Friday, February 25, 2011


The Oscars are coming up, and one name from this years films that stood out for me was Ariadne. Ariadne was Ellen Page's character in the fantastic-but-overrated Inception. I swear that I had never heard of this name before the movie. Now it seems like I'm seeing it everywhere.

Ariadne (pronounced "air-ee-AHD-nay") is a Greek name meaning "very holy one." This is the name of an important character from Greek mythology. Ariadne played a pivotal role in the story of Theseus and the Minotaur.

Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos of the island of Crete. The Minotaur was actually her half-brother. The god Poseidon caused her mother to become sexually attracted to a bull when King Minos refused to sacrifice this same animal to him. This union between the bull and the Queen created the Minotaur. King Minos threw the creature into a labyrinth and fed it human flesh. Years later, King Minos required the Athenians to send seven virgin girls and seven virgin men to Crete in order to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. Theseus was an Athenian Prince who was fed up with the tyranny. He vowed to kill the beast. Ariadne helped him by supplying a ball of twine, which he used to find his way back out of the maze after he completed his quest. Although she fell in love with Theseus, Ariadne eventually became the wife of the god Dionysus. Some historians believe that Ariadne is the Greek goddess of Crete.

Inception was referencing this myth when it created their own Ariadne. She's a clever and creative character who designs the labyrinthine dream world that they inhabit. But there are other Ariadne's in history and literature. An opera about the mythical Ariadne was created by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Aelia Ariadne was the Empress of the Byzantine Empire, who's reign alongside her husband wasn't particularly popular. Agatha Cristie created her famous novelist/amateur detective, who is based on herself, and named her Ariadne Oliver.

If you pay any attention to the links in the sidebar you might have noticed someone with this name writes one of the Pagan blogs. She's not the only one who chose this name, it appears to be a favorite among Neo-Pagans but I wouldn't say it's as common as Raven and Wolf. On the other hand, Ariande has never reached the United States popularity charts, so it's uncommon in that regard.

At first it was a real challenge to get the pronunciation right, so be prepared for that if you use it. But after I got it down, I fell in love with the name. It's a beautiful, magical sounding name and I wish there were more little Ariadne's running around in playgrounds. Maybe the movie will give it a boost.


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Thursday, February 24, 2011


I would like to talk about something that's been going through my head for a while: is there such a thing as Pagan virtue names?

Well, first we need to see what Pagan virtues are. According to The Charge of the Goddess (a sacred text possibly written by influential Neo-Pagan Doreen Valiente), the Eight Wiccan Virtues are compassion, beauty, humility, honor, mirth, reverence, strength, and power. Some of these would sound odd as given name, but most of them would work beautifully.

Humility is a possibility because it's been used before, but it's not without it's challenges. When I see this name, all I can think about is the Puritans. Many Puritans believed that names sanctioned by the Bible weren't "pure" enough, so they invented new names based on Christian concepts. Humility was a unisex virtue name, along with Discipline, Freelove, and Kill-Sin. Obviously, the fact that it was once a Puritan name could be a turn off for some Neo-Pagans. They're the ones that conducted the Salem Witch Trials after all.

But this virtue is very important to all Neo-Pagans. Although we might see it a little differently from the Christians. We have to realise that we are not so special in the grand scheme of things. We have to live in the moment and be satisfied with where, and who, we are.

Unlike Puritan classics like Faith and Grace, Humility is not commonly used. A lot of sources list Humility as a boys name and nothing else. I feel like it's a unisex name with a strong leaning towards the girls due to it's similarity to Verity. Humble, another Puritan name but it has the same idea, sounds more masculine to me.

So is it possible for this name to be reinvented? Since Christians and Neo-Pagans share the idea, could we share humility?


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I almost forgot what season it was, because while the rest of the country was covered in snow we in the Pacific Northwest have had almost no snow with spring-like temperatures. I've been itching for full-on spring, with the flowers in bloom and the days being warm enough for me to wear sundresses. But today Mother Earth said, "Not so fast, Issy. It's still winter." And just to make sure there's no doubt in my mind, she left a snowfall during the night. Well, it looks like I'm not leaving the house today.

This reminded me that I have yet to profile the baby name Winter (pronounced "WIN-ter"). The word is derived from the High Old German wintar. Winter is also a common German surname.

The general consensus is that winter symbolizes death. In Greek mythology, the change of seasons is due to Persephone going back to her husband Hades, who is the King of the Underworld. This season is used as a metaphor in many works of literature as well. In the beginning of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Narnia is trapped in a perpetual winter. But there are a few exceptions to this rule. In Persian culture, the first day of winter is called Yalda, meaning "birth," and it is celebrated with a festival.

Winter is relatively new as a seasonal name. It's sisters Autumn and Summer have become new classics, while Spring was a passing fad of the 1970s. But Winter has never actually charted. I've seen it listed as both a boys and girls name, so it's one that could be easily shared by both genders.

Some people with this name have shared the name's challenges. One woman remembered that while growing up everyone would say the name of every other season before landing on Winter. Personally, I don't think that this will be much of a problem anymore. Name diversity is growing all the time, and Winter is really not that "out there."

So if you want a unique name that isn't completely unknown, Winter's a good choice. Hopefully in return, Mother Earth will ease off on the snow. But I doubt it.


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Wednesday, February 23, 2011


One day at work, I came across a woman named Xochitl, and I've been curious about it ever since.

Xochitl (pronounced "SOH-cheel") is an Aztec/Nahuatl name meaning "flower." It's almost unknown in the United States, but it's somewhat common in Central and Southern Mexico. This name is very important to those that have Native American blood, because it's also a short form of the names of several Aztec deities.

