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Many times people will ask me a question or definition, or use a search engine to search for it and ended up here. and I have taken to adding it to this list when they do. This glossary is not restricted to just Christian or just Pagan terms or phrases.
These definitions are from my own research in discussion, books and online, often compiled from several sources.
My humble opinions, conclusions and observations are in red.
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If you would like to know about a word or concept that is not on this list, or to request that I expand my explanation of one of these terms, please send me a request by e-mail. Thanks! (Please use your own email, not the one that pops up.)
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
OTHER INTERESTING THINGS
Common Abbreviations: OT/NT - Old/New Testament, PIE - Proto Indo-European, RC - Roman Catholic,
CE - Common Era, BCE - Before Common Era
WORLD SAINTS AND DEITIES
NOTE: Due to space considerations, people canonized or sainted just because they were killed for what they believe in are not included in this research unless they performed miracles as well. Sorry.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
NOTE: People who were canonized by Christian churches after their death do not have the honorific "St." included in this research. This is not a Christo-centric web site!
RC Saint. Roman Catholic theologian in the ___th century who propsed the "Quinqu Viae", or Five Ways, which he felt proved the existence of God from those effects that are known to us.
Paraphrased, Aquinas' Five Ways are: 1) Motion inplies a first mover, 2) A sequence of causes and effects implies an uncaused first cause, 3) Some being must have created things that do exist but which logically should not exist, 4) Human verbal comparisons of quality and character imply that there is a perfect model, and 5) Non-manmade inanimate and unintelligible objects have a purpose that was not designed by man.
Fox Sisters, The
Gautama, Prince Siddhartha
Gregory the Great
Gregory was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, probably one of the most famous and influential. He died in 604 CE.
Among his innovations were a new calendar, Gregorian chant, and the establishment of a body of trained singers affiliated with the Church called the Schola Cantorum. Since learning to read, write and perform music is a skilled trade, it behooved the churches and monastaries to have people do it who really knew what they were doing!
Henry VIII of England
I have not included a picture of Jesus because there is so much disagreement about what he looked like.
I expect he looked Jewish. But being fathered by Deity, who the heck knows?!?
I don't know if I believe that he was God stuffed into a body, or the offspring of God (like Zeus' daliances), or a magically created being surrogated by Mary, or even a human who was singled out early in life by Deity, nurtured and eventually annointed, kind of like a Vampire Slayer. I'm leaning toward the latter, especially since I believe that if something had happened to Jesus before his mission could be accomplished, there were others similarly equipped to carry on.
Roman Catholic priest. Teacher. Posted his "95 Theses" which sparked the Protestant Reformation.
RC saint. Patron of philosophy. Wrote Utopia in 1516. Became Lord Chancellor of England in 1529. In 1532 he resigned because he opposed the king over his divorce. He was beheaded for treason.
Prophet of Islam.
There are plenty of pictures of Muhammed the Prophet of Allah. But Since Muslims get very upset about seeing one, I have chosen to avoid that kind of publicity. Depictions of important figures are not expressly forbidden by the Qu'ran, but valued supplemental writings called hadith link images of Muhammad with the temptation for idolatry of him.
Muhammed married a woman fifteen years his senior after she proposed to him because of his good character. His beloved Khadija and his supportive uncle and childhood caretaker, Abu Talib, both died in 619, which Muhammed then called the 'year of sorrow'.
Muhammad is said to have been taught to read by the angel, Gabriel, in the lunar month of Ramadan of 610 so that he could understand the sacred tablets that were shown to him periodically over the course of the last 23 years of his life. He was a great diplomat and leader. His biography and quotations (sira) and traditions (sunnah) are preserved in the hadith.
He died at the age of 63 after a painful illness, and was buried in the house in Medina of his second wife, Aisha. This has now been built up into a shrine called the Mosque of the Prophet.
Roman philosopher. Student of Aristotle.
