Ideally, you should have chosen a name prior to the ceremony. Most states require you to give your baby a name before leaving a hospital, and others mandate that you apply for birth certificates -- which of course requires a name -- within a month of birth. While there's no official Pagan Procedure Manual for choosing a name, if you want to have a Pagan Baby Name, you may want to read about Magical Names.
There are also some great resources for baby names based on different cultural associations here: Alternative Baby Names.
Wait until after the baby's umbilical cord has dropped off to perform this ceremony. Prior to that time, the baby is still symbolically connected to its mother -- once the cord is gone, the infant can be considered an independent being on her own accord.
The purpose of a naming ceremony is to present the new individual to the community. It ensures that the child is a part of something greater, and places the child under the protection of those present. As part of this, the parents may wish to appoint Guardians for their child. This position is similar to the Christian concept of Godparents. When choosing Guardians, make certain that they understand this is not the same as a legal guardian, but a symbolic position.
Another note of caution: if you're planning to invite non-Pagans to the ceremony -- which you certainly should, if they're part of your network of family and friends -- you may want to brief them ahead of time to let them know this is not exactly the same as a Christian baptism. The last thing you want is dear old Aunt Martha fainting because you've invoked spirits of the elements or some god she's unfamiliar with.
In this ceremony, the parents take on the role of High Priest and High Priestess. It is their chance to dedicate themselves and bind themselves to their child, and swear an oath to the new baby. It is their opportunity to tell the child that they will protect her, love her, honor her, and raise her to the best of their abilities.
Hold the ritual outside, if weather permits. If that's not an option, find a place big enough for everyone you've invited. You may wish to consider renting a hall. Consecrate the entire space beforehand -- you can do this by smudging if you like. Place a sturdy table in the center to use as an altar, and put whatever magical tools you normally use upon it. Also, have on hand a cup of milk, water or wine, and blessing oil.Invite all the guests to form a circle, filing in sunwise around the altar. If you normally call the quarters, do so now. The Guardians should take a place of honor beside the parents at the altar.
Call upon the gods of your tradition, and ask them to join you in the naming of the child. If the child is a girl, her father or another male family member should lead the ceremony; if the baby is a boy, his mother should preside. The leader says:We gather today to bless a child,
A new life that has become part of our world.
We gather today to name this child.
To call a thing by name is to give it power,
and so today we shall give this child a gift.
We will welcome her into our hearts and lives
and bless her with a name of her own.
The parents turn to the guests, and say:To be a parent is to love and nurture,
to lead a child to be a good person.
It is to guide them along the right path
and to both teach them and learn from them.
It is to rein them in, and to give them wings.
It is to smile at their joy, and weep at their pain.
It is to walk beside them, and then one day allow them to walk alone.
To be a parent is a great gift we have given ourselves.
and the greatest responsibility we shall ever have.
The leader (father or mother) should then turn to the appointed Guardians of the child, and ask:You stand beside us, for the love of this child.
Will you tell the gods who you are?
They should answer:We are (name) and (name), chosen to be Guardians for this child.
The parent asks:Do you know what it is to be a childâ€™s Guardian? The Guardians should answer: It is to love and nurture,
to show guidance and counsel.
It is to help the child make choices
should she need assistance.
It is to be a second mother and father
and to be there when called upon.
Place the baby on the altar (you can place her in car seat and strap her in if you're concerned that she might wriggle around). The parent uses the blessing oil to trace a pentagram (or other symbol of your tradition) on the baby's forehead, saying:May the gods keep this child pure and perfect,
and let anything that is negative stay far beyond her world.
Touch a drop of milk to the baby's lips, and say:May you always have good fortune,
may you always have good health,
may you always be joyful,
and may you always have love in your heart.
The leader then uses the blessing oil to trace the pentagram (or other symbol of your tradition) upon the baby's chest, saying:You are known to the gods and to us as (baby's name).
This is your name, and it is powerful.
Bear your name with honor, and may the gods bless you on this and every day.
The cup of water or wine is passed clockwise around the circle. As each guest takes a sip, they may raise the cup in honor of the baby, saying simply:I honor you, (baby name).
As the cup goes around the circle, the parents should hold their child and walk together, and presenting him or her to the guests as they honor the child. An alternative to this is to pass the baby from guest to guest, allowing each of them to kiss the child in turn, and offer their good wishes and blessings.
When the cup reaches the Guardians, they should say:Welcome, (baby name), to our family and to our hearts.
Your parents love you, and we thank them
for giving you the gift of life.
We ask the Gods to watch over you, (baby name),
and over your mother and father,
and we wish your family love and light.
Finally, the parents may hold the baby up to the sky (hold on tight!) so that the Gods can get a good look at the new child. Ask the group to focus on a blessing for the new child, and to hold onto their intent for a moment, sending their love and positive energy to the baby. Take a minute to reflect on what it means to be a parent, and how having this child in your life will change you. When everyone is ready, dismiss the quarters and close the circle in the manner of your tradition.
What You Need
- Friends, family and a baby
- A space large enough to hold them all
- A sturdy table
- A cup of wine or water
- Blessing oil