People have always believed in the power of your name to shape your destiny. But can it really? And can knowledge of the hidden power of a name help parents pick a ‘better’ name for their baby?
Several philosophies embody strong beliefs about the significance, and power, behind your name. There is the ‘psychological’ camp, the ‘mystical’ camp, the ‘religious/spiritual’ camp, and the ‘sound’ camp. All four overlap, but there are real differences.
The psychological approach maintains that your name influences how people perceive you, and this affects how they treat you. In turn, this affects your self-image and self-esteem, from early childhood onward. In its simplest form, a child with an ‘unusual’ name, such as Archibald, may be continuously teased in school, and this will hurt Archibald’s self-image and development. By contrast, an ‘Andrew’ or a ‘Christopher,’ both very popular names, are empowering, because other people unconsciously respond to them with a certain level of respect.
Psychological research shows that boys with unusual first names tend to display more emotional disturbances than boys with more traditional names. But, as researchers point out, it is important not to overstate this phenomenon. Are the boys in question more troubled because of their names, or because of the parents, and family background, which gave them strange names in the first place? But certainly, there are many instances where ‘desirable’ names are shown to lead to greater success.
In the mystical realm, there are several ancient belief systems which hold that your name has innate power and meaning, and that by knowing this meaning, you can harness the power in your life.
Numerology is the systematic study of numbers and their interrelationships. Since ancient times, many cultures have developed complex symbolic number systems. Numerologists assign meanings and significance to each number. Through numerology, according to its adherents, you can gain a deep understanding of the symbolic meaning of your name, and harness this understanding in your daily life.
The Kabbalah, the ancient mystical philosophy of the Jewish religion, is based on the Tree of Life and the interrelationship among all things. These interrelationships include numerical values from the Tree of Life, and can be combined with the mystical meanings of letters in the alphabet. A Kabbalistic analysis of a person’s name provides deep insights into their personality and character. Your name, according to this philosophy, is a key to understanding yourself.
The ancient European system of ‘runes’ also assigns special meanings to each symbol. Using the runic ‘alphabet,’ also known as the ‘Futhark,’ you can convert your name into a group of runic symbols, which in turn, paint a full picture of your personality and attributes.
Turning to more traditional faith-based beliefs, many religions and cultures place enormous importance on given names, and, often, on the naming ceremony. Ashkenazic Jews believe that the name represents a person’s soul, and hence can influence an entire life. Because of this, Ashkenazic Jews refuse to name a baby after a living relative, for fear that the two souls would have to share a name, thereby shortening the life of the older relative.
In the Book of Proverbs, 22:1, it says that ‘a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.’ What does this mean? Many biblical names have both literal and spiritual meanings, and for many parents, a biblical baby name is believed to bestow spiritual gifts on a baby. The biblical name Ariel literally means ‘Lion of God’ in Hebrew, and its spiritual meaning is ‘Powerful Leader.’ Religious parents who name a child this way are hoping the child will grow up to be a strong leader in society.
One fascinating school of thought holds that the very sound of a name, repeated endlessly through the centuries, helps determine what that name ‘means.’ In his book ‘The Secret Universe of Names,’ Roy Feinson argues that the sound of a name itself evokes a particular emotional response in those who hear it. Furthermore, Feinson claims, the act of speaking contorts the facial muscles in certain ways, in turn affecting the emotional response of the listener. Feinson tracks various paramaters showing how certain names, and name sounds, can affect our lives in many ways.
Finally, there is the ‘harmonic vibration’ school, espoused by Pierre Le Rouzic in his book ‘The Secret Meaning of Names’. Le Rouzic argues that names contain hidden vibrations, which are an embedded aspect of a person’s character. The vibrations begin before birth, as the child within the mother’s womb ‘speaks’ to the mother. For this reason, Le Rouzic says, it is mothers who best understand the nature of the child they are bearing, and it is mothers who should take the lead in naming the child. The vibrations of a name are also connected to specific colors, animals, plants, and so forth. All come together to form ‘character’ types that can accurately describe a child’s future personality and character.
Can you be sure that your baby’s name will affect his or her entire life? Probably not. But prospective parents may want to give some credence to the various schools of thought about the significance of names. All of these belief systems are based on ancient, time-tested philosophies. Even if you don’t subscribe fully to any one system, there is much to learn, and think about, in all of them. For parents who make up new names in order to be different they may want to think twice about what they are doing. If your name is truly part of your destiny, then naming your baby is a serious responsibility.