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February 19th, 2005


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11:52 pm - I am who I am and that's all that I am. . .
This evening, after failing to get a date (I admit I didn't look too hard, having asked a total of two women and forgetting to ask another one), I went out to browse some bookshops and see the movie Elektra. I wasn't jumping up and down to see it, but it was at the dollar theatre and I had exact change, so it seemed like a good idea.

Elektra wasn't bad. Well, it wasn't good, either, but it was made better than it probably would have been by the 13 year old kid sitting next to me who spent the whole movie discussing the plot and asking questions to absolutely no one in particular.

Pretty much everything elicited a "sweet!" or "woah!" response from this kid, but the best was his response of "Uhhhhhhhhhhh. . ." to Jennifer Garner's underwater shots in her lingerie. I really need to sit next to him next time I'm at a movie. . . it was a riot!

But I'm not writing this to talk about the movie that was worth almost exactly the $1.50 I paid to see it. No, I'm writing to talk about one of the books I saw in one of the bookstores.

In Half Price Books, I came across this gem of a book: The New Book of Magical Names (ISBN: 0738703958)

I have to say that I have honestly never been more insulted by a book in my life. And for me to be insulted or to take offense at anything usually takes a lot. Well, she accomplished "a lot."

The issue I have is her chapter on "Christian names".

I figured that it would be nifty to look up some names and see if she had any history, or maybe knew something about my name that I didn't. So I flipped to the index and started looking for my name.

Wait. . . it's not there! She appears to have left out the most popular boy's name in history: Michael. So I figure, "Maybe she only has names she thinks are cool indexed, like Mulder and Sky," and I go to look and see what I can find in the Table of Contents. Surprise, she has a section on Christian names. Though my name is Hebrew, I figure that "Christian" is about as close as I can come.

And so I begin reading, and I begin to be shocked.

"There's nothing wrong with a little bit of Christianity in a name. That is, if you're a little bit Christian," she says (I'm paraphrasing, not quoting). Her basic argument is that these are names that come from a book that was read "while innocent people burned," and these names are simply not proper for any Neo-Pagan to have.

Apparently, to her my name is likely to be unacceptable, as is every other name that comes from the Bible. She specifically singles out John, Matthew, and Judas as examples of names you should not pick, but never mentions my name. She makes it very clear, however, that any name from the Bible has some sort of taint, that it's evil or ugly or disgusting. Heck, if it's mentioned in the Bible, that seems to be too much for her!

And her insinuation with that whole "little bit Christian" bit that I am not being honest with myself about my religion is simply degrading and insulting and very, very low. I don't even really know how to respond to it.

Now, I suspect that her main audience is a bunch of kids looking for something cool to call themselves. If that's the case, though, why wouldn't someone want my name? Michael is no small potato of a name: its Hebrew for "He who is like God," for chrissakes! There is simply no better name (outside of perhaps Moses) for a magician to take!

I admit that I really like my name. In my opinion, there is no better name out there. I love the way my name flows, what it means, and what it implies. I can't imagine ever going by a different name, except as a joke (Pope Cockroach, at your service) or as an actor playing a part.

But I don't want to be an actor. I want to be who I am. I'm not two people, one in ritual and one outside of it. I'm not a magician for 3 hours a night. I don't leave my religion at the door when I walk into my office. I don't operate as more than one separate human being that requires two names.

This is part of why I objected to the requirement that a person take a "magical name" at Wellspring last year. The newest thought-bubble of a study program, the Initiate's Program, was outlined by Ian there, and all I could think was, "I will never use a different name for magic. I'm proud of who I am, and my magician-self is as well." And if such a thing were to become a requirement, I would simply never finish that program. (As it stands, I doubt there ever will be an Initiate's Program, so the point is moot.)

I am Michael, and that is all that I am. Do I care if you call me Michael or Mike? No, because I see them as the same name. There is a reason that I insist that my middle initial not be punctuated, because there is no "Michael J. Dangler". I have a middle name, but I don't use it. It's not because I don't like it (I actually rather do), it's because it's too long to write out. I used to use it, but it became tedious, so I dropped it. Now, I sometimes forget I have it. Thus the lack of punctuation.

