Encyclopaedia Arcana #17: A Mage’s Name

Newcomers to the magical world have a lot of questions.  One question that everyone asks sooner or later is “How come mages have such weird names?”

It’s a fair point.  For every mage who calls themselves Alex or Anne, there are two or three more who go by names like Cinder, Deleo, Sagash, Levistus, Caldera, and others that are equally hard to imagine a parent giving a baby.  The reason’s simple:  in most cases, the name an adult mage goes by isn’t the same name he was born with.

What’s In A Name?

An adult mage has two names – their birth name and their mage name.  They go by their birth name as a child and continue to use it when they enter a master’s service and become an apprentice.  At some point in their apprenticeship they pick their mage name, and when they graduate to the status of a journeyman mage they take it as their own.

An apprentice’s choice of name is serious business.  It’s considered a rite of passage, marking the transition from childhood to adulthood.  Socially, a mage who doesn’t have their name yet isn’t really considered a mage at all – they’re still treated like a kid, even if they’re twenty years old.  Interestingly, this is one subject that Light and Dark mages don’t disagree about.  Both consider a mage’s name equally important, and for the same reasons.

Picking and Choosing

Apprentices choose their names personally.  It’s one of the few areas of the master-apprentice relationship where the master doesn’t have the last word – even attempting to dictate an apprentice’s name is considered a major breach of etiquette.

Methods of choice vary.  Often an apprentice will pick a name related to their magic type:  geological or mineralogical names for an earth mage, combustion- or heat-related words for a fire mage, and so on.  Another common choice is to take the name of a historical mage who the apprentice identifies with or wants to emulate.  Some make up a new name, using etymology or just picking something they like the sound of, and some masters even encourage apprentices to treat the choice of their name as a full-on quest, consulting magical creatures or seeking visions.

In every case, a mage’s name tells you something about them.  It’s the identity they’ve chosen, and it’s how they’ve decided to define themselves in their dealings with the magical world.

Child to Adult

Once a mage has become a journeyman, her mage name becomes her ‘official’ name.  If another mage approaches her or if she’s referred to in any formal way, they’ll use her mage name:  in magical society, her mage name is the one that’ll identify her from that moment until the day she dies.

A mage’s name can be a touchy subject.  It’s usually best to avoid the use of a mage’s birth name unless you’re very familiar with them (and sometimes not even then).  Some mages continue to use their birth names, especially with close friends and family, but others abandon them completely.  As a general rule, the more distant a mage is from their non-magical life, the less happy they’ll be about being addressed by their birth name.  Independent mages tend to be the most likely to keep their birth name, while Dark mages often treat the use of their birth name as a fairly serious insult.

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One Response to Encyclopaedia Arcana #17: A Mage’s Name

  1. Chris J says:

    I’ve noticed that many of the mages have only five letters in their name. Chance? Verus, Trask, Drakh, Slate, though Talisid and Levistus break the mold. Hmm. OK, maybe not that many. I only noticed that the strike team going to White Rose all seemed to be 5 letter names.

    OK, never mind.