Cross and Pentacle: Two religions at the crossroads

I was a Jesus Freak, a passionate theologian, and a Southern Baptist minister. I worked hard to convert pagans. The pagans won.

Discovering magic as a witch with an intimate knowledge of western christianity I explore the juxtaposition of these two faiths. Christianity and paganism alike are undergoing dramatic changes with parallel trends, conflicting challenges, and a growing concern for interfaith dialogue.

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Why don't I have a magical name?

Another year gone. So much broke last year. My last-ditch effort to save my business proved futile. Communication with a friend broke so badly that I hired a mediator. My community nearly broke in half. Broken friendships, broken trust. To top it off, my housemate and I totaled the car when a stoned driver smashed into us.

So much brokenness and now a new year is upon us. Things will mend, our community is already healing and growing, I love my job, the bruises are gone, and we’ll get a new car. But I often wonder what it would be like to draw a clean line between the past and the present by taking on a new name. A magical name.

Many of my friends have magical names and they are beautiful. I encounter their namesakes in nature, Seed, Rock, Snow, Cypress, Madrone, Thorn, Root, Tree, Lynx, Moon, Raven. They have mythological names, Gwion, Gwydion, Phoenix, Morpheus, Bran. I love their names, I love that they evoke images, feelings, stories. I have been asked why I don’t have a magical name.

I did go on a quest for a magical name once. But in the end I always come back to the name given to me at birth. Annika Mongan. Annika is a Swedish variation of the name Ann, which comes from the Hebrew word for grace. Ever since I reclaimed my life after my abusive marriage and fundamentalist Christianity, grace has been my theme. I have been granted a second chance at life. It is a gracious gift. It is a rare treasure. It is grace.

Annika is also the name of a character in Pippi Longstocking, written by the Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Annika and her brother Tommy are Pippi’s best friends. My brother’s name is Tom. My parents didn’t know the story of Pippi when they named us. Astrid Lindgren wrote other books, including Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter, which is my favorite book - ever - and has become the myth by which I live.

It was a very young Annika who first felt Divine touch in the form of the Holy Spirit. It is the name my parents called when I sang to the stars and ran wild in forests and fell in love with Jesus. It is the name under which I became a Jesus Freak, believing that He “called me by name”. It is the name I provided those who asked why I was saying cruel things about our transgendered co-worker.  It is the name under which I said the vows that bound me to an abusive husband for a decade. It is the name I didn’t understand when I tried to end my life. It is the name under which I did things I am ashamed of, I regret, I treasure, and I am proud of. It was my name as a child, a Jesus Freak, a fundamentalist, a missionary, a wife, a divorcee, a seeker, a chocolate maker, a lover, a business owner, a student, a coven sister, a writer, a musician, a Witch.

It is a name of continuity. It carried me through my worst mistakes, failures, and despair, into a life I truly love and treasure. “Annika” has been on a wild and long journey and it makes the name sacred to me. As I strive to integrate my past, all of it, including the things I did and experienced as a fundamentalist, my name is my anchor. Why don’t I have a magical name? I do! Annika may not be the name of something I see on a hike and it isn’t found in any mythology we know of, but it is deeply magical to me. It is who I was, who I am, and who I will be. Grace is my magical story, Annika is my name.

As for my last name, Mongan, a genealogist in Ireland told me that it meant “the hairy people”. On that I refuse to comment.


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Born and raised an evangelical Christian in Germany, I joined the Jesus Freak movement as a teenager and became a passionate evangelist and worship leader. No one was surprised when I went to the US at age 19 and came back a tattooed and pierced fundamentalist Christian, betrothed to a "Chrispie" (a Christian hippie, that is). I was a virgin the day we married. Five years later I graduated bible college with highest honors and post traumatic stress disorder. I deepened both my theology and trauma on the road by traveling the country in a big yellow school bus. For three years I lived as a nomad, playing music and leading bible studies, from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. I learned that Christianity in America encompasses a wide range of beliefs and practices, from Amish groups casting demons out of school busses to Roman Catholic priests breaking into government buildings. I saw Jesus in the oddest places. And then everything changed and I ended up a polyamorous Witch in a Pagan community in California.


