Saturday, February 23, 2013

Spirit Names

Posting by Serena Winterburn:

Hi Lisa,

I have been wondering about Spirit Names. I was wondering if this could be a topic for a blog?

I was wondering how or why we have spirit names?

·      What is the purpose? 
How do we use a spirit name?

·      What is the difference between a Spirit name and say a dreamers name?
·      How do we journey with them and why?
How do we find our Spirit name?

You gave me a Spirit name from the dreaming at the very first workshop that I attended here in GP. I have now translated it into Cree and learned how to say it in Cree; but I am not sure what to do with it now (LOL). 
I also think about the girls and their spirit names: How could I find theirs out? I know that there was potential for it to come from the bone dance for Ava; but I don't think anyone picked it up.

I realize that I have a lot of questions about Spirit names and hope they inspire you to write a blog entry.

Thank you.


23 years ago when I was pregnant with my son, I remember being preoccupied by three things:

·      The health of my baby.
·      The sex of my baby.
·      And what I would end up calling my baby.

In the first trimester, I knew without a shred of a doubt that I would have a son.  I often dreamt about my baby.  At first, he was an infant, then a child and slowly through the gestation he grew up into a man.  By the time I gave birth to my son I had seen him completely grow up. 
I’ve been a good dreamer since childhood and it wasn’t difficult for me to pay attention to impressions through the dreaming.  Eight months of gestation (CT was born premature) was more then enough time for me to pick up on my son’s personality; life themes; and even unresolved. 

My husband and I played around with a few names.  We didn’t buy a book to inspire our selves; but mostly kept an eye on synchronicities. We knew enough about the dream time and the Sacred Circle to acknowledge that everyone is born with his or her story; which in turned is recognized by the cosmos and echoed back.  

Historically, parents often chose names based on deceased relatives.  It was a way to keep the past alive:  To remember.  As well some cultures and traditions chose names as if they were gifts to their children.  If you wanted your son to grow up into a fierce warrior or a tender father – you gifted him with a name that carried the necessary traits or skills.  The idea of “remembering who we are” is often behind the idea of getting a name.

I think some parents or medicine people were better at giving names then others.  To be able to choose the appropriate name; which will help a child grow into his or herself and remember his / her path and ancestry takes good observation skills; strong intuition; and the ability to listen. In my World – it takes a keeper of new born.  I’ve seen parents give names to their children simply because “the like the name.”  I’ve met quite a few people in my life that didn’t connect to their name or even went through great lengths to change it.  Honestly, I think the art of “naming” our children with Spirit Names (power filled names) has long been lost. 

The art of naming our children with Spirit names isn’t only about “giving them a colorful and unique name,” it’s also about giving them the education that allows them to pull out of their name their Medicine.  Notice that I haven’t spoken of First Nation or Indigenous Spirit names through this blog entry so far.  I’ve stuck with the notion of “common or Christian names” because it doesn’t matter whether you are called John or Geronimo (he who yawns) the idea of Medicine historically or anciently applied to both.

Christian or Indigenous – the past shows us that our ancestors believed in the power of words / names.  I remember being told as a child that Lisa was short for Isabella or Elisabeth:  Women with strong religious or spiritual convictions, gentle and patient, as well as teachers who led people to trust, faith and surrender.  I grew up connecting to my name each time I exhibited some of these personality traits. 

I always felt like I needed to honor my name and replenish it with medicine.  As much as my name gave me access to medicine it also seemed to demand from me – some respect and reverence as if to say: “You borrow a name; and at the end of a life you also give it back.”  I always felt like “my name” was not my name at all.  It was simply a word filled with challenges, lessons, and wisdom to help me move through challenges and grow into myself one step at a time.   Life time after lifetime we carry different names and we learn, heal and grow with the help of these names.

When I was pregnant with my son, my husband and I remembered a past life where we adopted and cared for a young boy named Mathew.  We felt this ancestral story was a sign that we should call our son Mathew.  Just as we decided to call our son Mathew – we had another dream where this young man told us: “I’ve worn that name for many life times and I am now ready to let it go.  Please call me CT.”

Lots of family members complained against the name we finally chose for our son and yet, we felt confident it was exactly the right name for him.  When CT learnt to write his name he came home and told us how happy he was to be called CT.  He especially mentioned that he wouldn’t have liked being called: Mathew.  My husband and I giggled over the incident and felt blessed for having had the insight and skill to hear his Spirit (his story) speak to us even before he was born.

A Spirit name represents a child’s story and embodies the skills, lessons, teachings and wisdom necessary for the child’s healing and growth.  It’s no use to have a Spirit name if one doesn’t have the ability to unlock the medicine within this name.  There are many ways to connect to medicine; receiving a Spirit name is one way …

I’ve received several Spirit names in my lifetime so far including my common or Christian name.  A little over a decade ago I participated in an Iroquois Spirit name ceremony.  There were several couples with their newborn babies who looked forward to this event.  When I was asked by the Medicine Woman, that conducted the ceremony if I would like to receive a name I was quite surprised.  It took asking myself whether or not “I needed it”.  Also even though there were several adult spectators at the ceremony that day, I was the only one who was asked to participate.  I understood this invitation as meaning that “I needed to dive deeper into myself” for the next leg of my journey.

