“I’m Pixie Sugarspark.”
“I’m Raven MoonShadow.”
“I’m Mordred Wolfsbane.”
…Or so it may go among those coming into a Pagan or Craft setting for the first time.
Having a magical or Craft name is like one of those kinds of ‘fun perks’ to declaring yourself a Pagan, and it should be. But as to the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ and intricate reasons and details… well, there are more of them than there are names to begin with.
Some reasons given for taking a new name are that it can bring one in line more with their inner Pagan spirit. You may have been born as a Milton, but since discovering magic, you feel more like a Merlin. Another popular reason, and one of the more logical, is that for many people, there is still a strong fear of what sorts of trouble or unwanted repercussions they could experience if they were publicly known as a Pagan. So, a new name gives them some freedom and security. Soulwind can write articles or organize events that she might have concerns about if she’s known as Elizabeth Foster. The threat of custody battles and lost jobs or homes is still very real for some, and for that reason, a publicly known Craft name can afford a bit more freedom and self-identity.
I have three different Craft names. The first is what I am known publicly as. It’s what I write this blog as and what I am known to my local community as: Serpent. This isn’t the only public name I have used. When I lived in Ohio, the name most knew me as there — and what most of my Ohio Pagan friends still call me — is Gypsy. Later on, I added FireSerpent as a surname. I didn’t really change names and I haven’t really let go of Gypsy, but when I moved to Idaho, I decided that to bring myself in tune with more of the energies and environment here, as well as allow myself a bit of room to grow, I would focus and utilize the Serpent name more. I’ve greatly enjoyed that.
Sometimes Craft names change, depending on changes in your life or practice. While my change from Gypsy to Serpent isn’t a total change, I did have a Craft name before Gypsy that I embraced when I first declared myself to be a Witch. That name was Akasha SilverPhoenix. I used that name in my own private ceremonies and online, because that early on in my studies I didn’t really know anyone else in person. But my first website and email address and online handle were based on that name. The biggest problem I had with it was that people assumed that I was a fan of Anne Rice’s novels and that Akasha was an homage to her creation. I had no idea who that even was at the time as I hadn’t read any of her books and this was before the movie came out that featured Akasha as a character. I had chosen Akasha because of its Sanskrit meaning “spirit”. I had chosen SilverPhoenix because of Silver’s association with lunar and feminine energies and because I had been through many events in my life that I felt I was being born again from the ashes of, like a Phoenix.
I share this because I believe that it is entirely possible for one to ‘outgrow’ a Craft name. Now, I wouldn’t suggest changing names on a whim, simply because you think of something that you like better after you have already declared yourself to be ___. I’ve been practicing roughly 20 years, and those are the only changes I’ve had in all that time, and I made them with lots of thought and meditation.
Your name is your identity and while your parents determined what you would be known as to humankind, you have more of an option to choose for yourself what you will be known as to your spiritual family. I’d also like to point out that people of many different religious traditions take on different names at different points in their lives. The most widely known outside of Pagan circles would be the Pope of the Catholic faith. Nuns and monks also take new names when they take the vows of their order.
I’ve given the previous examples as ways that an individual or solitary may choose to accept a Craft name. But there are a few variations that exist for group members in addition to these. I also have a Craft name that is known only to initiates of my tradition, and third name that is not known to anyone but is only for use between myself and the gods, spirits, and my ancestors. The second Craft name meets the criteria of the first, but in addition, also allows for more of a ‘group mind’ or ‘egregore’ to be built up between members. There is something inherently magical and powerful about having secrets. Whether you find that to be based in the ether, in psychology, or in both, it is there.
In my tradition, Dedicants may choose a name to be known by among our group. They may also use this as a public name if they so wish, but this name is what they are introduced to our gods as during their Dedication ceremony. The same thing happens for Initiation, but one of the Mysteries of my tradition is that the initiate’s name isn’t as ‘freely chosen’ as their Dedicant name is. I can’t go into a whole lot of detail, because the information is oathbound, but part of the preparation for initiation includes a name being revealed to the initiate and the sponsoring facilitator/mentor or High Priest/ess.