Xochiquetzal was the goddess of flowers, love, fertility, beauty, female sexual power, female crafts (like embroidery and weaving), and the earth. She is always depicted as an alluring young woman, with a consort of birds and butterflies always following her. She is the mother of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent deity that Cortez impersonated. Her name means "flower feather" which should give you a clue as to what she liked to wear. Worshipers held a festival in her honor every eight years, in which they wore animal and flower masks.

Xochiquetzal has a twin brother called Xochipilli, who was the god of art, games, song, dance, homosexuals, masculine beauty, and flowers. His name means either "prince of the flowers" or "child of the flowers." As the patron of painting and writing, he was sometimes called Chicomexochitl ("seven flowers") or Macuilxochitl ("five flowers").

Xochitl also plays a part in an ancient ritual. The Aztecs shared their culture and language with a seperate city state called Tlaxcala. However, Tlaxcala was never actually conquered by the Aztecs. The two cultures agreed to hold an annual ritual war called Xochiyaoyotl, nowadays called the Aztec Flowers War. The goal of these wars was to capture prisoners from the other side, who would then be used for sacrifice.

There are a lot of names that can transcend their language of origin and be used on children of any race. I don't think Xochitl is one of them. It's very rooted in Aztec culture. So the bearer of this name would have to have Pre-Hispanic blood somewhere on their family tree. It would look very out of place on, say, a Dutch child. But that's just my opinion, not an actual rule. In any case, it's a highly unusual botanical name that's great for those wanting to honor Native American culture.


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For someone who is born between February 22nd and March 20th, would you consider this astrological sign as a name?

Pisces (pronounced "PIE-sees") is a Latin name that is plural for "fish." It is the name of a constellation, which is supposed to represent two fish with a string tying their two tails together. As you can guess, there's a story behind this.

The great beast Tiphon was a remnant of the age of the Titans. He was a terrifying creature even to the gods. When Tiphon attacked Mount Olympus, each god took the shape of an animal in order to escape. Venus and Cupid changed themselves into a pair of fish connected by a sting (so that they wouldn't be separated) and swam away in the Euphrates River. The gods placed the image of the two fish into the heavens so that this event would not be forgotten.

Many other cultures looked at this constellation and saw fish as well. The Babylonians believed that they were the water gods Oannes and Dagon in fish form, or the goddesses Anunitum and Simmah. And this area of the sky was called "The Large Fish" in Islamic astrology.

According to astrologists, Pisceans are highly impressionable and dominated by their emotions. It is the most malleable of the twelve signs, so they are highly adaptable. Pisceans excel at artistic endeavors, and want to believe in the possibility of a utopia. They are gentle, sensitive, and patient, but need guidance or else they'll drift into a directionless life. Huh. Maybe I really am a Pisces after all. It is one of the water signs, which is fitting.

Despite sources statement that this sun sign is feminine, I really believe that this is a unisex name. But at the same time, I'm not certain that Pisces is "namey" enough. It could be potentially problematic if you have relatives that speak Italian, Spanish, Greek, or French. To them, this name is very similar to their actual word for "fish," so you might get some confused looks. However, it's definitely not a name that's used very often, so if you're looking for unique you have it in Pisces.


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Tuesday, February 22, 2011


On the surface, Gardner is just another occupation name. But to Neo-Pagans it's a lot more.

From the Middle Ages to the 1940s most Pagans, or what were left of them, practiced in total secrecy. Then, England repealed the last of it's anti-Witchcraft laws in the 1950s. It was during this time that Gerald Gardner brought Wicca and Witchcraft into the public eye.

Gerald Gardner was a pretty interesting dude. He had a life that could be made into a movie if anyone actually made ones based on real Witches. Before he got this whole Neo-Pagan movement started, he spent time in Southeast Asia researching local folk magick and digging for ancient artifacts. After that, he did a grand tour of Europe (and this was during WWII) eventually landing back into his home in England. Once home he joined a number of covens and religious groups, learning all that he could. He was genuinely fearful that all of this knowledge was going to die out. So once the anti-Witchcraft laws were repealed, he did everything in his power to bring these traditions out into a wider audience.

But not everyone appreciated what he was doing. Many Witches felt that their craft shouldn't become available to everyone. Some of his colleagues felt that he became too focused on publicity rather than spirituality. And then, of course, there's the old favorite: misunderstanding from the Christians. Despite all that, he still deserves respect for being the founder of what is now called Gardnerian Wicca (Wicca has evolved and branched out into many different sects since then). Also as a side note, I'm very amused by the photos of him. I wasn't aware that he looked like a wicked elf.

Gardner (pronounced "GARD-ner") is both a surname and a first name. The general consensus is that it's an English name meaning the obvious. But one source listed it as a Saxon name derived from gar, meaning "weapon," and dyn, meaning "sound the alarm." Gardner has been established as a first name in the United States; it ranked #830 in the 1910s. But despite the current overabundance of trendy surnames as first names for boys and girls, Gardner is not one of them. And yet, he sounds like he could hang out with Archer and Harper.

I don't think that anyone unfamiliar with Wicca is going to know that it's a reference to Gerald Gardner. They might think that the family likes to garden, or that it's in honor of a family member, but that's it. That makes this a good Wicca-lite option. It's an uncommon name that sounds a lot like what's popular and has ton of Neo-Pagan street cred. What's not to love?

Other Name News:

My article is up on The Pagan Household! Go check it out!


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Sunday, February 20, 2011


You didn't think I would finish off this lovey-dovey theme week without covering the family name of Romeo, did you?

I'll confess that do have an unfair bias against Romeo as a name, along with many other people. Not everyone immediately thinks of the Shakespeare play when you name a daughter Juliet, but Romeo is a different story. He never quite got away from the "romantic, star-crossed lover" tag. But Montague is not quite so obvious. That makes it a good alternative.

Unlike Capulet, Montague (pronounced "MON-tah-yoo") is a "real" name, but it's definitely not an Italian one. It's a French name meaning "pointed hill." It's much more commonly used as a surname and a place name than something that's considered for the first name slot. But there is a well known Montague that is connected to Witchcraft. Unfortunately, it's not in a good way.

Montague Summers was a Catholic priest who lived during the early 20th century. He was obsessed with Witchcraft, researching and writing extensively about it. His most well known contribution was publishing an English translation of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, the most influential guide to finding and prosecuting Pagans in the Middle Ages. He believed that all practitioners were servants of the Devil and that they deserved the worst of punishments. Still, in a roundabout way, Summers actually helped Neo-Paganism. Writing these books meant that he had to go out and interview various Pagans, cataloging knowledge that would otherwise be lost today. This lead to him having a bizarre friendship with famous occultist Aleister Crowley.

If you're willing to look past the namesake, you might still run into challenges. I would like to think that Americans are well read enough to know how to pronounce Montague, but you'll probably get your fair share of people saying it like "Mon-tag." Although, this name might appeal to those that want obscure Harry Potter names. Montague is the surname of one of the Slytherin classmates.

I'll admit that Montague has a nice, dignified sound. Maybe a little preppy, even. And it's certainly not one that is overused in the United States. But Mr. Summers lowers the appeal of this name for me, which is a shame. Unsavory namesakes are such a pain.

Other Name News:

I got another mention on Appellation Mountain, this time regarding Evander.

Also, I'm not sure that I'm going to make a habit of doing theme weeks. This one felt like homework after awhile. But I want to do a week of names from the Burning Times, so who knows. What do you think?


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Friday, February 18, 2011


It's hard to think about romance without thinking about the most popular romance story of all time, Romeo and Juliet. But I'm really on the fence about Juliet as a name. I sway back and forth from thinking it's lovely to thinking it's boring. Another name blog suggested Capulet as a unique option, and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since.

But first, let's recap the story at warp speed for those that don't remember high school English class. As is common in Italy, two families hate each other's guts for reasons no one can remember. Two teenagers from these separate families, Romeo and Juliet, fall in teenager-ish, immature infatuation. Then Juliet's cousin kills Romeo's best friend, and Romeo kills him. Romeo must evade the police. Meanwhile, Juliet's parents pressure Juliet to marry another man. A friar gives her a potion to make her appear dead for a short period of time. Romeo believes that she's really dead and kills himself. Then Juliet wakes up and kills herself. All kidding aside, Juliet is a more mature character than Romeo. And she's no passive damsel in distress. Even though things end badly, she consistently took matters into her own hands.

The names in Romeo and Juliet are kind of odd when you really look at them. The play is supposed to take place in Verona, Italy, but only a few of the names actually fit the setting. Romeo, Mercutio, and Benvolio are all reasonably Italian. Laurence is pushing it, but at least it's derived from Latin. However, Juliet, Montague, Abram, Peter, Paris, and Tybalt are all over the place. Well, we are talking about a playwright who is credited for inventing several names. Perhaps Shakespeare prioritized style over accuracy.

And then there's Capulet, the name of the house that Juliet is born into. Capulet (pronounced "KAP-yoo-let") is definitely not a traditional Italian surname, but it might be based on an Italian name. In the 1200s, Capuleti was a political faction in Italy. Shakespeare took away the "i," and added this to his list of invented names.

Unfortunately, a meaning for Capuleti, or anything more about it's political past, is not forthcoming from the infinite bowels of the Internet. If any readers have information, I would love to hear it. However, the word did reappeared after the play debuted. Vincenzo Bellini adapted the play into an opera and named it I Capuleti i Montecchi.

I've seen this name listed as a boys name, and I suppose that it reasonably could be. Personally, I only see it for a girl. If you're having the same tug-of-war in your heart that I am regarding Juliet, Capulet could be perfect for you. It almost rhymes with Juliet (her parents really didn't take the family name into account at all). I usually don't like surnames for girls at all, but unlike most trendy options, Capulet actually sounds feminine. It would absolutely be something I would consider for a daughter.


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The animated movie Sita Sings the Blues might be the best film you can watch for free on the Internet. I had the pleasure of watching it on the big screen at a local movie festival two years ago. It's tag line was "The Greatest Break-Up Story of All Time." Well, we needed something for the jilted lovers this week.

Sita (pronounced "SEE-tah") is a Hindi name meaning "furrow." It's also a Spanish name meaning "rose." This form derives from the Native American Zuni tribe who originated in what is now New Mexico. Their word for "rose" is zita. But it's the most famous namesake that we're focusing on right now, the Hindu goddess Sita.

The reason Sita means "furrow" is because she was discovered in a furrow of a plowed field as an infant. Because of this, she is thought to be the daughter of the earth goddess. The most famous saga involving Sita is the Ramayana, an epic named after her husband Rama.

