Jul 15

July 17, 2021

Becoming Tula

Many of you know that I have two names. Francesca is the name I was born with: it’s my professional name, my family name, my name that connects me to history. I love this name, and yet I wouldn’t be myself without another name I have too: Tula.

Since some of you have asked how I got that name, here’s a synopsis of the story, which perhaps will inspire you to consider your own version. In my 20s I was a backpacker in India. I studied and worked in a spiritual community where some people officially became “seekers” and were given a new name, a blessing on the path they had chosen. Well, I liked that very much – but I didn’t want someone else (or a computer program!) to pick out a name for me. I am a word person, after all.

One day I heard a word – Tula – and I just knew that it was supposed to be my name. It’s a funny thing, but I felt it like a shockwave. So what I did was, I secretly kept the name to myself, like a special marble, and rolled it around silently for 3 weeks. Then I traveled to a sacred mountain in the south of the country, where every full moon the tip of the mountain is covered with ghee and set on fire. It wasn’t the full moon, so I was able to climb to the top (barefoot – I was definitely in my 20s), and scratched my new name, Tula, in the buttery ash on top. Then I came down, went back to my community, and told people my new name.

(I also wrote my folks, who probably thought I was crazy.)

This is a very short telling of my name of Tula. The important thing to know is that the name stuck. At first it was scary to say it, but then it got easier, and I became the name. Sometimes I still give people a choice: Do you want to call me Francesca, or Tula? I am both – but Tula captures the part of me that is a traveler, a dancer, my own self-created person.