Q: What is the difference between a christening and a thanksgiving service in the Church of England? A: This service was initiated in 1999 by the Church of England as…
Written by Louise Holt Last updated: March 14, 2007
For those that believe that name can be linked to destiny, we show how divining methods can be used to choose a name that’s likely to bring luck and good health…
The belief that a person’s name could determine his or her ultimate fate goes back thousands of years. The use of divining methods as a key to unlock the hidden meaning of names dates back to long before recorded history. In every part of the world and throughout the ages, people have used divination as a means for choosing a name that would be in harmony with the precise moment and circumstance of the birth.
This is the belief that it is possible to predict a person’s future and discover hidden character traits by studying that person’s name. It is thought that the name is much more than just a label ‐ it is the person. This is why in certain primeval societies, the name is not revealed to anyone outside the family for fear that it could be used to gain power over the person’s inner spirit. During Roman times, the belief in name as destiny was so strong that generals chose a soldier who had a name relating to victory to put at the head of the troops when marching into battle.
Often the time of day, the week, month or season may influence a baby’s name (like Dawn, April, or Summer). The name could be influenced by the place where the child was born or even conceived (like Dallas or Brooklyn). A lucky omen, such as a rainbow seen at the time of birth, may also influence the chosen name.
In many cases, the name may be determined by the order of the birth. There are certain names reserved for the first born, the first twin, or for the first son or daughter in a family. The first son in an Italian family is likely to get his paternal grandfather’s name and the second son will inherit the maternal grandfather’s name. Being born as a third or fourth son, could mean that the name may be taken from the Saint for that day or from the patron saint of the native village.
In certain parts of Africa it is the child who determines the name. This could happen during the birth itself, as it is a custom that as the child is about to enter the world, the midwife starts reciting the various names of members of the family. The name that is being spoken when the baby emerges is the one that is given. In another case, in the days after birth, a list of possible names is recited to the baby and the first one that gets a smile from the baby is chosen. Yet another divining method is writing down several name options on pieces of paper and then letting the baby touch any one, which will then be the chosen name.
In the Sikh faith, the baby naming custom includes saying a prayer and then opening the holy book, Sri Guru Granth Sahib, at random. The first letter that begins a new passage on the left hand page becomes the first letter of the name that must be given. There is also a Jewish tradition that involves finding a passage in the Holy Scriptures that begins with the first letter of a name and ends with its last letter. This then becomes a ‘personal text’ for the person, with a special meaning throughout their life.
Hindus believe that the baby should be named according to the exact constellation or ‘nakshatra’ that happens to be in the sky at the moment the baby is born. The pundit or astrologer will be given the time of birth, down to the last second if possible, and the most suitable letter of the alphabet for that constellation will be chosen for the name. In Western astrology the process is less detailed but generally follows the zodiac sign and its qualities are matched with the name.
The basis of numerology follows the belief that numbers hold secrets to understanding one’s destiny and to unlocking the character traits of the person. It is thought that by working out the single number for the day you were born and using that to choose a complementary name, you can draw lucky vibrations to the individual.
This is a form of divination similar in some respects to numerology and astrology as it takes note of the letters that form a name and makes a direct interpretation of what each letter means. How many times a letter is repeated in the name is also significant. It is often seen as nothing more than a party game with only the initials being taken into account for readings.
A way of uncovering hidden meanings in a name is to rearrange the letters of the name to find meaningful words or phrases. This was a particularly popular after‐dinner diversion in the royal courts of Europe during the 17th century. The French King Louis XIII even had an official anagrammatist appointed for the job.