This month makes 2 years that I’ve been Ynanna. The change from going by my birth name to my chosen name started late in 2011 and manifested itself right before my nervous breakdown in September 2012. I knew when I walked home two summers ago from my therapist’s office that I needed to change my name. “Carmen” didn’t feel like who I am. Or at least not who I am completely. I needed to have a balance of light and darkness. Like Inanna and Ereshkigal.

Ynanna is my spelling of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, sensuality, lust, and warfare. Inanna is the Queen of Heaven and Earth. She is the embodiment of all the phases and parts of feminine energy. Her most famous myth is a metaphor for the ultimate spiritual initiation into wisdom, expanded consciousness, and adulthood, in which one willingly faces their shadows and their demons, to embrace both sides of them and be complete and stand in their power. The story goes that Inanna went to the the Underworld dressed in her finest attire. Ereshkigal, Inanna’s older sister and the Queen of the Dead, is not happy about this. She instructs her gatekeeper to strip Inanna of everything, symbolic of having to give up everything in the descent into the unknown and darkness. Inanna is then killed, and rises from the dead after three days.

I believe my healing journey brought me to the point of such profound transformation. I became very conscious of my wounds when I was graduating from high school, so this change of vibration had been 9 years in the making. That’s what taking on a new name is – a complete change of the wavelength I vibrate on. It is connected to why curse words strike chords in conversations – they carry a certain energy and history to them. Names in particular carry our life force. They carry our history and destiny. I hadn’t considered this until I pledged for my sorority and was establishing the chapter at New Paltz. We as a group of women were setting the tone for the women who would become our chapter sisters by choosing to call ourselves the Orisha Chapter. As I studied in the Black Studies Department, I understood how countries that had been colonized underwent name changes that caused a separation from their primordial identities. Examples include how Quisqueya became Dominican Republic and Boriken became Puerto Rico. Though they are the same land, the names they now go by define them as colonized and so goes the history of these countries. The change of name was a change in the course of their self-determination.

Before Afro-descendant and indigenous people were killed and robbed of our lands, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual faculties, we were very conscious of how we named our children. It was understood that a name carried a person’s destiny and their livelihood. That still goes on today but not as purposely at times. I believe that when I was named Carmen, it was very intentional. I carry the story very close to my heart because I know it means a lot to my grandmother, my mother and family. I will not ever stop having a part of Carmen in me. However, when I am called by that name, I feel like a ghost is being called. As though my own Underworld is being summoned. I experienced a very profound sense of death when I was violated in 2010 and kept saying that to myself. I felt like I was dying. Around this time, I also began to lose my home, relationships, jobs…being stripped of everything to be more of who I really am. My mental health was deteriorating quickly and it was scary to reach and be so intimate with my demons and shadows. I found it harder and harder to explain to people that I was changing quickly.

It was a godsend to be away from people who have previously known me as Carmen for this year of my midwifery training. I’ve had the opportunity to be Ynanna fully. I really enjoy being Ynanna. It feels more like who I am and what my destiny is meant for. It encompasses my large spirit. I felt that changing my name was my rebirth, my rising from the death that truly threatened to snuff out my light. Ynanna is stronger, courageous, healed, more complete. I feel that becoming Ynanna was my initiation into my spiritual adulthood. I just hope that more folks who have known me as Carmen can transition to calling me Ynanna. It makes me happy to be called by who I feel I am now. Though, I have to admit that there are sometime when being called Carmen feels comforting, and only by certain people. It is certainly an interesting dynamic to live in. I liken it to Inanna and Ereshkigal. I must have both entities inside me to be whole and complete. It hasn’t been easy for myself to transition. I had moments where I’d ask myself if it was a good idea to shift. If I was or sounded crazy. If I was okay. Realizing that I had people around me who also made this type of change gave me the courage to become Ynanna.

Becoming Ynanna has given me the ability to embrace both my darkness and my light. Having taken the descent to my underworld many times, my name is a reminder of that strength that I have gained on this journey to being in balance with every aspect of who I am – both Carmen and Ynanna.

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