The third name, the secret name that is not known by another person and reserved only for gods, spirits, and ancestors, is taken upon elevation into the Third Degree.
Now, a secret name can of course be taken by a solitary if they so choose. If the idea appeals to you, by all means have at it. A secret name can also be taken by a member of my tradition before the Third Degree elevation. The only difference being here that the tradition doesn’t recognize the name in the same vein as one bestowed according to our rites and practices. The name you take is between you and the gods. It’s not for another person to nay-say it.
So, that’s the jist of the whys. There may be other reasons, but in my experience, these are the big ones. The hows are even more plentiful and limited really only by your own insight or imagination if you’re solitary. If you’re joining a group, the how is pretty much already handled for you in terms of ritual or ceremony, so you get to relax and just enjoy the process.
Coming up with or choosing a Craft name can really start from anywhere. Favorite literary characters have given rise to Galadriels, Arwens, Rands, and Corwins. Given the boost in popularity of the Game of Thrones franchise, I suspect in the near future that the Craft community will embrace its share of Daeneryses and Tyrions as well. History, legend, and mythology are also popular sources and people have taken on names like Athena, Robin, Isis, Loki, and Finn. There is also a wealth of natural and magical-sounding sources to choose from such as Willow, Feather, Sunbeam, Dandilion, or Firewill, Dreamweaver, Waterwalker, or Icewind. Some people seek out names according to what they believe reflects their spiritual or magical selves and personality. Or, you could look at what you would like to emulate or become and choose a name in line with that goal. Numerology, astrology, divination, dream working or meditation can also be utilized to create a Craft name. I don’t particularly favor one method over another, though it was very interesting to me that according to numerology, my first Craft name perfectly matched my birth number.
Numerology is based on a 1-9 numbering system with each letter of the alphabet having a number value. A basic chart is:
- A, J, S
- B, K, T
- C, L, U
- D, M, V
- E, N, W
- F, O, X
- G, P, Y
- H, Q, Z
- I, R
According to numerology, your birth number is the one thing identifying you that cannot be changed. You may lie about your age to other people, making yourself older or younger, but you can’t change the actual date of your birth. To learn your birth number, you would add together the digits of your birth month, day, and year. So, if you were born May 11, 1990 the addition would be 5+1+1+1+9+9+0=26 Then, since the total is a 2-digit number, you add those together so that in the end you have a single digit result: 2+6=8 So your birth number is 8.
You would take the name and work out the numerical value for each letter, then add those digits together. For example, if I take the name RAVEN, that numerically comes to 9,1, 4, 5, 5. Adding those numbers 9+1+4+5+5=24 2+4=6. RAVEN is a 6.
Based on this system, the two don’t match. If you want to keep RAVEN as an option, you can look for ways to change the spelling. RAVYN, RAVENN, RAYVIN, etc. to see if you can come up with a way to reach an 8 for RAVEN. If this is important to you, then I encourage you to create a way to get a name that matches your birth number. If it isn’t, then name yourself RAVEN and may the blessings of the gods wash over you!
People can devise all sorts of ways to choose a Craft name. Just as they can choose different ways to announce it to themselves, their community, or their gods. At the core, what is important in a naming ceremony is that something is done to join your ‘self’ with this new name. Some ideas may be that in ritual, you bake a cookie with your Craft name inscribed on it in icing and then during your ritual, you eat the cookie, thus taking in the name to yourself and using your internal chemistry to absorb it. You may choose to prick your finger and use a drop of your blood to mark over a piece of paper that has your Craft name written on it, joining your essence and life-force to the new name. Or you could light a candle and in a ritual of quiet reflection, announce that you will be known henceforth as ___ to your community and gods.
A Craft name isn’t a requirement in most cases, unless your tradition says otherwise. The act of choosing and embracing a new name should feel good. It should feel special and sacred. I invite you to try doing so if you have not. The worst that could happen, really, is you don’t like it or find that it doesn’t suit you. In that case, you’ve lost nothing and gained new insight into yourself.
So says Lady Serpent, once known as Gypsy, Akasha SilverPhoenix, and now by other names that seem to fit her as well.