“My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.” ~ A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
Names have always interested me. The meanings of names. The cultural, historical, religious, or linguistic origin of a name. Even the pronounciation of a name. Why do we name things? What importance is there in it?
Take for instance, my pen name (no, you still don’t know my real name):
Tanney–> origin, me. I made it up. But, it is for numerous reasons…it is an algamation of my first and middle names. But, it is also short for tangerine, my favorite smell, color, fruit, my personality, etc.
Christiansen–> Danish for son of Christian. But break that even further and it means a follower of Christ.
What power is there behind my name? Well, on the one hand, my given name holds me to expectations: I am a Christian. The name I gave myself gives me power of creativity.
Names have power behind them. That is why they are so special to us. All religions believe this to some extent. Judiasm and Mormonism both believe that God’s name is so special, that we shouldn’t speak it. That is why we call him God or Heavenly Father. But there has to be a further reason why names have power.
In mythology and magical believes, names have power of control. If you know the true name of something and can posess that true name, you can have power over it. Naming is one of the languages of magic. Once you have learned the true name of someone, you can bend them to your will. You can summon creatures of light and dark.
There are many examples in media that I really like that play with this idea of the power of names.
In this movie, Chihiro stumbles upon a realm of spirits and mythological creatures. To earn her and her parents’ freedom, she must work for Yubaba, the owner of the bathhouse for the spirits. She signs a contract and Yubaba lifts her name off the contract and says Chihiro’s name is hers now. She then recieves a new name of Sen. Sen’s only friend in this world is Haku, Yubaba’s slave/apprentice. He warns her to never forget her real name or she’ll have no hope of escaping. Haku, however, can’t remember his own name, thus, must do the bidding of Yubaba. Chihiro keeps this in mind and eventually helps Haku find his name as well.
Lost Years of Merlin
This is part of a series that describes Merlin’s youth and how he gains the powers that allows him to become known as one of the greatest wizards of all time. One of the 7 songs of Wizardry Merline has to learn is the Song of Naming.
This is perhaps, the greatest example of the power of a true name. All magic in this series consists of knowing the true name of something. Thus, the people of this world are very careful to keep their true name secret and go by a more common name. The more true names you know, the more powerful of a wizard you are, but you also have to be able to understand the true name in order to actually control what you are summoning, creating, or controlling.
I think the power of a name is very true, whether magically or religiously, I do believe it. Naming is a power of creation and it has a purpose.