My real name is not Teo Bishop.
I have another name, one that I do not use to author this site, or a number of other social pages I manage. My given name is a fine name, and I use it for different things. I keep my given name separate from the world of Teo Bishop.
I use my given name in my professional life. This is, perhaps, an area where I find the most use for this duality.
You see, my given name is also somewhat of a brand, as strange as that may sound. It isn’t a “Coke” or a “Pepsi”, in terms of it’s size or net worth. It’s more a “Local Soda” brand, or a “Niche Independent Toothpaste” brand. It’s modest in the big picture, but big enough for several people to have given it their support. The brand is something in which others have a vested interest.
Now, my given name is more than just a brand. I also have personal attachment to it. It is the name that connects me to my family, to my parents. It was the name I used to introduce myself to my husband almost 6 years ago. It’s the name on my phone bill, and on my drivers license. It’s the name at the top of my voters ballot. It’s the first name I think to use when I reach out my hand during an introduction.
That is, until recently.
I’ve been attending a Unitarian Universalist church lately, both for their Pagan fellowship gatherings (CUUPS) and for their Sunday services. The latter has introduced an interesting challenge: what name do I offer when the mostly online persona that I use in my exploration of Druidry, Paganism and other esoteric studies is met with real, flesh and blood, non-Pagan identifying people? Can a text-based Teo Bishop be born — be made incarnate — in the physical world?
Which Me Am I?
We have an investment in our individual names, and we all invest in the names of others. Names are reputations. Names are storefront signs. Names are the products we buy, the authors we read, the music we love. Names clue us into something deeper about a person, a thing, a place.
This is what to expect from me, say our names.
Names are symbols for something invisible, something experiential; and in this way, names are brands.
What is the James Madison brand? What about the Oprah Winfrey brand — that’s a little easier to wrap your mind around, what with her brand being just about everywhere. What about the T. Thorn Coyle brand, or the Starhawk brand? I trust that the notion of what “Starhawk” represents to others has crossed the mind of the actual person who is Starhawk (who was, by the way, born as Miriam Simos, according to the Wiki-oracle).
Names, like all words, are symbols that represent something else. And now, I’m trying to use two symbols to represent the same person. Something about this feels uncomfortable to me. I feel fragmented and bit disingenuous, but still uncertain if these two symbols can ever be reconciled.
Don’t Point Fingers, Now…
I was afraid to post about this subject, not because I thought I might be “outed”, but because I was afraid of the self-righteousness of my Neo-Pagan brothers and sisters, or other readers of this blog. I was afraid (and this fear may, in fact, play out in the comment section) that someone would call me out on being a coward, or being deceitful or untrustworthy. I know that I don’t invest much in a blog, a Facebook page or any other given profile that shows a blurry photo, or a sunset snapshot, or a cartoon instead of a person’s actual face. And yet…I chose the zoom-out shot, and a Green Man photo before that.
I’ve had to face my own hypocrisy on other occasions, too.
In the post, “And You, Who Would Deny My Name,” by Pantheos columnist, Eric Scott, Eric wrote about a time when he was faced with the choice of being honest about his faith and belief in Thor. The post concluded with him denying his beliefs when challenged by an authority figure, and when I read this I got so mad. What was the message here? Don’t be honest? Don’t be who you are? Being closeted is ok? I’ve never believed that. I almost posted a comment that said as much.
I mean…Teo Bishop almost posted a comment…
I’ve often wondered how many “magical names” are truly that — magical — or if they’re more like aliases; masks we wear to keep other Pagans from knowing who we are in our business suits, and to keep our fellow Suits from knowing about our Paganism.
There are, I’m sure, people whose magical monikers were whispered to them by the Gods. I’m just sayin’ – it’s worth examining why we feel the need to create separate identities in order for us to express our spirituality. Is it fear motivating us, or are we moved to change our names my something mystical? Something sacred?
Whatever the answer, I’m still faced with this experience of fragmentation.
Does this situation strike a chord with you? Have you built up identities online that allow you to explore your spirituality in “safety”, but have found that doing so has led to unsustainable compartmentalization?
I would love to hear about your experiences in the comment section. And if you found this post to be engaging, why not expand the conversation?! Share it on Facebook, Twitter, and the social network that’s all the rage — Google+!