In the legend, Sita accompanied her husband into the forest where he is exiled. While there, she is kidnapped and imprisoned by the demon king Ravana. It took months for Rama to find out where she is. He rescued her with the help of his army. When they reunited, Rama greeted his wife coldly. He had doubts regarding Sita's chastity while imprisoned (boo!). She proved her loyalty by surviving a trial by fire. They returned to their kingdom and ushered in an era of prosperity. But it wasn't long before the doubts resurfaced in Rama's mind, and in the minds of his subjects. Rumors spread throughout the kingdom, and Rama decided to abandon a pregnant Sita in the woods. She gave birth to twin boys in a hermitage and spent years raising them by herself. One day, Rama stumbled upon the hermitage and found Sita and his sons. But he was still hesitant to accept her again. Sita, tired of being last on her husband's list of priorities, asked to be taken back into the womb of the earth goddess. Her family watched as the earth split open, accepting Sita into it's depths, never to be seen again. It is because of this story that Sita is beloved in India for being "the ideal wife."

Yes, Sita was a loyal wife. A bit too loyal. Let's face it, god or no, Rama's a crappy husband. If my husband abandoned me in the forest while I was pregnant with twins based on rumors, I'd be actively wishing for his death, not still pining for him. Apparently, I'm not alone. Indian feminists take issue with this traditional portrayal of the "perfect" wife.

In any case, the Ramayana remains a very popular story. There are many reinterpretations of the story from Sita's point of view, similar to how we have novels of the Bible from the perspective of Mary Magdalen. These stories are sometimes called Sitayanas. Which brings me back to Sita Sings the Blues. Film maker Nina Paley used the story to parallel her own unbelievably awful break-up story. Plus her version of Sita looks like Betty Boop and sings songs from the 1920s. How could you not love it?

It's mostly because of the movie that I love this name so much. Otherwise, I might have seen Sita as too passive a namesake for my daughter. Sita has never been a popular name in the United States. I don't know if it's even popular in India. But I think this name has great potential for crossing over to Western use. It's short, sweet, and exotic. It will appeal to those that love Kaya, another exotic name that I'm seeing on babies a lot. If it gets the right push into popular culture, it could easily be a big name.

The New Age Baby Name Book by Sue Browder
The Little Book of Hindu Dieties by Sanjay Patel

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I don't remember.


What? You've never heard of this god before? Until relatively recently, neither had I. The simple explanation is that he's the Roman counterpart of Pan, but there's a bit more to it than that.

Faunus (pronounced "FAW-nus") is the Roman god of nature, forests, and fertility, and his name is Latin for "animal." The name Fauna means the same thing. Fauna is either the female form of Faunus, or his wife, or his sister, depending on who you ask.

Faunus has the upper body of a human, and the horns and lower body of a goat. But he didn't originally. Some believe that Faunus is based on a real person of the same name who was the King of Latium. After his death, a small cult formed around him that gathered to worship in the sacred forest of Tibur. The sources I read make it sound like Faunus developed separately from Pan and then was later mushed in with him, so to speak. So they made him look more like Pan as well. Faunus has a consort of fauns, which are spirits of untamed woodlands similar to the Greek satyrs. He is an oracle god that is gifted in divination. He is able to predict the future via prophetic dreams and voices speaking to him from sacred groves. He also loves music, and is often shown playing the pan flute.

One of this god's more famous stories involves a music competition. One day, Faunus boasted that his musical abilities were better than Apollo's. Apollo challenged him to a pan flute battle, with King Tmolus serving as the judge. Apollo had the better instrument, so he won. But King Midas disagreed with this decision. Evidently, Tmolus didn't like being contradicted. He gave Midas donkey ears as punishment.

Faunus plays a big part in the festival Lupercalia. On this holiday, dressed in goats skins and hit fellow Romans with goat skin belts. There was also a second holiday called Faunalia, observed on December 5th, that celebrated Faunus as well.

I thought Faunus was a cool name the moment I saw it. However, I can see that some people might feel that the "fawn" sound at the beginning makes this name sound...wimpy. It's not a deal breaker for me. I love deer. But just because the parents don't care about traditional gender assumptions doesn't mean that the rest of the world won't. It's not fair, but that's the way it is, at least in the United States. It's up to you to decide how daring you want to be.


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Thursday, February 17, 2011


Continuing with our lovey-dovey names week here, we got a rarity from the recent past. Another name blog introduced me to this short-lived naming trend inspired by a hurricane.

In 1992, Hurricane Iniki (pronounced "ee-NEE-kee") struck the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It was the strongest hurricane to ever hit Hawaii in recorded history. It made around $1.8 billion dollars worth of damage and six people died. In 1992, Iniki appeared as a baby name in the United States for the first time.

It seems strange that someone would choose to name a child after a devastating storm. You would think that that would be a deterrent. After all, some people can't see Katrina without thinking about New Orleans. So why was Iniki used? It makes sense that some of the children might have been born shortly after the hurricane struck, so the name references the story of how they came into the world. But I'm guessing that Iniki benefited greatly from being new to "namehood."

What's interesting about Iniki is that, unlike most moniker's bestowed on hurricanes, it wasn't a baby name beforehand. Iniki was a vocabulary word in the Hawaiian language. A lot of sources will list that it means "sharp, piercing wind," but it's a little more than that. It means "to punch or nip; sharp and piercing, as wind or pangs of love." You were wondering when I was going to get to why this is a lovey-dovey name, weren't you?

It's a very poetic meaning, if you think about it. If you're lucky, you'll one day love someone so much it hurts. That it knocks the wind out of you, so to speak. And most parents don't love anyone more than their children.

The last time Iniki was used was in 1993, and after that it faded completely. And it was both a boys name and a girls name, so it's up for grabs gender-wise. I picture it more on a girl because it sounds very fun and flirty. And the more I think about it the more it's growing on me as a middle name option. An excellent air name to consider.


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Wednesday, February 16, 2011


It seems unlikely that Buddhism, a religion that promotes enlightenment and restraint, would give birth to a seductive goddess of witchcraft. But that's exactly who Kurukulla is.

