Craft names, or magickal names, are a common feature of Wicca. There are some good ones out there, but also plenty of not-so-good ones, so instead of just explaining what a craft name is I wanted to write a guide to finding yourself a good, respectable one that won't get you laughed at! :) If you'd like a bit of a laugh, there's some craft name humour to be found in Lady Pixie Moondrip's Guide to Craft Names which is well worth a look.
What is a craft name?
Not every Witch has a craft name, but many do. Basically, a craft name distinguishes your magickal life from your mundane one and are taken at initiation (in a coven) or dedication (for solitaries) as a sign of commitment to the Wiccan path. Craft names can help protect the identity of Witches from outsiders, if they wish, and are also commonly used as screen names among we techno-Pagans.
There are some that believe a Witch should have three craft names - a public one, for public gatherings and as a screen name; a second one used only within your coven; and a third name used only between you and Spirit. While you choose your public craft name, a coven name is usually chosen within the coven, and a private one would come to you in a dream or during mediation. Some Witches have all three versions of craft name, others have two, still others have one and some don't take a craft name at all.
Can I change my craft name?
Craft names don't have to be permanent - many Witches change it if they feel they've outgrown it or it doesn't truly represent them. Although you can by all means change your craft name, you should avoid doing it too often - I mean, what meaning does it have if you change it every six months? If you choose carefully to start with, you shouldn't have to change it for a long time.
There are some covens in which you take a new craft name every time you are initiated into a higher degree - you take one name at your first degree initiation, change it at your second degree initiation, and again at your third degree initiation. The idea is that as your knowledge advances, so should your craft name.
Choosing a (respectable) craft name
Your craft name is kind of an important thing and, as you've probably seen, there are some good ones and some awful ones out there. It's amusing to look around the web and see the ubiquitous 'Lady Astral StarGypsy' and 'Lord Sage Merlin ShadowForce' or something - we all get a bit of a laugh out of that. You can see why choosing a decent craft name is important! So how does one go about finding their craft name? Well, for a lot of us, the right words just appear nearby and can be found if you know what you're looking for.
Perhaps you have a particular affinity for a certain god or goddess - if you feel particularly drawn to the Greek sun god Apollo or the Norse god Thor, you might incorporate that into your name. There are some of the opinion that giving yourself the exact name of a god or goddess shows a certain amount of hubris, and may even cause a little divine annoyance. You need to think about that before you call yourself 'Isis' or 'Apollo', and perhaps consider using names inspired by them instead - for example, instead of 'Apollo' you may choose 'Apolline' or 'Apollos', and instead of 'Isis' you could use 'Isadora' or 'Isa', which all basically mean 'Of/Like Apollo' and 'Gift of Isis'. Where more mainstream names like 'Phoebe' and 'Rhiannon' are concerned, it's not so much of an issue - but you should probably leave the big ones like 'Apollo', 'Isis', 'Vulcan', etc. to the gods themselves and use a derivative instead (an excellent website for finding these derivatives is Baby Names World).
Other interesting names from mythology you may want to think about are 'Inanna' (Sumerian goddess of sexual love, fertility and war), 'Selene' (Greek moon goddess), 'Luna' (Roman moon goddess), 'Calliope' (Greek Muse of heroic poetry), 'Clio' (Greek Muse of history), 'Vesta' (Greek goddess of hearth and family), 'Phoebe' (Greek Titan, associated with the Moon), 'Maia' (one of the Greek Pleiades, companions of Artemis), 'Nyx' (Roman goddess of the night), 'Vulcan' (Roman god of fire, volcanoes), 'Rhiannon' (Welsh horse goddess) 'Medea' (Greek goddess/sorceress/priestess of Hecate) and 'Morgan' (sorceress from the Arthur legend - though incredibly overused).
People also commonly use plant-derived names like 'Rose', 'Jasmine', 'Acacia', 'Lily', 'Iris', 'Ash', 'Rowan', 'Willow' and 'Violet' - I also know of someone that took the name 'Acorn' in anticipation of growing within the Craft and becoming 'Oak'. Since we Pagans tend to be very nature-conscious, plants are a common inspiration for our craft names. It also means you can plant your namesake in the garden, which is nice.
Animals are an equally common choice - 'Eagle', 'Wolf', 'Hawk', 'Fox', 'Lynx', 'Tiger', 'Raven', 'Dove' and so on. Someone might choose the name of an animal because they identify with the characteristics of that animal, or just because it's always been their favourite - perhaps your bedroom has just always been covered in tiger print, and you've always identified with tigers. That's the kind of sign that can lead to a craft name!
