Oriah Mountain Dreamer … How Her Name Came To Be

Good morning beautiful W3,

The snow is falling in big fluffy flakes, buses aren’t running, and we are keeping our loved ones off the roads. It’s pretty, all this snow, but it has a dangerous side. One must be wise in the wildness of it all!

The other day we were talking about names … the less than wonderful ones we may have been called by others – the nasty ones we have used on our Selves, the ones we identify with maybe in our professional lives, or our romantic lives, and … the ones we long for – that speak to our soul.

We sent a post about this out to the tribe as well, and received some amazing responses!

Resilient, vivacious, strong   *  Magical!  *   Highly sensitive badass *   

Just to name a few!

I thought it might also be inspiring to hear how one the most incredible and impactful mentors I have, Oriah Mountain Dreamer, was bestowed with her ‘unusual’ (to some) and unforgettable name.

I have borrowed the story from Oriah’s site, and edited it a little for length. But the story, and the meaning are here in every word.

The Story of Oriah’s Name:

Oriah has a long and unusual history with her name. In 1984, at thirty years of age, after the onset of severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, she had a dream where several elderly women- those she calls Grandmothers in the dream- told her to change her given name to Oriah as part of the process of healing.

Nervous about doing something others might see as strange, but desperate to be well, she took the name Oriah and has been called this (by everyone but her mother) since that time. Twenty years later, while doing a book tour, on three successive nights, in three different cities, she was told by people at the bookstores she was visiting that Oriah means light of God in Hebrew, and that it is an ancient Jewish custom to change a patient’s name when doing a healing, to invite new and healing energies.

A year after taking the name Oriah, still seeking healing, she went to a shamanic teacher who gave her the medicine name “Mountain Dreamer.” The shaman told her that a medicine name tells someone what gifts they have to offer the world in their lifetime and that Mountain Dreamer meant “one who likes to find and push the edge.”
Oriah, while deeply honouring the spiritual tradition from which she has received her name, understands that in our modern culture such a name is bound to prompt reactions. She even admits to sometimes sharing the prejudice of thinking that people using names like Mountain Dreamer might be a little flaky! So, she good naturedly explains, when asked, that Oriah Mountain Dreamer is indeed a “real” name, although not her birth name, and reflects on the fact that in our culture what is considered “most real” is that which indicates familial association (inheritance rights, marital status and/or patrilineage) while some other cultures would consider a spiritual name more “real.”

In the spring of 2006 Oriah and HarperOne decided to release the paperback editions of some of the books simply under the name Oriah in the hopes that this would make her insights, stories and meditations available to a wider audience.

In her daily life Oriah uses her family name, House, although she finds that leaving phone messages from Oriah House has led some to think the call must be from a group home or social institution. And so the process of naming and explaining continues.

What I find so interesting is the expectation to explain a name, or description, purely because it is out of the norm of the Susan, Mary, Jessica variety. (All GREAT names too!)  Yet, it also provides the opportunity to share something greater doesn’t it? Something bigger than the name itself … but the meaning and the story behind it, which I believe is what opens minds, opens hearts, and opens ‘wings’.

So when we ask … “What’s in a name?”

That’s what is in Oriah’s name.  What about you W3? Did you do Step #1 of the exercise this week of:

Paint the picture of your soul, literally. 

Whether you use crayons, paints, words, other art forms, music, chants, movement, dance. What comes up for you? Try your best to capture it, to remember it, to write it down. Be descriptive and abundant. There is no one to judge your choices. 

Now it’s time for Step #2 – to put words to your visions.  Just like in the FB post, think of the soul-filling words that best describe YOU. Don’t worry – you don’t have to actually change your name. 

But this exercise may have you thinking about your “family name” differently, and this exercise can be the foundation to remind you of who you REALLY are, should you ever be “called out of your name.”

You Are Loved, 

PS. Share the words you come up with in the FB post – they will inspire others.

PPS. We received a most beautiful video from a member of the Sisterhood who purchased multiple memberships to be able to gift them to her friends. We LOVE this, the perfect embodiment of Sisterhood!

With the holidays coming, a Sisterhood membership makes the BEST gift!  (just click “Ship To A Different Address”)

PLUS, then you and your soul-sister bestie can attend the workshops together and have yet another chance to connect on a meaningful level. (With today’s busy and crazy lives, we often don’t get a lot of these opportunities … I know this with my own important friendships)

Use the coupon code: SharetheLove for $10 off your gift. I mean if you’re going to give a gift, surely we can too right? 

And of course, a full $15 from your gift purchase will still be contributed to the Wild and Wise Setu Projects, improving healthcare, education, working conditions and daily life for the Artisans who have contributed to your box.

It’s a full circle gift that just keeps on giving. I LOVE giving gifts with meaning to the people I love. We’d be honoured if you shared the Sisterhood with the people in your life that you care about most.