Names and magic

Posted on July 13, 2012
Filed Under book review, Magic | 2 Comments

The role of names in magic fascinates me. Even in the Bible, names had a magical power, being used to label everything in existence. For humans, names assume a kind of power, especially in terms of how we use them to understand what is around us. A physical location is named to differentiate it from another location and in that differentiation is an understanding that there is in fact something different. In a sense, names draw out what is distinct and different for us, so that we can situate it in our consciousness and our experience as something distinct that we can work with.

This isn’t to say there aren’t other ways to discover this difference, but names play such a powerful role that we end up using them even in describing those other ways of realizing the differences. And that’s my point: Names have a way of shaping our perceptions and descriptions of what we work with. They are an essential tool of magical practice. We use names for calling entities, use names to describe places we’ve worked with…they are embedded in how we describe reality.

What make them important to magical work is how we use them, not just in term of describing or labeling something, but also using them to attune ourselves to the specific entities, places, etc., that we want to work with. I think of names as being like tuning forks. You say a name, you vibrate the name and you’ve set off the tuning fork and sent out a call to whatever it you’ll connect with.

Book Review: Arcana V: Music, Magic, and Mysticism Edited by John Zorn

Like most anthologies out there, this anthology has a mix of interesting essays and essays that leave the reader (well this reader) wondering how they got accepted into the anthology. I’ll admit that I found the premise of this anthology interesting, i.e. the intersection of music, magic, and mysticism, and some of the essays lived up to what I was looking for, but a fair amount of them didn’t. I would’ve liked to have seen more essays on practical applications of music and magic. The ones in the book were excellent and intrigued me. I did appreciate some of the mystical leaning essays, but with some of the essays it seemed like nothing so much as a rant by the authors about whatever they were discussing, and not all of it readily focused on anything that was mystical or magical. I’d recommend this anthology with the caveat that you’ll find some diamonds and the rest may not appeal as much as you’d hope.


thesilverspiral 1 Like

I wrote an article on the same topic a number of months ago. I am fascinated with the concept of names and think it's very powerful, looking at the power that the true name had over Rumplestiltskin.  Then, there's the people in 12-step programs who, as their very first step, have to name the problem.  To name something is to empower yourself to work with that aspect of reality. You do a lot of work with definitions in your magic, which is, in a sense, naming. I'm currently reading Magical Identity, where you explore definitions a lot, and loving it.  I like that there's historical and mythological precedent for it.

Magicexperiment moderator

 @thesilverspiral I'm glad you are enjoying Magical Identity. I agree that naming something does give you control over that aspect of reality. A big reason I do work with definitions so much is because of the naming/labeling that accompanies definitions. Understanding definitions allows us to understand how they are used by people everyday to simultaneously liberate and limit the expression of reality.