Articles/Essays From Pagans
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
Hearing The Music And Dancing The Dance
A Tale of the Wood
June 9th. 2013 ...
The Nature of Sacrifice
The Magick of Buildings
Start your own Pagan Church in Canada - A Detailed Guide
June 2nd. 2013 ...
Maiden, Mother, Who?! (A Discussion of the Triple Goddess)
Gods Who Live In My House
Why the 'Redneck Pagan'?
Among the Greenwod - An Interview with Raven Grimassi
May 26th. 2013 ...
So You Think You've Found a Teacher...
Learning To Live Your Own Life
Raising Personal Magickal Energy for Spellwork
Casting The Wiccan Circle
May 19th. 2013 ...
The Role of Identity in Magic
Talking Trash? It's a Dirty Subject but Waste Happens.
My Wiccan Journey
13 Keys: The Victory of Netzach
May 12th. 2013 ...
Pagan Studies I: How Should We Define Modern Paganism?
The Third Path
Nothing Special... Part Two
May 5th. 2013 ...
The Value of Multicultural Awareness
Put Your Back Into It (Our Lady of the Sacred Honey Badger)
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Red Lipped Bat Fish
April 28th. 2013 ...
Lessons from the Lessers: Iris
April 21st. 2013 ...
Taken By The Goddess: The Crescent Moon Tattoo
The Gods/Being Godbothered
To Be A Witch
The Archetypes are Gods: Re-godding the Archetypes
April 14th. 2013 ...
On The Inclusion of Children
'Wand Fun' With Grandson
Lessons from a Baby
Lessons of Freedom: On Divinity and Healing
April 7th. 2013 ...
Out of the Broom Closet... Sorta
A Journey Through the Witches Tarot
History and Science Behind Numerology
March 31st. 2013 ...
What is the Magickal Self?
Ethics and Numerology
March 24th. 2013 ...
Keystones of the Sacred Land
March 17th. 2013 ...
Why Some Pagans and Witches Still Hide
Witch Heritage 101: What Happens When Witch Haters Joke about anti-Witch Films
I'm Not a Broom. So What's with the Closet?
March 10th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Things I Did as a New Pagan: Part 3
Hunting for the Real Witch in Film
The Collective Shadow
Lies - The Opposite of Truth
March 3rd. 2013 ...
Grounding and Releasing Negative Energy
A Patchwork of Magick
February 24th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I Made as a New Pagan (Part Two)
February 17th. 2013 ...
Top Ten Stupid Mistakes I made as a New Pagan... Part One
Gardening with Crystal Energies
A Call from the Ancestors
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances and Black Water Snakes
February 10th. 2013 ...
We Are the Weirdos, Mister: A Completely Uncool Story of Origin
February 3rd. 2013 ...
"I'll Grind Your Bones to Make my Bread": Pagans and Animal Husbandry
The Role of Contemporary Culture in Magic
A Pagan Response to Endangered Earth
The Great Mother's Gift, Heinlein, and the Nature of Squirrels
13 Keys: The Glory of Hod
January 27th. 2013 ...
Why We Do Need Wicca
The Cosmos In the Coffee Shop
On Travel Spirituality and Magick
January 20th. 2013 ...
Beloved Backs and How to Save Them
Building or Burning Bridges?
Plants, Magic and Intuition
Plagiarism - How It Harms Our Community
January 13th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés
The Magick and Power of Words
Aging Is Not Easy
The Riddle of Who We Are?
January 6th. 2013 ...
Wicca v Witchcraft
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Warlock: The Other 'W-Word'
Article ID: 8551
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,274
Times Read: 11,486
Author: RuneWolf [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: July 3rd. 2004
Times Viewed: 11,486
I have recently taken to referring to myself as a Warlock. At midnight on the Summer Solstice, in a solitary seaside ritual, I made it "official."
Now why in the world would I want to do such a boneheaded thing as that?
Well, I have a few reasons:
Aside from these admittedly shallow and self-serving reasons, I have other motives for this change. Allow me to ramble a bit...
- Because I want to.
- Because I can.
- Because it will probably irritate and scandalize the kind of people I enjoy irritating and scandalizing.
- Because it makes me feel "SPEH-shul!" (And yes, that's The Church Lady you hear...)
We are told by many modern Witches, particularly those involved with the various flavors of Feminist Wicca and Witchcraft, that we are "reclaiming the power and positive meaning of the word 'Witch' after centuries of patriarchal oppression and denigration." Cool - I am completely down with that.
So why not do the same for "Warlock?"
We have all heard the explanation that a "male Witch" must never be referred to as a Warlock because the word means "oath-breaker" or "traitor" or some such. However, this is from the same folks who insist that we must ignore any dictionary or encyclopedia entries that give a less-than-favorable definition for the word "Witch." Why can't this logic be applied to "Warlock?" Many entries indicate that the primary definition of "Warlock" is, indeed, a "male Witch" or sorcerer. Only the secondary or archaic definitions - if they are present at all - have anything to do with oath-breaking.
