If you’re like most, before you were born, your parents sat down and thought about what to call you.
No small task if you think about it. After all, this is going to be the word(s) the entire world utters when they see you (all jokes aside of course about what else they could be calling you).
So we often look to culture, religion, our family lineage, good ole’ baby name books or even just Google for ideas. (Read about 13 ways of doing that here).
Some cultures, including the ancient Hebrews, would wait until AFTER a child was born before naming him/ her. This allowed the family to observe the character or personality traits inherent to this small being. (Orthodox Jews still observe similar rituals.)
A name can become either a source of pride or infamy carrying stigma depending upon the life of the one(s) associated with it.
Abarahamic faiths (i.e., those who trace their spiritual lineage through father Abraham: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) are chock full of examples of this.
Consider Abraham’s grandson, Jacob – whose name aptly means “Deceiver” (according to some). He went on to not only manipulate his twin brother Esau into giving up the larger portion of their farther’s inheritance which would’ve been Esau’s by birthright because he had been born first, Jacob also tricked his father Isaac out of giving Esau his deathbed blessing (a HUGE deal back then).
While one could argue that Jacob later reaps what he sows when Laban, his would be father-in-law, swindles Jacob on his wedding night, swapping out the bride he wanted and had worked 7 long years for – Rachel, for her older sister, Leah, whom Laban had yet to marry off, (turns out veils aren’t always just for romance…Jacob later gets Rachel too, but only after working another 7 years for Laban 😉 ) he’s certainly a man who goes after what he wants!
A few years down the road and we find Jacob literally wrestling with God (or an angel of God depending upon who’s translating the story), and after going at it all night, Jacob refuses to let the man go until he blesses Him. God/the angel renames him “Israel” which, in Hebrew, means “a man who wrestles with God.”
Fun scholarly side note – some translate Jacob to mean “heel” which could also easily work as Jacob came out of the womb holding onto Esau’s foot and appears to spend his life trying to prove his manhood. God or the angel tells him that He is changing Jacob’s name to Israel because “he has wrestled with God and man and won.”
How’s that for an overcomer story?!
Other Noteworthy Biblical Name Changes:
- Abram (father of height) to Abraham (father of a multitude/ many nations) – given by God the father
- Sarai (princess/ quarrelsome) to Sarah (cheiftainess/ queen) – given by God the father
- Simon (reed or grass-like) to Peter (rock) – given by Jesus Christ, son of God
- Saul (asked for/ prayed for) to Paul (small/ humble) – changed by Saul himself after conversion
Marking the Occasion
For many of us today, a name change isn’t so much about overcoming a near freaky prophetic foreshadowing as it is about marking a stage of development or rite of passage, etc.
Anything from a change in marital status to gender transitioning to cultural rites of manhood/ womanhood, religious conversion or growth, to the separation from or identification with other groups, worldviews, and even family can be great cause to embrace a new name.
I was born Tamara Jillane Peebles.
Story goes the first name was given to me after the biblical Tamar…(yikes! there are three of them listed in the Bible and not in very happy-go-lucky stories – Gen. 38, 2 Samuel 13, 2 Samuel 14:27)
…and so they could call me Mara for short (also not my first choice as it means “bitter” or “sorrow”…the Biblical Naomi took this moniker after her husband and sons died).
What I do find fascinating and also consolation in, is that the stories of all three center around sexuality and for the first Tamar listed, she goes on to be hailed as a heroine of sorts and is counted among the ancestors of King David and thus later on, the Christ himself.
Anyone who knows me knows that my specializations in psychology are in gender, sexual, erotic, and relational diversities, all of which are contained in the Tamar narratives – a connection lost on me until recently.
Of further fascination is that the first Tamar mentioned in the Bible allegedly posed as a temple prostitute (also contested as is nearly everything in the Bible) to get Judah (her dead husband’s father) to sleep with her, a total act of desperate self-preservation. I went on to study temple prostitution for my minor in religious studies and presented on the subject at a woman’s studies conference – another connection I hadn’t made until my spiritual naming ceremony process.
Why a new name?
As my spiritual worldview continued to shift towards pluralism, so did many life patterns.
I was drawn to the world of paganism and shamanic depth work, both personally and in my practice with select clients.
I began working with multiple spiritual mentors over several years, deepening my understanding and clinical practice of mysticism as a way of holistic health and transcendence.
Eventually, it became clear that an outward sign of my inward changes was in order. After several months of meditation and ritual, I was ready for my naming ceremony.
While the process remains private as it is sacred, I CAN share that I felt a deep sense of rebirth and re-connection to my authentic BEING’NESS – that which mystics have called a soul or spirit; the conscious awareness of thought and emotion that is not blended with it.
And since the bestowment of my spiritual name, I have experienced peace that defies imagination…it’s like someone plugged my solar plexus chakra right into some cosmic outlet delivering intense yet grounded power. No need to react when you know who and what you are down to your innermost core.
IMRAH – a rebel
ANUPAMA – unequaled
DEVI – goddess
All 3 of these words bear deep meaning on my life history, personal characteristics, and life path/ soul purpose.
Like a tattoo, they are not entered into lightly nor are they tossed around like some hipster appropriating a spiritual avatar.
They are meant for private empowerment and public service to those I am called to work with.
Why you might want to consider ritual
Perhaps like me, you have been feeling a pull towards more…almost like an animal who has outgrown it’s skin. Maybe it’s time to molt…energetically of course.
If you’ve been drawn towards personal spiritual development, I highly encourage you to heed your spirit’s longings!
Follow your curiosity. There is NO ONE RIGHT path.
That could mean Buddhism or Wicca or Shamanism…the possibilities are endless. Each spiritual path has its own rituals and rites of passage. All beautiful and deeply meaningful.
What might change in YOUR life if you allowed yourself to release the old and unsheathe the REAL you?!
P.S. If YOU are interested in experiencing a similar ritualistic rite of passage for yourself, check out one of my own soul sisters and spiritual guide’esses, Omni Safira. Tell her I sent you!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tamara Powell, LMHC is a licensed therapist, university psychology instructor, and empowerment coach who believes life should be lived as a journey that is “anything but ordinary.”
Passionate about holding sacred space for the rebels and mystics of the world – the healers, the visionaries, and the creatives, she guides them in bringing their soul driven purpose to the planet in a very practical and powerful way.