I dodged that, as far as the Pagan/occult world goes, by going from first-name-only to my full name when I was ready. Before that, though, I had a Buddhist “Dharma name,” and an Indian name, and a certain degree of “branding” (but I detest that word) associated with each. I suppose I am happier now that I don’t give a flip what anyone thinks (or at least adopt that as a goal).
I have one of those magical names you mentioned, too, but that one is between me and Her.
I think we’ll someday outgrow “Pagan names,” if we live so long, but the custom still has some utility. Especially if we have some humor about it. Your nom doesn’t sound like something from a parody, but I have a lot of trouble not going off on the “Lady Moonbeam Pixiesparkle”s of the world.
Thank you for your comment, Freeman.
I respect that you've got a name that is sacred to you, and that you keep between you and the Goddess, and I also respect that others have a completely different take on what "magical names" are. You make a very good point: humor is important. A balance of reverence and irreverence is fitting, I think. There is value in showing others respect, but also value in encouraging one another to refrain from taking everything so seriously.
I've gone in the opposite direction myself. When I first started down this path, I felt that my life was too fragmented already, so I made an active choice not to use a magical name. Nothing that has happened in the intervening twenty years has convinced me that I really need one now. (Silliest reason I've been given: because we need a different persona in order to interact with the gods properly. If my gods can't figure out who I am because I happen to be using a pseudonym at that moment, then I need to find some better gods.) Certainly we present a different persona in different social situations, and I do act differently in person ritual, public ritual, work, buying groceries, socializing online, socializing offline, etc. And I don't use a different name for any of those, either.
But I don't fault anyone else for using one, that's their choice.
Thanks for the comment, Rob. I appreciate the choice you made, and I'm curious – have you experienced any repercussions from being as transparent as you are?
Nope. But as I've noted many times in other places (like, say, http://robslg.bravejournal.com/entry/55645), I'm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a city that trips all over itself to be liberal and inclusive. If I lived somewhere else, then maybe I would have.
More amusing are the folks who see my username "kargach" and assume that's my Pagan name (or better, my Irish Pagan name – there's no K in the Irish Gaelic alphabet, folks!) when that's actually the name of my Klingon character from a Star Trek roleplaying campaign I was in twenty years ago. Talk about confusing roleplaying and religion!
That's hilarious! There's a great article about religion and roleplay by Brendan Myers. Worth reading.
Yes – I think location may have something to do with it. But, I think it may ultimately boil down to whether or not you can have the confidence to be fully integrated within yourself. Circumstances may help one make that choice, but it has to happen internally first.
I have always found the idea of a "magical name" something that felt just very disingenous to me. I totally respect people's desires for privacy, for role playing and for striving to be the best they can be starting with outward forms… but it just was never for me. I have dealt with "privacy" issues by being selective about who I share my blog with, and what kind of overlap there is between my pagan online presence and my general online presence. When I become a school teacher next year this will be an even bigger issue and I will have to reevaluate how I identify myself online, but for now… I am Alyss and you can deal with me or you can't 🙂 We each make decisions every day, don't we? And I don't think anyone can judge you harshly for a decision you thought about, no matter what you end up doing.
We do make decisions about it every day, Alyss. Part of my current experience has to do with what happens when the online persona we've created starts to find a place in the physical world. I'd always anticipated that this would happen, but it's still new and challenging when it does.
You bring up a really valuable point, which is safety and job security. Some would argue that keeping one's religion or spiritual path private is necessary to navigate the workplace, especially if you're working in a community with narrow perpective or tight control. Then, there's the approach the ACLU takes, which is to stand and fight against discrimination whenever it strikes. Ultimately, you've got make the choice that feels best for you.
Thanks for not judging, and for the thoughtful comment. I appreciate it!
I was introduced to your blog by a Facebook friend who had shared one of your posts awhile back. Just thought I'd tell you that I really enjoy it and that you have a spot in my Google Reader. (Signed) Just Deb. 🙂
Thanks Deb! I appreciate you leaving this comment, and I'm glad the site made it to your Reader! I hope you continue to enjoy the articles as they pop up on your screen!
