Naming something, in the old beliefs, was controlling something. Names give power and take away power.
In the Bible, Adam, who is given charge of the earth, names the animals, not an insignificant act at all. In the old fairy tale “Rumplestiltskin,” the miller’s daughter defeats him by finding out Rumplestiltskin’s very own name. In the magical text called the Goetia, the key to being able to call on beings from the great beyond is to use their true names. In many cultures, people have “true names” and “use names,” that is, a name that is kept secret and a name for everyday use. The examples could go on and on.
When I was at Pantheacon, I went by Happydog a lot. As I commented earlier, in another post, I found that people who were introduced to me as M___, it didn’t register, but when I was I.D.’d as Happydog, the response was quite different. What came from that was that through most of the rest of Pantheacon I went by Happydog. Going by that name made a change in me.
In the context of Pantheacon I actually could go into the Happydog identity, which is still me, but more open, more willing to listen, more willing to talk. I was not a different person, but I felt expanded – more free to be myself, maybe. I felt more liberated and more at ease. I think, in some way, letting myself be Happydog is a renaming. And if I rename myself, I get to say who I will be and who I will not be. I get to define who and what Happydog is, and draw on the richness of the inner life brought forth to create this identity.
I can deal with being called Happydog in real life, at least in some contexts. I understand now why people rename themselves. I didn’t always before, but now I think I do. It is an act of reclaiming personal power and a way of redefining self to become more true to the person within – as within, so without – as above, so below.