Naming traditions exist in many cultures and within families. In my family, is traditional though for us to choose a middle name to honor a grandparent on the mother’s side. When I informed my husband of this, he thought it made perfect sense, especially since the child would have the father’s family’s last name. Thus, my middle name is my grandmother’s first name, my daughter’s middle name is my mother’s first name, and my mother’s middle name is my great-grandmother’s first name.

Our naming conventions differ quite a bit from those of our ancestors. While we believe firmly that each child should have their own, unique first name, our German ancestors frequently gave their children the first names of close relatives; the first son would be named for the paternal grandfather, the second son for the maternal grandfather and so on. Other European cultures followed a similar pattern during the Common Era. Naming a child after a saint, hero or beloved ancestor reflects the desire to see the qualities of that individual in the child.

In Africa, traditions vary widely by individual culture but names are often chosen based on the circumstances of birth or conception and what is going on in the community. In some communities, this initial name is temporary and an adult name is granted some time later. The name of a beloved ancestor or an historic hero is often chosen at this time, though in modern Africa this custom has been usurped in many areas by the giving of a “Christian” name on baptism.

Native American names follow many different patterns depending on the specific culture, but often a member of the matriline does the initial naming, often choosing a name that reflects a natural event that occurred around the time of birth or to honor an ancestor. The name can be changed or added to as one’s life unfolds, a new name can be earned by a significant event, accomplishment or twist of fate, or a significant spiritual experience.

More specific naming patterns are discussed in the following articles:
Scottish Naming Patterns
Old Irish Naming Patterns at Rootsweb
African Naming Practices at JustGenisis
Cultural Significance of Native Americna Monikers at Psychology Today
A Guide to Names and Naming Practices

My family’s spiritual ancestry is Lutheran and our ancestors did once adhere to the spiritual naming tradition of bestowing the name of a Saint upon a child at baptism, a tradition that had been abandoned by most Lutheran communities by the start of the 20th century, but is still held by many Catholic communities. Naming a child after a Saint invokes the Saint’s protection on the child and also gives a child a role model to live up to. A the name of the favorite or Patron saint of the family might be bestowed on all the children. As adults, someone might take the name of another saint when they took another step in their spiritual development, choosing someone more specifically aligned with their own personal worldview.

Likewise, many Pagans choose a spiritual names upon dedication or upon joining a specific group. A coven or similar organization may have a naming pattern of its own based upon its spiritual ancestry, patron deities or heroes but many, perhaps most, Pagans are on their own when choosing a spiritual name. Even if we do choose a name based on a prescribed convention we often choose a personal spiritual name and perhaps even a third name for public use. A full spiritual name is rarely just one name, but might be two or three names long and is likely to grow as an individual matures spiritually and takes further steps along their path.

Pagan spiritual names may honor a God or hero of one’s spiritual mythos, or may be derived from nature. Naming oneself or one’s child for a God is frowned upon as hubris in many traditions, but it has ancestral precedent (as you will see if you browse this database). It can denote your devotion to your deity while symbolically bringing you closer. Naming for folk heroes, many of which are intimately tied to their deities, represents your desire to internalize the heroic qualities of that individual or, if you’ve named your child for a hero, your desire for your child to display those qualities. Likewise, naming yourself for a plant, animal, or natural event not only demonstrates your reverence for the sanctity of nature, but illustrates your desire to exemplify the qualities of that for which you’ve been named. This is magick.

Learn More at
Magical Names at

The Importance of Names and Naming Patters at
What’s in a Name at Psychology Today
Baby Naming Traditions Around the World at
Baby Naming Practices from Around the World at BabyCentre