I’ve been asked how I received my Pagan/Spiritual name of “Ocean.”
It actually all started when I was a student at Gallaudet College (now University) – a Liberal Arts college for deaf and hard of hearing students in Washington, DC.
My real name happens to be Virginia Beach – the person, not the place.
I grew up in the Midwest, so my name was never a big deal in my hometown, but when I arrived in Washington, DC it became a real conversation piece! Everyone got confused and thought I was FROM Virginia Beach…then after I would explain that my NAME is Virginia Beach, they all thought my parents must have had a really interesting sense of humor.
Actually, there was no humor involved – my mother always loved the name Virginia, and when she moved to Indiana as a teenager from her hometown of Saint Louis, the next door neighbors were a family named Beach. They had a son named James. Then one day the lady met the fellow…and the rest is history. They had a daughter, and named her Virginia. End of the story.
But back to Gallaudet…as you might know (if you stayed awake in geography class), Virginia Beach – the place – is located just a few hours south of Washington DC. A few hours east of DC on the Maryland shore is another popular tourist spot…Ocean City, where many of the students would go to party on the weekends.
It wasn’t long before my classmates were bumping into me on campus and teasingly asking “Hi, Virginia Beach…how’s the weather at Ocean City???”
I was a writer and copy editor for the college newspaper, called The Buff and Blue. One time, as a joke, my fellow editors decided to print a by-line to one of my stories:
(not as popular as Ocean City, but still passable)
As you can expect, that story got more comments for its by-line than its contents (which to this day, I can’t even remember…)
With no offense meant to any of my Deaf peers – whom I love and respect greatly (well…most of them, anyway!) – some of these jokesters were unable to pronounce “Ocean” easily, thus when they spoke it sounded more like “Osh” with a long O.
Thus, for a brief while during my college days, I was known as “Ocean City,” or Osh if you prefer.
Although I first became interested in Paganism, Wicca and Witchcraft while still a student at Gallaudet, it wasn’t until after I left and moved back to the Midwest that I began studying The Craft in earnest. I decided to partake in a year and a day of serious study, which involved actually living at a spiritual sanctuary, where I was able to immerse myself in such studies 24 hours a day, seven days a week…working with various teachers, attending various workshops, and participating in various rituals.
At the end of a year and a day (the traditional duration of time for studying before being initiated or ordained), the tradition under which I was studying would hold a special ritual by which I would then be ordained as a High Priestess of the Craft (having been initiated two years earlier).
Although I had been studying and practicing Paganism for three years, I had always used my mundane name during all this time…or more accurately, my nickname – “Gin.” I had yet to take on a spiritual name. But now I was getting ready to be actually ordained as official Pagan clergy. Damnit, I wanted a Pagan name!
But try as hard as I could, I just couldn’t seem to come up with the right name. Ohhhhh…I tried. I would meditate for hours, waiting for the Spirits to club me on the head and tell me what my new name was to be. I would do tarot readings, trying in vain to gain some insight from the cards. I would drink chamomile tea and then go to bed, hoping to receive an answer in my dreams.
And I prayed. Ohhhhhh Goddess…how I prayed!
But alas…no luck.
Those 366 days went past pretty fast, and the day of my ordination rose bright and early on Midsummer morn. And I still was VirginiaBeachthepersonnottheplace… or “Gin” if you prefer. I was in a state of sheer panic – by what name was I going to announce myself to the Lady and Lord and take my vows? While having a spiritual name is not mandatory, I really, Really, REALLY wanted one!
The moment comes. I am brought forward before the altar to be announced to the Goddess and God. The High Priest asked me by what name did I wish to be known???
And at that very moment – without even thinking, without any planning whatsoever, I blurted it out…
Now where the hex did that come from???
But the minute I said it, it just felt right. It was as if the Spirits had been playing a little joke on me, withholding my name until the very last possible second, and then suddenly thrusting it out of my mouth and hands.
And somewhere in the back of my mind, I could see all those Deafies back at Gallaudet hooting and cheering. Yeah, gang – you teased me mercilessly about my name all those times in that dang newspaper office, but now I got the final laugh!
On that Midsummer Day, in front of the Sacred Altar, I became Ocean. And I’ve been Ocean for nearly 23 years since.
And yes….some of my friends do call me Osh for short.