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The Tale of Tangwystyl

or It's Your Name and You Can Change If You Want To

by Heather Rose Jones

copyright © 2002, all rights reserved

In consulting with people on SCA names, I often hear arguments along the lines of "I can't change my name -- I've been using it forever." "But this is the name all my friends know me by -- I'd never get them to use something else." and the occasional "It's the name on my award scrolls [alternately: the name I got my awards under] -- it wouldn't feel right to change it."

In answer to these objections, I offer my own history.

I started off in the SCA using the name Keridwen o'r Mynydd Gwyrdd -- well, actually I started using something slightly different that I'd come up with before I joined the SCA, but I decided it wasn't enough like a "real name" and picked up Keridwen instead. (I didn't take it directly from Welsh mythology -- there was a minor character named Keridwen in one of Mary Stewart's Arthurian novels, and surely you could trust a serious author like Mary Stewart to use real names, right?) I believe I started using Keridwen o'r Mynydd Gwyrdd some time in early 1978 -- my first real event was 12th Night in January 1978.

So I became a local officer, autocratted a few events, volunteered to be local seneschal and in June 1979 was given my Award of Arms. (I'm just going to do a brief overview of the awards to make the point, not to brag -- assume corresponding activity levels throughout.) In June 1980, I was inducted into the Order of the Laurel and that must have been about the time I submitted my name for registration, since it passed the College of Arms in November 1980. In August 1986 I was made a Pelican, and in May 1987 given a Court Barony. This was the period when I was becoming widely known as a heraldic commenter in the College of Arms, and getting my reputation for being knowledgeable about Welsh stuff.

Somewhere in there I'd started thinking about making my name more historically accurate, and started with the back end, registering "Keridwen ferch Morgan Glasfryn" in Febrary 1991. Under that name, I was given a Grant of Arms in April 1991 (yeah, I know, a bit out of order), and won the kingdom A&S championship putting me into the Order of the Golden Poppy in January 1992. That summer I started publishing my journal of Welsh historic research, "Y Camamseriad" -- I published the first two issues under this name, the second two under the next one.

I'd decided somewhere in there that I eventually wanted to move away from "Keridwen" (found in period only for a mythological figure) and had settled on "Tangwystyl" as my goal, but I was thinking of saving it for a ceremonial name-change when I got my PhD (having just started grad school). But having made the decision, I decided what the heck, and made the change to Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn (also adjusting the spelling for the 13th century) in June 1994.

So, in summary, under the name Keridwen, I started my SCA career, received two peerages and a court barony, became internationally known as a researcher in names and Welsh topics, and spent the first 16 years of my SCA career. Then I changed my name to Tangwystyl, and none of that went away.

How did I get my friends to use the new name? I told them all ahead of time that I was planning a change, and what it would be. Then, when I submitted the heraldic paperwork, I informed them that the change was in effect. And after that, I politely reminded people of the change when they used the old name. That's it -- that's all it took. The only person who still insists on calling me "Keridwen" is a woman who dropped out of the SCA back in the mid-'80s whom I occasionally see at science-fiction conventions.

My overall observation has been that the social success of a name change depends largely on how sincere the bearer is about the change. The ones that don't work seem to be those where the person didn't really want to change but thought they "ought to", or decided that they needed to find something to register (but weren't really attached to using it). It can also be a problem if you make a big fuss when folks slip up on the change. It's really deadly if people discover that it's "fun" to call you by the old name just to rile you up.

So you can tell me that you don't want to change your name. And you can tell me that you don't choose to change your name. But don't tell me that you can't change your name, because I know better.


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