Pagan Names & Personal Power

One of the aspects of Pagan culture that can seem unusual to newcomers is the names that some Pagans take as part of our spiritual journey. Many times, these names are unfamiliar and identifiably not part of the larger culture from which we hail. Some of us only use our spiritual name in religious spaces like ceremonies and Pagan gatherings, but as taking a different name becomes more common in the wider culture, more and more Pagans are feeling empowered to legally change their name to their spiritual name. 

This naming practice has a few anchor points in Pagan culture. The first is that for a very long time, Paganism was misconstrued as evil or malicious by Christian folklore and mythology. As a result, having a Pagan religious practice could result in a lot of discrimination if discovered: it was not unusual for Pagans to lose their jobs, relationships, and even children should a custody battle arise. In some parts of the United States, this remains true. Even in states that allow for true religious pluralism, some environments and professions are still hostile to Pagan belief. For that reason, a different name used for Pagan spaces can be a sensible choice. It adds a layer of protection against the discrimination we face in a Christian-majority culture. This is also true for Pagans who travel abroad to countries where witchcraft is still illegal. 

Another reason some Pagans take spiritual names is a meaning mismatch. Sometimes the name we were born with carries a meaning that doesn’t match our lives, values, or beliefs. So, for example, a name that means “servant” may not fit someone whose path leads them toward solitude or leadership. By taking a new name, we have an opportunity to bring our name into alignment with who we are as people. This is especially true for our LGBTQAI+ brethren, but a mismatch of birth name and identity is not limited to gender. Birth names are given before anything about the recipient is known, which means there’s a good deal of chance involved in whether a birth name will ultimately work for the person it was given to. Continue reading…

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