I was made aware of the tradition of gaining new and varied names through my contact with indigenous people the world over. People were given new names when they passed through rites of passage, and I feel it is an interesting and valid way of marking our progress through life. I have been named in a variety of ways.
‘Lolkishami’ – The Father Of The Beloved
As I mentioned in the long biography, I was given this name by the Samburu tribe of northern Kenya. Every twenty or so years the Samburu create a ceremony, ‘Muratare’ – male circumcision. The ceremony marks their passage of time. This ceremony has been create and held hundreds of times. Every time it is held, it enables a generation of boys to turn into men, and each generation is given it’s own special name. I filmed the ceremony in the year 2006, and the 109 boys initiated, were given the generational name ‘The Beloved’. They were now John ‘The Beloved’ Smith. Each new generation receives it’s own special name.
Each generation had to wait sixteen or more years until the next generation was named, before they could marry or have children. Well, that was the theory.
The elders could recite hundreds of names, each one representing a generation. Many just weird and strange ‘Kirru Kirru’ the generation of the sound of crickets, or the totally naked, the dawn risers, and many more. The elders claimed to be able to recite over 100 generational names, each one representing about 20 years, in other words going back 2000 years.
My name ‘Lolkishami’ was given to me near the end our stay. It reflected my ability to persist, and was not given lightly. The elders called it my ‘village name.’ They said when I return to the village I would be recognised, and known as Lolkishami – Lol meaning father, and Kishami the beloved.
The Crack In The Pavement That Lets The Yellow Flower Burgeon
I was given this name at the end of a process and workshop looking at eldership. In the workshop we were invited to work with each to create new names which summed us up in new ways, and would help us in the future. The process involved working mainly with people who didn’t know you, As with Lolkishami, it has two parts. ‘The crack in the pavement’, representing a change and opportunity to develop something new. The flower, which would not have been able to flourish without the crack. In that sense it is a process – when the crack appears, it allows the flower to fulfil it’s purpose.
The Man Who Can Make Men Cry
I was given this name by a group of male social and care workers., with whom I created a number of weekend residencies. They all worked for ‘Kids Company’, and it was part of the companies on-going staff training. I was treated as the elder, I set the fire, in the circle I sat in the place of wisdom (not in the direction of the smoke). I would mostly just tell stories, and the men listened. The challenge from me to the group was for them as individuals to get through the weekend without crying. No-one succeeded. At some point each one cried, unable to resist the depth and potency of the stories I told.
The Beloved Outlaw
This name was given to me by an individual who had attended a talk I gave in Glastonbury. They had been so impressed by how I could beguile an audience of 100 people, they wanted to mark their thanks and respect for my abilities and personality. Building on the themes and stories I used they created a new and very personal name. Including references to the Samburu and Native American traditions. This lead to me deepening my knowledge, and creating the concept of the Compassionate Fugitive.
The Outlaw Healers
To be compassionate in today’s society is seen to be weak, to be open to being exploited, to be wasting your time. However, there are some people who have retained and nurtured their compassion. Those that have done this are compassionate fugitives, both internally and externally. There is a thin line of connectivity in all our hearts to the shadowy, shape-shifting, transformative work of ‘the outlaw healers’. These historically significant fugitives have always inhabited the edges and fringes of society. There they weave, brew and concoct mysterious and magical effigies, potions and artefacts beyond our comprehension. These ragged perpetuators are all we have left of immense dynasties, planet sized rebellions, they are our threadbare connections to a vibrant past.
Over the past thousands of years we have expended immense amounts of effort, time and hatred in our cultural pursuit, persecution of these fragile strangers. We are so wrong to attempt to extinguish these peoples. Indeed, in these dreadful, apocalyptical times, they may be one of the few hopes for us to still have some type of future as a species.
As ‘civilised’ people we have invented science specifically to attack these thousand named outsiders. You may think you have no connection to witches; wizards; warlocks; shaman; anarchists; geniuses; angels; healers; seers; medicine person; witch doctor; peai; peaiman; kahuna; angekok; pawang; dukun. but we are. We just forgot, or we were told to not be so stupid.
Isaac Newton was not what he seemed, he was one of the most famous outsiders. Whilst working in Cambridge he supposedly had a mental breakdown between 1675 and 1679. During that time he wrote many volumes of books, theories and articles, according to the scientific community this work was incomprehensible. According to him they reflected his experimentation with alchemy. The official story was that he ‘became well again’, and then wrote his masterpiece ‘Principia’ in 1687. A revolutionary text without precedent, the book on which modern science is founded didn’t arrive out of the ether, or maybe it did. It was the result of a journey into insanity, the study of alchemy, and the rejection of the cultural norms and boundaries.
This is a call to arms. Let’s be compassionate to ourselves and to others.