Joy is not the name on my birth certificate. However, in many ways, it feels more real, more accurate than the name that is on my birth certificate.
The practice of taking a spiritual or magickal name is not unique to modern pagan/neopagan traditions. My friends in the ISKCON (Krishna consciousness) community are given a new name when they decide to commit themselves to that way of life and are initiated into that tradition. Christian monastics – nuns and monks – often take a new name or add a name when they take their vows. In the pagan community where I received my early training, there was a tradition of taking a new name, a spiritual or magickal name, when one is initiated. If there are progressive initiations, a practitioner may add more than one name. Some names may be public, some may be private – for use only in closed spaces or with a certain community.
When I was training, coming up on my first imitation, I was pondering my new name – what should it be? And it came to me, there in my college apartment, that I had already been given my name, years ago, on a misty mountaintop. In high school, I was involved with one of the large Methodist churches in my area. This church had a strong, vibrant, and truly loving youth program, led by people who prioritized love and acceptance over all other concerns. One of the things they offered, the summer before I left for college, was a summer-long bible study based on the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis.
Narnia is – has always been – one of my formative texts. They were books that showed me important things about how to live, how to love, and the nature of Deity. They were also my way into heretical Christianity…and then out into a pagan path. In Narnia, Bacchus joyfully coexists with Christ-figure Aslan. In Narnia, the Greek myths of my childhood were sanctified and acceptable – and this spoke to a larger truth. As a result, this study was a powerful experience for me. At the end of the summer, we gathered for a retreat in the mountains. Part of this retreat was a “knighting” ceremony for those folks who had gone beyond reading the books and discussing – for those who did extra writing and responding.
When it was my turn to be knighted, I went and knelt before the man who was the force behind the program – one of the most important mentors of my adolescence, the man whose voice, even today, is what Aslan sounds like for me. He took a sword, tapped me on the shoulders and head, and said, “I dub thee Lady Joyshine, Radiant Reflection of Golden Lion-light.” I was filled with the knowledge that he spoke truly, that this was who I had always been, though I never knew it before now. And four years later, in my apartment, that certainty came to me again. I had my name – all that was left for me to claim it and commit to living in accordance with it.
So, I am Joyshine, Joy for short, and I strive to radiate the love and glory of my Gods.
What’s in your name? How does it relate to your identity? If your soul was to tell you its name, what would it be?