One evening, after teaching Postmodern theory all day to a culmination of almost ninety students, I was stunned to hear “Kat!” hollered across the concourse. After all, most of the afternoon I had been addressed as “Dr. P” followed by “I need” or “Can you help me?” while dodging questions on whether or not the movie I Am Legend was a valid translation of the book.  Later, shuffling my way through the front door, I was accosted with “Mom! Mom!” as my accumulation of hounds whined in similar fashion. Checking in with Facebook, I signed several emails with “Seba,” then traipsed over to my blog as SKW. After BLTs and with my feet up on our outdoor bar, I called my momma. Somewhere knee-deep in the conversation about eggplant spread and the church my grandpa built, I must have gone over the proverbial line to have earned “Katharyn Michelle!” through my Palm Pre. Of course, it was followed by a sweet ending that went a little something like “love you, Kathi.” And–somewhere in the dark that’s none of y’all’s nevermind, I heard “My Baby.” Yup. Turns out? I actually AM every woman. It’s all in me.
I was born Katharyn, my grandma’s oldest grandchild and her namesake. My family insisted on calling me Kathi. When I left North Alabama sixteen years back for my sweet, orange and blue Auburn–educating myself, recarving myself–I became Kat. Lately, more and more, my magic name has taken over as the name to which I not only answer but thump against, loud and bass, as the purest signification of me. Seba. A rough translation of “little holy day,” or Sabbat. It’s brought me round to a lesson on magic names, what they mean, how we get them and how they affect our lives. Here we go.
Now, we all know that SKW doesn’t follow rules well, doesn’t hanker to the BIG BOOK of the craft (insert isbn here) or categorize neatly into Pagan terminology that could make folks feel a bit, well, more comfy. Numerology isn’t my game–but perk up here–I said not “my” game. Respect it? Hell, yes. Kneel to it? Hell, naw. I simply refuse to deny the Divine voice that whispers up against me because it doesn’t fit a predetermined equation. I’ve always wondered: why do folk assume that refusal to wear the hat they have chosen for their own selves is somehow a visceral attack on their hat? Shucks. I just don’t wear hats, y’all. Can I still play dodgeball?
But that ain’t all. Those conceptions, memories, and preconceived notions about “the truth of me” that came with the name “Kathi” almost killed me. I was a drug addict as a teen, a runaway, a biker property and a bit of a slut. Yup. Today is truth-telling day. “Kathi” was a broken little gal–had lost all of her faith in ever finding peace. That girl was raped and beaten, almost lost her mind and lied about everything from the color of the grass under her feet to how she felt when Jackson Browne sang “The Pretender.” I loved her, I did. But her time was over and she was making a hot mess of things. It was her or me. So . . . .
So, Kat was born. The fam was not too fond of this development, as they were confused as to what had happened to Kathi (they loved her, see, in spite all of her piddle and poo on the living room floor), but Kat had reared her head at the ripe young age of thirty and wasn’t giving an inch. In graduate school, she learned a new word: amalgam. Good word. Would literally save her life later. But, it was like a Tuesday. Kat had three kids to rear, three degrees to earn and lots of chicken to fry–and so, the word remained in a “to consider” box under two hundred library books and an empty bottle of wine. And Kat turned forty, became “Dr. P,” and rocked the academic house–and was still vaguely tortured by the whisperings of another name.
One afternoon, shucking corn for the grill, a memory glided by like memories tend to do. Circa 1972, late afternoon sun and pine needles under shiny, red go-go boots. A little girl with long brown hair was singing Rod Stewart’s Maggie May and in love with a little boy next door. The boy, my sweet first heartbreak, was one of the few killed durning the Persian Gulf Storm years in a helicopter, but in ’72 he looked like he might live forever. That long ago day, he told me his secret name and asked me mine. Without a thought, I touched his nose and told him Seba. An impromptu marriage then insued, gifts were exchanged (I still have the gray ceramic momma cat with babe) and we held hands back there in Innocent Land. What I remember the most, other than Rod Stewart and corn-yellow hair, is the way he said my secret name. With reverence. With deference. Like a memory in the birthin’.
