Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Secret Names

In a post on the Dark Mountain Blog called The Ecology of Language, Abbie Simmonds writes:

Mythologist Martin Shaw encourages his students to develop a practice of giving twelve secret names to the plants, animals or ‘things’ they encounter in nature and to speak those names out loud. He comments that ‘inventive speech appears to be a kind of catnip to the living world’ — an enlivening force. And surely it must be seen that those that love and know the land they live upon have a hundred names for snow or twenty different names [for] mud or, at the very least, three different names for the garden robin. In giving something a name, we deepen our relationship with it and in finding many names we find ourselves watching, listening, thinking more deeply about that bird, plant, flower or bug — by engaging through language, we come to know it better. 

Must those names always be secret, though? 

Perhaps sometimes, for they are our own personal way of forming relationships with the Others, and those relationships will often be private, intimate, not to be intruded upon. Our own special connection to the more-than-human world. There is a kind of magic in that.

Yet I have decided to share my twelve names for the eastern spinebill, a little bird who tends to be nearby all through the summer, but who I only really come to see up close in autumn, around March and April.


Whir-Winged Piper

Flight Magician

Brown Honey Sip

Singer of Wing and Throat

Faster-than-Sight Traveller

Slip Through Air Sprite


White-Breasted Flitter

Autumn Friend

Flutter Guest

Marvel Eye

Visitor of My Heart

One I Welcome

I challenge you to come up with some of your own secret names for the creatures and the landscape around you, to speak them out loud, and make your own magic.

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