The Meaning of Names

My name is Jennifer Evans.

When I was a small child, my family called me Jenni. It suited me then to be labeled with a shortened familiar form of my name, spelled with an ‘i’ to be cute. I kept that short form all through high school, and when I went off to college, I arbitrarily changed over to using my full name.

I used to think my name was common, banal, and ordinary. In kindergarten there were three of us; in my first college math class, five of us sat in a row. My name marks me as part of a certain generation, as a “Gen-X”er. I must admit, I didn’t really like my name.

As a part of my growth process, I researched what my name meant, hoping for some cool inner meaning that would provide structure and direction and purpose to my life. Other people got to be ‘the strong one’ or ‘full of light’ or some other meaningful sounding phrase. Me? Well…

Jennifer has it’s roots in the name Guinevere, from the Arthurian legends. She’s famous for betraying Arthur with his best friend Lancelot. That name has roots in the Welsh language as Gwenhwyfar.

Gwenhwyfar is actually a pretty cool name. It has a couple of possible meanings, and one can extrapolate from those meanings to a couple of other, more interesting meanings. To start off, it means ‘white bride’ or ‘good bride’. As a young twenty something, I wasn’t too pleased with that name meaning. I was full of spit and vinegar, and wanted to be named after something deeply meaningful. A good bride just didn’t cut it for me.

Eventually, as I came into my thirties, I realized that I was, well, pretty well suited to be a good bride. I’d managed to somehow accumulate all the skills of a pioneer housewife (minus the submissive to her husband stuff). I could cook and clean, sew, knit, crochet, paint, draw, sculpt, bake, can, preserve, make soap and candles, plant a garden, splint a broken limb and comfort a crying child. I had to accept it. I’m a good bride, for the right mate.

Another meaning of Gwenhwyfar is ‘white ghost’, or ‘white spirit’. Or, has as been extrapolated by others, “soul”. From there, if you draw parallels between vastly different cultures, in the Hittite language, Ishara also means ‘white spirit’, and signifies the goddess of binding oaths. And, of course, the similarity of the name Ishara to the goddess name ‘Ishtar’ can’t be denied. Ishtar being, of course, one form of the goddess Isis, the single most widely worshipped goddess figure on the planet. (There are temples to her dating back to Roman times in London, for example.)

So, if you look at it in just the right light, with one eye closed and your head tilted sunwards, I’m named after a goddess. I’m pretty ok with that.

How I Got Here From There

I attended Texas A&M University, in College Station Texas for five years, accumulating in that time 147 hours of college coursework and a mountain of debt. I did not graduate with the class of 1999, as I should have, and in fact have not yet gone back to complete my degree. I was studying for a BA in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry, when I discovered a deep and abiding dislike of Organic Chemistry.

During my first semester in college, I was in the Corps of Cadets, a paramilitary organization, somewhat like ROTC, but with more traditions and rituals and hazing. I was miserable. I had joined so I could be in the band. I’d marched all through high school, even going to the state UIL marching championship twice, and had loved it. I naively thought the A&M Aggie Band would be like my high school marching band.

The experience of being in the Corps of Cadets plunged me into a depressive episode. I did not recognize it at the time, but I was not dealing well with my issues, and it took me a long time to recover from the trauma and shock of my experiences. In my searching for answers, for solutions and security, I discovered the wide world of pagan religions.

I went from being born again Baptist to questioning Gnostic, to half-way Buddhist, to neo-Wiccan, to shamanic pagan.

In 2004 I attended Burning Flipside, a Texas regional Burn event, in the style of Burning Man. The principles of radical self responsibility, the no spectators, 100% participation philosophy, and the experience of being around people just like me was life changing. I became a burner.

The place I am in now is a mixed and varied conglomerate of pagan, Buddhist and burner philosophies.

Burning Flipside 2009

After Burning Flipside in 2009, I re-entered my ‘normal’ life with a new set of priorities. I use the Flipside experience to reflect upon my life, evaluate and assess my personal growth progress to date. I also assess the process I use to create change within myself, and contemplate any needed changes.

This year, I have a renewed commitment to my art, my body, and my self. For the first time in years I have a sense of a libido, a connection to my physical self that I’ve been lacking most of my adult life. I have a new awareness of myself as a physical creature, rather than as a purely mental being. I’ve been aware of the split within myself between the intellectual, non-emotional nearly pure Ego self and the physical, emotional Id self. I find myself enjoying this new connection, and feel a bit anticipatory about where I will go from here.

I discovered during this Flipside experience that I have let my artistic leanings taper off to near nothing. I have been busy with several life changing events, but I don’t feel that letting something as important to me as my art just disappear is a good thing, with no regard to what else is happening in my life.  This blog itself is one answer to this tapering off.

So, Who Am I?

There are a number of labels and designations that can be applied to me in an attempt to describe who I am. I hope that, rather than listing off all the things that could be said to describe some aspect of myself, I can show who I am through my words, my art, and my communications with others.

Who am I? When I know, you’ll know, until then, I’d like to invite you to get to know me through this blog.

About the art at the top of the page:

The art used in the header was resized from an image found on wikipedia commons, liscensed creative commons 2.0. Credit for the awesome image is due to: Elbows.

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