Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Names and power

I've been watching "Once Upon A Time", as I think I've mentioned before.  One thing that is intricately woven into the fabric of the story is a very old idea, that names have power.  Remember Rumpelstiltskin?  Depending on the version you read, he is destroyed by the power of his name.  There are other fairy tales that hint at the power of names:  some stories advise us to keep our names to ourselves should we meet the Other Crowd.  There are cultures where true names are a tightly held secret.  Names for many are auspicious or damning.  They carry a weight of their own by tying a heritage, history and ideas to a living, breathing creature.

I've never been particularly fond of my name.  It's alright, but there were a whole bunch of Amandas in school. In part, my mom chose the name from an old country song by Don Williams.  It is derived from the Latin word for "love", and until the late 1970's, it hadn't been in vogue since Elizabethan England.  Over the years, I've transitioned between Amanda and Mandy.  These days, Amanda is pretty much used only on legal documents.  Mandy is less formal, more open.  It's also the name that I tend to respond to more quickly.

I know some Wiccans and Pagans chose a craft name, and I can't bring myself to do it.  First, self chosen names come with a different sort of baggage.  How do you choose a name for yourself? It's hard enough picking one for a child or pet that can't talk back, much less for yourself.  Second, many of the names I've seen are just silly (have you seen the joke about choosing a craft name, that's exactly my point here it is).  Third, nothing has called me to it.  I use the Cauldron Keeper title here, but it's more a job description based on a string of meditations.  I don't consider it my name and think there are many, many others who are also cauldron keepers/tenders.  It also makes it a little harder for parts of my life to mingle.  One day I might not care, but for now, I need a bit of privacy.

Some people and their name go together well: complementing, explaining. One of brother's is named Keith.  It is often interpreted to mean "of the battle field", and it seems to have been a bit prophetic.  He has long been at odds with the world. I've known some Sarahs who absolutely live up to the name "princess". Other people, not so much.    They seem at odds with their names.How about a Charisma who was incredible abrasive, a cowarly Leo, or a Joy who was sour?

Do you believe names have power?  Does yours suit you, or would you just assume change it?  Has it been a process?  How about craft names: buy into it or think it's goofy or something in between?  Is your true name a secret or out in the open?

4 comments:

  1. Interesting post. I totally believe that names have power; just think about how fast you stopped doing something when you heard a parent yell all three names. As to a craft name, mine is more of a pseudonym that I use because my daughter is a minor and I don't need people's issues with me interfering with her life, especially as I am a Pagan Community Organizer so I'm out and about a lot.

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  2. Oh, I hate my name--Kristy. Bleck. Either no one can spell it right or none can pronounced it. Frickin annoying. Always have to spell it out...last name too--still have to do that even with the marriage! Or they, like my mom, calls me "Kris", which I associate with Chris--a boy's name. Doesn't help that my cousin's name is Christopher. When we're in the same building and someone calls the first 4 or 5 letters, we both respond.

    My "Coven name" is Witchfire. Came to me in middle school, easiest name in the world, I'm a Witch and my element is Fire. It just stuck. Now in terms of my magik name, it was revealed during a journey--meditation, and I keep it secret. Between me and my Spirits. Why? Just is. Perhaps subconsciously I do see power in a name.

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  3. Dear Witchfire, I have felt the same way about my name. My ex-sister-in-law had the same name (not to mention at least 1 other Amanda in every class throughout school). I have never been called to a craft name, so I can't comment on that. Thanks for your input.

    Kat, I agree with needing to keep a certain separation between what we do in this venue from our children's lives. Allowing them their privacy to develop is important. And I agree that the whole name yell from my mom still stops me in my tracks (unless I'm determined to be a pest, in which case I laugh and tell her she missed one). Thanks for your comment.

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  4. Names do have power, but they should not be overrated.

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