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+!