Lavinia is a unique name and one that I have had an uneasy relationship with. When I was a young child, I was embarrassed that no one could pronounce it and that I was so different from the other children in school. Kids teased me and often purposefully mispronounced it knowing that I would cringe. I got into the habit of not correcting others in a stubborn show of defiance, answering to anything that I was called. My siblings gave me the nickname Vin, and that is still what they call me today. “Lavinia” took a backseat in my home and would stay there for quite some time.
As I got older, I began to accept my name but was often asked if it was a family name. My name is actually a Subud name. My parents were involved in this organization and practiced its spiritual exercises before I was even born. My mother went into latihan, the active practice of Subud, during our deliveries, which consisted of loud singing in the delivery rooms much to the shock of the medical team. I was also witness to a constant stream of Subud practitioners in our home growing up. Members of Subud can travel the world and stay with other Subud families and as such; we had many foreign guests that stayed with us akin to a Subud hostel. My father, concerned about what the Catholic school I attended would think about this, made sure to tell me not to share with others how I was named. This did nothing but make me feel ashamed of my name and even a bit isolated. I wondered why I should be ashamed of my name? Especially when my name had been given as a spiritual guidepost with the belief that it fit my true self and served as an expression of this to the outside world.
“Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.”
As life progressed as it inevitably does, I became pregnant and once again lost “Lavinia”. My children called me “mom” or “mommy” and my husband didn’t speak with love when using my name. It was as if that unique person that I was named to be was in hibernation, lost to the sterilization of self and the new acceptance of the pack mentality of a nuclear family unit. I was just Mrs. so and so or my husband’s wife. No longer unique in my identity and still unable to see that I eternally carried this with me regardless of my name seen by the world, I was lost.
Around this same time, one of the deeper spiritual questions that I began to ask was “If I am not my name than who am I?” The universe heard my persistent questioning and began to present a series of events to assist me with the answer. I went through an emotionally challenging divorce, went back to school to get a masters degree and reentered the workforce outside of the dance studio. I found people addressing me by my name along with asking all sorts of curious questions about its origin. I usually used the fallback of “It is a very old Latin name” which of course was true. One day in the library a theatre faculty member came up to me and said, “You do know that Lavinia is a character in the Shakespearean tragedy Titus Andronicus in which she is raped, her tongue and hands are cut off and she is later killed by her father because of the rape…” Wow! I did not know that. I felt oddly protective of this character that shared my name and very proud that I had survived my own metaphorical version of this story in my marriage. It was one of the first times that I recall really connecting with my name as a spiritual warrior of sorts.
“I was wedded to all the stars of the sky.There was not a single star left, and I married every one of them with great spiritual pleasure. Then I married the moon.”
As I worked through these challenging times, I continued to slowly relearn to connect with my name and who I was as an individual. I was no longer someone’s wife, but just “Lavinia”. All of my weirdness, quirkiness and creativeness started to reappear as that little girl that was once so carefree began to re-emerge. I began to proudly introduce myself to people and enjoyed their response to hearing a name they had probably never heard before. My name sounded beautiful to me again and was a true reflection of who I was once again becoming. The reclamation of self was in full bloom.
I have now arrived at acceptance that my name is uniquely suited to me. I am a beautiful, loving, intelligent and creative soul. No one can truly take a name from me, it is so much more than letters on a paper, It has been carried on my heart, a branding of sorts. Beyond the Latin meaning, the name also means “Purity” or “pure of heart”. I believe part of my life contract is to continue to represent my name with integrity. My foray into mysticism is just one chapter of this lifelong journey.