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.