How does one go about choosing a Craft name, and is it all that necessary? That really depends on you. When embarking on magical study, some Witches feel the need to choose a magical name to assist them in grooming their personality in a positive direction. Practicing the Craft changes you from the inside out, meaning it isn't necessary to wear particular garb, do your hair differently, or wear unusual make-up. The spiritual manifestation begins within. Choosing an appropriate magical name can assist you in your studies by giving you a trigger for positive reinforcement of the changes you wish to make within yourself.
What name, then, would be appropriate for you to choose? Again, this decision lies solely with you and your needs. Because magical people believe that words carry power, choosing a new name should be done with serious thought, as you will manifest through that name its history or properties. For example, I chose Silver (years ago when there were no other Silvers other than the Lone Ranger's horse) because the astral cord that connects our spirit to our bodies is said to be silver. To me, silver meant "that which binds the spirit to the human." I wanted to write spiritual books, so I thought this name would be appropriate.
You may come up with a name immediately, or you might wait months until an appropriate name makes itself known to you. Remember that you take on the history of any name, so choosing the name of a god or goddess may not be the wisest choice, given the personal attributes of these archetypes. The name you choose will pull particular energies toward you that you may not be ready to handle, or indeed, have no desire to deal with at all.
Try to be original in your choice, especially if you plan to do a lot of community service or write for magical publications. For years I was confused because there were at least five public Rhiannons and I never knew which Rhiannon was which. Argh! (I'm not picking on Rhiannons, that's just the name that came to mind). Naturally, there will probably be some duplication somewhere, but please try to be as original as possible. Imagine my surprise, when at a festival several years ago, I discovered that Raymond Buckland had used the magical name RavenWolf years before! Astounded comes to mind. I thought the name was entirely my own. And yes, I did apologize to Mr. Buckland when I was lucky enough to meet him, as I have always felt that is personally inappropriate to take another magical person's name as one's own.
Your magical name should "ring true" to you. You should be absolutely comfortable with what you have chosen. If you aren't, keep looking, the right name will come along.
What if you don't see the need for a magical name? Why, that's okay too. Our given names have great power, and if you feel comfortable with Janice, Alexander, or Hope, that's wonderful! What isn't okay is to make fun of another person because they did choose to take a magical name. Once you've chosen a magical name, how do you incorporate that name into yourself? You might like to begin with a ceremony. You should write the ritual yourself so that the entire process will be tailored to your personal energies, rather than looking for such a ceremony in a book. You may wish to purchase a gift for yourself, such as a necklace, ritual robe, a ring, statue, wall hanging, plaque, or bracelet to signify this step forward in your spiritual training. Designing a personal sigil that incorporates your name is another way to manipulate the energies that you wish to manifest. What happens if you grow out of your name? This does sometimes happen. In ceremony, lay the old name to rest with honor, and take on the new name. Perhaps you had a magical name, but now you wish to use your given name. There's nothing wrong in that. The only caution I will present is that of popping from one name to another, and then another, and so on, in a short span of time. Yes, we can grow out of our names, or even get tired of them, but choosing too many names actually minimizes the original spiritual significance. So too, if you have used a magical name for many years and are well known in the magical community, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for those who know you to let that name go because you have taken on its symbiotic identity.
Can you use your magical name as your legal name? Yes you can. Consult your nearest Pagan-friendly attorney to find out the expense and legal process required. It used to be that the IRS didn't really care what your name was on your income tax form as long as your social security number remained the same, and your paid your taxes. Now, with the new tax laws this is not so.
Finally, there is a practical reason for using a magical name, especially if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of magical people who are not ready (or willing) to come out of the proverbial closet, yet desire to network with others at festivals, magical shops, on the Internet, or through the mail system. Magical names will protect your identity to a point, but should not be used as a shield to insult or harm others. I hope that your name gives you as much pleasure, power, and positive change as mine has.