The Cherokee Naming Ceremony

The number seven is spiritually very important to the Cherokee.  Ancient Cherokee society was grouped around the seven clans: Blue, Long Hair, Bird, Paint, Deer, Wild Potato and Wolf.  Seven also represented the levels of spiritual attainment and also the levels of material manifestation.  It was also the number of levels within the Cherokee universe.  This number was very important as part of the traditional naming ceremony.

Between four to seven days after the birth of a baby, a name would be chosen by an elder in the family, usually one of the Beloved Women.  The baby would be taken by a priest/Medicine Man and waved four times over a fire while a prayer was said. The naming ceremony traditionally took place within seven days of the birth and was done in a place of running water where the body was immersed in the water seven times.

A baby’s name was subject to change later in its life, if it earned a new name through an outstanding act or a great accomplishment.  Cherokee are not stuck with their birth name all their life.  In other words, naming is the ability to evolve and change in your identity.  The name, of course, bestows certain powers and responsibilities.

In western society, it’s almost as if you can’t change; you can’t evolve; you can’t grow. From Cherokee perspective, your name reflects who you are.  It can reflect what you’ve done.  But as you go on in life, you may want to let go of that and take another name. The Cherokee belief is that you have that right.  However, it should be noted that in naming ceremonies we receive our names through much prayer and searching.  Our Cherokee names are sacred and should not be cast aside easily like tomorrow’s morning newspaper. They are honorable names given in trust.



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