November 18, 2022

What You Say Is A Spell


‘Don’t you ever listen?’
What? My mouth fell open. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
The woman on the home renovation show shook her head at her husband. ‘I already told you I didn’t want coffee and you’ve made me one anyway. Don’t you ever listen?’
I turned to Valerie on the couch next to me. ‘I would never talk to you like that,’ I said.
She raised an eyebrow at me. ‘It wouldn’t go down well if you did.’

Years ago, I lived in for a while a very small rural community, and sometimes went down to the local pub to meet friends. Sitting there listening to the chatter and talk of those around me, it quickly became clear that the local women had a certain, accepted way to talk about their husbands or boyfriends. They all did it, and somewhere along the line it had become normal among them – this was the way that you spoke about the male in your life.

‘He wouldn’t know which way was up if you paid him.’
He couldn’t find his way out of a paper bag.’
‘There’s no point asking him what colour to paint the place.’
‘If I want something done, I won’t bother asking him.’
‘That’s a laugh. You’re useless, aren’t you, Bruce?’

Hearing this sort of thing over and over blew my mind. No matter how close the couple seemed, the women always put the men down, and everyone would laugh. The men didn’t seem to return the insults near as much, and I quickly realised that this was the socially acceptable way for women to talk about their men, in this community where you were told to ‘harden up’ if you expressed anything that could be perceived as weakness. They probably didn’t even think about it.

I could write quite a lot on why I think things had evolved this way, but then I’d be going off the point I really want to make.


Just like it is important to tend the garden of our thoughts, so too is it imperative to be intentional about our speech. Words, after all, are invocations, prayers, spells, whether we intend them to be or not. What we say goes out into the world ahead of us and signals to those around us what sort of people we are and how we do or do not value them and the world we share.

The husband on the renovation show took his wife’s comment in stride, and all the others she made in the course of the show – I think he was used to them, and had decided upon a strategy of letting them slide off his back like water off a duck. But I’m sure that he would have been a happier, more confident person if his wife had been kinder with her tongue.

The husbands in the pub laughed along with everyone else, for the most part, and gave out as good as they got. But I’m willing to bet that this sort of casual put-down had at least a little something to do with the infidelity that was almost a way of life in this community.

It’s not a sign of weakness to be kind with your words as well as your deeds. We need to build up those around us, not tear them down, not be casually, thoughtlessly dismissive or wounding. The garden of our thoughts grows our outwards speech as well as our internal voice.

Prune and weed both.

‘Wait,’ Erin said. ‘One more thing – I imagined my garden, just like you told me to, but it’s all overgrown.’ She waved a hand. ‘I mean, really wild.’ She shrugged. ‘What do I do? I mean, about that?’

Morghan looked back at her. ‘Tend it, Erin. Cut things back, prune and trim. Develop discipline.’ 

Morghan & Erin, The Rising, Ch 23

Katherine Genet is the author of the Wilde Grove mythic/visionary fiction series, as well as complementary non-fiction. She has been walking a pagan path for 30 years and is a shamanic Druid, spirit worker, and priestess of  Elen of the Ways.

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  1. Jayne Wilson

    As always, a wonderful reminder that our words are living things.

  2. Jennie

    So true , my ex husband thought his put downs of me were ‘funny ‘ for years , but it destroyed my confidence and our marriage sadly in the end . I’m pleased to say I’m rebuilt stronger and very conscious of my words ?

    • Katherine Genet

      It really is an insidious thing. Glad to hear you’re even stronger now ?

  3. Evie Webb-Swope

    My first thought was to justify why women feel the need to state the snide comments. As I continued to read I realized nothing can justify it and all words even thoughts have energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed it can only be changed. Why would anyone want to add to the negative and the added humor is nothing more than a bit of sugar to the bitterness.
    Lesson learned.


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