I have never understood the need for a magical name, although I don't question anyone that has one. I have always felt that the main goal in my life is being authentic to myself, my path, & my gods – so creating another name would feel very inauthentic to that. I truly want to live my life as myself, & not wear a mask for different paths I may take. The result of this viewpoint is that I am really careful about what I share of myself with various people, but I guess what I do share is at least the truth.
This is an excellent post & thank you for sharing.
Thank you for your comment, Mrs. BC.
I think for some (and I don't know for certain), a magical name can be a name used only by a person and their patron deity, or the God or Goddess (if they're dualist). In this case, I find the use of a magical name to be an extension of a mystical practice, and it jives right with me.
What I was referring to, and what I think you spoke about in your comment, was the use of a name as a mask, a cover for the "real" you.
I find myself somewhere in between. I find that the name I've chosen for myself feels authentic and like a natural extension of my spiritual work. I also feel a bit fragmented on account of the duality.
I appreciate you bringing up authenticity — that's key. I think if you can go by a 2nd name, and it feel authentic *to you*, then more power to you. Or, more power to me…as it were. 🙂
Thanks for the thoughtful comment!
When I entered the Pagan world, I refused to take a magical name. My thought at the time: first half of life is for differentiation, second half is for integration. As a 20-something, it would have made sense to me to try out a new "magical" persona. As a 40-something, it made more sense to me to re-integrate all the various personas I'd developed — as we all do — in the course of living, and my starting point for that was my one, legal, given name.
At the same time, a name is a brand, as you point out, and you must adapt your behavior to the implications of the name. When I am working on a project for a client and become involved with a third party, I represent not only myself, but my client. If I do something that makes me look bad in the eyes of the third party, it reflects not only on me, but on my client, so I get slammed twice, and also harm my client. I'm a whole lot more circumspect when I'm "Joe of MyCorp calling on behalf of ClientCorp" than when I'm "Joe of Facebook".
I was given the name of "Themon the Bard" by one of the members of our Druidic circle, and started using it on a whim as a Nom de Plume on my blog site socksandviolins.org. At one point I had the idea of creating two personas, "Themon the Bard" and "Bardly Whiplash," and figured I could debate with myself on issues of the day. Bardly never came to life, but Themon did, and now represents a "micro-brand" of its own.
I'm now finding that Themon has become useful in a strange way. I'm personally prone to disgust and despair with the human animal and his bizarre (and destructive) collective antics. Themon demands better of me than disgust and despair. I have to metaphorically shower and shave and find some glimmer of goodness and hope to write as Themon.
I do love the way your write, Themon. Thank you for sharing this experience. I appreciate that it isn't a clear-cut, either/or approach; but instead more nuanced and situation-specific. That's kind of what I'm finding works for me as well. There may come a time where I have cause to integrate more completely, but I'm working toward that. I'm not quite there yet.
As a 30-something, I guess that's my journey! Making my way towards a place of re-integration!
Thanks for the comment, Themon.
Like you, Teo, I use a nom de plume for my Pagan blogging site. I do this to keep my poor employer from having to deal with my sassy opinionated Pagan self in relationship to my job. I don't feel guilt at all for this nor do I feel I am being deceitful in any way. I speak publicly a lot for my job and to me, it's a matter of professional courtesy to keep the two separate. As my given name, my fellow employees know that I am a Pagan, but as most of us in the professional world don't go around preaching our spiritual or religious beliefs, I don't go spouting off about it in depth while I'm working. My Pagan friends (the ones close to me) know me as both Kallan and my given name. Those who simply read my blog or talk to me online may only know me as Kallan. I think both 'brands' are honorable and have a good reputation.. they both represent who I am… much the same way the names "mom" and "mimi" represent me to my children and grandchildren. All mean a great deal to me in various ways. Thanks for sharing this. Really great post!
Thanks for the comment, Kallan. I really appreciate your perspective.
Part of what makes my situation feel different than the one you describe, where you work to represent a company, is that I work to represent myself. The "brand" is me. So, in that way, picking and choosing what to represent and not represent creates a kind of strange and sometimes uncomfortable kind of parsing of myself. I work more in the "independent artist" model than the "employee of a company" model — does that make sense?
But I do think your point about both "brand" being honorable and with good reputation is worth noting in my situation. I'm not creating a "false self", or one that I'm ashamed of. The work I do, both here on the blog and out in the world, as Teo Bishop is work that I'm proud of.