  • Anne Newkirk Niven
    Anne Newkirk Niven Friday, 02 January 2015

    Like you, Ann is a name I'm partial to, and I've stuck with variants of it for decades. (I've never had a magickal name, either.) When I finally get myself croned officially I'll probably make another switch but I can't decide between Annie and Anna.

  • Linette
    Linette Saturday, 03 January 2015

    I don't have a magical name either, but magic isn't really part of my tradition. But I underwent a similar experience/challenge after my divorce. 27 years of marriage. I married at 19, but people questioned and even challenged me for not getting rid of my ex husband's name.

    Huh? How was it HIS name? It was a name I chose, and lived with for 27 years. With that name I had and raised children, was known by professionally, wrote and created art signed with my name etc. It wasn't his, it wasn't something he got back...along with the wedding and engagement ring etc.

    I totally understand that names are important to us, and I understand why some people choose to change their name, return to their maiden name, or alter their name for professional use. For the very same reasons I chose not to. Two sides of the same coin.

    Shortly after my divorce I was involved in a discussion where a man said had his ex wife not returned to her maiden name after the divorce, he would have sued her to give him his name back. Wow. That was HIS level of attachment and understanding of "what's in a name".

    That experience has left me more aware of names and how people call themselves, the abreviations and nick names they go by, etc. It seems that at some point most of us do some version of choosing a name for ourselves. Because there is power and significance in that process, whether we opt for a change, or opt to own our current name.

  • Annika Mongan
    Annika Mongan Friday, 09 January 2015

    Thank you for sharing your story, Linette. I also married young, when I was 20, and while I did take my maiden name back, I understand why you wouldn't. There are other aspects I took away from my marriage that I once considered "his" but have since reclaimed and understand to be "mine".

  • Meredith Lull
    Meredith Lull Tuesday, 06 January 2015

    I have the same situation with my own name. When I was a child I had not grown into Meredith Ann, in fact I hated it. My family called me Merri, My mother left my father for someone else, who turned out to be a very bad man. My Mother said he is so mean because you are not his daughter, if you go to court and let him adopt you it will be better. I think we both wanted it to get better. so I agreed. Lull became my last name. I researched my name and found it was Welch. I liked that, I was a red head, an Irish-Italian mute. That and I servived all the hell of my childhood, I earned my name. It is me.

  • J'Karrah
    J'Karrah Thursday, 08 January 2015

    Where is it written that the name you are given at birth cannot also be your magical name? Yes, the name above is not my birth name and it is a name I have used as my magical name for almost 20 years. But I find over the past few years I have drifted away from it as a magical name and now simply tend to use it as an online persona.

    My birth name is Kelly which in Irish Gaelic means "Warrior." Not too surprisingly I eventually grew up to be a priestess of Morrigan. I also have a spirit guide who identifies as a dragon and has been with me since I was 16. So more and more I go by Kelly NicDruegan or "Kelly Dragon's Daughter" online and at public Pagan gatherings. Why I don't use my full legal name as my name online or at Pagan gatherings is pretty simple: the world is full of crazy people who don't need to know that much about me. Just as I don't publish my home address or phone number, I don't use my full legal name anywhere that is not absolutely necessary.

    I find there is a certain bias in much modern Paganism to view the name we were given at birth with some level of disdain, as if it is somehow unworthy of a newly minted Witch. On a spiritual path that is supposed to honor family, ancestors, and cultural heritage this has always seemed strange to me. Don't get me wrong... I have nothing against people who choose a different name for themselves in honor of their new spiritual path if they feel a genuine call to do so. I just don't think people should look down on those who find the name they were given at their birth to be magical enough.

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