Kurukulla (pronounced "koo-roo-KOO-lei," I think) is the Buddhist goddess of love, wealth, and enchantment. Kuru means "harsh sound," and kulla means "family." Her name derives from her place of residence, Kurukulla Mountain. She was originally an Indian tribal deity, and was also assimilated into the Hindu religion as well. She is a voluptuous sixteen year old girl who is often depicted as having red skin and two pairs of arms. She carries a bow and arrow similar to Cupid's, and wears a necklace made from the fifty severed heads of the fifty negative emotions she vanquished. And she is always dancing.

Kurukulla is especially popular in Tibet (her name is sometimes listed as a Tibetan one) due to her association with enchantment. Buddhists actually do practice magick, which they sometimes refer to as magical actions. There is white magic (calming and healing), yellow magic (prosperity and knowledge), red magic (bewitching), and black magic (destroying evil). Kurukulla primarily deals with red magic. She has the power to bewitch people and make them do her bidding. Since she is also the goddess of love and sex, she is worshiped by people unlucky in love.

Not all Buddhists are celibate monks. Many of them get married and have children. So it would make sense to have a goddess that they invoke to achieve those worldly goals. Buddhists can assume the aspects of a god or goddess through meditation, and then invoke that deity's power and wisdom.

I'm not going to lie, Kurukulla is a bit of a challenge for Westerners to say. And would be extremely unusual in the United States. The sound is beautiful once you get it right. An alternate spelling is Kurukulle, which will help with the pronunciation at least. Some websites list it as a boys name, but I'm not sure if this is due to misinformation. The goddess is very definitely a strong feminine force.

It would be a great magickal name for someone who is interested in adding Buddhist magick into their practice. As a child's name, it would be very bold. And, in my mind anyway, the girl would have to have an exotic, ethnic look in order to support it. But on the right girl, Kurukulla would be a great name.


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Here's a name for a Valentine's Day/Lupercalia boy that you've probably never considered. And it's one of my all time favorites for boys.

Evander (pronounced "eh-VAN-der.") is a Greek name meaning "good man." And, I'm sorry, but I have to get on my soapbox regarding baby name websites for a second. Feel free to skip to the paragraph after this next one if you don't want to read it.

I'm not going to tell you which website I'm talking about, but it's a prominent and popular one. A lot of their pages had nothing but the name and some ignorant, catty comment about it. For example, all it said under Evander was a comment along the lines of "stick with Evan." First of all, no. Second of all, I understand that on a baby name blog you're allowed to say what you want. But on a baby name catalog (i.e. a list of name like what you would find in a baby name book) your first priority should be information. All I care about is the name's meaning, language of origin, popularity in my home country, and prominent namesakes. And that is it. If you don't know what those are, then don't add it to the catalog.

Now that I got that off my chest, let's get back to the fun stuff. Evander is the name of a very prominent Pagan from antiquity. Ever wonder how the Greek Pantheon and the Roman Pantheon got to be so similar? Well, Evander was responsible for that. Before there even was a city of Rome, Evander was born in Arcadia, Greece. He established the city of Pallantium where Rome would eventually be, some sixty years before the Trojan War. He is also credited with bringing other things to Italy, like Greek law, the alphabet, and...wait for it...Lupercalia. Historians believe that Lupercalia originated as a holiday in Ancient Greece. After he died, he was made into a deity. Some stories say that he was acquainted with Hercules.

Evander has never charted in the United States. The most well known recent namesakes include a hockey player and a boxer. I don't pay attention to sports, but a quick internet search shows that they did nothing unsavory. So I still found nothing outside of personal taste to justify the "stick with Evan" comment. But namesakes or not, it's really a wonder that there aren't more people with this name. It sounds like a combination of Evan and Xander, which are both very popular at the moment. So if you love either name, but want a name that is unique, Evander is a good option.

Evander is definitely a name that I would consider for a son when the time comes. It just sounds so strong while also sounding lyrical, and the history doesn't hurt either. And it's a great option for a Valentine's Day boy that's not too obvious.


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Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Ah, the naked, mischievous, and slightly perverted icon of Valentine's Day. People have grown to love this Roman god of lust and love. But would it work as a name?

Cupid (pronounced "KYOO-pid") is derived from the Latin cupido meaning "desire." He is the son of the gods Venus and Mars. He's either depicted as an adult or as a very young child. He's very often nude, although in more recent portraits he's shown wearing a diaper in his child form. No matter what, he always has wings and carries a bow and arrow. Anyone struck by Cupid's arrow will fall in love with the first person they see. He is the Roman counterpart of the Greek god Eros.

When I saw the play Metamorphosis by Mary Zimmerman, Cupid was portrayed as being blindfolded. This is a historically accurate depiction. Cupid isn't actually blind, it's just a symbol for true love. Love isn't based on anything we can see, and once we fall in love we become irrational and compulsive.

The most famous story involving Cupid is the tale of Cupid and Psyche. Psyche was a mortal woman who many admirers claimed was more beautiful than Venus. Venus was enraged and ordered Cupid to destroy her. Once he saw her, though, he fell instantly and hopelessly in love with her. Cupid arranged for Psyche to come and live in his home. Their love grew, but Cupid would not allow Psyche to see what he looked like. Psyche's sisters were jealous of her happiness, so they convinced her to follow him to his chambers at night.

