If you’ve been following this
column, you’ve probably noticed a not-so-subtle change. I have taken a
new Craft name, Phoenix. So, what prompted the change and what does it
mean? Why a “fake” name at all?
Taking a magickal name isn’t
necessary to being a good witch, but many witches do have magickal
names. As you know, names hold power. When someone knows your name they
can learn information about you, for good or ill. You also go by many
different names depending on who is addressing you. While someone might
be “Samantha” to her mother, she might also be “Ms. Smith” to strangers
or folks very much younger than herself, and “Sam” to her friends. Each
name carries a different connotation and gives you hints as to how
someone is relating to you and how you should act.
Magickal names are no different.
Since very few individuals are raised Pagan or Wiccan, they usually
undergo a process of spiritual rebirth. Dedication and Initiation in
many Wiccan traditions are ceremonies to mark rites of passage in a
young witch’s life. A new name accompanies this birth of the new self.
Some Wiccans take two names when they are initiated — a public name
and a private name. The first is the name that you will go by in ritual
and among friends. The second is a name known only to you and your
patron deities ,and possibly to other coven members, only to be used
within sacred space.
Magickal names are usually chosen
by the individual for their personal meaning. Some may take a goddess
name, others choose the name of a fictional character they have
admired, still others look to nature for terms that embody traits they
posess or wish to exhibit. Naturally, take care when choosing a name.
Just as you would when naming a new baby, be mindful of how the name
sounds, what negative connotations it might posess, whether it lends
strength to you or whether it distracts or detracts from who you want
to be in the community. There’s a reason jokes are made about pagan
names like “Lady Tulip Moondrip” — it’s hard to take a name like that,
or the person using it, very seriously.
Magickal names also serve as a
psychic and psychological trigger. When someone addresses you by your
magickal name, you know that you should probably be in a spiritual
frame of mind, or the other individual knows you through your religious
affiliation. Chanting the magickal names of members is a good way for
coven members to feel bonded to each other and to raise power that
strengthens their connection. And referring to yourself by your
magickal name serves to remind you of your path and why you chose it.
So what’s my story? When I began
learning about the Craft, one of the things I read about was taking a
magickal name. I chose the name of one of my favorite birds, the
sparrow. As it happened, I was a meek, timid person, so the name of a
very small bird fit. When I began preparing for my first degree
initiation, my coven priestess suggested I look for a new name, as
“Sparrow” no longer fit. She was absolutely right. Over those three
years, I had broken out of my timid shell and become much a more fiery
individual. At the same time, I seem to be constantly reinventing
myself by virtue of necessity. A friend suggested “Phoenix” to me and
it felt right to me.
I’ve found that the more I
research about the phoenix, the more I realize that it suits me.
Learning about the origin of your magickal name or its symbolic history
can also make that name more meaningful for you. And you may find that
the more you learn about your name, the more suprises you find about
your desires, strengths and purpose.
The process of choosing a
magickal name can sometimes be a difficult task. Don’t be afraid to use
conventional methods, either — your magickal name can be the mundane
name you always wanted or one that has an appropriate meaning from the
language where it originated. Do as much research as possible and make
the process an additional facet of your spiritual growth. You may find
that you not only gain a new name, but a stronger tie to a particular
pantheon or tradition, a new connection to nature, and deeper knowledge
Phoenix is a Wiccan living in
East Central Illinois, where there’s a surprisingly strong Pagan
community for such a small town. She’s ever inspired by the diverse,
wonderful individuals in town and in the circle she works with.
1999 Phoenix and Spiritualitea. Do not reprint without permission