Thank you for reminding me of that, and for the kind and thoughtful comment. Blessings to you and yours.
I'm way out of the closet, both as a Wiccan and as a gay man, and I still use an alternate name online (mostly, except when I forget to see how something is going to post). It's not my secret magical name by any means, and it's not the first public pagan name I've used (the first one was "Alpha Starsinger"), but there are great practical reasons to not use your real name online in a pagan arena.
1. Employer – prospective employers use search engines to look up people now when they're trying to decide who to hire. If their personal discomfort with hiring a pagan flares up when they find you on sites about druidry, witchcraft, etc. then you don't get hired and you can't prove discrimination.
2. Safety – we all know there are haters out there, and some of them are downright nuts. If someone uses my real name to find my address or phone number from a pagan site, I could be letting myself in for all sorts of harassment or even physical harm. I have had someone show up on my doorstep – trust me, you don't want that.
3. Notoriety – kind of the flip side of #2, I suppose. I was on a local morning radio as a call-in guest character named "Fabulously Gay Alan" for a year or two. Having people recognize my voice in public and tell me they loved me and ask for my autograph was bizarre and totally unexpected. The first time it was at a restaurant while I was with coworkers, and a tad awkward. Public life can intrude on your private life when you're well-known, even if it's just local.
And of course, I wouldn't ever recommend that someone use their private magical name online. We use a different name in circle to separate ourselves from the day-to-day person who cleans the catbox and focus more on the ritual at hand. It's a psychological tool, really, but as effective as ritual robes that have been consecrated and only worn to practice magic. It's not to create an alternate personality or become psychotic, it's just about narrowing focus on the sacred. Since our subconscious understands symbols, it makes it effective in my humble experience.
Those are great points, Alan. Thank you for sharing your perspective and advice. I also appreciate the clarity on the use of "private" magical names.
I am totally out of the broom closet and have been for years: most of my friends and all of my UU congregation know that I am Pagan. I'm a member of a ministerial coalition where I am basically known by my mundane name, although there are members who read the blog I author and know it is me. I have an 'inner circle name' for my private ritual work, and a public Pagan name ( which was given to me by my HPs) which I use to author articles and blogs. I think of it as a 'pen' name and a brand, with no dishonesty intended. Like Alan, I have concerns about being eliminated by prospective employers and targeted by crazies who use search engines. I don't go around shouting about my spirituality, but I do talk about it when asked. I don't have the luxury of using my mundane name in a search engine because I'm not a famous writer and I do have to be concerned with what takes place outside the Pagan community.
I find using a magical name when dealing with anything pagan puts me in a different mindset rather than using my mundane name witch is very mundane by the way and not to mention a Christian monocle (which isn’t a bad thing just feels odd to me to be doing spell work under a Christian name) ..My parents being catholic and naming me accordingly when I was born isn’t who I am now therefore a pagan name seems to fit my life style and who I am now better…I know my parents loved me but my “given name” really didn’t fit me in any way and who wouldn’t want to fix something that they felt was a mistake from the beginning with plastic surgery for everything else, choosing a new name for ones self seems like a mild and “free” thing in comparison.
Thank you for the comment, Aurora. I appreciate you sharing your story here.
Have you ever thought about joining the "mundane" and the "magical" — perhaps going by your magical name permanently — or do you think that would dispel whatever power you gain from maintaining the two names?
When I told my mother about not having a magical name years ago she spouted off “well use Aurora, it’s what I would have named you if your father hadn’t named you first!”…all my friends and family who were there at the time heard this and it stuck. I know there are others out there that keep their magical lives separate from their mundane lives for obvious reasons and fortunately I don’t have to but sometimes introducing myself to my clearly “muggle” husbands friends with my magical name would raise questions and debates that I would rather not deal with. (I can be rather opinionated and vocal about my path when irked by small mindedness) so for now it works for me just using the two names in the two different circles I run with. =) Blessings Always
It's an interesting idea, that so much of our identity is tied up in our names. I have used as my "Real Name" a name that started as a nickname from school. At this point I have a legal name change request in to have it added to my given name.
