Your Spirit Name: Claiming Your Power - The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

Kindling the Native Spirit: Sacred Practices for Everyday Life - Denise Linn 2015

Your Spirit Name: Claiming Your Power
The Deepening: Communing with Spirit

I took a break from writing and walked to the top of the hill here at Summerhill Ranch, on the Central Coast of California where we live. Long shadows stretched out across the distant oak savanna to the east. The heat of the day that clung thickly to the earth and hung heavy on my skin was starting to be cooled by a breeze flowing over the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains from the sea. As I inhaled the sweet, refreshing air, I thought about our journey together as you and I kindle the native spirit. So far we’ve traversed the four directions; explored the elements; put out the call for our animal, plant, and mineral allies; and watched for signs; but now our sojourn takes us deeper. In this deepening, you’ll discover your spirit name, learn how to drum and rattle, find out how to use a feather for clearings, and learn about sacred vessels and tribal dancing as the ember of your native soul ignites into flame—shimmering, bright, and bold.

Your Spirit Name: Claiming Your Power

Many years ago, on a dusty summer afternoon in the Cascade Mountains, I headed into the woods to find my spirit name. It was peaceful and quiet under the canopy of large trees. Long rays of sunlight filtered through the pine boughs. I stopped under an old, weatherworn tree and closed my eyes. In that moment, it was so still that even the usual birdsong and drone of insects seemed to be caught in the web of silence.

With my eyes closed and my heart open, I offered a prayer and asked that my true spirit name be revealed.

During my travels, I’d received names from many of the tribes with whom I’d spent time. To the Zulu I am Nogukini. To the New Zealand Maoris, I’m called Whetu-Marama-Ote-Rangi. And over 45 years ago, when I studied ancient Hawaiian traditions with Morrnah Simeona, she called me Maileonahunalani. Although I cherished these names, I yearned to have a name that came straight from my soul and from the earth on which I stood.

When I opened my eyes, a few feet in front of me was a great horned owl perched on a branch. He must have landed when I closed my eyes! He was so close that if I’d reached out, I could have touched him. He looked straight at me with his enormous eyes. It seemed like such a long time passed. Then, with a blink, he lifted his massive wings and silently glided away.

In that moment, the usual hum of the forest returned. The trees began to creak, a breeze whispered through them, and the birds and insects resumed their song. When I looked at the branch where the owl had been, I noticed that three small, downy feathers had been left behind. I picked them up and held them in my hand. They were so soft and white.

Suddenly, I heard an inner voice say, Put the feathers in your medicine bag. The words puzzled me. I had a beautiful medicine bag, but it wasn’t with me. Again I heard the voice: You are your own medicine bag.

The invitation seemed clear: I was being asked to take the feathers into my body. Without further thought, I put the feathers into my mouth and swallowed them. (I don’t recommend this. Feathers are very hard to swallow and not sanitary, but this didn’t occur to me at the time.) The inner voice continued: As you have taken owl feathers into your body, the spirit of the owl has permeated your being and shall always be with you.

Gradually, I came back to the reality of the woods around me, with a feeling of serenity and strength. This experience precipitated the awareness that my spirit name was White Feather. (My husband, David, who still can’t believe that I actually ate the feathers, jokes that my name should instead be Eating Feather.)

Once I acquired my spirit name, I felt like I’d come home. Every time I say, “I am White Feather,” a sense of peace washes over me. There is power in a name that’s in alignment with your essence. Every time you’re called by that name, or you think of yourself in that way, it reinforces who you are at your core and kindles the native spirit within you. Once you’re aware of your spirit name, it can even feel as though your destiny has been shifted.


In native traditions, a name is much more than the label that people call you; it’s your unique energy vibration. Sometimes it’s a sound rather than a word with a specific meaning, but most often it’s a name from nature. Some tribes believe that names carry the essence of the person, while others believe that this is how the spirits recognize us. Other traditions believe that a spirit name can help evoke specific qualities within a person. For example, the name Eagle Eye might bring excellent sight, but also clarity and the ability to see the bigger picture in life.

