Names have power.  That’s why we are constantly attempting to label things, people, situations and pretty much anything.  Because names or labels are condensed information packets.  Names like “chair” or “car” or “house” have not only tons of generic information connected with them because they refer to categories of things, but they also have historical information, personal associations, possibly memories of events all of which can be accessed just by contact with the word through sound or sight.   Names give us a type of control over a thing, because they give us information and insight into that thing.  They tell us in an instant the positives and negatives of it, pull up our experience with it, set it into a framework with the things around it, and give us an idea of what we can do with/about/for it going forward.   To see real power in action just look at names such as “gay”, “republican”, “immigrant”, “intellectual”, “activist” or “terrorist.”  Yes, these names, these names have gained huge amounts of power from our actions or inactions in recent years, but even without that they have their own power to limit or enlighten.

This is not to say that naming is a negative thing.  In fact its a necessary component of the process by which we make sense of our world.  But, like in the examples I listed above, the names we give to things have power.  So what happens if the name we give to something is incorrect?  What if we are wrong?

This has been something I come across again and again in my studies of mythology and women’s spirituality.  One prime example for me was the discovery of the Innana stories.  Like pretty much everyone in the US I was taught the Greek myths (in a very cartoony abbreviated way) as a child and then delved into the Greek writers in HS and then again in college.  So I was very familiar with the myth of Persephone and her abduction into the depths and how this was supposed to be a morality tale for girls and women showing them why the seasons are the way they are and how we should behave and what our lives are all about.  This always confused me because I couldn’t understand why girls and women were supposed to see men as romantic rapists that entrap them into weird marriage situations.  And why was Persephone always wanting to get back to her Mom?  I mean, didn’t she want a life of her own at some point?  She never seemed to grow up.  And then why was her Mom fixated on her?  Where was her Dad?  None of this was explained other than the throw away line that Greek culture was very different than ours today and that the Greek Gods were fallible just like humans and so did bad things.


Luckily I was too young for my head to explode by being taught a morality tale that had questionable morality in it and being asked to use it as a guide to life.  When I was in my 30’s I came across the mythology of Inanna which is Sumarian and much older than Persephone.  Same idea of going into the underworld and coming back again.  Same concept of the journey making a huge change in the person making the journey but that’s where the similarities end.  Inanna is neither a girl nor a victim.  She’s not ‘abducted’ nor is she coerced into staying in the depths.  She is not alone and unfriended, she chooses to make the journey and it actually a hero figure.  There is sexuality in both stories, but instead of being suggested through innuendo and being something that is forced upon her, it’s consensual, with her husband, and some of the most beautiful and erotic poetry that I’ve ever come across.  The outcome of the journey is that she saves her sister from being stuck in a torment of her own making, Inanna becomes a better person, is more empowered, and then finds her husband cheating on her so works to get justice done.

Both journeys are about self exploration, about going within, about a time of darkness where the only way out is through, about healing and returning to the world changed.  But the journeys are very different in how they go about these things and with much different results.  If someone is going through a journey of this nature, the name they put on that journey makes a difference.  It’s can help them claim their empowerment or can collude with an abuser to disguise the abuse.  It can keep the person from seeing that they have the ability to move back to the light or disguise the path as an inevitable event that must be suffered through and forever mark them as broken.

To make things even more difficult, what if someone is doing a journey within and mistakes it for a hero’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell?  The hero’s journey is outward instead of in and leads on to confront their dragon or inner demon which is preventing them from achieving the goals of their soul whether that’s achieving enlightenment or getting that next promotion.  If the journey you’re taking is inward with no demon to slay, but you’re naming the journey as outward and looking for demons, you’ll be spinning your wheels for years to come.

Names have power.  Naming the myth you are living, that is guiding your path and supporting you in your becoming can be the key to achieving the goals you set for your soul.