And, decades later shucking yellow corn, that moment came dancing back and broke my heart. (Isn’t it funny? We only think of ancestors as the ones to turn to in moments of need.) This is the way it turned out on my end:
Katharyn, Kathi, Kat, Mommy, Dr. P. and Baby are all the same, fucked-up-beautiful being: Seba. This name is the alpha and the omega of my thump. I don’t have a backup tag, aka one that I use for “other” magical moments, naw–just this one. Out loud. Seba is the “amalgam” of my identities, the whole of me, no pretention or salutation necessary. I figure, there was no need to create a name, push myself through any hoops or ask a prophet: for She had already done the work of naming me. All I had to do is be still and listen. The thing is, I’ve always understood the importance of brining the soul. Shocking, coming from this old kitchen witch, eh? Here’s the magic part: when you salt your meat, you pull out the moisture that would rot it, that would harbor bacteria, but in the process the flavor is preserved, concentrated and exhalted. This is the process I use for developing a magic name, a signifier, if you will. Salt yor’ self. Factor what’s left.
But: wait. What about the O’Kiley? Well, y’all didn’t figure I would leave you on the back porch like the milkman on that, did you?
SKW teaches the craft to a very close and adopted tribe. One of the lessons we trudge through (a tenacious one, it is, causes tears and wailing) is the soul line and blood line section. As mortals, pulsing all hot and paying taxes, we have a lineage of ancestors and family names, crests and traditions that are inherently valuable to our lives. This vein of life is called the blood line. Now. If, as Pagans, we agree that we have souls that have traversed the universe and have thudded this earth (or others) a handful or more times in the past, we have another lineage that is just as critical to our understanding of our passage through time. This is called the soul line. Together, these “lines” make the amalgamous tapestry of the self, and attempting to cull one without the other is like mud wrestling a pig. While our hearts may yearn to cut those ties that bind us to our fleshly state, it is an ignorant (if not blasphemous) endeavor that leaves us alienated from our earthy experience–now, who’s gonna learn from that? Well, then. Best remember that when coming around to a surname–yes?
Yes. (Sorry, no math will be employed here.) Alright. Let’s put the chalk on the proverbial board: Seba is that name that denotes the soul within my frame. I do not have another 007 secret phrase with which to speak to my Great Spirit/aka/Big Momma. There is no need, as I do not hide anything from Her, do not hide anything from my kin, and worry very much about hiding anything from myself. So-kay. But a surname? Well. O’Kiley is in my, um, family tree. Push it far back, and we run into O’Keeley (although the “o” gets dropped when my Irish ancestors hit the Big Apple). Right, then. I reckon that’s the one that drips the sweetest down my spine. Do I worry that I have not incorporated my heavy Native American blood in my name? Huh. Since when has a tribe needed that kind of English signification? (And, spend a little time in the etymology of Seba and guess what you find? Mmm hmmm.) Naw, I grew up hearing my Grandma’s stories of the Cherokee Auntie I embody–and then heard a few about the Apache father who’s hair looked blue in the light. I figure: have you seen me? All done.
Irish and Native American. What a love fest.
Soul lines and blood lines. Pass the sacred wine.
For in the end, we are all amalgams: of our past lives and present, of 1970 somethin’ and today, mommies and daddies and lovers and teachers, brothers and sinners and survivors and whores, Southerners and Westerners and Christians and Magicians–and that thump–that thump–is the beat of all that we are. Hell. Yeah. Anything else is as boring as a Baptist minister at 11 a.m. in Alabama.
And I’m an equal opportunity witch. That means: I accept all of my selves, muddy and bloody and flawed and fucked-up-beautiful.
1. Um, no. No it is not. They were vampires, damn it–and the ending is everything. Just like in life.
2. I was asked last fall to write about the creation of magic names and was invited to do a guest post on a blog. As the blog owner and myself disagree about EVERYTHING to do with magic, I backed out. She never forgave me, I think, but if I had done it, I would have never forgiven myself. BB
P.S. The pictures are of my silly ass. Not pulled from the internet, not transposed onto the body of someone sexy, my silly, f-ed up, short, goofy Seba ass.
This post is dedicated the the girl I met in 1966: Cherry Ann. You will always dance in my mind young and beautiful.