New Moon in Gemini: You Name It

If you’ve ever known a Gemini person (and chances are good you have, since they seem to know everyone), you’ve probably noticed their fondness for nicknames. The Mercury-ruled are staggeringly adept at using just a word or two to sum up an entire human being.

This is a mixed blessing, since as we all know too well, nicknames are the ammunition of choice in the adolescent war on self-esteem. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me,” was the favored incantation to ward off nasty nicknames. But who were we kidding? Nasty nicknames hurt – not just because they often called attention to our most embarrassing physical characteristics. They hurt because they were used to define us by those characteristics, to reduce us to a set of qualities that, more often than not, were out of our control.

It’s not just nicknames that threaten to pigeonhole us. The names we’re given at birth don’t just tell us what we’re called, but who we are. They reveal something about the family into which we’re born, and about our place in it. Family legend holds that on the muggy August afternoon when I made my Planet Earth debut, my mother – worn out from a fourth and unwelcome pregnancy- handed me to my great aunt and commanded, “Name her.” The name that dear relative gave me is noteworthy for a couple of reasons. First, I’m the only one of my siblings who was not named after anybody else. Unlike my brothers and sister, named for family members, close friends, and in one instance actor Kirk Douglas, I’m no one’s namesake. Second, I wasn’t even named after the month in which I was born, but perversely, another month entirely. There’s something about my name – about me – that refuses to add up.

Being named April when I was born in August set me up for a lifetime of impertinent questions such as, “Why didn’t they name you August?” (How should I know? Take it up with Aunt Charlotte.) Still, I like my name. I like my free agent status in the namesake leagues, and I enjoy being a walking non sequitur. My name suits me… or perhaps I grew to suit it.

Naming anything – a person, a pet, a book – is a delicious, creative, and powerful experience, a chance to step into Mercury’s winged shoes. By naming something, we define it. We tell the world what it is, before it gets a chance to declare itself on its own terms. It’s the ultimate branding maneuver, as well as the acme of the self-fulfilling prophecy. My husband found this out when he named our cat. We hadn’t even been properly introduced to the kitten with the slightly mangy hair sticking out in all directions when Jonny said, “Let’s take a closer look at that spikey one.” Now seven years old, Spike has a sleek, smooth coat; but he also has the sharpest, spikiest claws known to man or beast, and isn’t particularly careful about sheathing them.

Just living up to his name.

So why are Mercury, and Gemini, associated with naming? I suspect it has to do with Hermes, Mercury’s Greek counterpart and the god of boundaries and thresholds. Astrological Mercury symbolizes the delineation of our personal boundaries, clarifying where we begin and the rest of the world ends. Few items in our biographical satchel contain as much power as our name to set us apart as distinct from others.

I’ve known a number of people, all women, who have legally changed their names for reasons other than marriage. One told me she changed her name because she wished to distance herself from the family who gave her that name. Another wanted a unique, creative moniker; yet another simply claimed that she didn’t identify with her name – “I’m not that person.” They took the reigns of Mercury’s power and chose names that told the world a new story about who they are. I applaud such efforts at personal rebranding. Renaming yourself can be disorienting to everyone who knows you – but of course, that’s part of the point.

And part of the point of Gemini itself lies in shape shifting. Sometimes, as this Gemini season reminds us, turning your life around is simply a matter of throwing off your persona and constructing a new one from scraps of memory and imagination. So the Gemini New Moon is a good time to think about what you call yourself – not just your name, but your titles: mother, son, wife, CEO. And most of all, to rethink the secret names you call yourself, some of which – like playground nicknames – probably aren’t very nice. Names like loser, slacker, underachiever, fat, ugly, dumb. Even if you don’t always come out on top, even if you’ve put on a few pounds and gotten a bad haircut, even if you didn’t score as well as you’d have liked on your SATs – Gemini hastens to reassure you, You’re not just one thing. As much as impish Mercury likes the challenge of reducing us to just a few words, even he doesn’t insist that those words remain static.

The truth is, no one adjective, no one name, could possibly contain you. You’re not your failures. You’re not your successes. You’re not the name your family gave you, or the cruel nicknames you were given on the schoolyard. At this liminal, magical New Moon, remember everything else that you are. Imagine yourself differently, and give that imagining a bright and joyful name all its own. It’s never too late to be someone new.

© 2010 April Elliott Kent. All rights reserved.

3 comments to " New Moon in Gemini: You Name It "

  • Alannah

    I chose a new name for myself when I was 15, but it took me until I was 37 to change it because I knew how upset my parents would be (and wow, were they!). I have found people’s reactions to be interesting… I’d say 95% of the people I’ve encountered just don’t understand why someone would do that (and almost everyone asks me why I changed it, which I find bizarre). I didn’t hate my name; it just wasn’t who I was. I felt like I was living a double life before I changed it, and now I just am. Nearly everyone who didn’t know me before the name change has told me that my old name didn’t fit me at all. I agree.

    Excellent post – I always enjoy them but this one was especially fantastic!

  • diana larrabee

    My parents didn’t realize my name was Diana.Third grade report card had Diana listed my
    as my first name. My Mother was so upset,she looked for my birth records. Now everything was crossed off on the paper religion etc. but Diana was my name. My mother died at 91 and never one could pronounce my name. She thought my name was Diane. How boring. No one ever spoke the correct name Diana. I found later found I was deslexic.
    After suffering 27 years I changed my name to Rusty. When Jessica started school, I began again with Diana. Wanted everything to be kosher. I know it is just a name, I loved Diana, Goddess etc. I love you Caroline, we have reading with Rachel on Sunday, she is a mess. I am also praying you will able to see Jessica shekeepsbees on 6/20

  • […] Something different is happening this month – today in fact. The new moon for July is not in Cancer as it normally would be, with its corresponding themes of Motherhood, nurturing, the home, community and self-protection. The July new moon is in Gemini again! How unusual! […]

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