Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.
— Genesis 2:19
"The time is ripe," said Glenstorm. "I watch the skies, Badger, for it is mine to watch, as it is yours to remember. Tarva and Alambil have met in the halls of high heaven, and on earth a son of Adam has once more arisen to rule and name the creatures."
— Prince Caspian, C. S. Lewis
"That is not the whole of what happened, Piebald," said the Queen. "The King has not told you all. Maleldil drove him far away into a green sea where forests grow up from the bottom through the waves......
"Its name is Lur," said the King.
"Its name is Lur," repeated the eldila. And Ransom realised that the King had uttered not an observation but an enactment.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
Any Adamite has the power of Naming, but Nymic Magic was developed by Enoch son of Cain.
For any language-using person of any species, Adamite or not and all other things being equal, its True Name is what it says it is. But the Name cannot be changed arbitarily; it's the name you address yourself by or answer to in your inner thoughts.
For non-linguistic things, sapient or not, its True Name is what an Adamite last named it.
Naming is not done whimsically; an act of Naming must be deliberate and entails the decision to call the object by that name hereafter.
Naming is always done with proper names, on individuals. No fair naming water or sheep; particular ponds and individual sheep are fair game.
Any appeal to God (or even "the gods" – anything sacred) in the Naming process makes it much harder to re-Name something. For instance, a baby is not (yet) a linguistic sentient, so its Name is what other people name it. If it gets baptized or put through a similar ritual, it is Named again, this time with a spiritual imprimatur making re-Naming very hard. When the baby learns to talk, it probably won't think of itself by its full baptismal name, but that's what its True Name will be, at least for some years. But see the use of Taken Names.
Things you can do with names, just by being an Adamite:
Nymic magic, like austeries, is a form of thematic magic that can be readily combined with almost any other form of magic. Things you can do with nymic magic:
An oath, as used here, is a magically enforced promise. A geas is a magically enforced command.
Coining a word of power is a magnum opus for a nymic mage. The power word is basically a free-floating True Name, unattached, naming nothing. In what sense is it a True Name? You can store prana in it.
Words of power, and their graphical analogs, magic symbols, are impalpable prana batteries. Anyone who knows them and knows nymic magic can put prana into them and take it out. It's like a joint bank account. But notice it is joint. If you share your words of power with others – e.g. the wizards of your college or your apprentices – you never know exactly how much power you're going to find in it when you reach for some. Making sure everyone chips in faithfully is part of the internal discipline of a magical society that uses words of power.
Obviously, much depends on keeping the power word secret. No doubt there have been many power words known only to their coiner. Publicity is depletion: there hasn't been much prana in "abracadabra" in a long time.
"In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, here goes – I mean Amen," said Ransom, and hurled the stone as hard as he could into the Un-man's face.
— Perelandra, C. S. Lewis
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. — Exodus 20:7
The Tetragrammaton is the name of God, now known to us only by its consonants, transliterated YHWH. It's often pronounced "Yahweh," but no one knows (now) how to pronounce it, because the vowels were dropped out some centuries back, exactly to make sure the Name was not profaned by misuse. The standard Anglicized version is "Jehovah," using the vowel points for "Adonai" ("Lord"), which were often substituted in the Hebrew script, to indicate the reader should say "Lord" at this point rather than utter the Divine Name.
However it is pronounced, the Tetragrammaton is often believed to be the most powerful Name in existence. Nymic mages dream of being able to use it to tap into omnipotence. There are three common objections to this:
First, as mentioned, no one knows what the actual Name behind the Tetragrammaton is. At least, no one who will tell.
Second, it is reasonable to suppose that God is a better nymic mage than you are. In which case, you will not be tapping into His Name if He doesn't want you to.
Third, you have to suppose that there is prana stored in the Tetragrammaton in the first place. That, of course, seems like the natural thing to do, to nymic mages. But why does God need a prana battery? Why would He want to let you use His Name as a prana battery? He's made it quite clear, in that Commandment, that He doesn't want His Name misused.
In practice, the only generally effective use of the Name of God is proxy powers – e.g. exorcizing in the name of God – as any Adamite can do, if it so pleases God. But from time to time mages have tried using the Tetragrammaton as a word of power, hoping to strike theological/magical gold. (The Kerdeans have studied the results of these efforts.) And conjuring spirits in the name of God is a standard part of ceremonial magic.
Once upon a time, there was a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.
— The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C. S. Lewis
"Golly, Jeeves, there's some raw work pulled at the font from time to time, is there not?"
— Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit, P. G. Wodehouse
(in reference to the full baptismal name of Mr. Lemuel Gengulfus Trotter)
For reasons best known to themselves, Lewis's parents named him "Clive Staples." (Wodehouse's "P. G." stood for "Pelham Grenville.") Understandably, the child Lewis re-named himself "Jack," and his family went along with it; he went by "Jack" for the rest of his life and only used "C. S." for formal and official documents. (Wodehouse went by "Plum.")
Probably neither author ever suffered assault by nymic magic, but they were well-defended against it. Both had Taken Names, contrasted with their Given Names, which, in their cases, were True Names by the standards of nymic magic. Mere possession of a Taken Name protects you from being the target of nymic magic without your consent, while leaving you the option of consenting to nymic magic. Only overwhelming magical power or consumate magical skill can overcome this defense.
The act of Taking a Name cannot be a matter of frivolity or mere expedience. If you want to Take the Name "Kid," then your head should turn automatically if someone calls "Kid!" and you should address yourself as "Kid" in your inner thoughts.
Only Adamites can Take a Name in this way. It is possible but rare to have more than one Taken Name.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010