After Cupid awoke to find her watching him, he left her because he couldn't trust her anymore. Heartbroken, Psyche went to Venus for help. Venus found this hilarious. She made Psyche perform a series of impossible tasks. Psyche was assisted by the gods, so she completed each task with their help. Eventually, Cupid couldn't bear the thought of one more day without Psyche, and forgave her. Reunited at last, Cupid gave Psyche a potion that would make her immortal. They finally married and conceived their daughter, Veluptas.

While in the course of writing this post, I really wasn't not sure why this name doesn't appear in many conventional baby name sources. I mean, asside from the obvious, "The association is too much." Was that really all there was to it? Because I thought Adonis would be too much as well, and judging from the popularity charts, people have no problem with the namesake. So why not Cupid? The Valentine's Day thing couldn't be the only reason. And then suddenly it dawned on me. Duh! He has wings! Cupid looks like an angel! And with the exception of possibly Seraphim (although that one seems to be diminishing too) some parents aren't comfortable giving names with angelic meanings to boys.

That's why I'm thinking that if a modern parent considers this name at all, they might consider it more for a daughter. I personally love Cupid on a boy. But on someone else's boy.

Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman

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Monday, February 14, 2011


Well, first of all the question arises: do Neo-Pagans celebrate Valentines Day?

Before researching it, I thought that some Neo-Pagans might think that this holiday is redundant. We have our Beltane and Midsummer after all, how many lovey-dovey holidays do we need? Well as it turns out we do celebrate Valentine's Day. And we only do so because of Lupercalia.

Lupercalia took place between Febrary 13th and 15th. It is a very ancient fertility holiday, stretching back even before the Roman era, which it's most associated with. The festival is partially about the birth of Romulus and Remus who, according to legend, were raised by a wolf. In fact, Lupercalia means "wolf festival." The holiday is also associated with the goddess Juno and the god Faunus. In the olden days, people celebrated by sacrificing a goat and a dog, having a matchmaking lottery, and lashing women with bloody strips of animal parts in order to ensure their fertility. The holiday was very popular, celebration of Lupercalia continued well into the 500s.

So how did it get to be Valentines Day? There is no historical link between a Saint Valentine and romance, nor is there any record of when or why the Christianization of the holiday occurred. Many believe that even after Lupercalia was abolished, the idea of this time as a "mating season" stuck. Some Christian organizations have come clean in saying that February 14th has nothing to do with any of the numerous saints named Valentine, and some even want to ban the holiday. Nowadays, Neo-Pagans are okay with celebrating Valentine's Day the same way that everyone else does, with cards and sweets.

Now back to the name. Valentine (pronounced "VAH-lehn-tiyn") is a form of Valentinus, which is derived from the Latin valens, meaning "strong," or "powerful." It has never charted as a girls name, but as a boys name it's an old fashioned favorite. It peaked in the 1910s at #501, and then slowly petered out of favor until it disappeared in the 1950s. That makes Valentine a rarity at the moment. It's variations are another story. In 2009 Valentina peaked at #203, Valentino at #768, and Valentin at #736.

Maybe it's the romantic in me, but I love Valentine and all of it's alterations. In fact, this whole holiday just makes me want to curl up with my chocolate and watch Amelie. So I'm devoting this week to names that mean love, or ones about love, and oh my God there's so many of them. I might have to do this the week of Beltane and Midsummer as well.

Other Name News:

There was a mention of my post on Orchid on Appelation Mountain. Thanks Abby!

And keep your eyes peeled for a guest post written by yours truely on The Pagan Household sometime during this week or the next.


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I can't remember.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Valentine's Day is almost upon us, and I'm going to have a whole week of lovey-dovey names in a few days to celebrate. But today I'm going to get started with Orchid, arguably the most sensual of flowers.

Orchid (pronounced "OR-kid") is almost solely used as a girls name. Which I find surprising because it's derived from the Greek orkhis, which means "testicle." Scientist gave this name to the plant because of the shape of it's roots, but come on. Look at an orchid sometime. What does that little protrusion in the middle kind of look like? Am I the only one that sees that?

Apparently not. The Greeks had their own creation myth surrounding this flower. Once upon a time, there was a young man named Orchis, who was the son of a nymph and a satyr. With parentage like that it's no surprise that he grew up to be a horny bastard. On the Feast of Bacchus, he got really drunk and tried to rape a Priestess. He got his comeuppance by being torn apart by wild beasts. The first orchids grew in the place where he died. How charming.

The Chinese mythology surrounding orchids is a bit more noble. For centuries, the flower has been associated with humility, love, beauty, and refinement. This is one of the plants in "The Noble Four" (joining the plum, chrysanthemum, and bamboo). This flower was also beloved by Confucious.

There was a time in which orchids were much harder to find then there were today. In the Victorian era, wealthy people were obsessed with this flower, hiring collectors to travel all over the world to find exotic new varieties. This craze was given the name Orchidelirium, as it was similar to the Tulip Craze in Holland. This fad exists on a smaller level today, there are many orchid fanatics that collect them as a hobby, and theft of more exotic varieties, like the ghost orchid, still occurs.

There are many varieties of orchids all over the world. I was shocked to find that the wild orchids grow pretty much everywhere except for Antarctica. So why are they so hard to take care of indoors? I've never been able to get one to bloom again. Anyways, orchids are primarily cultivated for human enjoyment, but we do use them for other things. Many types of orchids are used as flavoring, in particular one genus known as vanilla. They are also widely used by perfumers. Neo-Pagans sometimes use orchid blossoms in love spells.

