N is for names

When I became Wiccan, I threw myself into it with all the passion of the recent convert. I attempted ritual at every sabbat and esbat. I began to build my Pagan library, and collected the “accessories:” wand, athame, candles, symbols of the four elements, and so on. What I didn’t adopt right away was a Craft name.

There are several reasons someone might use one or more magical names. I understood the need for anonymity the best. It made sense to me that someone might want to keep their Paganism a secret; I could easily imagine child custody battles, hostile neighbors, and threats of unemployment. I also understood how someone might want a special name upon initiation to symbolize their rebirth into this new religion, and that a magical name could help you get into a magical mind-set.

Common Pagan name components.
Common Pagan name components.

So all of these made sense to me, but none of them really applied to my situation. As a solitary practitioner from the get-go, I wasn’t practicing with anyone who would need to call me anything. There was a Pagan community around me, but I rarely got any closer to it than at public rituals, and I usually never needed to introduce myself to anyone at those. My friends thought this new religion of mine was cool, so there was no need to hide Wicca from them. My parents weren’t supportive, but I lived two states away from them and didn’t need a special name to disguise what I was doing—all I had to do was just not tell them what I was up to. And becoming Wiccan hadn’t felt as much of a thorough change as I imagined a rebirth would be. I had a different religion—heck, I finally had a religion for the first time in my life—but I still essentially felt like me.

Still, just because I didn’t need a magical name didn’t mean I couldn’t have one, and yet I kept not taking that step. I understood all these good reasons intellectually, but in practice, magical names seemed like a grown-up version of “let’s pretend.” The names I heard sounded like they were fresh from the pages of the nearest fantasy novel, occasionally sprinkled with Lady this and Lord that. Basically, I felt silly and I couldn’t get into the spirit of the game. (Sure, now I know that being able to be childlike is a good thing in Wicca or Paganism, but at the time, I didn’t get the point of it all.) Plus, I didn’t see anything wrong with my given name. It means “consecrated to God,” and I enjoyed the irony that I was off becoming consecrated to a God (and Goddess) that wasn’t the God originally intended. It had always seemed like a horridly pious name when I was a child. Now, I finally appreciated its meaning, and I wasn’t ready to give it up (in a religious context).

You will note, of course, that the name I sign to these blog posts sounds pretty much like all those names I couldn’t take seriously years ago.* It’s all the Internet’s fault. As more and more people went online, having an alternate identity finally did feel like a matter of personal safety. Being exposed to all those magical names over the years, I naturally chose a pseudonym for myself that was similar to them. And so the Internet has done for me what becoming Pagan never quite managed!


*By the way, it’s not “silver ‘n’ fire.” Silvern is an archaic adjectival form of silver (think golden and gold).