Ritual: Finding Baby Names Through a Shaman

My informant SJ told me about another Korean ritual where expecting mothers go to a shaman to get a name for their baby. SJ said that all the women in their family had gone to a shaman to get names for their babies, and when their mother was pregnant with them, she did as well. Koreans see it as an auspicious ritual and believe that it will bring prosperity to the baby. This was how SJ got their name and it means “Wise Existence”. Every name has a different meaning and it is based on many aspects, like when the baby is due and what gender they are, and their name also helps to determine their spirituality and their future.

As I was hearing SJ tell this story, I thought that this was such an interesting way of finding baby names and I love how meaningful each name is. It then made me think about my own name and how my parents came up with it, so I decided to call my mom and ask her about it. After talking to my mom on the phone, I actually did find out a lot of interesting things about my Mandarin name, 李小菲. She told me that because I was born in 2003 the last character in my name has the grass radical in it (the top part of the character that looks like a line with two dashes in it). She laughed and explained that this was because 2003 is the year of the sheep and sheep eat grass. I also laughed in surprise and didn’t know if I should have been offended that my mother decided to name me after grass. She then went on to tell me that the name as a whole meant living freely with a life full of joy and how that was all she wanted for me. I was touched to hear this and now I have a deeper appreciation for my name.