Wednesday, August 10, 2011

When "Warlock" Means "Douchebag"

As anyone with access to TMZ should be aware of by now, a campaign is currently underway to rehabilitate the word "warlock" as a positive and acceptible term for a magician, spellcaster, or witch. This campaign is being led by certain eyeliner-abusing Salem witch who is far too well-known around these parts, and probably everywhere else as well. The term also gained media prominence back in February when Charlie Sheen claimed on national television that in firing him from "Two and a Half Men" over his bizarre comments and behavior the network had "picked a fight with a warlock."

In many television series "warlock" has been used to mean "male witch," while the Wiccan community has insisted for years that the word is not gendered and instead derives from a term meaning "oathbreaker." In a previous thread it was suggested that another possible derivation was from a Norse word meaning "spirit-caller," which could properly be applied to practitioners of many magical paths. However, the wikipedia article on the word's history and usage references the Oxford English Dictionary, which does not accept the latter etymology.

The commonly accepted etymology derives warlock from the Old English wǣrloga meaning "oathbreaker" or "deceiver." A derivation from the Old Norse varð-lokkur, "caller of spirits," has also been suggested; however, the Oxford English Dictionary considers this etymology inadmissible.

The Oxford English Dictionary also provides the following meanings of the word: Warlock v1 Obs. (ex. dial.) rare, also warloke: To secure (a horse) as with a fetterlock. Warlock v2: To bar against hostile invasion.

While the idea of rehabilitating the term may have an appeal to some, it strikes me as a pointless distraction. There are so many better and more effective things that magicians could be doing besides waging public relations campaigns over the meaning of a single word that the mind boggles. Furthermore, it should be obvious that if you're pretty much the only person out there calling yourself a "warlock" and you go around acting like a douchebag, that's the association people are going to remember.

This essential truth makes the latest allegations surrounding self-proclaimed warlock Christian Day all the more sad, at least from the standpoint of his warlock rehabilitation campaign. A few weeks back the Salem News reported that disciplinary action had been taken against Day in response to online threats he was alleged to have made against various individuals on Facebook.

Following a closed-door hearing Tuesday night, the board voted to suspend Christian Day's fortunetelling license for six months. However, the penalty was put on hold for one year as long as there are no similar incidents.

"If any substantiated threats happen again within one year, he will be called in, and the suspension will be imposed," City Solicitor Beth Rennard said.

Some of the alleged threats stem from business disputes over which psychics can work in stores and exclusive vendor deals to sell wands and other items, according to several people at the hearing.

If these allegations are true, they suggest that Day is a pitiful individual indeed. Magicians with real powers generally never threaten, online or otherwise - if you're going to curse someone, why would you ever want them to see it coming? Unless, of course, you don't have any real paranormal abilities and are hoping that the target's fear will produce some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy for which you can later take credit. In his defense Day admits to engaging in online arguments but denies making any threats.

"I respect the decision of the board, even though I may not agree entirely with it," he said.

Day said he does not believe anything that he wrote constituted a threat.

"There were arguments on Facebook," he said. "I don't believe they rose to the level of threats."

Readers of this blog familiar with previous exchanges between Day and myself are in a pretty good position to judge for themselves whether or not his statements here are likely to be accurate. After all, this is the guy who threatened to kill me with his magical powers, realized how crazy it made him sound, and then panicked and deleted his offending posts. While his actions were cowardly they proved wise - had he not done so in response to my fair warning I would have screen-captured those posts and sent them to various people, including his publisher (where I also have contacts) and the Salem authorities. But in light of these new charges it looks like he didn't need me to get himself in trouble anyway.

For the most part nobody really cares what "warlock" means, but at this point anyone who's paying attention has to be thinking "douchebag." Or maybe "clown shoes."

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble


Hypnovatos said...

Ahh.... but are they Magical Clown Shoes of Ever-Laughter + 2?

Ananael Qaa said...

I don't really know, to tell you the truth. At least according to the D&D rules I played by decades ago certain types of magical items could only be enchanted so far based on their materials and other particulars. Like if you wanted to make a +5 sword you would need to build it out of admantium.

I'm not sure if clown shoes will even enchant to +1, let alone +2. They essentially are made of fail. I suppose, though, there could be a few pairs out there with artifact properties...

Rob said...

I was always under the impression that the magical use of the word warlock was derived from the horse binding, not the spirit calling. A warlock was one who would bind spirits.

In any case, the term was in use by Northern European reconstructionists prior to the invention of Wicca. And they started using it because its modern denotation was a male spellcaster.

Later Wiccans started making a fuss about the etymology of the word, which is a stupid argument, especially considering the fact that they use the words Pagan and Witch in ways that are different than their original etymology.

I think it was really a ploy by certain Wiccans to establish themselves as the only real form of Northern Reconstruction. Why else would you care what someone not of your religion was calling you?

Rob said...

In regards to never threatening-

If I beat the crap out of someone, I'd want them to know why I was beating the crap out of them, and that it was me doing it. The same goes for magical attacks. That way these things work as deterrents to change their behavior. Otherwise all I'm doing is amusing myself at their expense.

I know some magicians like to attack from the shadows, and they argue that this makes tactical sense. I don't like doing that though, and I think it's only fair to give an opponent an opportunity to fight back.

I'd rather be in a fight than attack someone, and I'd rather fight someone who was my equal, or who at least had a fair chance of beating me, than not. It's more fun for me that way, and it makes me a stronger magician.

Plus sometimes the goal isn't to hurt someone. Sometimes the whole point is just to scare and humiliate them in front of others. For instance, if someone went around the community saying they were my spiritual teacher, I may not hurt them, but there would be repercussions.

Ananael Qaa said...

@Rob: Well, I can see that if your goal was to scare and humiliate someone it would be difficult to do so in secret. Personally, though, I can't think of a situation in which I would bother with anything like that.

Addressing your specific example, if somebody went around claiming to be my magical teacher I'd be perfectly willing to make fun of them every chance I got, but I'd be hard-pressed to justify bothering to curse them.

Personally I don't find fighting fun, I find fighting a real pain in the ass. I'd much rather just focus on getting my will done, and usually the only magick I need to cast against anyone is to get them out of the way of whatever I'm trying to accomplish.