Thursday, February 20, 2014

What's Your Praise Name?

I was thinking this evening and remembered (who knows why) the Ndebele custom of praise names. No research here, so I may have the details wrong; but I think it works something like this.

I have a surname, but the Ndebele people have "isibongo", literally a "thank name". Your name may be Sibanda (a name combining lion and courage), so when someone thanks you they use your name: "eSibanda!" One can then add praise names referring to your ancestors. "ESibanda! Son of the great fighter! Son of the one who saved the village!"

A good time to use the thank name + praise names is when thanking your children. They learn who they come from, what their parents where known for, what qualities they can make their own.

So I wonder what praise names I could have used when my sons were young to tell them who they come from. Vaughn walks in and hands me the coffee I asked for. "EClimenhaga! From the one who remembers! From the church genealogist!" My father's memory is a constant source of wonder and delight for his family. I asked once for memories of Bishop Steigerwald, a missionary from the 1920s when Dad was a small boy. Dad promptly told me of a Christmas party when he was four or five years old, and his encounter with the big man (big in every sense) who was like a grandfather to the missionary children. Remembering something from 90 years ago! The one who remembers.

Grandfather had a similar ability to remember things, showed often by his command of the genealogies of the families in the Brethren in Christ Church. The church genealogist.

I could bring in Slagenweit grandparents also. "From the one who works hard": Grandfather S was a dairy farmer who held on to his farm during the years of the depression. "From the joker": PapPap was a consummate joker--once he backed me (a frightened four-year old) into a corner pretending to be a bear, until I pointed my finger at him and said, "Bang!" He fell over and played dead.

Mothers and Grandmothers could have their own names: What would one call the person who held the family together and helped each of us become our very best?

Now I need to think of the praise names for Lois' family--Mother (Engle) and Dad Heise; their parents; back three or four generations. A way to pass on to our sons who we are and what we value. Of course, our sons are grown. So I'll have to start with the next generation. Meanwhile I can practice: "Son of the Artist." (Memories of Grandma Climenhaga pursuing art among people who thought that art was simply worldly.)

No comments: