INSPIRATION FOR ALL SEASONS
What Is Your Name?
“What is your name… Your claim to fame …or notoriety? The things we are called That makes us lame …have such variety…” ~R.A.G.
Your name is a statement about who you are. It is a semantic basket filled with expectations that are the seeds of how you are perceived… and who you are expected to be. In many instances it is a summary of the hopes and dreams that were held sacred on your behalf by your ancestors. For these reasons appropriate thought and research is put into choosing names for our newborns. If this is not the case – it should be.
Many of us are not aware of the significance of being called by a certain chosen word. Some of us love, and seek to live into the aspirations implicit in the word to which we answer. Some of us do not like our names for a number of reasons, and express a desire to change them. Those who do so usually have in mind very specific historical, philosophical, and esthetic reasons. Of course there are those who have no clue that their names are actually words that mean something specific.
Some years ago I was asked to officiate at the naming ceremony for a child who was terminally ill. Although her parents were well aware of the short time their beloved would be with them, they wanted to celebrate her life in a way that would underline their appreciation of her being with us even for that relatively short while. They wanted to celebrate the very deep love they felt for their child.
We gathered together with the immediate family and other relatives and friends and neighbors. As a part of what was a very meaningful ceremony there was the consumption of small samples of various symbolic items. These items included honey and bitter kola nuts, which symbolize the duality of life’s sweet and sour experiences; salt, to symbolize happiness; water, because it has no enemy; and olive oil, seen as something to smooth out life’s expected rough spots. She was given a name that was the female equivalent of her father’s. This was a very moving experience for all those gathered, especially in light of her prognosis.
The power of words…
The power of words to express meaning and purpose is summarized in the symbolic value of a name. Names talk about where we come from – whether that may be an acutely symbolic circumstance or a generally known geographic location. A boy is named Scott, because he was descended from Scottish parents, or is from a lineage of wanderers. Names talk about the impact we have on our parents; and so a child is named John because “he brought joy to his mother”. A female child may be named June to symbolize the promises of youthfulness… like marriage and childbearing. A mother named her child Vivian, which means “full of life”, despite her being born with a series of complex medical issues.