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The Powers of Naming

From the most ancient of times, beings who have developed language believe that giving something or someone a name imparts to or draws from that object or being special powers.  Deep Magic draws upon that power by its use of precise naming in charms, spells, curses, etc.

Originally, names were “one-liners”—people were named after where they lived,  physical characteristics, or their professions.  A woman who lived by a forest  might be called Jane-by-the-Woods, later shortened to Jane Woods.  A man who was a farrier (blacksmith) might be called John-the-Smythe, eventually to become John Smythe/Smith.  In fact last names (surnames) did not appear regularly until the latter Middle Ages in western Europe.  In some cultures they literally indicated one’s parentage and family history.  For example, John Hansson meant John, son of Hans; Jane McNeil meant Jane of the clan of Neil. 

First names (given names), however, often reflect parents’ or families’ values wished for the children; for example, Harold (Harry) means “leader of the army,” or Minerva, which means “wise.”

 Why should we pay attention to the names of things?  As in olden times, in the modern world names give beings and objects “identity” (which is why we resist being labeled with numbers).  When evil spirits (or people) wish to destroy a country or culture, one of the first things they do is to “dehumanize” or “depersonalize” the residents by giving them numbers or lumping them all under one derogatory term.  Through this, the oppressors try to erase their victims’ humanity or identities by getting rid of their names.  Also, many of us are taught about the “honor of the family name” and urged to never act in a way that would dishonor that name or betray the trust other family members place in us.  Such acts would destroy the pride that a family has in its members—represented by the “good family name.”

To those of us in magical realms, names give power when used in magical works.  Thus, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT TO BE ACCURATE WHEN NAMING!  Misspellings or mispronunciations cause magical powers to be misdirected!   While the result sometimes might seem humorous, very serious consequences often occur.  Therefore, in our magic world, ACCURACY and PRECISION are most important. 

There is another facet of Naming power that has been called “Sympathetic Magic” by linguist/etymologist (a person who studies language origins and natures) Margaret Schlauch.  This occurs when folks become afraid or in awe of something or someone they think has tremendous powers.  That object’s or person’s name begins to NOT be spoken or written; instead, substitute names are used.  For example, instead of “Voldemort,” many people use the phrase “You-Know-Who” or “He Who Must Not Be Named.”  Instead of “Death,” we use all sorts of euphemisms (substitute words), such as “passed on,” or “gone to one’s reward,” etc.

 The function of these alternative names is to deflect or misdirect the awesome or terrifying powers possessed by the original object or creature.  No one wants to take a chance of “attracting” those powers (good or evil), so one uses different names to indirectly refer to the powerful object or creature.  Thus, the powers are not summoned directly or to their fullest extent.

This may be both a beneficial or disadvantageous practice.  It does give us some comfort to think we are “protecting” ourselves from powers we cannot control or defend ourselves from effectively. But, we are like ostriches when we do this—the danger certainly doesn’t go away!  Further, it gives the object or person more power because it realizes we are afraid or in awe of it.  Therefore, with regard to evil, it is best to use the proper name as much as possible in order to reduce the power it possesses.  If the object or person is esteemed, then certainly a title of respect should be used, but be careful not to “elevate” the powers inappropriately.

All in all, names represent and invoke power—use them wisely and accurately to avoid confusion and to protect your own powers from becoming lessened by fear or awe.

May the heavens always find you well!  Prof. Opal Dragonfly

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