What is in a Name?
In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the question is asked: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Shakespeare did not accurately describe names. His concern was that the essence of the object or person was not in the name but in the person. In the Ancient world, the belief was opposite as the ancients held the idea that the name contained the soul of the being that it inhabited. To the ancient mind the meaning of the name was a binding on the object or person, and the person or object forever had to live up to the fate defined by the name. This generally meant that the name was a symbol of power given by someone higher on the hierarchy. When a being who is higher on the hierarchy of power interacts with a lower being, the true name of the higher must be kept secret in order to keep the system in balance. If the inferior being with less power controls the name of the higher, he or she controls that being and everything within that beings domain, including everything the being has named.
In the Ancient Near East, the name is the soul and essence of the person who receives it, and the one who names binds the meaning of the name to the person as a fate or destiny. The only way that the fate or destiny can change is if a creature of higher power changes the name. As long as the name of the being exists, the being will exist throughout eternity as part of the fabric of the divine order. This concept was common throughout the Ancient Near East and can even be found within the Hebrew Bible. Friedrich V Reiterer states, “Thus šem constitutes a reality that guarantees the bearer an existence, however hard to define, that endures beyond death.” The name holds the entire existence of the being within it, which is central to the ordering of society. Each god, law, role, and object that is essential to the order and balance of society is named by a higher deity, usually the creator god, and that object is bound to the nature of its name. As long as the name of the being is intact and safe, order and balance shall be safe; but if the name is stolen or removed, reality is altered and chaos results.
The power of the name is so crucial that the Ancients would customarily give children names with a positive meaning, and many times the name contained theophoric elements in hopes that the god or goddess would bless that child. When dealing with theophoric names in the Hebrew Bible, Jeaneane Fowler states, “Throughout these names the idea of God's protection seems to be evident: he is a 'door', a 'mountain or sanctuary', he is a 'refuge', 'comforter' and 'help' whose 'trust' and 'strength' can be relied upon. The idea contained in the concept of protection, is one of preservation and patronage or guardianship by the divine subject of the name.” Theophoric naming allows a blessing from the appropriate god or goddess to be permanently affixed to the name bearer. Names are a source of power in this hierarchy. If someone has a name that means something powerful, then the person is bound to that power. John Wilson states, “To the ancient, the name was an element of personality and of power. It might be so charged with divine potency that it could not be pronounced. Or the god might retain a name hidden for himself alone, maintaining this element of power over all gods and men.” The need to keep the name secret is meant to protect the order and balance of power as well as to keep humans and deities safe.
American rabbi and scholar of Jewish history, Joshua Trachtenberg states that: "The members of many primitive tribes have two names, one for public use, the other jealously concealed, known only to the man who bears it. Even the immediate members of the family never learn what it is; if an enemy should discover it, its bearer's life is forfeit. In highest antiquity peoples, the occult power that inheres in the name is recognized, and the name itself is known to be a mighty and awesome force in the hands of the magician… The more such names a magician has garnered, the greater the number of spirits that are subject to his call and command."
Frequently, names were conveyed in ways to deter evil spirits from killing the child or taking its soul. Often times, such as with the "brit milah," naming will be postponed or the child will receive a false “double” name until the culture feels it is safe to give the real name. In the work entitled "Theophoric Personal Names in Ancient Hebrew: A Comparative Study" by Jeaneane D. Fowler, the author states, “Akkadian names, however, often tend to express more explicitly the psychological situation surrounding the name-giving, such as Enlil is father of the weak.” If the demon hears the name that represents a child who is lame or un-healthy, the demon will probably not strike the child with an ailment or kill it, for it is already ill. Another way to deter the death of children is to name the child after a dead relative. The spirit or demon will see that the name bearer is already dead and will leave the child alone."
This idea of the secret name holds importance not only to protect the life and fate of the name-bearer but also to keep the system in balance to prevent chaos. Nowhere is the concept of secret names displayed as blatantly than in Ancient Egypt. A heavily developed mythology on names evolved and morphed with the different ruling dynasties. Egypt practiced a form of syncretism in which the diverse theologies blend to create a new religion. The syncretism allowed the gods to take on new characteristics while still maintaining their fundamental nature. For instance, the sun God Ra is frequently assimilated with new gods or the gods of the current ruler. When the cult of Amun takes rise in the Middle Kingdom, Ra becomes Amun-Ra. The syncretism gives Ra a new characteristic of being the "Hidden One," who existed even before the creation of the world, thus allowing the Middle Kingdom pharaoh to claim that his gods were primordial.