Lucius Annaneus Seneca was a Roman moralist of the first century CE. He was a lawyer, but after being banished to Corsica at 45 years old, he became Nero's tutor. When Nero became emperor of the Roman Empire, Seneca had much influence, but was charged with conspiracy and sentenced to suicide in 65 CE at the ripe old age of 69.
Just so you know, Seneca did not actually correspond with St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus). The letters were deemed to be written by someone else.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Acolyte (contrast with apostle)
A person who takes care of the altar and its tools during a religious ritual.
It does not mean a follower of a specific person.
Adherent (contrast with cowan)
A person who is part of a faith comunity, but not officially a member of a local body of believers, but who is somehow intimately connected with them.
For example, a person may have been enrolled in one congregation, but regularly attend services at another place closer to work, college, etc.
Anchorite/Anchoress, Recluse (compare with hermit)
A person who withdraws (voluntarily or, sometimes, involuntarily) to a "cell" for silence, prayer and possibly to ritually hurt themselves because they feel ashamed (the technical term is mortification, the 'deadening' of the physical body).
The practice of being sealed into a "cell" (or a suite of rooms in the case of rich people) began in the early 13th century.
The synonym recluse literally means 'very shut up' describing a person who for religious reasons is enclosed in a limited space for life, such as a cave, cell, room or suite.
By the 17th century, a broader definition of a recluse as a person who keeps to themselves was established, and the adjective reclusive was used to describe them. Our modern term "shut-in" is used to describe someone who does not leave their home due to impairment by illness or age, not by choice.
Beings that travel between Deity and humans, usually to deliver divine messages or to aid directly. Many angels have specific roles, tasks or jurisdictions. One doctrine is that every soul has a guardian angel.
OT angels were described as physical beings. NT angels were described as ethereal beings. Some people believe that the angels descibed in extent religious texts were/are aliens with jet packs or winged uniforms.The Catholic traditions allow veneration and petition of angels in the same way as saints. Protestants tend to avoid defining angels altogether.
Apostle (contrast with acolyte)
This is a Christian term and refers only to the original fourteen male followers of Jesus at the time of his ministry in the Middle East, including Matthias and Saul/Paul of Tarsus. (The Eastern Orthodox church counts 70 original followers.)
The word means messenger, or one who is sent out with a message. One of the famous Jesus sayings is that he called the Apostles 'fishers of men', meaning they were to go out and gather converts. Jesus also taught them how to perform the same miracles he could. Supposedly, these powers could not be taught to anyone else, or inherited, but the Christian churches hold great store in the concept of Apostolic Succession.
It is also used as an honorific for the first missionary to a locale, e.g., Saint Patrick is the Apostle of Ireland. Rarely, it is used to indicate a pioneer in a field.
It never means dedicant or follower of a person other than Jesus.
Cowan (contrast with adherent)
A person who is not a practitioner of the craft, or who is a poser (someone who is pretending to be a practitioner). In modern times, the level of vitiol in the term is indicatd by tone of voice. Its most gentle defiition is 'outsider'. sThis term is used by Pagans and Freemasons.
It comes from the Old French word meaning 'coward'.
Hedge witch (compare to witch)
According to many sources, a "hedge witch" is a person who does not automatically equate witchcraft with worship of Goddess and God. Hedge witches are generally solitaries who eschew public displays. Hedge witches favor divination, helping others, herbology, and often use elemental and shamanistic bits in their Craft. I am a hedge witch who seeks to lead others. Go figure.
Heretic (compare with infidel)
One who chooses to publicly believe something contrary to the established doctrine and often seek to change the doctrine to follow their truth. A This word was first coined in the early 1300's in northern France, and is usually used to mean a heretic in the Christian Church.
It is a label given by the people who believe the doctrine in question. For example, I am a heretic in the Christian church, but not a heretic in the Pagan community. It's logical to assume that other religions have heretics, or have another word that means the same thing.