I took my Dedicant Oath with this name. If I take an oath for Clergy status, this will be the name I approach the deities with. This is the name the Gods know me by. I don't hide who I am. I don't put on a mask to interact with the Gods or my co-workers. Everyone talks to the same Michael J Dangler, day in, day out.

The use of magical names has always made me wonder. It's not so much that I don't approve (after all, who am I to approve of someone else's choice of name?), but rather that I simply don't see the need for a separate self. I suppose that some people could be ill-named by a parent, and that might cause them to go by another name, but even this I don't necessarily understand; my father has indicated that he dislikes his name, but he has never gone by anything else.

Mostly, though, I can't understand why a person feels the need to be someone else. Why are they uncomfortable with who they are? Why do they need the element of play-acting that involves taking on a different name, and a different persona with that?

I'm not sure I'll ever understand that, but still there is the burning question that this book has brought to my attention: What the fuck is wrong with Michael, or any Biblical name? What the hell makes any other name superior to it? Especially names like "Apple" or "Wolf" or "Feather" or "Gorse" or "Dragon"? Or how about "Morgan" or "Raven", the two most over-used (and rarely descriptive) names in the Pagan community? And when she got into names from Hollywood, I nearly died! We shouldn't name our children after Archangels, but we should name them after one of the Baldwin brother's sons?

In the end, I'm not angry at the practice of choosing magical names. That's a great practice for those who wish to partake, and it can lead to some powerful results. I'm pissed that someone would basically say that I'm not a good Pagan because my name comes from the Bible, and I don't care. I'm not leaping toward the courthouse with an order to change it in my hand. In fact, I'm freaking proud of it! The horror!

Who the fuck are you to judge, Phoenix McFarland?

This is an indignant Michael J Dangler, whose name is apparently unfit for a Neo-Pagan, signing off.
Current Mood: aggravatedaggravated
Current Music: "Nautical Wheelers", -JB

(84 comments Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:shizukagozen
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:03 am (UTC)
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Woah. I do not think I have ever heard you curse. ;)

Ah sweetie cutie darling dear, you know most "neo pagan authors" have smoke up their ass that fills their head with weird hallucinations and odd thoughts -- you know, thoughts that they're important and all knowing (I know that I cannot wait to be one of 'em!).

I suppose this means I would not make a good neo-pagan either, but then I adamantly state I am not (Mazi comes from the Hebrews too). You can come sit with me, I'll get you a lap dance and video tape the whole thing!

I agree about the whole Initiates program thing as well, but you knew that. If people want to use magical names, more power to them. But don't force the rest of us to. My alternative names are online aliases and nothing more. They're only to keep my adoring fans from seeking those personal autographs they want written on strips of my flesh. I am me, call me by my name.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:23 am (UTC)
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Hehe. Yes, I do curse on occasion. I just don't do it often.

And I'll certainly come sit with you, if either one of us will finally get the lap dances promised to us!

(Your Hebrew name means something slightly different than mine, though!)
From:perlgirlju
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:13 am (UTC)
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First things first, sorry I couldn't make it tonight. Bookshopping and movie-going would have been a much better way to spend the evening than buying a new refrigerator and studying.

Secondly, as a Judith (aka another Biblical name, that is, if you believe the Apocrypha to be a part of the Bible) and damn proud of it, I couldn't agree more with *everything* you've said.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:24 am (UTC)
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That's because I always have the best ideas :) Maybe next time. . .

You should pick it up then, and have a good time not knowing whether to laugh or get pissy!
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From:anivair
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:51 am (UTC)
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I'm with you on magical names. I used to be in favor of them, but having rethouht it since then it feels more like pretense than anyhting else.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:52 pm (UTC)
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Yes. It's not always pretense (sometimes the person goes completely in that direction and ends up using it as their actual name), but sometimes it is.
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From:concordantnexus
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:03 am (UTC)
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pssst chronarchy you seemed to have left your Llewellyn filter off, else why else did you pick up that book? ;)
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:51 pm (UTC)
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Hehe. I don't actually have one of those filters. Sure, most of the time it's really useful, but in the end, you end up missing some occasionally good stuff. After all, John Michael Greer writes under Llewellyn. . . And Ceisiwr Serith's first book was also published by them.
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From:singingwren
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:24 am (UTC)
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Aw, if I had a damn phone I would have called you. but actually, i only have your office phone, so i guess that was a lie. bugger!