The name was a vulnerable part of humans and even the gods. Like all Ancient Near Eastern civilizations, Ancient Egypt believed the name could be used to invoke the power of the figure that held it; therefore, a person could control a god by using the god’s true name. Likewise, a persons true name held the essence of that person; therefore, if someone obtained a person’s true name, that someone could enact influence on the person whose name is under possession. Not only is it a threat for a person to obtain the power of a person or a god, it is also a threat to Ma'at herself. According to Ancient Egyptian thought, the order of society would be disturbed if a being of lesser power obtains the power of a god or someone of a higher status, because this conflicts with the ordering of society by Ma'at. The secret knowledge through these names also conflicts with the secret knowledge that is given by Ra to the king. The hierarchy will be threatened two fold, and an event of these proportions could invite chaos and destruction into the Ancient Egyptian world.
The name holds the entire of essence of a persons soul; therefore, the secret knowledge of a persons name is potentially disastrous. Through the power of names, not only would order be threatened but one's afterlife would be in danger. For humanity, the most important characteristic of Egyptian religion to protect is one's own afterlife, thus it is essential to protect one’s name. If a person loses his/her name, then that person will not be identified by the appropriate gods in the afterlife; therefore, the person is lost forever in between life and afterlife. Without the name, the afterlife is an impossibility.
Every Egyptian received two names, which were known respectively as the true name and the good name, or the great name and the little name; and while the good or little name was made public, the true or great name appears to have been carefully concealed." If the family of a person revealed his/her name to the public or to enemies, it would be potentially dangerous. Families would also pay priests to keep ancestors tombs in proper conditions, because this further helps the person’s future in the afterlife. Considering the spells and incantations that would involve that person's name in the tomb, the upkeep of the tomb would also ensure that the human's name would never be disturbed and the person would exist in the afterlife forever.
The mythology found in various texts shows the existence of secret names for the gods. In an encounter between Seth and Horus, Horus tries to pry Seth's secret name him. Seth attempts to give false names until he eventually discloses the true name: "it is the evil day on which nothing can be conceived or born." The name is appropriate for Seth considering that he is depicted as a god of death, chaos, and confusion. The secret name reveals the very being of the god Seth and Horus intended to use it to hold dominion over him. Amun, who later becomes fused with Ra, is said to have a powerful secret name. Even the name of "Amun," the "Hidden One," is just an epithet masking the true and hidden name of this god, of whom another hymn states: "People fall down immediately for fear if his name is uttered knowingly or unknowingly. There is no god able to call him by it."
The concept of secret names is one of these fundamental characteristics that can be located throughout the stories of Ancient Egypt, especially when dealing with the story of Isis and Ra. Not only is Ra the creation of all life, his supremacy allows him to be the one being that was in existence before all creation. Ra had several manifestations on Earth. There were 75 names for Ra found in the tomb of Thutmosis III. Each name recalled another aspect of his being, and charted how he interacted with the Earth and humanity. These different terms are sometimes combined, for example in the divine name Ra-Atum the two aspects of divine creation are to be invoked at the same time. Accordingly, one of the names of the sun god was Khepri 'the one who comes into being', and a epithet for a creator god is kheper-djesef he who comes into being of himself, the self created."
Ra was also said to have multiple kas, or spirits. The "kas of Ra are different emanations of the god given to man." Each of these emanations and names was a testament to the many forms of Ra, and to the power which he exerted upon the world to control all existence. Like the 75 names of Ra, every name describes a part of that person or deity's very being and was in essence the person himself/herself. A Pharaoh owned five names, each of which symbolizing a manifestation of his power. For gods, the name meant everything. German Egyptologist Jan Assmann states, “‘Name’ refers not only to proper names such as Osiris and Amun but denotes everything that may be said and told about a deity in epithets, titles, pedigrees, genealogies, myths-in short, its entire linguistic representation.” The entire linguistic representation of a being holds immense power. Every level of power and control that the god could exert or has exerted was contained in the single word that existed as the name.