Famous heretics have included Martin Luther (his '95 Theses' began the Protestant Reformation), Galileo (his telescope observed Copernicus' heliocentric solar system), Joan of Arc (she ignored R.C.C. hierarchy and *gasp* talked directly to Michael/God), Michael Servetus (the first Unitarian), and Pelagius (he rejected original sin).
Hermit (compare with anchorite)
A hermit lives alone in seculsion, for religous or other reasons. The term was first used around 1130 CE and literally means 'lone desert dweller'.
The Hermit is also a card in the traditional Tarot deck. It has two basic interpretations: the destination of those who seek wisdom (a light in the darkness), or the person who travels alone to seek wisdom.
There is even a cooky made with spices, molasses, raisins and nuts called a hermit. Here's a unique recipe for hermit cookies. I'll let you know what I think of it when I bake them!
Infidel (compare with heretic)
A mid-fourteenth century term for 'magician', coming nearly directly from the Latin word magus, which means 'sorcerer, magician'. Yeah, not very helpful.
The most interesting thing is that in Old Persian, namely the Zoroastrian religion, a Magus (mage) is a special class of priests who are reputed to have supernatural powers, occult knowledge and the ability to interpret dreams and perform divinatory rituals to portend the future. They often had political power as well.
The Proto-Indo-European root magh- is found in the word, main, which has meanings of strength, force, power, significance and predominance.
In the Chrisitan New Testament Book of Matthew, the Magi were "wise men" who travelled from western Iran to honor Jesus and his mother after his birth. The NT tells that there was more than one "wise king" but does not specify a number. It has been assumed that there were three, since three gifts were listed. The Biblical account describes them as politically powerful astrologers who have prophetic dreams. They and their gifts were never mentioned again.
It is interesting to note that the same word in Matthew translated in the King James Version as 'wise men' is also used in th Book of Acts and translated there as 'sorcerer' in a negative way.
Man in Black
Not Johnny Cash, in modern Pagan usage, this is the person who guards a ritual circle or gathering. Since these rituals were ostensibly held at night when participants were less likely to be recognized and more able to flee from persecution, the guard was dressed in black to limit detection by trespassers.
In earlier centuries, a person who was a "man in black" was someone who operated behind the scenes, manipulating events and intervening when necessary to take someone away or help someone escape.
Yes, the whole twentieth-century CIA-MIB phenomenon is part of that mythos, too. Strangely, the so-called Men in Black seem to be characterised as elegantly dressed Asian men in many accounts.
In the Middle Ages, the Man in Black was a euphemism for the Devil of Christian mythology, the embodiment of evil.
A man or woman who lives in a monastery or religious community.
A male monastic
A female monastic
Pharisees (contrast with Sadducees)
The title rabbi is a Hebrew word meaning "my master". It is used a sign of respect for an honored teacher. Beginning about 100 CE, it also became the title of a Jewish religious leader to distinguish him or her from the congregation.
A reverend is a Christian minister. It was first used in the 1400's as a sign of respect, very much like the early usage of "Rabbi". Within a few hundred years, however, it became an occupational title, with additions to indicate rank within Church hierarchy when addressed in writing or at formal occassions.
Parish minister = Reverend
Dean = Very Reverend
Bishop = Right Reverend
Archbishop, Cardinal= Most Reverend (described as "venerable")
The word shares a root with revered, and in fact, means "one worthy of being revered." It is interesting to note that to revere means 'to stand in awe of' and is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root wer- meaning "watch out for!" Hmm, does that mean ministers have some sort of power the non-ordained don't have? Food for thought.
Reverend also shares a Latin or PIE root with reverance (to bow toward), venerate (to solicit good will from), aware, award, wary, warden (one who watches), lord, steward, wardrobe, panorama, and guard.
Sadducees (contrast with Pharisees)
A Jewish sect with both religious and political power. They opposed the Pharisees. They formed a priestly aristocracy at the time of Jesus at the beginning of the Common Era. They accepted written Law and rejected oral tradition and interpretation. They did not believe in the resurrection of the body, nor in the existence of angels and spirits. They were anti-Jesus and the Apostles.