*shakes fist at world in general*

sorry im in a weird mood now. never watch migraine when youre kind of sick o.O
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:53 pm (UTC)
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Hehe. I believe my actual phone number is listed in the PSA's Yahoo! group database.

And, of course, I should be in the phone book. Not that I've ever checked.
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From:rfunk
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:32 am (UTC)

alternate names

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I hang out in two separate communities where it's normal (and in one, expected) to use an alternate name. However, I'm comfortable with who I am and uncomfortable being someone else, so I'm uncomfortable calling myself something I'm not.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:54 pm (UTC)

Re: alternate names

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Exactly why I use my own name. I am who I am, as Popeye would say. :)
From:bloodlikerain
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:58 am (UTC)
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i don't think i've ever heard you cuss either. it's a bit like hearing clark gable say the word "damn" though.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:55 pm (UTC)
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The added shock value of cursing once in a while is worth it :)
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From:styskel
Date:February 20th, 2005 09:15 am (UTC)
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My name is Ryan. Well, my first name is anyway... I much perfer to be called by my last name (hence why I always use that online). It's much better, I think.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:56 pm (UTC)
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*noted* By your last name it is :)
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From:smithing_chick
Date:February 20th, 2005 09:19 am (UTC)
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I've heard you swear in life but you you rarely seem to do so when writing.

My name, (Sharon) oddly enough, is also Hebrew in origian & Christian, although I don't believe it shows up in the Bible anywhere that I've ever found (It's supposed to relate to the Mary, the mother of Jesus, in some way but I've read conflicting things. I have noticed that it's also the last name of the current guy running Isreal, although we pronounce it differently). My family changed my last name when they came over to avoid racism but it means the same thing so it doesn't bother me. (Schmidt to Smith) Plus, it was long before my time. There was a point when I was a kid that I wanted to be called by my middle name, largely because I was going through some nasty shit & didn't really want to be me any more.

As for magical names, I mostly find them silly. Obnoxiously silly. I have a hard time taking people seriously when they use a goofy name. I *really* think people should not use them if they're somewhere trying to present a positive face of Modern Paganism. I've never gone by a magical name in public. My old coven wouldn't use them outside of circle in the first place. And despite She who sits on my shoulder, there's no way I'd go by either Morgan or Raven. There's too frikin' many of them.

Although there's starting to be too many Sharons in ADF.... :)

But really, I like my name. It was hugely important to me after my divorce to get my maiden name back. It's now especially meaningful because it's not just my name, it's what I do. And what I do is what my family used to do, too. Which I find amazingly cool. :)
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From:ulbh
Date:February 20th, 2005 02:05 pm (UTC)
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"My name, (Sharon) oddly enough, is also Hebrew in origian & Christian, although I don't believe it shows up in the Bible …"

It shows up six times in the text of the King Seamus Bible (as a place name). The most famous citation is, of course, the one in the Song of Solomon (2:1): "I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys."


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From:fionnabhar
Date:February 20th, 2005 12:22 pm (UTC)

Jumpin' Jehosaphat!

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Simply laughable. I use fionnabhar as an online alias and "religious name" because it's just the Scots Gaelic of my real, given-to-me-at-birth name, Jennifer. The different spelling seems to go with the Celtic Recon thing. And as for names from the Bible, both times I was pregnant, we always told family that of course we were going to choose names from the Bible: Melchizedek or Herodias. They tended to shut right up after that.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 04:59 pm (UTC)

Re: Jumpin' Jehosaphat!

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Excellent strategy! I love it :)
From:fred_smith
Date:February 20th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
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If that author doesn't want to be even slightly related to anything thats got blood on its hands. She really shouldn't be involved with Paganism. The original Pagans were not well known for pacifism. And, I believe the church mostly killed monotheists. Its hardly an act of respect to the good Christians who died defending their beliefs to lump them together with the Christians who killed them.

I'm damned if I'm going to change my name just because it alludes to myths about a guy who acted as parent to a messiah who preached what was generally a philosophy of love. Not that I would never change my name. But it wouldn't be because I'm ashamed of my heritage.

