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.