Words function in three major ways to change the way we think, act, and feel.
Words Have Meaning
The first, and most obvious way words can have an effect on us is through their content. Most rituals and the instructions for most spells are expository. They explain things so you can understand them. For example, in some basic Golden Dawn rituals, you are told to “circumambulate.” This, on the surface, is simply walking around the magickal circle. However, when you study further, you discover that there is a purpose for doing this: setting up a “vortex of energy.” In many books on Wicca and Witchcraft a similar description is given, only it is called a “cone of power.” Most books on magick are written with this type of word usage. It can be effective for transferring information, but if not done well, often ends up feeling dry and missing the passion that is so important in magick.
In a previous (and controversial!) post, I focused on the concept that certain words and phrases (I didn’t mention it there, but they’re often called “Words of Power”) have original meanings that can be lost if they’re dissected, deconstructed, and only understood from a modern perspective. I’ve left for the post you’re now reading the description of another way in which words, including Words of Power, work to change us. It’s their most subtle use and it is simply that when words are spoken, they vibrate.
If you play a note on a violin next to a piano, strings associated with the note being played on the violin will sound in the piano. This is known as the principle of resonance. A word such as Ah-doh-nye does not sound like its English translation, “my lord.” Using the voice to loudly vibrate, “Aaaaaaaaaaahhh-dooooooooooh-nyeeeeeeeeee!” does not have the same effect as loudly saying “Myyyyyyyyyy Loooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrd.” They affect the fabric of the universe differently, too. That’s why certain Words of Power are important magickally.
In meditation, as taught in India, the meaning of what you chant is often not as important as the soundsâ€”the vibrationâ€”of the chant. There are even short words known as bija (seed) mantras that have no meaning at all. It is the sound of the word or phrase and its vibration that is important. For more information on how to use words magickally, I like the books, Sacred Sounds, Goddess Aloud!, and especially Magic, Power, Language, Symbol.
Words Have Emotion
Many years ago, I worked selling office products over the phone. We were given a training which included how to use special “magic words” (that’s what these businesspeople called them) that would increase sales. These words had an emotional impact that far outweighed their intrinsic meaning. Words such as family, safety, and patriotism, if appropriately sprinkled in our sales talks, would increase sales.
If you’re not familiar with the way words can become so emotionally powerful, I would point out a couple of movies. One is Renaissance Man. In it, Danny DeVito plays a man who gets a job teaching English to some misfits in the army, much to the dismay of their drill sergeant. The climax takes place during a difficult training drill in pouring rain. The drill sergeant tries to make fun of what DeVito was teaching, and asks one of the students to share something that makes him a better soldier. The student gives a powerful recitation of Shakespeare’s famous St. Crispin’s Day speech (read it if you’re unfamiliar with it) that leaves the sergeant almost in tears. Another example is Mel Gibson’s “â€¦but they’ll never take our freedom” speech from Braveheart.
How to use of these words of passion to manipulate people has been closely studied over the past few decades, and that brings us toâ€¦
The Silly Season
I think it is important to understand how the emotional content of certain words can be used to manipulate us, especially as we move into what I call “The Silly Season”â€”also known as the election season. Politicians on all sides use emotional words to try to manipulate you to vote for them or their causes.
Perhaps the most famous person to explain the use of emotional words to manipulate people is Frank Luntz. His book, Words that Work, lays out exactly what he means. Many politicians, especially conservatives, use him as their guide. A big example is that polls show people are in favor of inheritance taxes. But Luntz wanted to appeal to wealthy conservatives, and as a result of polling urged them to rename it the “death tax” which few people liked. Watch what people are saying concerning this type of tax and you’ll see who has been influenced by the advice of this man.
In 1996 Newt Gingrich put out a memo on the founding of his organization called GOPAC. In it, he reveals words to use about yourself and your causes as well as negative words to use when talking about opponents and their causes. You can read this memo here.
Both Luntz and Gingrich are considered conservatives, and liberals seem to have been slower to catch on to the power of emotional words. However, liberal Thom Hartmann published the book Cracking the Code in 2007 with the intent of showing other liberals how conservatives use emotional words and gives advice on how liberals can use emotion-laden words to influence people, too.
Magick, Not Politics
This is a blog about magick, not politics. One of the things I have repeatedly stated is that “magick isn’t something you do, magick is something you are.” As magickians (or people interested enough in magick to be reading this blog), I believe that having a magickal outlook and understanding of the universe is valuable. This means being aware of when someone is using words to try and manipulate us.
I’m not taking sides. I’m just saying that as a magickian you should be aware that both sides use emotion-laden words and concepts to manipulate all of us. Unfortunately, the use of such words is often done to heighten our differences rather than help us find common purposes. I would urge you to consider all sides of issues and all positions of candidates, and vote as you will. However, be aware of manipulative emotional language, no matter who uses it.
Make up your own mind. Don’t let politicians make it up for you.