[PBP2013] Magical Names

You know, the whole topic about names is one of the reasons I love traditional polytheism: Unless one is also a part of a magical tradition that necessitates some sort of “craft name”, there is no need for this sort of thing in Hellenismos nor (for the most part) other traditional polytheism. As I recall in one of Sannion’s old essays from Sannion’s Sanctuary (which is only accessible via the Digital Archive Project’s WayBack Machine), most Hellenists tend to go either by their own name, or a simple Greek one. Names of major deities are generally avoided by a person (in favour of things like Diodoros), and names of minor deities, mythical / legendary heroes, and so on, are generally less taboo.

It’s usually pretty easy to spot some-one who isn’t a traditional polytheist (or who at least might just be a fairly young and naive such person) by how goofy their “majgickelle / pagan name” is.

Now, maybe I’m being presumptuous, but from what I understand about magical traditions that do employs “craft names” or similar, this is usually something taken from Ceremonial Magic traditions, and is something not necessarily intended for outside the ritual circle, or at least not intended for outside of any ritual context, at all. It’s something that’s generally between oneself, one’s deities, and one’s coven, if applicable, so no, I generally do not take peole seriously when they say things like:

“Hi! I’m Lady Wolffemoon Aphridotedoitter, and I’m a Grand High Priestess of the Just Made It Up as A Hypothetical Tradition of Wyckaye”. As hypothetical as it may be, interestingly, I’ve never seen such claims from people claiming to be BTW/Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca, and I’ve never see a person claim to be Feri with such an ostentacious name; in my experiences, it’s invariably been people practising a Pop Wicca that they either “learned” from skimming one of the better books, or from reading only one or two horrible books the whole way through who feel the need to not only give to themselves, but eagerly advertise their “craft name”. As a result, I tend not to take people with such goofy-ass names seriously.

Moreover, I don’t think I can take their beliefs seriously, either. Now, I admit that I’ve never really been personally interested in any witchcraft-based religions, but I have a cursory understanding of some of the “outer court” basics of those paths, and other occult traditions —cos it’s just better to have a small amount of good information on any subject than to rely on hearsay that may or may not be based on real information. I don’t practise “magic” in any of the more obvious senses (some people like to define prayer, or simply any ritual hoping to supplicate the gods as “magic”, and that’s certainly a valid definition, but another story for another time), but I think I know enough to have an opinion on the topic of “magical names”: If you flaunt it, you don’t got it.

So, based on the bit of information I have absorbed on the topic of macigal / witchcraft / occult traditions that utilise “magical names” for it’s practitioners, these seem to be names used only in ritual, with rare exception, and that’s just me being generous. I’m pretty sure I read something back in high school that described that one has an everyday name used outside the coven, a coven name used only by members of the coven, and in the event of deity-initiated mysteries, a name that only the Divine calls oneself —it’s also possible that I may have just confused some occult path I can’t name with “The Naming of Cats” by T.S. Eliot, but think about it: How many Big Name Pagans have some goofy-ass name they’re best known by?

Now, I give exception to PSVL, as his is derived from Latin, and if memory serves me, I think it might be a holdover from Nova Roma (I may also be mistaken on that). Sannion… Well, OK, I thought it was wacky-ass, at first, then the first time I saw him define it as “wagging tongue”, I realised it was a bit of a self-depricating humour, cos boy does he have a knack from running his mouth. Sannion’s also been on the Internet since the mid-1990s, i believe, when it was standard practise to have a handle to protect one’s privacy; it still seems odd to me that people who aren’t even Madame Lash-famous will willingly use their real names on the Internet. I’m also not counting people like Raven Kaldera (being FTM-spectrum TS/TG/IS, this likely isn’t the name his parents gave him, it might not even be his legal name, but oh well), or Galina Krasskova (which certainly strikes me as a perfectly ordinary Russian name), where it could be their “real name” (define that as you wish). Tim “Oberon” Zell-Ravenhart only barely counts, and in all honesty, I think Raven Digitalis’ goofy-ass name is more from the fact that he’s a Goth DJ than a pagan (and if you think pagans can make up some goofy-ass pseudonyms, you should see some of the wacky goth pseudonyms I’ve seen, especially from DJs). So let’s see, that leaves us with Starhawk, whose work seems primarily respected in spite of the obvious pseudonym— and Jenine E. “Silver Ravenwolf” Trayer, whose work is almost never recommended by people who both know their shit and are older than fourteen.

Now, for Starhawk, who I admit I know very little about, her focus seems more about Goddess spirituality, and while her work certainly seems influential in modern witchcraft, for all I know, this is simply a public pseudonym and pen name. In comparison to the other obvious BNP pseudonyms, “Starhawk” is almost plain, in comparison, and certainly seems more reminiscent of the late-1960s/early-1970s hippie movement (she would’ve been about eighteen in 1969) than anything that might be a more obvious cry out of “ooh, look at how magical and spooky I am”. Based on what I know about Silver Ravenwolf’s “third degree initiation”, the details of which were spoken in confidence on a closed forum, I wholeheartedly believe that her pseudonym reflects a great immaturity that, well, only really sounds impressive to those with great immaturity, themselves.

That latter sentiment really is how most of the “magical / craft names” I have seen from (usually quite young) people on the Internet read to some-one who is relatively more grown-up and practicing a religion that one didn’t decide on after watching some cheesy film about “witches” as opposed years of research and education.

I therefore posit a probability law, much like Godwin’s: The ostentation of a pagan’s apparent pseudonym is typically inversely correlative of that person’s apparent maturity or wisdom.

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