When you were born, you received your civil name that you use on documents and for school records. It might make your heart sing, or it might not feel like a perfect match. From a native perspective, since each name can carry a different energy and vibration, it’s important to find a name that matches your essence, even if it’s not the one you use every day. “Edith,” for instance, has a different feeling from “Bunny.” One name elicits images of someone who is responsible and practical, while the other suggests a woman who is fun, gregarious, and lighthearted. This doesn’t mean that someone named Edith isn’t playful, or someone named Bunny isn’t serious and pragmatic. However, research has shown that people relate to you differently as a result of your name. More important, you’ll feel differently about yourself. One name isn’t better than another; they just possess different energies.

In many native traditions, names are often given at a time of transition, such as after one’s first hunt or after a vision quest. Many cultures believe that a name can tell a story and can even dictate the destiny of an individual. The tradition of changing names at times of transition is not just found in native cultures. In some cases monks and nuns are given a new name when they’re consecrated. The Pope receives a new name when he’s installed, and in many monarchical traditions, a ruler assumes a new name when he or she ascends the throne.


At a vision quest I was leading a number of years ago, a woman decided to change her name to Rosemary. While pondering her life, she realized that her given name no longer suited her. She’d always loved the name Rosemary, as it reminded her of the fragrant herb in her garden. Once she made this decision, she said she began to feel powerful transformations brewing. Although friends and family thought she was crazy, she took a sabbatical from her teaching position at Oxford University, bought a camper van, and embarked on a soulful journey to different Native American sacred sites. To the outside world, she had a prestigious job and a privileged life, but she said deep inside she never felt fulfilled until she spent those years connecting with herself and the land. She credits changing her name with catapulting her into the next phase of her life.


The following is an exercise to help you become aware of how you feel about your own name. There are no right answers to this exercise; its aim is to help you better understand your relationship with your given name. On a spiritual level, the name you were given at birth is not an accident. Your name has a vibration that was necessary for you at the time you were born. It may have provided you with an opportunity to grow, or perhaps it formed a significant energy connection with the person for whom you were named. Even if you feel that it doesn’t suit you, there is value in finding the meaning and the reason behind your name, which is important to address before attempting to find your spirit name.



· Do you like your name? Why or why not?

· What does your name mean to you? Be specific.

· What associations do you have with your name?

· Are you named after anyone? If so, how do you feel about that person?

· Do other people think that your name suits you?

· If your name doesn’t fit you now, will it fit you in the future? In what ways?

· What’s the meaning or origin of your name?

· Is there a correlation between the meaning of your name and your life? Explain in detail.



There are many ways to uncover a spirit name that reflects who you are now and also strengthens the path of who you are to become in the future. Your spiritual name may come from observing nature and the environment around you, or it may come to you in a dream, on a vision quest, or perhaps even in the shape of a cloud. In addition, it could be given to you by a spiritual teacher or in a naming ceremony by an elder.

Although nature names are common, your name may come in the form of words that don’t have meaning in English yet have a profound feeling associated with them. No matter what the name or the sound, what’s important is that you feel a warm surge of energy flow through you every time you think of it.

Sometimes, in tribal traditions, a name was to be kept secret, for the name was thought to carry one’s power, and other times the name was shared with tribal members. When you discover your true name, you may choose to keep it secret or reveal it only to those close to you, or you may decide to use your name publicly. Either way, your spirit name can contribute to your personal power.

Not everyone needs to seek a spirit name, as sometimes it’s the one you already have. My daughter, Meadow, came back from a vision quest she did as a teen and said, “Mom, I found my nature name. It’s the one that you gave me when I was born.” If your name represents who you are and who you are striving to be, then it’s perfect just as it is. If your name doesn’t feel like a good fit for your soul, then you may want to acquire a spirit name.



There are a number of ways you can discover your spirit name. Here are some suggestions:

· Relax and breathe deeply and fully. Open your heart and ask the Creator to send you a name that reflects your spirit. Be open to whatever form your name takes. Spend time in nature, lie down upon the earth, and ask Mother Earth for your true name.

· Ask for a sign.

· Watch for signs in your everyday life.

· Take out a pen and paper, and free-flow lots of names; notice how you feel as you say each name aloud.

· Before going to sleep, ask that your true name appear in your dreams. Every morning write about your dreams in a journal as soon as you wake up.

· Once you’ve narrowed down a name, try it out for a day or two to see how it feels. To do this, keep repeating your new name aloud over and over again. Notice how the sound makes you feel. If it’s the right name for you, you should feel stronger just by saying it.