That day, I received the name “First Star Shinning” and until this day, I’m still working with this name and still discovering parts of me through it.  I understand all names – as Spirit names.  If you call me “sister, mother, grand-mother” – even these names I understand as Spirit names.  They speak of ME and of the relationships I devote to and learn from in my life. 

Both my children received Spirit Names from elders / Medicine People.  My husband and I gave them their “common name” and along the way, they were blessed with endearing names, and medicine names from the people who crossed their path.  GP names KT “mon petit pot de yoggourt” (my little pot of yogurt) when she was 6 years old. 

Basically the name GP gave KT referred to KT’s unique blend of feminine traits and how she expressed them.  At first KT had no idea what the name meant but she liked the sound of it and echoed it back.  In adolescence after KT learnt what the name meant she felt a bit embarrassed for liking it so much and each time she reacted to the name through the years – she processed its medicine and integrated it.  

Today, “mon petit pot de yoggourt” is an endearing name (a Spirit name); which speaks of her relationship with GP and how he assisted her in a feminine emergence that couldn’t have happened without him or without the work she dedicated to remembering herself, her medicine and her ancestors.

I've journeyed with White Wolf (Wapeyit Malsom, Okwaho Leblanc) my whole life.  This Spirit name seemed to come to me from different sources and in different shapes through my whole journey.  There's no doubt in my mind that this name holds a lot of who I am in this lifetime.  It's carried my story, my issues, my talents and skills; as well as much of my personality; but most of all it's guided me towards my path and purpose.  I believe that not everyone is meant to have a Spirit name.  It seems to come to those who need it the most ...

Serena I hope I’ve answered your questions.  If not please don’t hesitate to bring them back to the table.  I loved the exploration and hope it triggers a bigger discussion.


Rose said...

The name my parents gave me has always felt to long and grand for someone who was atomboy at heart but my name is full of other shorter names ans I have used many different shortenings and derivatives over the years. I have explored different facets of myself at different times in my life and these periods were often accompanied by a name. Some of my relationships were accompanied by other name, for instance my sister shortens my name to just the first letter, and this is a name I now share with my Niece.

I am not sure if I will ever grow into my full name. Maybe when I am an old woman. Maybe only the memory of me will be full enough to take on all my aspects within my name. I like the idea of it being a spirit name.

Lisa F. Tardiff said...

Thank you for your comment Rose. I loved it.
It's good to revisit our "names." After all we used them every day -- and we often get to a point where it's mechanical or a habit when in truth it's power and sacred.

Thank you Rose for always taking a moment to share your story.


Bootie said...

I was the third child born to my parents. My Dad wanted to name me since my Mom had named the other two. He wanted me to have a unique name so he named me Boot'n. He got it from an old Disney movie. My Mom insisted that I be given the name Kimberly just in case I was shy.

I never connected with the name Kimberly until recently when Community members started calling me Kimby, which I love.

I always loved the name Boot'n. I thought it was artsy and weird. Like me. Now I'm starting to see it as the name of my juvenile self.

Lisa gave me a Spirit Name in a Dream Chart. One day I'd love to learn how to say it in Cree.

Coyote said...

I never liked my name, I always felt the soft sonority clashed with my personality, so I had plenty of nicknames,. June, Twigg, Rib (a short for Ribambelle, my daycamp name, lol)now Coyote. I've felt connected to all of them at one point in my life, certain persons still call me either one of them. I refer to my names as parts of my life. Would they also be considered as "spirit names"?

Lisa F. Tardiff said...


Yes - definitely they would also be considered Spirit Names. Basically Spirit Names refer to our Spirit. Spirit implies -- the energy or life our stories hold. When we say we have "Spirit" -- it means we have a story to tell. There's more to it of course but basically -- this is what it means.

Spirit Names speak of different parts of the our story or different parts of our journey, our growth, our emergence etc....


Thank you everyone for sharing and taking the time to leave comments. Each of your comments are incredibly valuable to me because they help me to continue writing and continue sharing MY SPIRIT through my story.

Keep the questions and stories coming.


Christy said...

My full given name has always been very close to me. I can't even imagine taking my fiance's name when we marry because it feels like I would be removing one of my own fingers, lol. When I looked up the origins of my name I discovered that my full name, Christy Lynn McCafferty, translates to Anointed One, Lake, Valiant Horse Rider. I like to put it into the sentence: "The Valiant Horse Rider who has been anointed by the lake". It sounds so Arthurian. I'm learning a lot about myself, and my family's history with these names.

My Mother's family gave me the nickname "Crispy" because I was small and the family's last name is Rice. I hadn't realized that I had carried the name as a part of myself until my brother-in-law started calling me Crispy without even knowing I had been called that in the past. He was so surprised that I responded to it without hesitation. When I told him the story of the name he was so excited that he picked the name up.

Lisa F. Tardiff said...

Great story Christy.
Thank you.