Ra's secret name is equally as powerful as Amun’s and more so than any other god. Being the creator god, Ra's name holds magical power. In one papyrus, Ra, as Atum-Ra, states, "Magic is my name." When Amun becomes Amun-Ra, it amplifies the different hidden characteristics of Ra, who is already a keeper of his secret name and secret knowledge of order. The Turin Papyrus, which is dated to the 13th century BCE and the 19th dynasty of Egypt, tells of Ra and Isis, who is seen as the goddess of magic and the wife of Osiris. Isis is seeking power in the Ennead, and knows that if she contains the power of Ra, she will be a force to reckon with. Ra does not want his unknowable name to be used against him, because the implications would be disastrous. The interaction shows the explicit nature of secret names as Ra in his olden and weaken state is tricked into revealing to her his secret name. Only through Ra’s olden stare and vulnerability would he be willing to relinquish something so sacred.
Another essential myth concerning the importance of names can be seen in the story of Marduk and His Fifty Names. In Babylon, the god Marduk’s name is not a secret name at all; in fact, his name is invoked by his followers every year at the Akitu festival. His name is essential to the hierarchy of power; its very power constantly binding chaos from escaping, reinforcing the binding through fifty manifestations. Marduk’s names forever attest to the courageous battle that shook the foundation of the gods, during the time when he defeated chaos, describing the different elements to the Marduk’s victory over Tiamat, or chaos. His names need not be a secret, for no one has the power to conquer the will of Marduk; however, an examination of the names of Marduk will better explain the nature of the secret name and the hierarchy of power over chaos in other folklore of the Ancient Near East.
In a world where the name of a deity was the very essence of that divinity and should be kept sacred, Marduk’s name is not secret. Several facets of Marduk’s epics and his personal characteristics reveal the nature of his fifty names, helping to disclose why his names are not secret. Like Ra with his 75 names, Marduk is given fifty names at the end of the Enuma Elish, and each name illustrates a different characteristic of Marduk’s power, each of which is used to defeat and bind chaos in a special way.
Like the mythology and stories of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the texts from the Ancient Near East, such as the Hebrew Bible, contain many common folkloristic concepts. In Genesis, different characters, word play, and plot structures illustrate the folkloristic qualities in the use of naming and name changes, which are essential factors in these narratives because they show how the power of naming establishes the hierarchy of power and keeps chaos from entering Hebrew society. In the bible we see as Elohim shapes the world when only chaos exists and uses naming to bring order from the chaos. In the beginning of Genesis only Elohim and the waters of the abyss exist. The bestowal of names initiates mans ordering of creation in Gen 2:19.” In the beginning of Genesis 2, YHWH gives Adam the ability to name the beasts of the Earth; hence the animals are to serve Adam while in Eden. Adam’s power to name the animals, which YHWH grants him, is the power to determine the fate of the animal. The name given by someone of higher power binds the animal to the meaning of its name, and the animal can only break from the fate of its name if the name is changed by another person/deity of higher power. Through giving and knowing the animal’s name, Adam can control that being because the name is connected with the animal’s soul; Adam can command the animal to do whatever he wants through invoking its essence.
Likewise, in the patriarchal stories, Abraham’s name change is a symbol that he belongs to the god, YHWH, who named him. Sarah’s name change from Sarai is an extension of this transformation emphasizing her covenant with YHWH to become the first matriarch. The story of Jacob also illustrates of the power exerted by names and naming and embodies all the concepts of naming that are essential in Genesis. When person is named in the narratives of Genesis, the naming attaches to that person a characteristic found throughout the story. When the original name is changed, a significant shift in the person’s character occurs because the name’s meaning also implies the essence of the person. In the remainder of the narrative, the character will take a different role from his/her original name because the essence of the person equates with the new name.
Jacob’s parents named him, and, throughout his stories, he is bound by his name to fulfill his fate. The only thing that changes Jacob’s fate and destiny is a renaming by a higher being. Trachtenberg states, “The essential character of things and of men resides in their names. Therefore to know a name is to be privy to the secret of its owner's being, and master of his fate.” After the match between Jacob and the stranger, the stranger asks for Jacob’s name, because the stranger needs Jacob’s essence in order to bless him. He tells Jacob that he will “no longer be called Jacob, but Israel.” The divine stranger took Jacob’s name and changed it into Israel, which changes the fate and essence of Jacob. The stranger blesses Jacob to become a greater person; therefore, Jacob is ready to become Israel, the ancestor of legend.
