I read an interesting blog post by Leigh-Ann Anderson called Choosing a Magickal Name. It give some interesting ideas on how to choose a magickal name, but it doesn’t approach the topic historically.
Magickal Names in the Past
Anciently, there’s no evidence that people used magickal names. While this may be because magickal and mundane lives were one and the same, I’m more inclined to believe that they simply weren’t needed. The need for a magickal name developed as the military might of the Christian Church expanded. If you were caught doing magick, you could be imprisoned, tortured, or killed…but not before you revealed the names of your “co-conspirators.” So people would take on magickal names to hide their identity even from other members of their ritual or spiritual practices. I believe it was Raven Grimassi who told me that some people would call themselves “Satan,” resulting in Witches being accused of consorting with the Biblical Satan rather than someone using that name. In retrospect, that may have been a bad choice for a magickal name. Sometime, people took the name of the roles they had in their magickal group.
In various ceremonial magick orders, mottos were often used rather than names. The two, names and mottoes, became equated. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was famed for using such mottos. In this article on the free Llewellyn Encyclopedia, Chic and Sandra Tabatha Cicero share some of the mottos uses by the early Golden Dawn members, including:
- Dr. W. W. Westcott: Sapere Aude — “Dare to be wise”
- S. L. MacGregor Mathers: Deo Duce Comite Ferro — “With God as my leader and the sword as my companion”
- Israel Regardie: Ad Majorem Adonai Gloriam — “To the Greater Glory of Adonai [God]”
- Florence Farr: Sapientia Sapienti Dono Data — “Wisdom is a gift given unto the Wise”
- Maud Gonne: Per Ignum Ad Lucem — “Through the Fire into the Light”
- William Butler Yeats: Demon Est Deus Inversus — “The devil is the reverse of God”
- Aleister Crowley: Perdurabo —”I will last through”
- Dion Fortune (Violet Firth): Dio Non Fortuna — “By God not by Chance”
Ah, they sound so wonderful and spiritual. They’re so inspiring. They must have thought about these names for hours and hours, right?
In reality, they were either simply their family’s motto or one chosen from a book of family mottos! There’s one myth, shot to hell!
Magickal Names Today
There was a time, not long ago, when the use of a magickal name was limited to use either as a disguise—to insure privacy, especially if you wanted to keep your magickal interests a secret from non-magickal people—and for use within a magickal context, such as a circle. More recently, magickal names have been used as identifiers: A person uses his or her magickal name when writing or talking about magick and spirituality, and a regular name at other times. Many people don’t care that you know their magickal name.
However, for some people, the magickal name has acquired a far more spiritually valuable purpose. When people looked at the names and mottos of groups such as the Golden Dawn, they were inspired by the spirituality and meaning of the names, without knowing the source. They assumed that people choosing those names put an enormous amount of study and consideration into the choice when, in fact, they did not. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do so today.
The Name and the Robe
When it comes to magickal purposes, for many people a magickal names is like a magickal robe: when you put this on you are leaving the mundane world and entering the world of the deities, of the spirits, of the elements, and of magick. Thus, the name becomes very important. Choosing something like Ego Sum a Deficio, which sounds wonderful in Latin, means “I’m a Failure” and would probably not be a good choice to use repeatedly in magick. Therefore, carefully considering what your goals are and what your beliefs are may be a good source for deciding upon a name or motto. You can use English, but many people prefer using a foreign language, especially an archaic one such as Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Enochian, Sanskrit, etc.
Some people take a name based on a mythic character or creature. By using the name they hope to embody the qualities of that entity. For example, many people have taken names from the Celtic, Greek, Roman, or Egyptian pantheons. Others take a more shamanic route. For example, to some people the wolf is a symbol of the teacher. The raven is a secret keeper. The color silver is associated with the Goddess, communications, and clairvoyance. Thus, someone who uses the name Silver RavenWolf is inspired by the Goddess and seeking to be able to keep the secrets of the Goddess alive by communicating them as a teacher to those who wish to hear.
If you don’t have a magickal name and are either following a magickal path or thinking about doing so, I would suggest that you consider taking one. There’s no reason not to do so. Take your time and make sure it’s exactly right for you. Devise or develop a ritual and announce to the gods that when you use this name you are seeking to commune with them and represent or develop the meaning of that name.
There’s no reason you cannot change your magickal name if appropriate to do so. Some people change their magickal name because the day of the week ends in “y.” I would suggest that you spend a few minutes considering your magickal name. If you’re absolutely positive it doesn’t meet your needs, see if you can find one that does. Note that I used the expression “absolutely positive.” If you’re not sure, stay with your current name. Sometimes, on an unconscious level, magickal names have an impact we don’t consciously appreciate. However, if you know you want to change, devise a ritual that lets go of the old name and institutes the new one.
Do you have a magickal name or motto?
What does it mean to you?