Appellomancy, or the magic of names

I won’t lie; the inspiration for this post came from the webcomic Oglaf (if you haven’t seen it before, I warn you — extremely NSFW in many places; it is an adult webcomic).

But, if you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that names are important to me. So I want to talk about the magic of Names and Naming — appellomancy.

In the Symphony of Ages Saga by Elizabeth Haydon, the main character Rhapsody is a Namer. There are several parts in the series where she literally changes who someone is via the process of Naming them.

These characters are still who they were, but they become something new; via Rhapsody’s power to Name Truely, they become who they really are.

The name I was given at birth is not my True Name. It has never sat rightly in my skin, and it never will. When I get married, I’m changing my first as well as last names. (Waiting until I get married because I really only want to do the legal name change thing once. Such a hassle.)

I spend a lot of time choosing names for my fictional characters. Their names have to mean something. Even if they only mean something in the world I’m writing in.

When I chose the name Morag, I wasn’t aware of its actual meaning. It had appeared in a series of books I was reading; the moniker for a character I identified with strongly. (The series is The Tir Alainn Trilogy, and I highly recommend it.) Said character was Death’s Mistress; she was a Fae who had the power to take a soul from a still living body — whereas the rest of the Fae who were Death’s Servants only had the power to escort souls to the afterlife after they’d already left their dead bodies.

Morag was, perhaps, the least bloodthirsty character in the series. She was respectful of life, and gave up everything so that the ones she cared about could continue to exist — this was no doubt because of the power she wielded.

I felt kinship there, and the name sang to me — but I didn’t take it until the god I was following at the time (Thoth) told me to stop waffling and just take it already. I thought I had delusions of grandeur; He assured me I didn’t.

Later, I look up the meaning of Morag. There are many. The one that stuck with me was that it was a diminutive of Mór, which means great — so Morag means great young one. Mór is sometimes translated to English as Sarah — a name I’ve been obsessed with for years, as it means queen or princess.

(I’ve also read that Morag means embracing the sun, which is appropriate considering I’m one of Brighid’s kids.)

Why does this matter? What’s the magic of this name?

Since taking the name Morag my self-esteem has improved, my writing has gotten better, I’ve gained more followers, more friends, a sense of self-worth, and I’ve realized my own greatness.

I haven’t grown younger physically, but somehow in embracing Manannan being my father, I became forever young in spirit. There’s nothing like having an immortal god be your dad that makes you feel young.

(On this note, a meaning that I’ve also found for Morag — though not sure how accurate this is — is “star of the sea”.)

Those of you who have been around for a while remember when I was choosing a last name to go with Morag — I ended up settling on Spinner.

Spinner is Dutch for becoming the spider. I’m terrified of spiders — or I was — so I decided to take a name that would ease that terror. Embrace my fear, become it, and conquer it.

I’m not fully over my fear of spiders just yet, but I’m definitely much better. Seeing one crawling on me no longer creates instant screaming and flailing; I merely calmly move the spider to where she’ll be more comfortable.

There’s also the meaning of spinner being, well, a spinner: a spinner of tales in my case.

My writing, since taking the name, has become much, much better — not just on my blog, but in my fiction too.

Taking a name has more power than we realize. When we internalize a name — even if we’re not sure of the name’s actual meaning — we start to become what that name means.

Finding our True Name can give us back our sense of self; it can make us more powerful; it can help us find our true purpose.

To that end, embracing the wrong name can be harmful.

Think about the names you’re called. Nicknames, terms of endearment…what do they mean?

For the longest time, my “nicknames” were cruel and hurtful, given to me by my bio-sire. Yet I embraced them, because I wanted to feel like I belonged to that family. (I learned later that I never had.)

Spend your entire childhood being called “little shit” or “puke monster” or “stupid” or “weakling” and you begin to believe it. You start to internalize it, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

My mom wanted to name me Ayla, after the lion-marked heroine of Clan of the Cave Bear. My bio-sire would have none of that. (“STRONG WOMEN? IN THIS HOUSE? NEVER!”)

Later, I ended up taking the a name that (subconsciously) honored my mom’s original choice of name for me; it was a way of embracing that feline energy that’s run as a strong current through me. It, too, is a diminutive form — I’m now wondering if I’m trying to re-embrace childhood by choosing names that indicate youth, as my childhood was fairly short. (It’s Dutch for little cat.)

When I was around six? Seven? I took the name Dion for a while. Dion had been the name of my baby brother, the one my mom lost about halfway through the pregnancy. During a recent phone conversation, mom and I decided that that was genderqueer me, trying to be her son even then.

Names have power. They have meaning. And they don’t need to be legal to be real. Morag and the other name I go by are my real names far more than my legal name ever will be.

Appellomancy: the magic of names.

What names are in your head? What meanings have you internalized? What meanings have you given to other people?

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