Today was an explosion of ideas for writing, but I decided to go with the first idea that struck me – thanks mostly to a post over on Aedicula Antinoi.

Names and identifiers are a pretty big deal. While I’ve heard people high and low say that ‘labels don’t matter’, I can’t agree with that. Sure, breaking down barriers that labels and identifications can establish can be a good thing and create great, exciting, unexpected dialog – but what we call ourselves and what others call us is still important. Just be aware reading this that my premise is ‘names are important’.

I have three names that receive a lot of use in my life. The first is my birth name, used only by my family (anyone else who knows it and uses it in reference to me without permission has basically just ensured I will never speak to them again, as doing so is a violation of my self and any trust I have put in them). The second is Aine Llewellyn, the name I blog by and introduce myself as most often in Pagan and polytheist circles. The third is Eddward, which is what most of my friends outside of religious circles know me as.

Those are the names that receive the most use. There are names I use with spirits and with individual gods or in specific situations, names that spirits have given to me or urged me to take. All of those names are important. Just as the names I gave above show what situation I’m in, what names I’m using or being called in my spirit and devotional work tell me who I’m interacting with and how I should behave.

And there is nothing quite like having someone disregard your name.

I suspect most trans* and differently gendered people will understand that. It’s part of why I distrust people that natter on and on about putting your legal name on everything you do (on or offline) or else you’re ‘hiding’ or ‘being dishonest’. (I also have no love for pressuring people to come out, but that’ll have to wait until a different time.) My legal name is strictly used by my family. My friends know not to use it. It isn’t relevant to my spiritual life. I’m not, frankly, all that connected to it. And, ultimately, it is every individual’s choice whether to use a certain name in a situation, and pressuring them to do otherwise – or making that decision for them and using a name they haven’t agreed to let you use – is pretty awful behavior.

But this ties in with my religion, don’t worry. I’m not just going off on another ‘angry queer’ rant (every time someone calls me that I laugh).

Names are important to our gods, usually. They have tons of names and titles, and we can call upon them by different names when we wish to reach or interact with different parts of them. It makes me a bit sad to see people put in so much effort to learn all the different names of their gods and then completely disregard a human’s name, a person who is standing in front of them and speaking their name, just because the name is ‘weird’ or ‘different’ or ‘not your REAL name’. (Putting quotes around someone’s name also falls under that, by the way.) It doesn’t matter if someone chose a name themselves or it was given to them, be respectful.

Be respectful of names and of boundaries. Our names are huge parts of ourselves, influence how the world perceives us and us the world, and trying to bully or harass someone because they don’t use a name you’re comfortable with (or one that is hard to pronounce) is not classy or cool.

After all that, it’s probably good to end with a Nicki Minaj quote: “You’re not gonna tell me who I am, Imma tell you who I am.”

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About Aine

Aine Llewellyn is a 20 year old girl creature currently mucking about in southern Arizona. She enjoys the winters and rain but can’t stand the heat. She is a difficult polytheist that natters on and on about her faith.

  • GarlicClove

    I’d been reading more about Greek gods and the concept of taboo names recently. Many of the names we know the Greek gods by were not the names that would be spoken by the Greeks. People generally referred to Hades as Pluton (Giver of Wealth) for example as using the name Hades was believed to attract the attention of or invoke his God of Death aspect, and that was considered dangerous. Persephone likewise was referred to as Kore so as not to evoke her aspect of goddess of death. This might change when the querent was calling upon Persephone for justice or to punish a wrong-doer. Other gods were referred to by other names in other regions. These names reflected the way people in those regions saw and interacted with that god or goddess.

    • Aine

      Yes! That is something I learned only recently (like last two years recently), and it rings quite well with me for a multitude of reasons.

  • Christopher Scott Thompson

    I agree with this in all but one circumstance. What about situations where the person’s chosen name is questionable or offensive? Like, what if someone wanted to be addressed as “My Lord?” This is not a hypothetical scenario, I personally know someone who did something like this. I wouldn’t want to have to address another person as “My Lord” or as “God” every time we spoke… it would feel invasive if not impious.

    • Aine

      I agree, there are limits and specific circumstances. I’ve actually never run into people like that so would not have thought to bring that up, so I’m glad you did.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    Never a truer word was spoken, my friend…

    I am especially annoyed–just as I am with my gender identity and my preferred pronouns with that–when I explain these matters to someone and then they don’t pay attention or observe my advice on these things, and yet still think of themselves as my friends. These are not dim people by any means, so why these things don’t get through with them, I have no notion…

    • Aine

      I’ve noticed the same – people who are very intelligent and usually very understanding just don’t get it. And I can’t figure out why that is >.>