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How to Find Your Wiccan Name
Find Your Wiccan Name
Find your Wiccan Name
A Wiccan name -- sometimes known as a “Craft name” or “magical name” -- is a very personal choice. A lot of new Wiccans wonder about these names:
- How do you I one?
- When do I get it?
- Where does it come from?
If you first understand the purpose to a Wiccan name, it can help clear up a lot of confusion, and can even help put you on the track to help you find your Wiccan name. It can also help you understand that you don’t actually need one at all, and take that pressure off of you to find a Wiccan name so you can go on with your religion without worrying about it.
People love to say “don’t label me”, but the fact of the matter is that labels are language. Just remember that moment in The Miracle Worker when, after months of trying, Annie Sullivan finally got through to Helen Keller by getting her to understand that names have meaning.
Nouns are not meant to put us in boxes, but to help us understand something better. There’s probably little in life quite so personal as a name, and the names we choose to take are even more important than those others have given us without our consent.
Recommended Wicca Books:
A resource for those looking for help in choosing. Lots of suggestions here.
The History of Wiccan Names
The story seems to go like this:
In ye olden times, when brothers and sisters of the Craft were forced underground due to Christian tyranny, they feared for their lives and the safety of their families. People of the Old Religion would take on a new, secret name to protect their privacy.
Yeah, well, so much for historical accuracy. The fact is, neither Wicca nor Witchcraft were the Old Religion. Because of this, Wiccans (particularly Gerald Gardner, our founder) have long been accused of ‘making up’ the idea of a special religious name-- that's not quite the truth either.
Wiccan names have been used since Wicca originated— all of 70 or so years ago. This was not a practice adopted under the 'burning times' as some would imply, though. It was for the very practical reason of privacy, but privacy wasn't the only benefit.
Taking on a new name in a religion is not an unusual thing. When joining a new religion, or elevated to higher levels, it’s long been common for people to take on a new name in spirit. Sometimes this is in addition to their old name, and sometimes it would be in place of the old names.
Buddhists take on a Dharma Name, a new name at initiation (for Mahayana) or during ordination as a monk (for Theravada). In early Christianity, new Catholics would take on a new name-- usually the name of a Saint. Likewise, new priests and nuns were also initiated into the order with a new name. Islam and Sikhism are also religions that commonly practice taking new names.
This made its way into various occult practices, in which practitioners often took a pseudonym. Certainly Gardner, a student of the occult, someone who traveled and worked in the East and was familiar with Eastern philosophy, would have known of this practice even before his claim of having been initiated into a Witch cult in 1939. For an esoteric religion like Wicca, it was a natural fit.
During the 20th century explosion of new Pagan-related religions, the practice of taking on a new name became quite common. With the Internet and people taking on ‘handles’ or ‘screen names’, I think it just fueled the popularity of someone reinventing themselves, or emerging into a new chapter in their lives, signified by the adoption of a new name.
I Always Reminded of This Poem by T.S. Elliot
Whenever the discussion comes up about why Wiccans take on a new name (or sometimes more than one), I feel like T.S. Elliot was onto something in his Old Possom's Book of Practical Cats... he explains how every cat must have 3 different names
- The first is the ordinary, everyday name-- the family name or given name
- The second is the communal name-- something special that says something about the cat and who he is in his community; for a Wiccan, this would be the name we use in the open Pagan community.
- The third is the private name for the cat to contemplate his true being, a name that is simultaneously "effable and ineffable" ; that's "deep and inscrutable". For a Wiccan this would be the name we share only in the circle.
So, yes, it can sound 'Mad as a Hatter" to have these names. But there's a purpose there. You can read the brief poem here:
Or Watch It Recited Beautifully Here by the Cast of Cats
How Many Names Do You Need?
Originally, a Wiccan name would have been something only revealed within an oath-bound coven setting. Secrecy was important then because you could lose your job, your apartment, your children, your family, etc., if the wrong person found out you were frolicking naked casting spells with a coven. This was before the civil rights movement, before the new age and “co-exist” movements, before the age of information, before the Western World was urged to be more sensitive about diversity. People had little information to go on and knee-jerk reactions were common to those who came out of the ‘broom closet’. Coven names helped protect people’s privacy.
As the need for privacy was less and less of an issue, the spiritual and communal purpose of a name seemed to be more pronounced. This sometimes led to people having two or three names.
Some Wiccans keep one name only-- either they just use their given name and never bother with a Wiccan name. Or, they take on a Wiccan name and abandon the given name
Some Wiccans keep two names. The first is their given name, which they still go by at work, with the family, and in mundane life. The second is the name they use it either exclusively in the circle (the Wiccan name), or sometimes with the broader Pagan community (the nick name).
Some Wiccans keep three names-- yes, three. The first is the given name that people outside of Paganism still call them. The second is the nick name they go by in the Pagan community at large. The third is the private spiritual Wiccan name not spoken outside the circle.
Do You Need a Wiccan Name?
A Wiccan name isn’t necessary, unless you’re required by coven initiation to take one. Here’s a little quiz for you to judge. Remember, there’s no right or wrong answers. Just pick the answer that honestly comes closest to your true feelings.
Should You Take a Wiccan Name?
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The Wrong Way to Find Your Wiccan Name
There are a lot of lists that tell you how to find your Wiccan name. These lists will look something like this:
Choose One from Each Column and Combine:
Ye Shall Call Me "Mother FireFairy" Henceforth...
Well, that’s just a sampling of what one might look like. There are a few quite extensive lists like this floating around-- most of them for a goof, but sadly some are actually seriously telling newbies to create their names the way they would order Chinese take-out.
