To me and to most witches the name is a very personal link to a person. It works in much the same way as a tag lock to anchor a working to the intended target. A lot of folk lore and mythology about witchcraft plays on the concept that the name is very important and indeed some witches do choose to use a pseudonym, sharing their true name with only a trusted few.
The question today probes at the heart of what a name actually is. If we read our Shakespeare he informs us: “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” - the implication being that the essence of a person is not captured simply by naming them. Basically the Bard is saying it doesn’t matter what we call somebody, they are always that person.
But are they? I’m not at all sure I agree with him. A name need not necessarily be a consistent identifier. In the computer age where we are all required to have multiple log ons for social media, networking etc it is quite common to have more than one identity. We use different names to interact with different people and even to a certain extent to express different parts of who we are. A name change can be a very useful way to separate the ‘work you’ from the ‘home you’ for example. This isn’t to say that one of those names is real and one is fake, they just relate to different parts of who an individual is as a person. When casting it is likely that a witch is targeting a facet of the person represented by the name we know them as. So if we are trying to make “Work Jo” less bossy it might be counterproductive to cast at “Joanne” who may be an entirely different person outside the workplace. The name we know her as is the name that establishes the link to the person we are casting toward.
It’s hard to pin down the definition of what a true name might be. It could be argued that the real name is the birth name but I find that to be too simplistic. Why would a name somebody else has chosen to give you be more valid than a name you use regularly and self identify with? If anything I would say the name chosen by the individual has the better claim to be the true name. Many people reject their birth name over a personal preference. If “John” has always been known as “Dan” -and everybody knows him as Dan – can we really say John is his real name just because it happens to be on his birth certificate? I have to say if I was doing a working on Dan/John I’d be far less interested in the name he was born with and far more focused on the name he has built up a relationship with and which (most crucially) he believes to represent who he is.
I think for me, rather than getting bogged down with the accuracy of what may/may not be the “real” name I am interested is using a name that will strengthen the link between the person and my working. If I know somebody by their nickname and all my relations with them have been formed around that nickname then it would throw me completely to start casting using a name I don’t associate with them. It is the association in the mind of the caster (not the objective reality) that will strengthen the power of the intent used in the spell work.
What I would do when casting is cover all possibilities. I’d phrase it something like “The person I know as ‘Work Jo’ who is also known by her full name Joanne…” This makes it as clear as possible exactly who I am targeting. However - in summary - my preference would be for the name I know the person as. I’d be more than happy casting at ‘Work Jo’.
Incidentally as a bit of an aside, this kind of thinking explains why you can’t hide behind a false name when annoying a witch. Dan may think he’s safe provoking a witch who doesn’t know his birth name is John but Dan can be assured that the spell cast at his assumed identity will work just as well.
Aha Dan… better not go around annoying witches!