The Power of the Name Change also plays a significant role in the ancient world. The same idea is implicit with the power involved in naming. When a person is named, the name holds a piece of that person’s soul, which is given by a person or being of higher status, i.e. parent, ruler, or god. If a person’s name changes, the soul of that person alters; another being of higher power is the only one capable this significant change. The new name binds the person’s soul to the meaning of the new name.
The name is the appellation characterizing each individual soul. In so far it may be said that the name is part of the soul, seeing that it is possessed by it like the body, and everything wherein it manifests itself…The most important feature about the name is, however, not its linguistic significance, but the association with which it is charged. It is understood quite literally that the name is the soul…The name of the child unborn is covered with darkness (Eccles. 6,4) for no one knows its soul.”
Thought to be an intrinsic element and source of power, the name did not simply identify but defined an individual. For hostile purposes, the destruction of a name could affect the death or misfortune of its owner, and this belief underlies both the prominent role of naming in execration texts and the well attested expunging of royal names in dynastic feuds." The practice of destroying the names of enemies allowed harm to come to the person in life and the afterlife. For debatable reasons, Thutmosis III removed Hathshepsut's name from statues and stelas as if to remove her entire being. Removing the name causes the person to be removed entirely.
It is interesting to note that even in the socio-political paradigm of today; this concept takes a central role. A name is an expression of individual or group identity, so the word that an ethnic group uses to identify itself has important historical, political, and even philosophic ramifications. For example, words such as “Black,” “Colored,” “Negro,” and “African-American” are misnomers; names that are incorrectly applied to a thing. Misnomers often arise because something was named long before its correct nature was known, or because an earlier form of something has been replaced by something to which the name no longer applies.
In The Anthropology of Names and Naming, this significance is upheld: “The right to a name is enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognizing the implications of carrying a name that begin at the earliest moments of social being.” Names help a person establish an identity, and the process of “naming is a crucial aspect of converting ‘anybodies’ into ‘somebodies’.” Names also help tie a new child into a family identity because “the act of naming has the potential to implicate infants in relations… Individual lives thus become entangled—through the name—in the life histories of others.” (Bodenhorn).
So-called Black Americans have been forcibly labeled these various fictitious names. These legally-grounded abuses have stigmatized so-called black people into “Ward-of-the-State” status by separating them from their pedigree inherited name: Moor. These contemporary socio-political terms of disassociation are in truth, nothing more than conquest tags and invented constructs designed as slave political status designation that denationalizes “Moor” by political divisions, displacement and historical confusion.
Name and nature are indeed synonyms; as the nature of anything, its essence; is reflective by the power of its name. Your name holds your fortune. Your name, in fact, is your most important form of recognition and identification. This is what makes each of us so special; whether individually or as a group or nation of a people. When properly understood, the name holds the key needed to answer many of the questions one may have about oneself. As a people we have been kept from knowing our own true (secret) name and branded with mental ignorance and a state of death with the misnomers forced upon us like Negro, black, and colored.
Our predicament is similar to the underlying theme of Game of Thrones whereas Jon Snow’s real name changes the race for the Iron Throne should he chose to bear his inherited name: Aegon Targaryen. John Snow, a bastard, status-less ward has the ability to make the declaration of this name, which is one of the most powerful names of the Targaryen dynasty to have ever lived, originating with Aegon I Targaryen who was the first Targaryen king of Westeros and became better known as Aegon the Conqueror, the Unifier of the Seven Kingdoms.
Like any word in the dictionary, a person’s name has meaning. The study of names is called onomastics or onomatology. Onomastics covers the naming of all things, including place names (toponyms) and personal names (anthroponyms). Given names, often called first names, and surnames, often called last names, usually derive from words with distinct origins.
Truly, our nationality, pedigree name reflects the same idea as that of the Targaryen nobility; and presents the same power and characteristics in its essence. Our true identity is our heraldic insignia and banner. Its our emblematic national name that is without question the original name of a race of nobles, the original man of Earth; and the declaration of this secret name reveals a new order from which tomorrow’s kings will be borne. The proclamation or the invocation of the word "Moor" empowers the bearers with all of its characteristics and attributes: ruler, noble, lord, luminary, water, land, navigator, guardian, supreme chief and the likes.
Nationality is the order of the day; and today is the beginning of the resurgence of the "Moor."