Some have you choose names associated with your zodiac sign, favorite color, spirit animal and the like. The idea is that you choose one from each column and combine them for a totally unique name. The result is you sound like you ripped off a name from a Dungeons & Dragons character list.
Needless to say, I don't recommend this method of choosing a name.
I also don’t recommend using an automatic ‘Wiccan name generator’ or ‘Pagan name generator’. These should really be considered for fun, don’t take them seriously.
If you are choosing a Wiccan name, it is not a choice that should be taken lightly. A name should be a symbol for who you really are, for your spiritual path or focus.
Some people will advise you must use an element, an animal, something numerological aligned to your birth date or real name— it’s fine to include things like this if you want but don’t let anyone tell you that you have to.
Consider the Reactions
One of the most controversial things a neophyte can do is name themselves “Lord” or “Lady”. It’s one thing to choose a Wiccan name for yourself, it’s quite another to give yourself a title. Titles like these are often seen as pretentious except for those who’ve earned 3rd degree (in an actual coven; not a self-bestowed title) or has reached the status of elder.
Put it this way—if you feel entitled to be called “Lord” or “Lady” by anyone, people shouldn’t have to ask why. You should be a pillar of the community already— and if you’re not, you might reconsider indulging your ego with such a title.
It’s also quite controversial to name yourself after a deity, though schools of thought differ:
- In some trads, this is very much frowned upon; it’s seen as disrespectful to the Gods (and some even believe the Gods will communicate this to you, so be wary).
- In some trads, this can be asking for trouble, because that deity is going to expect a heck of a lot from you since you’ve essentially volunteered to be it’s namesake and a living testament. Be prepared to be burdened— some people do welcome this, others don’t, and still others find they’ve bitten off quite a bit more than they can chew.
- Some people consider it an honor to your deity to include his/her name in your Wiccan name, and see nothing wrong with it.
What do I think about it? I think you should know the different arguments, and ultimately take it up with your deity.
Another name faux pas is picking ridiculously long or unpronounceable names. This is obviously not as big of an issue with solitaries who never plan to reveal their names to anyone. For a coven or for more of a Pagan community nickname, try sticking with something that won't be a mouthful.
Recommended Wiccan Books:
How to Find Your Wiccan Name
Finding your Wiccan name should start with considering whether you really need one or not. If you decide it’s important to you, begin by meditating on it and praying about it.
See what your Gods have to say— some people have visions and are given names by their Gods. This is uncommon, but it can happen.
Start thinking about the qualities and traits that you admire—the ideals to which you wish to live up to. Imagine you at your absolute best —maybe not perfect (nobody is perfect) but at least at your most refined. Paint an image of yourself in your mind as the person you hope to one day be.
Now it’s time to start considering which things stand for those qualities. You might consider an Element, a God/dess, an animal, color, crystal, herb, mythological creature, etc., that represents those qualities. You might find more than one thing.
Then it’s time to start playing with words. For example, if you envision yourself an inspired, passionate, creative person, then you may wish to incorporate the Element of Fire into your name. You don’t have to actually use the word “fire”. Think of related words: burn, ember, flame, etc., or you might even look up the word in another language if you are heavily influenced by a culture (Celtic, Greek, Norse, etc.).
You may come up with one or more candidates, but that’s still no reason to rush into choosing. Mull over any candidates, think about them for a while. Meditate on it, pray on it, and give it good consideration. No pressure to pick until you’re truly ready—and honestly it’s better to wait than it is to grab something that sounds great to you now but will change in 6 months when you’ve grown a little.
Hold a Naming Ritual
When You Find Your Wiccan Name
Once you have found your name, consider a special rite to introduce yourself to your Gods and any other energies or spirits you may work with by your new name. If you are planning a dedication ritual, it’s a good time. If not, set aside a sabbat or esbat ritual.
You might announce something like, “I have come to a point on my path at which I feel I am growing, so much so that I’m outgrowing the person I was and am coming into my own— I am getting closer to the me I feel I was born with the potential to be. As I continue on this path, I shall now go by the name [your Wiccan name here] before the Gods, ancestors, elemental spirits and household guardians, so mote it be!”
You might light a candle, anoint yourself, write the name down in your BOS, or do some other ceremonial act that feels right to you to ‘seal’ the connection to this new name.
Looking for More About Wicca?
Check out my directory of Wiccan articles, frequently updated.
Changing a Wiccan Name
If you feel you need to rename yourself every 6 months or every couple of years, you are probably not really looking for a Wiccan name so much as a nick name Before jumping into your second, third, forth, etc. name, you might want to step back and consider that you're not really ready for one, or that you're not choosing very wisely.
A Wiccan name is not something you would change like screen names; if you have to change it too soon or too often, chances are you didn't put enough thought into it in the first place. Give yourself at least another 6 months or a year before revisiting the topic.
On the other hand, sometimes a name change is called for. Sometimes, a Wiccan name that totally suited you during one part of your life may not ring as true anymore. There may come a time in your life down your path when you feel you’ve outgrown a Wiccan name. Sometimes you find out the person you thought you were (or wanted to be) at age 25 is just not who you are (or who you want to be anymore) at age 50. Your experiences may have changed you, or you just branched out and flourished in an unexpected direction.
It’s certainly something you should give great thought to, and something you should again take your time with as you ponder and try to figure out a better suited name. And once again, after a period of consideration, it’s a good idea to perform a ritual to announce the new name.
Good luck in finding your own Wiccan name if you're seeking-- wear it well.