I don't think I could take myself seriously with a name like "wolf" or "Morgan." I would feel like I'd reduced religion to role-playing. Because thats just not me. Ironically though, I'm quite happy to be called "Sandwich."
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:01 pm (UTC)
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But all the Pagans were all gynocentric and peaceful until the Pale Patriarchal Penis People came over the hill and imposed their culture on them!

Well, the bread in the sandwich is always the most important part. I have often wondered what exactly makes the sandwich. . . is it the bread, or is it the item(s) in between? Can you have a sandwich without both?
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From:weya
Date:February 20th, 2005 01:56 pm (UTC)
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Well ... I read your entry last night and have been mulling over it since.

Like many people, I also have a name based in the western god culture (hebrew, christian, muslim). Hell, there's a song devoted to my name in the Bible (Song of Deborah). I was given the name because it was my mother's favorite name -- when she was a girl and had a pretend name it was Debbie. What an awesome birthday gift ... to be given someone's favorite thing. I like my name. It's mainstream and yet I haven't met too many Debbies in my lifetime either.

To imply that if someone's given name is anyway related to the western one-god they're less pagan is ... yes you said it right, its insulting.

I also understand the idea of taking magickal names. As a student of numerology, I know that names resonate with different numbers/attributes. So perhaps a magickal name vibrates at the right frequency for magickal workings. Others will say that magickal names help them step from the mundane to a magickal mindset ... similar to donning a robe. Others do it to maintain personal privacy because they aren't out of the broomcloset/woodwork.

However there are far too many Ravens, Dancers, Moons, Wolfs, Bears, Morgans, with every color of the rainbow in their name. Even my online and magickal name (I admit that they have become intertwined over the years) 'weya' means wolf in Cherokee. Something I keep quiet cuz it just sounds so damn fluffy.

In my local grove, I go by Debbie. It seemed silly to introduce myself as 'weya'. I tried to sign my name as 'Debbie' in the ADF e-lists but was told that it was confusing because my email address said 'weya' but I was signing 'Debbie' and I either needed to change my email address information to my real name or start signing my emails as 'weya'. Since I don't like having my full name in my personal information for safety, I started signing my emails as weya (which I personally find more confusing because I don't think people in my grove realize weya & Debbie are the same person - but oh well).

Anyways, I agree with smithing_chick that using magickal names in the mundane world just portrays a silliness about paganism. If people want magickal names, fine, use them in a magickal context (like in ritual, approaching the gods, spells, whatever). But when presenting oneself to the mundane world use a mundane name not "Hi, I'm Reverend Lady MoonWolf PurpleUnicornDancer of the Morrigan" and expect people to take you seriously.

So that's the plethora of thoughts elicited by your post. It was cool to see the discussion that has ensued.
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From:rfunk
Date:February 20th, 2005 03:17 pm (UTC)

email signing

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I tried to sign my name as 'Debbie' in the ADF e-lists but was told that it was confusing because my email address said 'weya' but I was signing 'Debbie' and I either needed to change my email address information to my real name or start signing my emails as 'weya'.

Whoever told you that needs to get a life of their own and stop telling people how to sign their names! Sign your name however you want to be called! There's no reason it has to match up with your email address. (Quite often people's email addresses have nothing to do with what they want to be called anyway. I was once cc787 at the Cleveland Freenet, but certainly didn't want people calling me that.)

In fact, if your email address did match up with what you want to be called, there wouldn't be much reason for signing anyway, since everyone can already see who it's from. It's when it doesn't match up that signing is important.
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:30 pm (UTC)

Re: Yeah yeah, get over yourself

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Ah, now I have a research reason to go see that flick. Thank you!
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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:34 pm (UTC)
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Yes, ceremonial dress is similar. I do work with that, but I'd like to think that I dress up more for the others at a rite that I'm leading than for myself. In the end, what the leader of the rite is wearing can have a huge affect on what everyone else is getting out of the rite.

I recall one rite a few years ago where the Senior Druid lead it in cut-off jeans with major plumber's crack. The whole ritual was like a trainwreck -- No one could look away.

