“Labels are a function of language.” I’ve refused to let my pride get in the way of using Kelly-Anne Maddox’s quote because really it is the best way of expressing why labels are important and why we as Pagans and Heathens need them. Too much energy is expended, in my opinion, explaining why we don’t need a label for this and that. I don’t entirely agree with Kelly-Anne though, I that I think functions of language play an important and containing role in things. Labels are something that continue to be a source of argumentation within the Pagan and Heathen community; there are people who argue that they are used too much, those that argue they aren’t used enough, those that argue they serve only a minor function when meeting a person for the first time and so on and so forth. What I’ve yet to hear mentioned, except perhaps obliquely by Kelly-Anne, is that labels tell ourselves what we are.
Although there is no denying the obvious function of labels, which is to inform others about particular things, they also serve as reminders or even signposts for us. Labels change and grow, increase and decrease in number. Calling yourself a witch instead of a Wiccan tells others what you see yourself as, but it also tells your what you see yourself as. In a life where much stems from a deeply personal perspective, understanding this difference as it impacts you is just as important as being certain of what you are conveying to other people. Even when the time comes to obfuscate those labels, doing away with them entirely is ill advised. In some respect, saying or believing that you don’t need labels is the same as saying you don’t need language, one of the most fundamental aspects of being a person.
Kelly-Anne Maddox’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLQDswhWjM4