In the Olde Days, when our pagan ancestors were going through the persecutions we now invoke to justify various kinds of current silliness, witches took craft names to conceal their identities and avoid those annoying visits by the Inquisition. In the course of years, it was noticed that these aliases could also be used as a foundation for building up a magical personality, carrying out various kinds of transformative work on the self, and the like. It’s clear, though, that these were mere distractions from the real purpose lying hidden within the craft name tradition. It took contact with other sources of ancient, mystic lore – mostly the SCA, role-playing games, and assorted fantasy trilogies – to awaken the Craft to the innermost secret of craft names: they make really cool fashion statements.
It’s in this spirit that Lady Pixie Moondrip offers the following guidelines to choosing your own craft name. Such a guide is long overdue; the point of fashion, after all, is that it allows you to express your own utterly unique individuality by doing exactly the same thing as everyone else. (Those who are particularly drawn to this element of the craft name tradition will find the Random Craft Name Generator near the end of this guide especially useful.)
The approaches given here can be used separately, or combined in a single name to produce any number of interesting effects. Given enough cleverness (and lack of taste), the possibilities are endless!
Starting Off Right
Whatever else you do, you should certainly begin your craft name with “Lord” or “Lady.” First of all, it’s pretentious, and that’s always a good way to start. Secondly, it makes an interesting statement about a religion that supposedly has its roots in the traditions of peasants and rural tribespeople. Thirdly, since most Craft groups use exactly these same words for the God and the Goddess, this creates a (by no means inappropriate) confusion about just who it is that we worship.
Along the same lines, you can always take the name of a god, a goddess, a mythological being or a legendary hero as your craft name, thus putting yourself on the same level as the powers you invoke.
Having once watched two fifteen-year-old boys get into a fistfight over which had the right to call himself “Lord Merlin,” Lady Pixie has a high opinion of the possibilities of this approach. She notes, however, that there seems to be an unwritten law among those who have made use of this type of name already, and it’s no doubt wisest to follow suit: the more grandiose the name that you choose, the more of a complete nebbish you should be. Nearly anyone can carry off, say, “Lady Niwalen,” but it takes a special kind of person to handle a name like “Lord Jehovah God Almighty.” Fortunately, there are those among us who are equal to the task.
A related approach involves taking a name that implies (or, better yet, states openly) that you are an elf or some other kind of nonhuman, magical being. This works best if you are willing to act the part obsessively, and to get really petulant when anyone fails to respond accordingly. Subtlety should be avoided; nobody will catch something like “Lord Elrandir” unless they know Tolkien inside and out. Try something more like “Lord Celeborn Pointears the Real Live Elf.”
The burgeoning field of fantasy fiction offers another source for fashionable craft names, and in many cases, for interesting complications as well. One popular approach is to choose the name of your favorite character; as with nonhumans, this works best if you play the part, and throw a tantrum unless everyone else plays along. Given luck and a sense of the popular, you may be able to choose everyone else’s favorite character, too, and end up tussling over a name with a dozen other people. (Mercedes Lackey is a good author to try if this is your goal.) Both this and the last category have the added advantage of making it clear that, as far as you are concerned, the Craft is simply a setting for make-believe games; this can help spare you the annoyance of actually having to learn something about it.
Inventing A Name From Scratch
The best way to do this is to come up with something that sounds, say, vaguely Celtic, perhaps by mangling a couple of existing names together, and then resolutely avoid looking it up in a Welsh or Gaelic dictionary.
Luck is an important factor here, but there is always the chance that you’ll manage something striking. It took one person of Lady Pixie’s acquaintance only a few minutes to blur together Gwydion son of Don and Girion, Lord of Dale, into the craft name “Lord Gwyrionin,” and several months to find out that the name he had invented, and used throughout the local pagan scene, was also the Welsh word for “idiot.”
Following a Grand Tradition
Though the ink is barely dry on most of our modern pagan “traditions,” there’s at least one ancient European tradition that many people in the Craft follow: the tradition of stealing things from non-Western peoples.
Fake Indian craft names are always chic, especially if the closest thing to contact with Native American spirituality you’ve ever had is watching Dances With Wolves at a beer party. Better still, mix whatever Craft teachings you have absorbed with a few ideas you picked up from a Michael Harner book, break out the buckskins and the medicine pouches, and proclaim yourself a shaman. Mind you, there are people out there who have received real Native American medicine teachings, and they may just turn you into hamburger if you piss them off; still, that’s the risk you run if you want to be really trendy.
The Random Craft Name Generator
On the other hand, if you are individualistic like everybody else, you may be looking for a name that expresses the uniqueness of your personality but still sounds like all the other craft names you’ve ever heard. Fortunately, this isn’t too hard. Several years back, a gentleman of Lady Pixie’s acquaintance told her that the best way to get laid at a pagan gathering was to have the PA system announce, “Will Morgan and Raven please come to the information booth?” Since the resulting crowd would include at least a third of the female attendees, he went on, it wouldn’t be too hard to meet someone interesting. While Lady Pixie has not tried this out herself, she has tested the principle behind it in a series of controlled double-blinded experiments, and discovered a rule that she has modestly named Moondrip’s Law: 80% of all craft names are made up of the same thirty words combined in various not particularly imaginative ways.
The discovery of this principle has allowed her to make the once difficult task of creating craft names easy, by means of the Random Craft Name Generator, release 1.0.
To use the RCNG, take either two or three of the following words (using any convenient randomizing method, including personal preference). If you take two, simply run them together; if you take three, one of the words becomes the first part of the name, and the other two are combined to form the second.
Wolf Raven Silver
Moon Star Water
Snow Sea Tree
Wind Cloud Witch
Thorn Leaf White
Black Green Fire
Rowan Swan Night
Red Mist Hawk
Feather Eagle Song
Sky Storm Sun
Try it out: “Rowan Moonstar.” “Raven Blackthorn.” “Silver Ravenw..” –
uh, never mind.
For the expanded version (RCNG 1.01), come up with a name by any of the methods covered elsewhere in this guide, or take some ordinary American name, and add a two-word name produced on the RCNG to the end: “Gwydion Silvertree.” “Sybil Moonwitch.” “Squatting Buffalo Firewater.” The possibilities are endless!
(Note that this list will change with shifts in fashion; Lady Pixie expects to bring out an upgrade to RCNG 2.0 in a year or two.)
It may be said by the narrow-minded (who are probably all covert Christians, anyway) that members of the Craft have better things to do with their time than the above guidelines would suggest. This shows a complete lack of insight. First of all, in an increasingly blase and tolerant culture, it’s becoming hard for white middle-class Americans to get that rush of self-righteous gratification that comes from pretending to be members of a persecuted minority; we may not be able to get burned at the stake by calling ourselves silly names, but at least we can get laughed at, and that’s something. Secondly, if we keep on treating craft names (and the Craft as a whole) as fashion statements, that spares us the unpleasant drudgery of actually learning magic and making it part of our lives. Finally, if we’re pretentious enough, those people who actually know enough to magic their way out of a wet paper bag will roll their eyes and go somewhere else, and we can keep on fighting our witch wars, casting vast astral whammies and invoking powers we don’t have a clue how to control, all in the serene certainty that no one is actually going to get hurt.
On the other hand, we could take the Craft seriously…but who wants to do that?
— Lady Pixie Moondrip