Why choose a craft name? A craft name is an alias, a witch name. Think of it as a pen name, a stage name, or a business name. You don't have to have a craft name to be a pagan or to practice witchcraft, but you might want one. There are compelling spiritual reasons to choose a craft name, but its primary physical purpose is to protect you.
In the witch-hunting days, members of covens had to meet in secret. They risked their lives to practice rituals and rites, especially on a regular basis such as with esbats timed to the phases of the moon. Frequent meetings could attract attention. These were times in which everyone in the village knew everyone else for several generations back, and nonconformists and outsiders were viewed with suspicion. Meanwhile, agents of the church tried to identify and infiltrate pagan groups to bring them down. The craft name arose as a practical necessity. If everyone in the coven knew everyone else only by made-up names, then no one could be captured and forced to give up people's real identities.
This precaution still applies. You might need to keep your pagan or Wiccan identity secret from your larger mundane world. Perhaps you fear discrimination or harassment. Maybe you are a private person who doesn't wish to be constantly under scrutiny as the only Wiccan in your small town. For whatever reason, you are staying in the "broom closet." The last thing you want is for someone from the pagan community to accidentally publish your real name on a pagan mailing list or petition that would "out" you permanently on the worldwide web. But if you are known to your pagan brothers and sisters only by a craft name, you can prevent the connection of your religious faith with your legal identity.
There is another way that your craft name can protect you, especially in the internet age. As with online dating, you might not want to reveal personal information to new pagan friends until you know them better. Many newcomers to paganism and Wicca wonder how to find the right spiritual community where they will feel comfortable. Looking online and then scheduling meet-ups is often the only real way to do so. Here the protection of a craft name works both ways. The group gets to check you out and you get to evaluate them. If the fit isn't good, either party can cut off further communication without taking the risk that rejection will lead to someone vengefully hunting down someone else's home address. Anonymity can be a buffer between people that protects everyone's safety and allows the exchange of personal information to proceed at a cautious pace.
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