What’s in a name?

Posted on January 24, 2013
Filed Under Culture, Definitions & Labels | 7 Comments

 

magical name

I have a confession to make. I have never given myself a magical name. My magical name is my actual name and I think that name is magical enough that I don’t need to come up with something else. Recently I came across an article where the author mentions that he’d never realized that shifting from a magical name to your mundane name could be a form of grounding that separates your magical persona from your regular persona. He cited an article by Frater Barrabbas that discusses this aspect further and I found the argument intriguing.

Frater Barrabbas’s argument is that if a magician uses his/her mundane name as his/her craft name, s/he runs the risk of believing his/her own pr and can become deluded about his/her magical achievements and also the reality of his/her situation. The adoption of a magical name and motto allows the magician to create a persona for his/her magical self. This in turns allows the magician to turn off that persona as needed and keep him/her grounded in reality. I see his point and I agree with it to a degree, especially because he cites how actors and other famous people also experience this kind of delusion, as I’ve noted in Pop Culture Magick, and as can be seen in any number of bizarre behaviors famous people end up doing. The amount of energy and attention thrown their way affects who they are and causes them to buy into the image as reality, instead of remembering that they are mortal. Sadly unless you are a triumphant roman general, you probably won’t have someone whispering in your ear that you are mortal.

At the same time I have always considered magical names to be a conceit of sorts, a way for someone to give themselves a self important title. And because of that and also because I believe that the only way people in general will become more accepting of magic, Paganism, and alternative beliefs in general, I’ve chosen to use my own name as my magical name. Anyone who does a Google search on my name discovers that I’m an occultist, which has lead to some interesting discussions, but also provided me a sense of freedom because I am choosing not to hide what I believe or practice. That’s my choice and yet it also serves to keep me humble.

If you read this journal you’ll inevitably come across entries where I detail some of my personal struggles, failures, or magical workings that just didn’t work out the way I hoped. Nor do I consider myself to be famous. I’m at most kinda famous, on the fringe of the occult community. And on a mundane level, I’ve gone through a divorce and made my share of mistakes with finances, work, life, and love. I can be petty, vengeful, and quick to anger, and my people skills could use work. On the other hand I can also be compassionate, caring, and generous. I’ve made an ass of myself on multiple occasions and I’ve lost friends, made enemies, and had other mundane issues come up. In short I am a fallible person and I don’t buy into any pr about me because I know at the end of the day that any enlightenment I’ve experienced has been worked for…hard. And on the rare occasion I meet someone who acts impressed by who I am (it doesn’t happen often, though I’ll admit social media has been a nice shot to my self-esteem as a writer) what I try to do, more than anything, is get them to meet the real me. Not the author, not the magician, but Taylor Ellwood the person. Because Taylor Ellwood the person is a lot less likely to let them down, and because when they get to know me as a person they realize that while I’m a pretty interesting person, I am just another person at the end of the day.

I keep my name because it reminds me to be humble. The assumption of a magical name doesn’t ground me…it just creates another level of occult BS that I dislike with an intense passion. Now to be clear I do respect why Frater Barrabbas has chosen to take on a magical name. I respect it because I think that is the intention behind taking on such a name. I just don’t know that many people hold to that same standard. He does, and I can safely say that because I know him and we’ve had a few conversations both with his persona on, and off. If you want to take on a magical name, then do it, but do it for the right reasons.

The truth is that we all take a risk of believing our own pr. Occultists can be pretty arrogant and I’ve definitely been arrogant at times. I’ve just learned that being arrogant doesn’t really help. It just makes you into an asshole that everyone else dislikes and avoids. Lucky for me I’ve moved out of that stage of life and actually have people who want to hang with Taylor Ellwood the person. I’ll never be the most popular guy, but that’s ok too. I am an acquired taste and I know it and I’m satisfied with being that way. So whatever way you choose to keep yourself humble…remember you are but mortal…

Comments

7 comments
Lupa
Lupa

I don't think it's always conceited to use a name. For some people, it's a necessary pseudonym to keep them (and, in some cases, their children and other dependents) safe in more conservative areas/employment fields/etc. I do agree that people can fall prey to their own PR, but I think the name is more of a red herring--there are certainly people who use their legal names and garner quite a bit of hype about themselves. 

The other problem is the common reaction to perceived celebrity. In the pagan/etc. community, writing a book means at least a minor bit of celebrity status. And very often people will act as though this person is unusual and on a pedestal. This is regardless of whether they have a magical name or not. Most of the authors I've met have been very real people, and it was me projecting my awe onto them, not them producing it. So the mystique can largely be the creation of the beholder.

aartiana
aartiana

Hi Taylor!  Funny that I am embarking on something pretty amazing so far, the Richlore Study of Letters!  It is quite revealing indeed, and I do hope to keep you up with that.  Thanks for being REAL!!  I think you are awesome!

ShinobiBombay
ShinobiBombay

I have met people who have even legally changed their name to their 'majyckal' name. My real name is Bill. But I go by Shinobi Bombay because I like it. Although, the theory behind the majyckal name is psychologically valid in my opinion. In my experience all the really majyckal people I have met are ,... well, ... eccentric, to put it mildly. Particularly in the realm of ceremonial magick where the ritual is a bit of a passion play so to speak. It is sort of like being an actor and you become this other character. If that works for those people, then more power to them. Life is like a pair of shoes. One size does not fit all, and some will even hurt your feet. It those people who take themselves so serious that the pretense is almost like a syrup that drips from them that bother me. (although I admit when I first started all this in 1978 I did choose a majyckal name) But i am Shinobi Bombay, because i like Ninjas and I like Bewitched. (Not that it is any less pretentious than "Pagan Vainglory" or Dragon Willowblosson or whatever...)

ValerieLaVay
ValerieLaVay

I have always used my given name and don't feel that it is egotistical to do so. I feel my name was given to me to define who I am on this particular life journey and as such defines me. I feel that the use of a magical name separates us from our magical selves as if when we perform spells and such that it is a different side of us instead of accepting that we are the embodiment of magic. What a wonderful article. I enjoyed it because it made me define exactly why I use my given name. At the end of the day, everyone must do what feels right for them.

Magicexperiment
Magicexperiment moderator

@Lupa That's a fair point to make and one that seems to go hand in hand with the Good Frater's observation on his own blog. I mentioned celebrities as an example in the above post because they are a good example of people who build hype with their real names and still fall prey to their pr (for whatever the reasons or causes). Names in and of themselves do not guarantee one way or another that a person will be humble in the face of fame.

Magicexperiment
Magicexperiment moderator

@ShinobiBombay And nothing wrong with choosing to use a magical name. I figure its an individual decision...use whatever works!

Magicexperiment
Magicexperiment moderator

@ValerieLaVay That's an interesting observation and one I would agree with. I'm glad the article was helpful you and I look forward to reading more of your comments!