Features / Fiction / In Their Own Words / Nonfiction


A column called “In Her Own Words” has a special resonance when the subject is Mary Daly. One of the great targets of the “second wave” of the feminist movement in the ’70s and ’80s was language. On the premise (well-founded) that how we speak shaped how we think, that words have a concrete reality, cultural reformers turned their attention to the way language could be used to repress, and the way subtext could manifest itself as oppression. This came out in a myriad of ways: “politically correct” alternatives were invented for words that were deemed to be destructive, such as “differently-abled” in lieu of “crippled” or “handicapped.” And eccentric spellings were often adopted to free words from their etymological origins: “herstory” for “history” or “womyn” for “women.”

Mary Daly took a different route in her work. She didn’t rewrite the English language so much as seize it, forcibly reclaim it. Her own syntax doesn’t reject etymology, it embraces it…hers is a constant returning to the original roots of words. Coupled with a fondness for puns and words with double meanings, her inclination to turn nouns into verbs wherever possible, and to capitalize words that name a Feminist truth, while leaving words that reference patriarchal realities in the lower case, and the result can be bewildering to even the native English speaker in a patriarchal culture. This is intentional:

Be-Wilder v. [bewilder “to cause to lose one’s way, as in a wild or unknown place; to lead or drive astray”—O.E.D.]: to lead the Self and Others on Pixie-paths that wind ever deeper into the Unknown, to hear and follow the Call of the Wild


91398One note on the following excerpts: Webster’s, in Daly’s work, references Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. But Websters’ is an abbreviation for her own Websters’ First Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.

Excerpts pulled from Websters’ Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language:

From the preface:

The adjective wicked, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, can be traced to the same Indo-European root (weik-) as wicce, the Old English word meaning Witch. According to the Wickedary, Wicked means “beyond patriarchal ‘good’ and ‘evil’; characterized by Original Integrity; Originally Sinful actively participating in the Unfolding of Be-ing as Good.”

Be-ing (verb): 1. Ultimate/Intimate Reality, the constantly Unfolding Verb of Verbs which is intransitive, having no object that limits its dynamism. 2. The Final Cause, the Good who is Self-communicating, who is the Verb from whom, in whom and with whom all true movements move.
Archaic adj: occurring in Tidal Time; Original, Primal, Primordial

Boundary Living: Realizing Power of Presence on the Boundaries of patriarchal institutions; Presentiating the Background in the midst of foreground conditions by communicating contagious Courage, Pride, and Other Volcanic Virtues. Examples a: the Chinese marriage resisters (nineteenth and twentieth centuries) b. the Beguines of medieval Europe.

archetype n. : [derived fr. Gk arche– original + typtein to strike, beat, akin to L struprum defilement, dishonor, Skt tupatu, tumpati he hurts—Webster’s]: model/pattern designed to beat, defile, dishonor, and hurt Original Female Elemental Powers. Examples: The Great Whore of Babylon, the Eternal Feminine, the vagina dentata

Wild (adj.)—living in a state of nature. Not tamed or domesticated. Growing or produced without the aid and care of man. NATIVE. Not living or associated with man. Not amenable to control, restraint, or domestication: UNRULY, UNGOVERNABLE, RECKLESS. Exceeding normal or conventional bounds in thought, design, conception, execution, or nature EXTRAVAGANT, FANTASTIC, VISIONARY, RUDE, UNCIVILIZED, BARBARIC, SAVAGE, INTRACTABLE, REVELLIOUS, ERRATIC not accounted for by any known theories. EXTREME, PRODIGIOUS. : This definition has been awarded Websters’ Intergalactic Seal of Approval

Third Eye: Super Sensory power of transcendent vision; Elemental capacity of Nag-Gnostics to envision Other Whys, Other ways, and Other worlds.

pre-occupation n [derived dr. praeoccupatio act of seizing beforehand—Webster’s] method of reinforcing the State of Possession: patriarchal strategy of seizing women’s Self-esteem, independence, vigor and vitality “beforehand” i.e., with the intent of permanently inhibiting Self-Realization; invasion and occupation of female bodies and minds through such means as incest, rape, enforced pregnancies, and the early implantation of such preoccupations as Self-doubt, anxiety, guilt, depression, and terror.

Spinster n: a woman whose occupation is to Spin, to participate in the whirling movement of creation; one who has chosen her Self, who defines her Self by choice neither in relation to children nor to men; one who is Self-identified; a whirling dervish, Spiraling in New Time/Space.

priest n [derived fr. Gk presbyteros priest, elder, older, compar. Of presbys old man—Webster’s] a member of any of the hierarchies/liararchies of patriarchy, charged with Holy Orders to perform the necrophilic rites of the sadosociety. Examples: priests of religion; priests of science; priests of medicine; priests of war

Gossip v.: [“To be a gossip or sponsor to; to give a name to. Obs…To act as a gossip, or a familiar acquaintance; to take part (in a feast), to be a boon-companion; to make oneself at home.…To tell like a gossip: to communicate. Also with out. 1650 ‘The secret lay not long in the Embers, being gossiped out by a woman.’…1827 ‘And wisdom, gossip’d from the stars.’”—O.E.D.] 1: to exercise the Elemental Female Power of Naming, especially in the Presence of other Gossips 2: to take part in the festivity of wordplay among Boon-Companions 3: to tell like a Gossip; to divine and communicate the secrets of the Elements, the wisdom of the stars

Wonderlust n.: strong and unconquerable longing for Elemental adventure and knowledge: Call of the Metamysterious. Canny comment:

If I had influence with the good fairy…I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. —Rachel Carson

Click here to read Nicki Leone‘s feature piece on Mary Daly.

Bloom Post End

One thought on “IN HER OWN WORDS: Mary Daly

  1. Here is an excerpt from my not yet published memoir, (UN)COMMON WOMEN: A Midlife Chronicle.

    Mid-summer, 1980. I stop at Sisterhood Bookstore on Westwood Boulevard. Owned by Simone Wallace, an old friend from the late 60’s, Sisterhood features feminist presses along with general literature, and also serves as a resource center for women. That afternoon, I pull Mary Daly’s recently published book, “Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism” off the shelf. The cover is blood red emblazoned with the symbolic double axe, the Cretan labrys. My hands shake as if I have grabbed onto a stick of lit dynamite. If ever a woman was ripe for this explosive work, it is me. My journal can hardly contain the explosion.

    I send a copy to my aunt Ruth, (A Franciscan nun doing liberations theology in Central America) and include this note..

    Mary Daly is IT! I have never found anyone who could articulate what I KNOW to be true – from the BEGINNING. Somehow my ignorance has not killed me. Gyn/Ecology has awakened some buried knowledge. Everything is there – my inability to connect with political revolution (it didn’t talk to ME as a woman) my inability to connect with “women’s lib” (it didn’t do the JOB – Band Aid only.) My pull to a Latino – he knows about COLONIZATION, REVOLUTION what it is like to have a radical consciousness. This time ALONE has been crucial. My real work this summer has been to establish my radical FEMALENESS – so much more to learn.

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