In the Jewish and Christian Old Testament, this name is used in (WHERE?) to refer to the supreme embodiment of evil. Monikers include: Devil, Lucifer, Morning Star, Prince of Lies, Beelzebub, Old Son, Nick
There are a variety of mythologies surrounding Satan and the so-called Battle in Heaven. Satan's place in the OT creation story are unclear, as are various references throughout the Bible, fewer than you might think. IMHO the changing nature of Satan reflects Western culture's views on sin itself, and on the major villain of the time period.
An occasional description of a person whose religious zeal is...excessive. Can anyone say "fanatic"?
A supernatural creature in Judeo-Christian mythology. It has a head, arms, hands, and legs. A seraph has six wings, but only flies with two. It speaks in a very loud and deep voice. It covers its face and feet for some reason. The seraph quoted in the Book of Isaiah is refered to as male.
The best picture I could find has a sword and an uncovered face.
Here again we have a case of the modern definition of the word (black [evil?] mage or wizard) being a far cry from the original meaning of the word, or at least a commentary on the practices the word describes.
It literally means one who casts lots for divination. In the 1520's, that was apparently determined to be a bad activity, and therefore a sorcerer was a bad magical person.
And all this time I'd thought a sorcerer was basically a ceremonial mage in a tower!
Dictionaries will tell you that a warlock is a male witch, a sorcerer, which is the meaning of the 16th century Scottish word.
Yet when you look at the etymology, it is clear that a warlock is really a liar, oathbraker, covenant betrayer, and traitor. That tells us what the Scottish thought of male witches. Were they traitors to the community, or just traitors to their gender?
IMHO - the term "warlock" had the same connotation of witch that "fag" has of a gay man - derogatory, belittling, invalidating, and offensive. I certainly would not be proud to be called a warlock.
Simply put, a witch is a magic-worker, usually female, though becoming gender-neutral in the 21st century within the Pagan community. The common non-magical definition is rather unflattering, describing someone who gets their own way, often at the expense of someone else. In fact, the 'nice' way to say "b*tch" is to replace it with "witch". Hmm.
Witches generally do get their way through magic. There is a fair bit of devotion in the Pagan community that the word derives from the Proto-Indo-European root wik- meaning "bend". Another (IMHO more likely) possibility is the P.I.E. root weg- means to be active or lively and has developed into our words wake, waken, watch, vigil, and wait.
All the previous incarnations (inverbations?) of witch refer to a sorcerer or enchanter of some kind who deals with non-corporeal beings (presumed by opponents of the practice to be evil since they are not human) and who performs divination by contact with them, through drugs, or by interpreting signs and omens. My research that follows leads me to believe that magic-workers have been with human civilization for a VERY long time.
In case you are as interested in etymology as I am, here is the lineage of "witch" as far as I could find:
Old English/Anglo-Saxon (400-1000 CE)- wicce [WEECH-ay] female pythoness or soothsayer; wicca [WEECH-ah] male augur or soothsayer, mage; wiccian [WEECH-ee-un] to use witchcraft; wiccecræft [WEECH-ay-kraft] witch skill, horse whispering; witega [WEET-ay-uh] wise one; wigle [WEEJ-lay] divination
OTHER WITCHY WORDS:
Old English/Anglo-Saxon (400-1000 CE)- gældor [yeal-DOR] an incantation, a sung charm to create an illusion or effect; gældricge [yeal-DRIDGE-ay] a woman who practices incantations; galdre [YALL-dray] runecraft
Old English/Anglo-Saxon (400-1000 CE)- scinnlæce [SHIN-lech-ay] woman who travels as her guardian spirit, an astral traveler; scinn [SHIN] shadow of a person's self
Old English/Anglo-Saxon (400-1000 CE)- lyblæca [LEEB-ack-uh]/lybbestre [LEEB-ess-ter] a male/female magical herbalist; lybbcræft [LEEB-kraft] magical herbcraft
Low German (800-1500 CE) - wikken, wicken [WICK-in] to use witchcraft; wikker, wicker [WICK-er] soothsayer; wissen [WISS-in] to know (a fact); wachen [WAH-hhen] to watch
Proto-Germanic (250 BCE-500 CE)- wikkjaz [wick-kyaz] one who wakes the dead
Proto-Indo-European (6000-2000 BCE)- weg-yo- [wayg-yo] exciter, person who causes to live, agitator
Ostensibly, it is a magic worker, synonymous with mage, witch, sorcerer, etc. But in the mid-fifteenth century when the word was first being used and for a hundred years after, it mean wise person, philosopher, or sage. Apparently knowing (and thinking) a lot back then automatically included knowing magical stuff, too. Neat!