You would think that this name would not be problematic. But I did come across one person named Orchid who said that growing up no one knew how to pronounce it. And it's a pretty straight-forward pronunciation, it's only two syllables. I am on the fence about this name gender-wise. I know that many people see this name from the Chinese point of view and therefore find it feminine. But I just can't get over the testicle thing. Orchid feels masculine to me. However, I do love the Spanish version of the name, Orquidea, for a girl. It's not a name with deep roots and it's never been popular, so arguably no matter which gender you choose it should still work. It's just a matter of whether or not the parents are comfortable with naming their son after a flower.


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Friday, February 11, 2011


Early this year I finally saw The Secret of Kells for the first time. It's an animated film from Ireland that was nominated for an Oscar last year. It's very good, I highly recommend it. Anyways, the story is about a boy named Branden who lives in an abbey in 9th century Ireland. Against his uncle's wishes, he helps Brother Aiden make the Book of Kells. For the first time in his life he sneaks out of the abbey and into the woods in order to find berries to make ink. While there, he meets a fairy-like character who guides him through her forest. The little sprite's name is Aisling.

Aisling (pronounced "ASH-ling") is an Irish Gaelic name meaning "dream" or "vision." I've also seen it spelled Ashling, which has a more obvious pronunciation. This name has a large influence on Irish culture. I've found it used as the name of a magazine and the name of a traditional Irish music band, among other things.

This is also the name of a particular genre of political poetry that was developed in 17th and 18th century Ireland. In an aisling, Ireland is personified as a woman, either young and beautiful or old and wise. This woman laments the hardships of the Irish people and predicts their triumph in the future.

Aisling as a given name is a relatively new invention. It was not used in Medieval Ireland. This changed in the 1900s. Stimulated by the popularity of Irish writers like William Butler Yeats, Lady Gregory, and Lord Dunsany, the Irish Celtic Revival influenced a variety of art movements and trends in many countries in Europe. One of these trends was introduction more Irish names, and hence little Aislings started gracing the playgrounds.

A quick google search shows that Aisling is a popular choice as a magickal name. But I'm actually amazed that Aisling isn't more popular in the United States. It's incredibly similar to Ashley. Ashley had it's peak in the 1980s, reaching up to #4. Usually when a name gets that popular, they have a lot of variations and sound alikes that also appear on the charts: Ashleigh, Ashlee, Ashlyn, Ashlie, ect. So why didn't I grow up knowing even one Aisling? Or Ashling, or Aislin? It's kind of baffling to me.

This is a another quintessentially "witchy" name that Neo-Pagans use a lot. However, I think non-Pagans could accept it as well. If you have a strong Irish ancestry, Aisling could be a good pick. But keep in mind that your ancestors might have already left the Emerald Isle before Aisling entered "namehood." It's a lovely name that is very playful, cute without being a burden as the girl grows into a woman. A great choice for a dreamy little girl.


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I don't remember.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


We've done Elphaba, so it was only a matter of time until her sparkly pink comrade graced this website.

Glinda is one of the few "good guy" witches in popular culture. In his literature, L. Frank Baum made a point that he didn't believe that all witches were inherently evil. There are lots of good witches and bad witches in his books, even though the movie only features three. But for some reason, Glinda never registered as being a witch in my mind. I always considered her a fairy.

Well, come on! She flies around in a bubble, wears a puffy pink ballgown with big puffy sleeves (or are those supposed to be wings?), and carries a childish looking wand. Even though she's a redhead in the books and the movie, many people think of her as a blond. Including me. I thought she was thoroughly undeserving of the awesome title of Witch. Growing up, I was weirdly resentful against Glinda. I always sided with the outcasts. Why couldn't the green one win?

This is one reason why I love the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire as well as the musical adaptation. In these stories Glinda was changed into...well, what I always suspected she was all along. The popular girl. Predictably, Glinda and Elphaba can't stand each other when they first meet, but eventually become great friends and learn from each other. Or at least that's what happens in the play. Glinda doesn't have that big of a part in the book. Read it. She doesn't. Maguire also invented the name Galinda Upland, which is what she's called in the beginning of the book. It isn't until later that she changes her name to Glinda.

To my great surprise, L. Frank Baum did not make this name up. Glinda (pronounced "GLIHN-dah" or "guh-LIN-dah," now you see where Maguire got Galinda from) is a form of Glenda, a Welsh name meaning "fair" or "good." It even enjoyed some modest, fleeting popularity in the United States. Ranking at #968 in the 1950's it was barely there, but it was there.

So would anyone use Glinda as a name today? It does have a positive association, meaning that no muggles are going to ask the, "How could you name you're child after a witch?" question. It also sounds like many "sparkly" words like glimmer, glow, and glitter. But I would be concerned about the name's cuteness. It's very "pink," for lack of a better term. For me, it's in the same league as Tinkerbell or Bambi. Glinda seems to say, "I expect you to be a princess and be interested in being pretty and nothing else." And that's not what I want my name choices to say. It'll be a great name for the right person, but it's just not my style I'm afraid.


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Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Poor, unloved February. It seems like we're using every other month as a baby name, but not this one.

Names like April, May, June, and August have been used consistently for years, even though they aren't currently stylish. September, October, November, and December are names I keep hearing more and more (but only for girls, interestingly enough). January and March are also used. But February still seems like too much for most people.

February (pronounced "FEB-you-air-ee") is one of two months that isn't named after a person, god, or number. It's derived from the Latin word februum, meaning "purification." In Roman times, they would hold a purification festival called Februa, or Februatio, on the 15th. February used to be considered the last month of the year. So it would make sense to have a cleansing festival right before the start of the next year. Februa was later mashed together with Lupercalia, but I'll come back to that in a different post.

In different cultures February goes by different names. In Finnish, the month is called Helmikuu, which means "month of the pearl." This is believed to refer to the month's iciness. When snow melts on trees and then freezes again, the droplets look like pearls. Even though spring is right around the corner, it feels like February has the iciest temperature.

