association is, feel yourself pass the annoying part of the word’s enchantment over to your subliminal wisdom, where your wiser self can deal with it in dreams or while you are preoccupied with other things. you might visualize your annoyance, or the annoying part of the enchantment, or both if they seem to be inseparable, moving from one place on the altar of your being to another place, perhaps out of sight.
this will ensure that the annoyance will not distort the enchantment of your word, whether you are using it in mundane conversation or in a magical charm. it will also affect the deva of the word, so that it is that little bit clearer for everyone else who utters their own version of it, and ultimately brings a bright clear blessing, a pure and wholesome enchantment to the object it names.
that’s just one glimpse of the magic of words. if you want to participate consciously in the crafting of your own vocal magic, you can vary this exercise so as to purify and enhance the enchantment of any word that holds your attention. try words you use often, words you hear often, and new words that excite you, and before long perhaps you’ll find that, after all, the words are listening to you, and responding in magical ways!