Today I ask you who read this post to bear witness to my words.
I am known as Potia, a name given to me on a journey many years ago and linking me to my beloved Epona, She who is my guide, my guardian and my teacher. I am a daughter of the Great Mare and of the Herd Mothers. To the Herd Mothers, Epona and Rhiannon, I swear to do my best to follow their guidance and to trust them. I have sworn to do my best to serve Epona and I renew that oath.
Last month I was claimed again. To the name I have used for many years I now add another.
I add to my name Nighean a’ Chailliche, daughter of the Cailleach. I have sworn that I will serve An Cailleach to the best of my ability within the boundaries agreed between us. In honour of this oath I will now cover my hair with a scarf or hood when I am praying before Her or serving as Her priest.
I am Potia Nighean a’ Chailliche, sworn priest of the Herd Mothers and An Cailleach.
This is my truth.
Recently I chose to support a particular kickstarter project for “Tales of Hopeless, Maine” and I chose a level of support that included as a reward a Hopeless, Maine obituary by author Nimue Brown. When I first chose this I did so because I thought it would be unusual and fun (which it is) but not long before mine was written Nimue asked me what name I wanted to die under. That’s not a question I expected and it got me thinking about my various names. My birth name is Pauline and many people use that name for me including my husband. My parents call me Polly, my brother sometimes calls me Pic (short for pickle), my children usually call me mum. And among many Pagans, particularly Druids, I have been known as Potia. I have also had several surnames in my life, Pitchford is my fifth. So I had a lot of options to choose from for my “death”. After some thought I felt that it was time “Potia” died. Potia was a name I took up towards the beginning of my journey into druidry. I have changed a lot since then. It’s also a name linked to Epona via a particular inscription. My love for Epona hasn’t changed but I am not dedicated to Her alone.
I had no idea how I might die on Hopeless, Maine. It’s an unusual place where death is not always certain, where bodies are not always available to be identified and buried. Perhaps I would be stabbed by knitting needles or poisoned via a pot of tea. I never imagined the death I got or the headline: “Potia Pitchford defies explanation“. To be taken by surf horses was a beautifully significant way for Potia to die, to be taken into the depths by the very image of one of my most loved deities. And yet for my death to be uncertain too. No body to identify or bury, just gone. This death has a strong spiritual significance to me that I didn’t anticipate. It was also published on Friday 13th and Friday is the day I do my weekly devotions to the Herd Mothers, to Epona and Rhiannon. It was also a full moon and I now do devotions on full and dark moons for beings of ocean, seas and rivers.
The druid I was, Potia, has changed. What I am now has grown out of the druid that I was. I am a priest, a tender of a shrine, a servant of a group of deities and sworn to two deities in particular. I have written of some of this in a previous post “On being a priest“. I have felt since writing that post that I needed to take on a new name, one that to some extent reflects the changes in my life. Until this evening what that name would be escaped me. This evening as I sat communing with An Cailleach I received some guidance. I need to check my understanding and make sure I can write it correctly. I’ve also been led to believe I don’t need to stop using Potia, this new name will be more of a descriptive surname if I understand it correctly.
“You are mine” She said to me this evening. I acknowledge that claim with the understanding that I am also sworn to the Herd Mothers and that any tasks She and They would have of me need to be balanced against the needs of my children.
Recently in a couple of the forums I am a member of the subject of god names has been raised. The discussions have got me thinking about the way we choose names for ourselves and others.
The name my parents chose for me is Pauline and one of the reasons they chose that name was after my maternal grandmother – apparently I looked like her at birth. For those not in the know Pauline is the feminine form of Paul and means small. While I’m not exactly tall, I’m not exactly small either – I’m short for my weight in fact 🙂
In a meditation a few years ago I gained the name Potia which I use in Pagan circles for a number of reasons. Recently I have found out it means Powerful Lady or Mistress. I don’t think I would have chosen to use that name as widely as I have if I had known sooner what it means but it’s part of me now. I find myself wondering if I live up to it in any way or even if I want to live up to it. In one sense I am my own mistress but I also choose to do what I can to serve my community. I have more power in my life choices than many of my female ancestors would have had and yet my life is still restricted. Many of those restrictions are ones I have chosen freely though and wouldn’t change such as those that come with being a parent.
And that leads me to another of my names and the one I like best – mummy. This one is one I share with many other women and is a much more descriptive name which leads me back to the discussions I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Names in our ancient past were not picked out of a hat but were descriptive in some way of the individual. Gods names were, and still are, descriptive of the being in some way and this is something many forget – including me sometimes. I seek to deepen my relationships with my gods, I seek to learn more of them and sometimes I forget that the names we know them by will tell me much about them. More than my names will tell anyone of me.