In addition, there are several excellent arguments currently at large on the Internet regarding possible alternate etymologies of the word that trace it back to an Old Norse term for enchanter or sorcerer, "vard-lokkur." This alternate origin for the word "Warlock," and hence the rightful priority of its positive meaning, is becoming more accepted - or at least more publicized - within our Internet community, to judge from even a cursory Google search.
In the final analysis, I myself lack the academic horsepower and other resources to verify conclusively for myself the veracity of such claims to the ultimate origins of "Warlock." I must therefore admit that I am committing what I myself consider one of the most heinous crimes of "Pop Wicca," and I am taking something that I have read at face value because it happens to agree with what I choose to believe.
But I will take this heinous act one step further, and suggest yet another - and perhaps more outlandish - alternate etymology for "Warlock."
In The Call of the Horned Piper, Nigel Jackson makes a connection between the Craft and the so-called "lycanthropic cults" that occurred in various Mediterranean, Eurasian and European cultures. A somewhat obscure example of such a cult was the ulfhednar, the "wolf-coats" of the Viking Norse, a cult of Odhinnic warriors who were said to shape-shift into wolves or werewolves when the battle-frenzy came upon them, gaining supernatural strength, ferocity and immunity to normal weapons. These warriors were very much the "wolf version" of the more well-know berserkers; "berserker" meaning "bear-shirt." Werewolfism was a common, often hereditary, condition in the Norse Sagas, and it was not uncommon for Sagic heroes to be referred to as "shape-strong," the most common "shapes" being that of the bear and the wolf. "Faring forth" is a modern term for the Norse practice of projecting the fylgia or fetch (often referred to as the animal-fetch) out of the body/soul complex to achieve some end. Amongst warriors who practiced faring forth, the animal-fetch often fared forth in the form of a wolf. It is said that those who were sensitive to such things could detect such a fetch roaming about, and indeed discern the personality behind the animal-form, leading to a sort of visual mosaic of so-and-so "walking abroad as a wolf."
Faring forth in such a manner would have been an elementary skill of the "vard-lokkur" or enchanter, but I have also noted that, in Old Icelandic (very similar to Old Norse), we have the words "vargr" (wolf) and "lik" (physical body). Whilst I am certainly no linguist or etymologist, it seems possible, given the Norse penchant for compound words, that "vargr-lik" or "wolf-body" could have been a valid combination and perhaps a term for those who fared forth in "wolf bodies." Again, with nothing but intuition to back it up, it seems no great stretch to me to derive "Warlock" from "vargr-lik," given the manner in which spellings and pronunciations mutate over the years. I would be very interested to hear from anyone out there who has the academic background to comment on this possibility.
While it is no great recommendation, there was clearly a link in the collective mind of the Inquisition between werewolfism and Witchcraft; at the very least they were considered to be equally repugnant crimes, deriving from the same interaction with "diabolic forces" (which is all the pedigree they need in my book!). And it is beyond doubt that many Witches today practice some form of "shamanic journeying" or faring forth, whether in wolf-form or some other, in much the same way as the "vargr-liks" might have. So whether a historic precedent exists for a link between the Way of the Wolf and the Way of the Witch, our modern community seems to have embraced it.
Matthew Sandow speculates that what we think of as Witchcraft might originally have involved both Male and Female Mysteries, and that much of what we think of as "Wicca" today descends predominantly from the Female Mysteries. The Male Mysteries, on the other hand, would have had more to do with hunting and warfare, and that the "War" in "Warlock" refers to just that - the Way of the Warrior and the arts of "battle-magic," as exemplified by the ulfhednar and berserkers. This only further enthralls me, as I consider myself to practice a "Warrior" Tradition of the Craft, and have long felt the need for a specific term for "Warrior Witch." Given the possible history of the word, "Warlock" seems to fit that bill quite nicely.
Not to mention my long-standing association with the Spirit of the Wolf...
"Warlock" also has a somewhat darker connotation than the now-popular definition of "Witch," and that applies to me as well. The whole issue of what constitutes "Dark Paganism" has been addressed by better writers than I, and whilst I won't rehash any of it here, if you tend to dismiss Dark Paganism as an aberration, I suggest that you do a little research. After all, that's one of the first suggestions we make to Christians who try to inflict their stereotypes and misconceptions on us.
And finally, I have to admit to a little rebelliousness in choosing to be known as a Warlock. In many ways it's just my way of saying, "Go ahead - tell me I can't." My personal definition of "Warlock" could be summed up as "Male Witch - With Attitude." It has its own, in-your-face kind of mystique that I find endearing.
Many years ago, my Wiccan teacher gave me some good advice, and that was to use anything in the practice of my Craft that helped me to "feel Witchier." Ironically, "Warlock" does that for me.
Location: Reston, Virginia
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