Sunday, July 13, 2008

Would a rose by any other name ... well, would it?



Names have always been important to me, so important that I've changed my name a number of times. At birth I was Rebecca. Growing up, they called me Becky. I never liked that; switched back to Rebecca as soon as it was culturally possible to do so (early 70's, when the Debbies became Deborahs, the Pattys became Patricias, etc.)

In my twenties, I called myself Ruby, a fitting label for my party girl lifestyle and deep red lipsticks. In fact there are still people who call me Ruby, including one friend in DC with whom I worked at Kramerbooks the first time I lived here in 1981.

Reya is the name I received at my initiation into Reclaiming. It means "daughter of the sunset." I like it so much that I've kept it even though I'm no longer associated in any way with Reclaiming or with anything wicca.

Other names have dropped away, like my Feri name, The Gold Poppy. Sort of pretentious, don't you think? The poppy part of that title never sat well with me. Several other secret magical names, as well as affectionate nicknames that were part of romantic relationships, are long gone, too.

I do have one personal name for myself that I have never told anyone. When I imagine my death, in a very romanticized way, I see myself uttering this name moments before my soul vacates my body. I imagine this name to be the last word I ever say aloud in this form. But who knows whether that's true or some cinematic figment of my imagination?

The Tao Te Ching tells me not to worry so much about names. I like that, because as soon as something has a name, then I begin to spin my stories about it. Time to look behind all the names, get underneath the labels. Only then (as they explain below) will I be able to gather the streams into myself as I go.

From Chapter Thirty Two of the Tao Te Ching

Things have been given
Names from the beginning.
We need to know when
We have enough names.
This is wisdom.

The Tao has no name
It is a cloud that has no shape.

One who walks the way, nameless
Is like a river reaching the sea
Gathering the waters of the streams into himself
As he goes.


16 comments:

d. chedwick said...

Isn't there another form of Rebecca too? Rivka? I like that--I like all your names, Gold poppy included.

I've always had the same name. first middle last, same same throughout the years. this post made me wonder if I'd ever want a new name or a nickname. It's never come up in my thoughts. food for thought, though --interesting.

Reya Mellicker said...

If one set of names is enough for you, then that's so fine. According to the Tao Te Ching, it's a sign of your wisdom!

mouse (aka kimy) said...

oh what a fun post. thanks for sharing the naming quest!

I've never consciously changed names although I have gone by various versions of my 'given' names....I was given mary kim when born...all first born girls in my family were named mary when ..as such I have 6 cousins named with variants of mary (marie/marianne). my family never called me mary (way too many mary's around) - I did go by mary in school (at least for the first 6 years) I went to catholic school and nuns would never consider calling a child by a name other than a 'saint name' so in school through elementary school I was mary, or sometimes mary kim.... I chose 'rose' as my confirmation name. and in high school enjoyed the word play of calling myself 'primrose' ...

in college I sometimes played around with the pseudonym 'natasha' - when travelling or with playing around with people (read boys) I never really wanted to keep in contact with.

now I don't know what to call you other than R....and late for dinner! no really your chosen name of reya is beautiful! that you will always be to me.

Reya Mellicker said...

Natasha is GREAT for you Mary Kim. Mary doesn't suit you so much. It is too conventional. Rose is a beautiful name! Very cool recounting of your various names.

dennis said...

Dennis had the birth name of Fluffy. Dennis thinks Reya is very pretty.

Barbara said...

You will always be Reya to me, despite other past and possibly future names! It just seems so right for you.

hele said...

Florian calls me heksie. Your post reminded me that one day this name might no longer be part of my life or maybe it will.

I got a bit sad but then luckily you reminded me that "One who walks the way, nameless Is like a river reaching the sea Gathering the waters of the streams into himself
As he goes."

So I will gather the love I have now instead of worrying about losing it later.

Washington Cube said...

My birth certificate is blank, where the name should be, so in a sense, legally, I have no name. I'm not sure how that has affected me over the years, and yet it must have.

IntangibleArts said...

"Newt...my name's Newt...Nobody calls me "Rebecca"....except my brother..."

a strange yet memorable line from the first sequel to ALIEN. Just sort of sprang into my head for some reason.

cyndy said...

I was named Cynthia, with no middle name because, according to my mother, since your middle name usually gets replaced by your "maiden" name when you get married, I wouldn't be without a middle name for very long. Isn't that nice? She had such high goals and expectations for me.

The result of course was that all of the kids at school thought that my middle name must be something really horrible since I wouldn't own up to even having one. My mother was really bugged when people started calling me Cindy, which naturally made it very attractive to me. Then when I was 14 all of my friends were re-spelling their nicknames so I changed mine to Cyndy.

Maybe I would have ended up being a Cynthia if I'd been given a middle name instead of an embarrassingly stupid reason for not having one. Who knows? Cyndy suits me just fine.

Lanea said...

Ahhh, names. I'm multi-named, and while I know it seems silly to some, it plays a big role in my life. I actually just found one I may legally take, if I can manage to do it without breaking my Mom's heart into too many pieces.

Reya Mellicker said...

Cube - huh? What? WHY?

Dennis I think you're the handsomest cat around!

Intangible, you see this is exactly why I love you!

Heksie is good Hele! Very fine.

Cyndy - my middle name is Grace. I like it now, but once upon a time ... Grace was my maternal grandmother, a real hell raiser. These days I'm proud to have her name.

lettuce said...

"We need to know when
We have enough names.
This is wisdom."

I love that, it is truly wise.

(hello!)

Lynne said...

Gee, I feel so plain after reading everyone's names. I've only ever gone by Lynne. Plain old Lynne. MIddle name Ann. I never use my middle name.

I have a friend who had a brain injury and she always mixed up the first letter of my name and Rick's, so we ended up with Rynne and Lick. I think I got the better of the deal there! ;) She still calls me that and funnily enough, some other people have done the same thing with our names. So, I guess I do go by Rinn (I changed the spelling) at times. Maybe I'll use it more often ...

edward said...

I have several names, let's see, there's Eddy,and Edward, and Ed, and 'Special Ed' and 'Fishes Eddy.' (Fishes Eddy is a town in NY--there are a lot of towns with the word Eddy in them, like Pond Eddy, Long Eddy, Hale Eddy...) Eddy is a noun and also a verb.
It's an excellent set of names for me and I got them all in like, a week.

deborah said...

when i decided to keep my father's last name and just add my husband's it was the 70's and hyphens were the thing (later someone told me, "Of course you got divorced, all hyphenated last name women get divorced." (I'd been married for 20 years and half of Americans get divorced--grrrr.)
But now, it is just funny.

I dropped my middle name, Anne, which I love because it connects me to my sister Hannah Rae--whose middle name connects her with the author of this wonderful blog

I love my first name which means "busy, as a bee" and named for the first woman judge in the Bible.

My children's names mean, he who laughs--Isaac and goodness and justice--Tovah Adlais

Remember the Twain, Letters from the Earth--Eve names everything--I identify with her.