Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Alchemy of The Word Part 1

Part 1: A Brief and Incomplete Mythology of Naming
By Aubrey Zich

"Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power." Jeanette Winterson (Oranges are not the Only Fruit)

There are many ways to tell this story, but this is variation I know best. In Israel, there was a temple gate guarded by barking dogs. These animals would sound at the passer-bys, jarring their thoughts and causing a temporary mind lapse. Anyone who knew the ineffable name of God would soon forget it as they passed. Jesus, who was not so much a prophet as a magician in this tale, performed miracles using the name of God. Knowing the perils of passing the temple, Jesus took the ineffable name placed in a note under the skin of his arm. (ie: a tattoo.) When Jesus passed the temple the barking startled him, as he knew it would, and forgot the ineffable name. However, since the name of God was tattooed on Jesus' arm, he was able to recall it and continue to perform miracles.

Qabalists claim ineffable name of has 72 parts and whomever can master the correct pronunciation can alter reality as he or she sees fit. However, mispronunciation can also cause instantaneous death. Words are the living, reality-altering magic. Each character is a sigil within itself containing its own meaning. When combined with other sigils, the characters creates two stories: the obvious path of language and the hidden path of pictographs.

The significance of knowing a true name crosses cultures: from the miller's daughter getting out of a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to the Youruba myth of Orunmila only being permitted to marry Oxum once he discovered Oxum's true name. Not only is the precedent set in our myths and fairytales, but also in popular literature and Tv programming. (For those interested, wikipedia has a list of a few examples.)

Modern music places great significance on not only knowing a name but on a magical "alter ego" name. Marshal Mathers performs under two monikers which represent his different manifestations: his light side, Eminem, and his id-driven primitive side, Slim Shady. Marshall Mathers is not the only one. In order to make a directional change, Beyonce Knowles developed her alter ego, Sasha Fierce. Later, Beyonce claimed to have "killed" Sasha Fierce, absorbing Sasha's powers for her own.

One of the most interesting examples of name alchemy is David Bowie. Over decades he has been able to keep current by changing his personae and naming its essence. After the album "Hunky Dory", David Bowie declared that his next release would be huge. He distilled the essence of a rockstar and magnified it to ridiculous proportions, almost beyond recognition. Then Bowie named his concoction "Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars." As Bowie predicted, it was his break-out album. (Editor's note: There is an extensive exploration of this topic in The Immanence of Myth (Weaponized) and some follow-up consideration in a series of articles in Apocalyptic Imaginary (Mythos Media).)
Can one really control your environment and the things around you by the act of naming? Well, yes and no.  Let me put it to you this way: one may come to understand the true essence of a stray dog, even enough to give it a name.  One may even tame the dog enough to make it a pet.  But if one angers the dog, no matter what one calls it, the dog will still bite.  

More about this in Part II:  Wordsmith

[Check out some of the books, albums, and soon movies produced by Mythos Media and our various media partners.]


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