A couple of weeks ago I came across a term in an Wild Hunt article called ‘Sheepskin’ that I became somewhat conflicted over. The exact details of my thoughts at the time are in the post so if you’re extra interested (it is only a short post) you can go check it out. Otherwise, this one is going to launch straight into the meat of the matter.
My real hangup on the term revolves around the use of the word ‘Unverified’ in the context of something that is predominantly empirically based evidence. Saying that something is unverified purely because it is different or can’t be proven, empirically or otherwise, in a subjectively satisfactory manner strikes me as being starkly against one of the broadly understood principles that brings people to Paganism and Heathenry.
The idea of personal gnosis is congruent with the sentiment commonly expressed in the term ‘eclectic’. As most of you probably know, a large number of Pagans and Heathens call themselves an ‘eclectic’, on top of whichever paths and practices they use. For example, an eclectic wiccan, an eclectic witch. You get the picture. As a result, when you combine the two halves of the term, unverified and personal gnosis, you end up with something that seems to be counter intuitive, both within the context of the subject and as a term in general.
Though I do believe in a healthy sense of scepticism and making sure that something really is what you think it is, I don’t think that describing something as UPG is really appropriate. My reasoning behind this is based in the idea that using UPG implies that there is a single correct way of doing things, which when coupled with a system that has a strong historical background like Icelandic sorcery (for examples of what I mean go visit the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery website, there are plenty of materials there) that call for highly specific but nowadays extremely hard materials to get a hold of. For example how many of us can get a hold of the shoulder bone of a seal or thrice molten silver taken from the grave of a dead man?
What I am working towards is that with systems/practices that have better historical records than others have materials and objects that simply can’t be accessed, either at all or relatively easily, in the modern day and age. This necessitates the substitution of equivalent materials in the practices of these systems, which is inherently a personal choice, which (now follow the logic) is practically and literally personal gnosis. Naturally, I personally would recommend in depth research to determine what would be the most appropriate substitution but this is still essentially, personal gnosis.
This is really, having now worked my way through it all, the reason why I dislike the term Unverified Personal Gnosis. It doesn’t just call into doubt, but blatantly makes any practice in which someone has had to adapt to the realities of the modern world. Its not a pleasant thought and I think that I would be hard pressed to ignore the use of the term within earshot.