I recognized some time ago that Pink was the person I wanted to be, using that name helped me do things that I would be too shy to do as my given name. Whenever a new friend is able to wrangle an admission of my given name they agree that it no longer fits, but it still lingers on credit cards and jury summons. For people with a multi-faceted life using different names, or nicknames, in different parts of their life may put them in different frames of mind.
Perhaps the term "real name" is problematic. For me, in many settings, I'm finding that "Teo Bishop" is the realest name I could use. It feels strong, certain, connected to my spirituality and my creative expression. If that isn't "real", what is?
Legal name… that's perhaps a better distinction. And I really respect that you've chosen to take what was at first just a nickname and make it more fixed, more "legal". I know a few people who've chosen to do that, and I admit that the idea appeals to me a great deal.
That last big has been echoed through the comments — using different names in different settings helps to create different psychological states of being.
Thanks for your comment, Pink. I'm glad to see you here. 🙂
Great post! I've been mulling over similar thoughts in my head. To people who know me as both in real life and a Pagan, my various accounts must seem schizophrenic…
Thanks for the comment, Grey. I'll be interested in reading your thoughts, should you choose to blog about it. I appreciate your perspective!
I could never get into the magical name phenomenon–my practice and my relationship with deity does not necessitate another name. I think of it as a sort of nom de plume–while I don't totally disconnect my online Pagan identity from my IRL identity (it would be fairly easy to figure out who I am), I like the illusion of privacy (IMO, if "we" aren't at that level of introductions and "you" are actually bothering to go to that trouble, its sort of sad more than anything), and even the slight disconnect between my branded persona and my private life and practice, even if there is a great deal of overlap between the two. Interestingly though, it has led to a sort of mental alternate persona–when I do participate online as my Pagan identity, the message is often the same, but I find that I sometimes word things a bit differently.
This is becoming a theme here — using names in order to create certain mental states. I like that way you describe it leading you to "word things a bit differently". That hasn't been said here yet. Names bring out different aspects of our character, perhaps.
Thanks for the comment! I always value your voice in the conversation!
I can’t say with any certainty that the gods have me my name. Our even that it’s magical. It was a series of coincidences (if you believe in that sort of thing) that said, This is also you. Not only did it feel true, but it clung to me like a spiritual wetsuit.
No. I do not say, “Hello, my name is Sisofdragons.” during an introduction. I’m not hiding or embarrassed. My other name is as much a part of me as my birthmark. I don’t show that to everyone I meet, either. To the relief of everybody, I’m sure!
Having dual names aren’t a secret identity, alter ego (think Clark Kent), or indicative of a splintered personality. More that these names are a glimpse of our deeper soul. A symbol.
That being said, you do make an excellent point that I’ll need to consider. I DO use my second name on social networking sites. Perhaps it is a way to explore that part of myself in safety. I’d always just thought of it as privacy from potential stalkers and a way to keep friends from the bad old days from contacting me. Not necessarily a badge to hide behind.
So. A coward? Not on your pagan life.
Thank you for your article. No one ever talks about these things and it deserves a good discussion.
I think there's validity to the name-acquiring process you describe, and the Gods can be at work in that in subtle ways. I feel there's a way in which I, too, was led or came to my name.
I like the wording "glimpse of our deeper soul". In your case, I think that offers quite a fiery image!
Here's to selective sharing! A safe, and probably healthy approach!
Thank you for your comment, and for engaging in this discussion, Nicole.
I’ve often wondered about this. I’ve always wanted to find a magical name to help make that mental, magical shift. … I’ve just never found one that fit. Maybe I’m glad I’ve always just been Paul. I don’t have your conundrum to face!
Just something else to consider here…. married names. My husband took my name when we got married. We looked at both our last names… and it was an easy choice for him to take mine. (For the record – for a man to change his last name is a crap ton of legal hassle here in the States. A woman can automatically change her last name when married. It took my husband months worth of paperwork and court hearings….
Oh, Paul – I know all about the hassle of name changes. My husband changed his last name when we got married, and we had to go through the same thing! Took forever. 🙂
I’m feeling less of a conundrum since writing this post. I’ve rested into “Teo,” so much so that I’ve given though to undergoing the same name change process myself. I think in the end, there should be a fluidity to our use of names. There are environments that are appropriate for the formal and traditional, and then others that call for the fantastic and magical. It needn’t be something so fixed in one direction or the other.
Thanks for the comment, Paul!