MANY WICCAN BOOKS discuss the taking of a Wiccan (magical) name. The ceremonial bestowing of such a name upon the initiate is a part of many initiation ceremonies. Afterward, the new Wiccan is usually exclusively called by this name within the circle.
Magical names are quite popular among Wiccans; so popular, in fact, that many Wiccans have two or even three such names: a public Craft name (used at Wiccan gatherings, when writing articles, and so on); a secret name (the one bestowed during initiation); and perhaps even a third name, which is used only when addressing the Goddess and God, and is known only to them and the Wiccan. Wiccans who are members of more than one tradition may have different names for each group. For many Wiccans, taking a new name is an outward symbol of her or his devotion to Wicca. It’s seen as a part of the process of rebirth into the religion.
Throughout history, names have been given considerable magical importance. A spirit’s name had to be known before it could be exorcised from a sick person in ancient Sumer, Babylon, and Assyria. In Hawaii, babies were given revolting names in infancy to guard them from molestation from evil during their early, vulnerable years. A more fitting name was given to the child when she or he reached a certain age and was less susceptible to the wiles of evil spirits. In some cultures, mothers will bestow a secret name on their children. This “real” name, unknown to anybody but the mother, protects the child. The common name by which he or she is called has no power over them. In our own country, numerology is used to discover the power of our names, and many people change their names to advance in their careers.
With all this importance attached to names, it’s not difficult to understand why many Wiccans use Craft names. Though I didn’t discuss this subject in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, it deserves some comment here.
To cut to the heart of this matter: is it necessary for you to adopt a Wiccan name? If you wish your Wicca to correspond to conventional Wicca as much as possible, yes. If you feel freer than these constraints, adoption of a special name isn’t necessary. Once again, the decision is yours alone.
The major reason for utilizing a Craft name, as mentioned above, is that it represents the Wiccan you. For some, use of this name gives them a sense of power and mystery which they may otherwise not feel. We live in such a mundane world that it can indeed be difficult to “switch on” the magical side of our nature. Thus, use of a Wiccan name may assist in altering the conscious mind and preparing it for ritual.
Some people take an entirely different approach: they legally adopt their Wiccan name. Thus, Sally Thompson becomes Amber; Frank Jones, Greywolf. This name may even appear on driver’s licenses, leases, and other documents. This legal avenue is inadvisable unless you’re completely open about your religion, since such a name will naturally draw attention to its bearer. Though many state that they’ve chosen to use their new name to the exclusion of the old one purely for spiritual reasons, most are also making a public statement regarding their religion—and not all of us are ready for such a step.
How do you find your magical name?
There are many approaches. Some Wiccans adopt the name of a goddess or god, in honor of them. Others look into their family’s cultural history and choose a name from the associated folklore: a person with British ancestry may opt for a name culled from British folklore. Many contemporary American Wiccans incorporate an animal in their name, such as “Howling Wolf” or “Sweeping Eagle.” Flower and plant names (such as Rose, Oak Keeper, Grove, Fir, Ash) are other possibilities. You may also simply make up a name. Many Wiccan names consist of two words that have been put together. Such names are usually quite descriptive.
Some famous Wiccan names have been published. Gerald Gardner (one of the people who formed Wicca into the religion as we know it today) publicly used the name Scire. At least one of Doreen Valiente’s magical names was Ameth. A well-known High Priest adopted the public Craft name of Phoenix. Still other popular names include: Morgan, Morgana, Morgaine, Morgraine, Lugh, and Arthur (all associated with Celtic mythology); Ariadne, Diana, Hermes, Poseidon, Cassandra, and Triton (Greek and Roman mythology); Selket, Ma’at, Osiris, and other Egyptian names. (Among the most commonly used names are Amber, Phoenix, and Merlin. Calling out one of these names at a Pagan gathering will usually cause many heads to turn.)
So there are plenty of possibilities from which to choose. If you decide to use a Wiccan name in ritual, always use it. Use it in prayer. Use it in rituals. Write it, in runes or in English, on your tools. You may even wish to perform some sort of name-adoption ritual. This could consist of casting a circle and invoking the Goddess and God to be present and asking them to recognize you by your new name.
Use of a Craft name may not give you any additional power, but it’s a traditional practice, and many enjoy it.