Everybody likes a pretty gemstone, and this is reflected in many craft names out there. You'll find 'Pearl', 'Emerald', 'Sapphire', 'Obsidian', 'Amber', 'Crystal', 'Diamond', 'Amethyst', 'Jade', 'Opal', 'Onyx'... the possibilities are endless! If you were going to make a gemstone part of your craft name, you would choose your favourite stone (if you have one you've always loved) or decide based on its properties.
Elemental themes are popular in craft names as well. You may just incorporate 'Air', 'Earth', 'Fire' or 'Water', or you may use the name of an elemental: 'Sylph', 'Gnome', 'Salamander' or 'Undine'. You can even use the names of the archangels associated with your favourite element: 'Raphael', 'Ariel', 'Michael' or 'Gabriel'. You can also use a name (that would be given as a Christian name) which has a meaning that incorporates your favourite element - 'Iara', for example, is a Brazilian name meaning 'Water Lady' and 'Avani' is a Sanskrit name meaning 'Earth'. Just as naming yourself after a god may be a bit ostentatious, naming yourself after one of the four winds associated with the elements may also be a bit presumptuous...
If you have ancestors from overseas, you may want to choose a name from that country. One of the advantages of choosing a name from a country that speaks a language other than English is that you can usually find a literal translation very close by - for example, if you have Greek heritage you may like 'Thea' ('Goddess') or 'Dianthe' ('Divine Flower'). There are many names with meanings that are very appropriate for a craft name, and if you'd like to do a little research you should try the Baby Names World website.
There are some great names in fiction that you might like to consider for your craft name. 'Gandalf' (wizard from The Lord of the Rings - means 'Elf with the Staff'), 'Oberon' (King of Shadows and the Faeries in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream), 'Titania' (Queen of the Faeries in A Midsummer Night's Dream), 'Miranda' (from Shakespeare's The Tempest) and 'Ariel' (a sylph, also from The Tempest). There are so many characters in so many books that you're sure to find one you like, if you're so inclined.
When you're looking around you for a craft name, remember that there are many many many Witches/Pagans out there with names composed from the same group of words - if you go to a Pagan gathering and call out 'Morgan', for example, a group of people in the immediate area will all respond because it's a hugely common name. For goodness' sake, please try and be original!
How many words in a craft name?
There are many craft names around with one word, some with two and others with three put together. There are those that go by a single name, like 'Raven', 'Rose' or 'Amber'; there are others that use two names, either like 'RainDancer' and 'SilverStar', or 'Howling Wolf' and 'Willow Hawk'; and also those that put three names together like 'Phoebe ShadowWolf' and 'Crystal TigerLily'. It depends on how you want your craft name to be constructed - and how many suitable words you can find!
Lord and Lady
I'm sure you've all seen this - the bunny that takes on 'Lady So-And-So' or 'Lord Whatsis-Name'. There are few faster ways to lose the esteem of your fellow Pagans than to be on the path five minutes and decide to call yourself 'Lord' or 'Lady'. It's a common opinion among Pagans that titles like 'Lord' and 'Lady' should be set aside for people that have been on the path for a long time, and have gained the respect of the Pagan community - elders, you might say (there's a loaded word!). I don't mean you need to have a pensioner discount card before you can be called an elder, but you do need a certain amount of experience, knowledge and wisdom before you can seriously call yourself 'Lord' or 'Lady' and expect others to do it too.
There are many Witches out there that like to 'confirm' a craft name using numerology - the (alleged) relationship between numbers and living things/physical objects. I, as you may have guessed, am not a fan of numerology. To use it for picking a craft name, the most common methods are to apply 'digit summing' to your birth date or the numeric values of your full name and find a craft name that adds up to the same number. For example, using the details of Australia's current Prime Minister:
First name: 2+5+4+9+5 = 25 → 2+5 = 7
Middle name: 4+9+3+8+1+5+3 = 33 → 3+3 = 6
Last name: 9+3+4+4 = 20 → 2+0 = 2
Total: 7+6+2 = 15 → 1+5 = 6
Day: 2+1 = 3
Month: 0+9 = 9
Year: 1+9+5+7 =22 → 2+2 = 4
Total: 3+9+4 = 16 → 1+6 = 7
So, Kevin Rudd apparently needs to decide whether he wants to use his birthday number (7) or his full name number (6) to settle on a craft name, and our alphabet and calendar are man-made, with different versions of both throughout the world - how do you decide? These are just the first of many issues with using numerology to pick your craft name, and I personally wouldn't waste my time on such a subjective technique (there is a more complex, less subjective form of numerology in ceremonial magick, which I confess I know very little about, and I can't tell you if that's a more reliable numerological way to settle on a craft name).