In 1922 people in England began to say "Wizard!" to mean "Excellent!" It has generally been supplanted with "cool".
Sources: Dictionary.com, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Online Etymology Dictionary, Red Oak's Ponderings, Omniglot, Wikipedia's IPA chart, Hinduwebsite.com, Grey Lodge Occult Review, Heretic's Hangout
in chronological order
Babylonian Captivity in Syria (597 BCE and 586 BCE)
Sabbath declared as Sunday by Emperor Constantine (321)
Council of Antioch (341)
First Council of Nicaea (325)
Council of Constantinople (381)
Second Council of Nicaea (787)
Constitutions of Clarendon (1164)
Inquisition, Spanish Inquisition (1232-1820)
Popes at Avignon (1309 to 1377)
Great Schism (1378-1417)
Council of Constance (1417)
After over a century of division and disagreement within the Roman Catholic Church over its hierarchical and legalistic structure, including the Great Schism and the Concilar Movement, theologians and parishioners alike began to rise up against the, uh, excessive financial pursuits of the Papacy.
So Martin Luther's 95 issues he had with the RCC were not an attempt to create a new Church. They were in fact a proposal to strip away the worldliness and get back to the way the Church was, or should have been. He didn't like that rich people could pay to have their human sins forgiven instead of performing penance. He didn't like that the Eucharist was now a magical act called transubstantiation. He didn't think clerics had to be celibate (hey, for a few hundred years, married guys could become priests if they were Called to the vocation). He didn't like that Mass was held in a foreign language the parishioners could not understand. And he didn't think someone living in another country, i.e., the Pope in Rome, should have power over people and practices his neck of the woods, Germany.
Many local rulers agreed with Luther, perhaps for their own reasons (cha-ching!), and began to enact laws that forced local parishes and dioceses to be operated according to the new "Lutheran" principles. So did the kings of Denmark and Sweden.
The Swiss ended up establishing an elaborately organized theocracy with Calvin at the helm. His new version of the Protestant sect, which by its revolutionary nature also included political reformation, subsequently took root in West Germany, France, Holland and Scotland. This was called the Reformed Church to differentiate it from the Lutheran Church.
Henry VIII simply overthrew Papal authority in England by dissolving monastaries and extending the sovereignty of the central monarchical government to all areas, including religion, by forming the Church of England, the source of Anglicanism worldwide. Oh, and yes, that meant he could now divorce his barren wife and get another one.
Council of Trent (1545)
Formalized the veneration of relics
Peace of Augsburg (1555)
Recognized the coexistence of Roman Catholicism and Lutheranism (but not Calvinism), and provided that each nation should follow the religion of their ruler
Gunpowder Plot (1605)
Toleration Act of 1689
Hardwicke's Marriage Act of 1753
Toleration Act of 1781
Councils of Baltimore (provincal 1829 to 1867, plenary 1852 to 1884)
First Vatican Council (1870)
The office of Pope was declared infallible in matters of
Second Vatican Council, Vatican II
Repeal of Anti-Witchcraft Laws in England (19??)