We are all given name’s by our parents. Some of us like these names, others would really have preferred their parents had been a little more inspired, but these are the names we grow up with.
My given name is David Smith. You couldn’t get more ordinary than that. I was going to be called Philip Ian Smith, until my parents realised that every time I was asked to initial something I would be writing PIS. I’ve got to say I’m thankful for that forethought!
My middle name is Martyn. I really like that name and for a while thought of doing as many others have done and using my middle name as my first, becoming Martyn Smith, but I didn’t do that in the end. Middle names are often people our parents name us after. Sometimes one of the parents, or a Grandparent, or favourite actor/musician/footballer. I was named after Old Man Martyn, a plant nursery owner from the village we lived in in Devoran, Cornwall. He gave my Dad his first proper job, so my parents honoured him in me. I like that story.
I also like David. As a child you can be David, a teenager/youth/man Dave, then in older age back to David again. Smith, although I was called Smugger by some at school (which I hated), I’ve also learned to love, realising that there is a magical and respected ancestry within it. Were my ancestors Blacksmiths? Goldsmiths? Silversmiths? I don’t know, but somewhere in my past I had an ancestor named xxxxx the Smith, and I like that, a lot.
So we have our given names. Then we somehow obtain nicknames. I had a few at school but none stuck for long. Angus was one due to my obsession with AC/DC and I like that one, but it didn’t last long.
In Pagan circles many people take different names. Some public, others secret, only used in magical space. I found the name Damh quite easily. I was open to the idea of a Pagan name and one day I bought a copy of the Druid Animal Oracle by Philip and Stephanie Carr–Gomm. Now the image of the stag and Herne have always deeply moved me so when I found the stag card with it’s Gealic name, Damh (pronounced Darv) I realised I’d found my name. The thing is Darv/Damh is so close to ‘Dave’ as to be almost interchangeable. So I took the name of my Power Animal, the stag, yet kept the link with my given name too. Perfect.
Damh the Bard was born.
Over the years I have also had a few magical names that I have only ever used within the privacy of my Druid Grove. These names changed as my life-flow changed. For instance, when I needed to feel freedom the Seagull came to me, and for a very difficult period of my life I took one of the names of the Gull as my magical name, as the bird taught me to fly free, to survive. When I had learnt that lesson the animal left me, and I gave up the name. Similar things have happened at other times, when I needed the energy of a particular animal/God to walk very closely with me. Taking a magical name has a deep and real effect on our lives.
Some people scoff at some of the names people take within the Pagan community. I try not to. If somehow the Path has led a person to take the name Raven Morrighan (if a Raven Morrighan is reading this, I’m not referring to you by the way), so be it. Having lived with the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, consequences of taking a magical name I just always hope that they have done their homework and deeply considered the name, before taking it as a mantle.
Words and names are powerful things.
What’s in a name? If you take one, you will see.