So I want to end this month with a brief exploration into words and their sociotechnological implications and magical applications, specifically starting with defining the word “mundane.”
“Mundane” means ordinary, which can be linked to the ideas around words like “normal” and “boring,” referring in its origin to being one of the earth, coming from phrases like “du monde” (thanks two years of high school French). For Pagans mostly and Witches sometimes, it refers to anyone or -where that isn’t somehow magical, Pagan, or Witch-y. Doing household chores? Mundane. There are guides to practicing magic in mundane households, mostly about navigating shared living space. Some writers have even condemned “logic” as a property of the “mundane world,” not a magical one. The word is used to separate safe from lack of sanctity, helpful from harmful–“us” from “them.”
While magic-users and worshippers use tools like astrology to emphasize not “cause and effect” but “synchronicity” “between celestial and mundane spheres [that] result from a kind of prearranged harmony that is built into the very structure of the cosmos” (The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism, page 77), concepts like the Wiccan Rede are meant to apply to “both the magical and mundane lives of those who practice any form of neo-Pagan Witchcraft” (emphasis mine; same source, page 289). We live in(side) a sort of “liminal” space between magic and mundane, even as we curse (at) the mundane. So, we live in the mundane world but don’t belong to it, many resources for Pagans and Witches argue.
The reason I’m focusing on this word so much is because there are Witches, Pagans, and other magic-users who cry out the power, dependability, and magic in words (and in, well, word magic) who promote total awareness of magical possibility yet aren’t even interrogating the words these cultures use to differentiate in from out. Words are a mundane technology, socially reproduced, and with very real possibilities to evoke changes.
At the beginning of this post, I brought up the connotation of “normal” and the word mundane. Internet culture has also developed a word condemning “normal” people, those who are not unique, not so much like “hispsters” or “snowflakes,” for example. That word is “normie,” and this word, replicated by social media sites that have direct links to hate crime [supporting links can be sent to those curious privately], is where I draw the line on “normal” versus “exotic/advanced” language and living.
I’m starting back at the beginning:
Mundane was not a word I learned from my household as a child but the books and resource guides we checked out from the library. My magic was playing in the dirt, kicking around the puddles in the patio with my red boots, building small machines with the scraps of trash that made it into the park. (Straws were my favorite.) It wasn’t until I was twelve before I read the word “mundane” and learned that magic wasn’t of the earth.
I do a lot of mundane things around the house. I think dishes and cleaning the bathroom are my favorite, although the rush I feel when tidying a room or holding a batch of warm cloth is pretty great, too. As much as it would be in theme with this site, I can’t attribute my love of it to any Goddess of hearth or recharging needs. It’s more relief from the messy houses and worlds of my friends. I live here.
There’s a sort of earthly logic to my practices. These procedures are how I make arguments about, say, consent and mutuality. Context and integrity are closely related on Earth.
Resist narratives of liminal space that really encourage the binaries still in place. Witches and Pagans aren’t doors that lead “normal” into the “abnormal.” We just know how to cross a street, but that does not mean we have somehow surpassed it. We still follow the same road paved with the same cultural norms. Dragging our feet in the median doesn’t protect us from oncoming traffic.
Words are manipulative and connotative. We construct language in a semiotic order, each word signalling definitions, associations, and memories. Sigil mages know this very well, creating signs to signify desire in a new way. Especially when we share these symbols, we insinuate new understandings in those who come in contact, adding to the world of thought and even the marketplace of ideas, and ideas are actions.
Which brings me back to “normie,” which frustrates me not only because it occupies and is replicated in the spaces and media that I use to worship, much like mundane but to a lesser degree, but its affiliations. It brings me to four///chan and re/a/dit. It works to take me back to a paper I wrote for my violence prevention class on misogyny and queerphobia online. It brings me back to mundane, that which describes living space, language, and the earth, that which hinders me as an earth and tech mage.
If we were talking about the earth, I wouldn’t mind, but this is where that word takes me.
I see where mundane is useful in the narrative of fellow Pagans and Witches, however. A great example of this is Morag’s piece on disability and Witchcraft, where the mundane world includes the able-bodied, neurotypical, and ableism. Here, the word addresses current structures of power, and magic is surpassing that. We need more uses like this instead of casting it as epithet and self-serving space creation.
So in the end, this is where I am: Our word choice and how we use these words are important, even at a metaphysical level. They influence how we construct and see our world. At this point “mundane,” signalling binaries while most times being used without cognizance regarding structures of power, needs a makeover.
Well, that’s out of my system and better worded to boot. Etiology is rather fun. Are there any words, phrases, traditions in Pagan, Witch, or maybe spiritualist communities that frustrate you? Do tell.