February is a lot of people's least favorite month. Or at least it's the least favorite above the equator, those below it are enjoying August-like weather now (jealous!). It's the time of year when people are just fed up with winter and want to get on to spring already, cursing February all the way. But that's just not fair. Between Imbloc, Chinese New Year, Valentines Day, and the Superbowl (if you're into that) lots of cools stuff happens in February!

To be honest, I first thought that February was a little out there myself. But I thought the same thing about September too, and parents have no trouble using that. And how is this any different from September? Now the more I think about it the more it's growing on me. February has a lovely sound, and I'm tickled by the nickname Febbie. It sounds like it should belong to a quirky girl or a laid-back boy. So I think for those people should at least consider February.


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Friday, February 4, 2011


With many surnames now taking the first spot like Emerson, Hunter, and Marlowe, is Laveau out of the question?

Laveau (pronounced "lah-VOO," I think) is a French surname that is very well known in the Cajun region. Try as I might, I couldn't find a meaning. But it's a very important name to Voodoo. To be perfectly clear, Voodoo isn't usually placed under the Neo-Paganism umbrella. But we hang.

Born in 1794, Marie Laveau was the epitome of the mixed-race American. Her mother was half Native American and half black, and her father was half Spanish and half French. Marie was described as a tall, statuesque beauty with dark, curly hair and "good"features (meaning she looked more white than black). She lived in New Orleans, and she is a well known folkloric figure in that region. It is difficult to separate the facts from the fiction when researching her life, but she definitely had a witchy reputation. Along with being a hairdresser to wealthy white women, she was believed to be a gifted Voodoo priestess.

Despite Voodoo's bad name, many believe that she was a charitable woman who was kind to everyone. Others feared her power. Marie told fortunes and created charms and potions. Some say that she had a pet snake named Zombi (after a Voodoo god) that she used to entertain her followers. She is also well known for conducting public ceremonies, allowing the press and and the public to attend, furthering the Voodoo movement in New Orleans. Interestingly enough, Marie was also a devoted Catholic, and added Catholic influences like holy water and statues of saints into her rituals.

Marie Laveau bore fifteen children, seven of which died during the yellow fever epidemic. In accordance with Catholic naming tradition, many of her children also have Marie somewhere in their names. The daughter that goes by Marie Laveau II, who was said to have been the splitting image of her mother, took over the title of Voodoo Queen of New Orleans after she died. Laveau II also became very famous. Many records confuse the two women, sometimes even treating them as if they were the same person.

So does Laveau have the potential to be a first name? I've been having a hard time finding name statistics for specific cities (with the exception of New York City), so I have no way of knowing if it's actually used in New Orleans. But, outside of the black community, I don't really see it catching on. The emphasis on the "oo" sound at the end doesn't scream "white person living in the suburbs" to me. If the parents are really into macabre creole history, then this would be a great fit for them. If it's too out there and you still want to honor both Laveau's, you could always use Marie. Then no one would know the witchy meaning but you.


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Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Blessed Imbloc, everyone! And for you muggles out there, Happy Groundhog Day! In honor of the holiday, I'm profiling the name of the ancient goddess it's all about.

Imbloc is a holiday that is all about new beginnings. It marks the beginning of springtime and the time when we start planting new gardens. It is also a big day for weather divination. This survives in non-Pagan cultures in the tradition of Groundhog Day. In ancient Ireland, the goddess Bridget (or Brigdid, Brigid, Bride, Brighde, or Brig) was sometimes known as Imbolc or Oimelc, which means "ewe's milk." Sheep were very important to the early Pagans, and this was the time of year when lambs were born.

Bridget (pronounced "BRI-jit") is a trinity goddess, meaning that there are three different aspects to her personality. There are a lot of different trinity goddesses from different pantheons. Bridget is the Celtic goddess of poetry, healing, wisdom, divination, blacksmithing, the hearth, druidic knowledge, warfare, the Holy Well, and the Sacred Flame. Her name means "exalted one."

Imbloc is traditionally the day that we initiate new witches, although different traditions will have different initiation requirements. After a year and a day of study, they are fully fledged members of their coven (or if they're solitary, then they're full fledged first-degree witches). The year and a day motif appears a lot in Neo-Pagan traditions.

As some of you may or may not know, Bridget is also the name of the patron Saint of Ireland. A lot of Neo-Pagans believe that Saint Bridget is not a real person and that the Christians just adopted the goddess in order to convert the Pagan population. They are both associated with an undying flame and a holy well. However, in the novel Brigid of Kildare by Heather Terrell, Bridget is a real person who is ordered by the Church to tell people that she is the goddess. I find both of these scenarios plausible. In any case, the Christians also adopted Imbloc, renaming it Candlemas.

It is due to this saintly association that this name is so...well, ordinary. Bridget peaked in the United States in the 1970s at #153, and it's now #394. It's popularity rises and crests, but it has yet to leave the charts completely. Which is why I don't think of the goddess first when I hear it. If you wish to retain more witchiness, one of the variations like Brig, Bridghe, and Bride are less familiar (although if you're naming a child, there's some issues with the last one). But Bridget is a popular saint and as a result has a popular name. Although we Witches do have one more claim to Bridget: the first woman to die in the Salem Witch Trials was Bridget Bishop.

So if you want a Wicca-lite name, and you're a Neo-Pagan but you're married to a Christian, Bridget's a great choice for you. And once you name and Imbloc baby after her, maybe you can ask her to make springtime come quicker in return.

Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Tradition by Starhawk

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