I live a life in which I meet quite a few people with totem animal names. In fact, I've been in rooms full of people where I feel a bit awkward confessing that my name is simply “Jonathan,” and the temptation to jazz that up as “Jonathan ben Ephraim” doesn't help a bit. So I was tickled by this article about people choosing silly “Raven” and “Wolf” names.
Wolves are no more noble than scorpions. They'll happily rip your face off between munching on fluffy rabbits and sweet little mice. But wolves are furry and gorgeous and they look off into the distance as though they contain some unspoken wisdom. Bitch, please. They were thinking about how nice some noble caribou would taste right about now. But this seems to be the prerequisite for liking an animal enough to name yourself after it — that the animal is adorable or fiercely beautiful, which reflects well on the namee. No one ever names themselves Salamander Mangymoose, or Swift Ostrich, or Starmanatee. Yet these are perfectly lovely animals — they just don't make you look dark and cool, do they? Yeah. I'm onto you.
Now for the record, I know a “Raven” who I figure gets a special pass because she's mostly a scientific rationalist and she chose it in spite of being blonde. And the mighty Joi Wolfwomyn also gets a special pass, in spite of her silly spelling, for going out of her way to observe in her Re/search: Modern Pagans interview that “you don't meet that many Pagans whose names are Aardvark, Piranha, or Snail.” Plus, she has enough personal fortitude and presence that she has a genuine right to name herself whatever she pleases.
But really, if you're gonna go the totem animal route, you ought to do something distinctive and unique, with very personal symbolism. Isn't that the point?
I know a guy who has it right: his name is “Fly.” He grew up as “Maggot,” but then had a transformative experience one day. Now that is cool.
Update: Thorn just introduced me to Shaggy Manatee. Nothing beats the tale of Fly, but still cool.