At my first Summerland, during a ritual, I saw more of Ian Corrigan than any man, woman, or child should ever see of him when he bent over to pick something up. I couldn't concentrate on the ritual after that.

So yeah, that's why I try to wear a robe to rituals, and why my robes *always* go down to my ankles.
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From:singingwren
Date:February 20th, 2005 05:47 pm (UTC)

because names are like lingerie.. ;)

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I remember when I was first exploring paganism I found a pagan name. I searched for one after reading some fluffy website or something like that, and I found it a very enjoyable task because I love to name things. Now, I understand both sides of this issue a lot more.

I think the real reason behind my search was initially a statement of independence. A way of saying: I leave behind the mundane life and the name-identity I had no choice about and name MYSELF, empowering me. I call myself for what I truly am (which is where we have problems with those with a deluded self-image who presume that they alone can know themselves.)

But there is a difference between approaching the gods "as you really are" and as you REALLY are. You are correct to say so many people don cloaks and become the mysterious "Raven" so they can relish in the occult glamour of it all. Me, I am always weirded out to be introduced to someone who calls themselves Moonshadow.

The name, to me, has to go much deeper than that. And at the same time it has to remain light, acknowledged as a nickname you and the gods agree to use and not a secret, deep dark word of power that evokes your name. My friend Amanda's name was Myrna and it soon became so obviously her that we used it every day in daily life, and people even met her thinking that her real name was Myrna occaionally. It was an appropriate, perfect nickname, no associations attached to those unaware of the meaning. It was not another identity, but a more intimate way of addressing her.

One cannot deny their "normal" name. I said above that to me at first it meant that I could remake myself as -I- saw myself rather than as the identity that was given to me by my parents, but who are we to think that the NAMES given to us are our identity? We cannot define ourselves by names. WE are the ones who define the names. My parents could have named me Priscilla, but that doesn't mean I am I doomed to be forever "Priscilla," as though Priscilla were a universal concept of some sort and all of them were the same.

It is important to remember that -I- made myself into the Anna people know today, and -I- made the name Anna a true description of who I am. It may have Biblical meanings, which I find personally beautiful, but it also has history. It has associations. The name Anna concerns itself with tadpoles and icecream and furry trees.

So the statement of independence and separation between mundane and magical is fine in theory. But the problem is that people forget the imortant concept of duality in paganism. They forget that opposites are intertwined. One cannot leave BEHIND Joe in order to be Redfeather before the gods, and one is being false by denouncing daily life as menial in comparison to magical life. After all, shouldn't they be one and the same? You do not put your gods on like stiletto heels and take them off when you've finished dancing.

I have a magical name, and although I don't use it often, I find it beautiful, but I recognize it for what it is: a synonym. It is another way of saying Anna, even if literally the translation is not. I am Anna, the girl who used to get in trouble because she absolutely refused to wear shoes, the girl who had braces and huge glasses and bangs in sixth grade. And Aileen -- Aileen is the same. She is not this beautiful perfect pagan maiden who embodies everything that my spirit wants to be. She too has muddy hands and regrets and ridiculous hopes for the future.

In conclusion to this whole ramble, I guess I am saying there's nothing wrong with pagan names, but they are unneeded. They are nicknames. I like the idea of it in someways, but in many huge ways I can see how they are abused.

The key is that they are not mysterious cloaks, but rather skimpy pieces of lingerie -- no matter how fancy you make them, the real you still sees stands exposed and unbashful before everyone's eyes. You may try to hide it, but they are seduced by the YOUness radiating through underneath, by the secrets and less-than-pious things you may think underneath your religious display. After all, changing your panties does not make you another person, so why should it really matter at all what you wear when you go before the gods or when you go before the pricipal?

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From:chronarchy
Date:February 20th, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)

Re: because names are like lingerie.. ;)

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So. . . If I show you mine will you show me yours?

*snickers*

But yes, the magical and the mundane should be at least similar, if not the same. I know I can see the magical in my daily life. I know I can see the mundane in rituals. And really, it's the person wearing the lingerie who carries it off, you're right. One piece may be sexier than another, but only if that person can wear it well.

And yes, you made the Anna I know. And here's hoping that I made the Mike you know.

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