Trothwy, over at The Used Key, has been publishing a discussion on Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft (after having discussed it with a book club that I only got to attend once, to my great disappointment). She’s posted several chapters worth of responses from various public and published Witches, and I’ve been following along eagerly.
I’d not run into Huson’s book before – and I’m really not sure why, when I’ve gone looking for older, more traditional Witchcraft books in the past. Perhaps I needed to be reading it now instead of then. Either way, I’ve enjoyed reading it, as Huson doesn’t pull any punches with regards to power and craft. There’s no “only good magic is allowed” fluff – magic is magic, for good or ill. I’m of the opinion that occasionally it’s right to step into a negative situation magically (even if I don’t hex the toenails off people nearly as often as I ponder the idea).
Anyway, so I was thinking about the discussion on Chapter 2, and since the comments there have focused on tools and crafting them (and whether or not using blood in the consecration of an athame is acceptable – it’s excellent, you should check it out), I thought I’d take my little ponderings on Witch Names over here.
(I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, so we’ll consider it just an exercise in random thought.)
See… I don’t have a craft name.
I have the name I use here – River Daughter. I have a name I go by elsewhere on the internet. And I have a legal name.
I’ve thought for years about magical names, but never really come up with one I thought I could use consistently. I’ve even tried on a few – usually animal names like Rabbit or Little Owl – and never really felt like I was connected to them in a meaningful way. I’ve even thought of using River Daughter as a magical name, but it felt too weird, having already used it online in various places for awhile. If a magical name is supposed to be secret, the name I use to blog sure ain’t.*
So, for most magic, I use my legal name, since that’s the most personal name I have. I feel it’s appropriate for me to use that name when I’m working with the Gods.
Which is weird, and sometimes makes me feel a little inadequate, to be honest. Everyone ELSE gets a cool new name, how come I can’t come up with one I like? (that’s my 4th grader voice, by the way)
I mean, people talk about magical names all the time – especially online. Which I also don’t understand, as this is The Internet ™ where EVERYTHING is public. Why would you even want to share something secret with the whole flipping world? It’s almost like a right of passage with newbie pagans, and so they want to show it off, in the same breath that they talk about how the Gods give out magical names and they’re super secret and powerful.
Circular thinking is circular.
Maybe I don’t have a specific craft name because I haven’t truly needed it and haven’t felt the need to adopt one just to have it. Would I like one? Sure. I love the idea, and I think Huson has some good steps for finding some names that might work. I think a Witch Name might even have power, should I choose to give it power.
I don’t think names have too much innate power, beyond the “particularness” of a person – they can be useful in magic, but so can a piece of hair or an old belonging. When you’re identifying someone, it’s the particularness that matters, not the name.
But with a name comes an identity, and mental cues are extremely powerful to the subconscious. If every time I do magic, I identify myself with a special name, that name becomes a trigger for my unconscious that magic is about to happen. In a way, the names I use on the internet already act as those cues. When I am writing as River Daughter, I know that has a certain context (this blog, and other pagan blogs and websites), and I know that I am speaking publicly. Signing in to the blog becomes a cue that this is public speaking, so to speak. Those names also afford me a level of protection online. It’s possible for someone to track Real Me down only knowing Online Me, but it takes a good bit of work. If I used my legal name here, it would be a lot easier.
Which I guess works in a witchcraft sense as well. If you’re just getting to know someone, it’s much safer to use an assumed “craft” name (where I would use River Daughter, in this example) instead of your legal name, especially if you’re not public about your involvement in the craft. There are a lot of places where being “out of the broom closet” could cause a lot of problems. But I see that as different than a Witch name, and I think Huson does as well (at least in this particular instance). The name I’d tell random strangers to keep them from following me home is different than the name I would use to work with the Gods.
There’s also a level of permanence to a craft name – if I want to introduce myself to the Gods, I want it to be with a name that means something, either to me personally or within a tradition (should I get that far), and not a name I just picked out of a book. Though I suppose if your method of divination is flipping through books, you could bring yourself to a focused state and grab a book of magical names/words/herbs, choosing one by blindly pointing at it. (With my luck, I’d end up pointing at a name like Belchweed or somesuch.)
Anyway, as mentioned, I’m not entirely sure where this is going. I’ve not had a big revelation in thinking about it, only peeled back a few more layers of the onion.
I still don’t have a craft name. And I still kinda wish I did.*
*Also, I’d be concerned that everyone would assume I’d picked up the name River/River Daughter from Firefly, and not from Tolkien. For some reason that matters.
**Maybe I’d not use it even if I DID have it. Who knows?