Saturday, April 30, 2011


An adorable name from my generation, and a great party member, but it's not without it's challenges.

Tiffany Aching is a character in Terry Pratchett's Discworld. She is a Witch-in-training that grows up during the course of the stories. She begins studying at the age of nine. At that young age, she rescues some people from the Queen of the Elves. For that she earns the respect of Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany has the ability of "first sight," which is the ability to see what is really there as opposed to what one thinks should be there. She also has "second thoughts," which are the thoughts you think about your thoughts.

Tiffany (pronounced "TIF-ah-nee") is derived from the Old French surname Tifaine, which is derived from the Greek name Theophania meaning "manifestation of God." It was a name usually given to children born during the Epiphany. It was well used in the Middle Ages.

The name has recently come to my attention due to a post on another blog listing the "most hated baby names in America." Most of the names on the list are victims of their own mega-popularity (Madison, Aiden, Nevaeh), but Tiffany has not been a hot name since the 1980s, when it peaked at #11. Tiffani and Tiffanie were also popular. It's been dropping since then. So why the prominent dislike?

My guess is because it's connected to avarice. The only reason the name reappeared in today's namescape was because of the fancy jewelry store. Tiffany & Co. was founded by Louis Comfort Tiffany who was more well known for making lamps during his lifetime. The book and film Breakfast at Tiffany's features the store. Therefore, Tiffany falls in the same category as Royce and Diamond, "status symbol" names that are sometimes picked in order to appear upper-class and as a result are anything but. Also, some people are rather insistent that Tiffany is a stripper name, which I find rather silly. What stripper uses her real name?

If your favorite name is Tiffany, don't freak out! The study was not in the least big scientific (then again, I don't think any name studies are the least bit scientific), just a compilation of what people on baby name forums were saying. Tiffany's a lovely name, so if someone expresses their displeasure for it with the above reasons, counter that it's from the Middle Ages and is the name of a cool Witch.


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I almost completely forgot about this other witchy character from Studio Ghibli. Continuing on with the party, I have something quintessentially Japanese for you.

Fujimoto (pronounced "foo-jee-moo-toh") is a Japanese name meaning "under the wisteria." It's usually used as a family name. It comes from the Fujiwara clan. Fujiwara means "wisteria plain," and the clan was a very important one in Japanese history. The clan's founder was Nakatomi no Kamatari, a statesman who helped place Emperor Tenji on the throne. The Emperor gave him the new surname, Fujiwara, as a gift of thanks.

In Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo, Fujimoto is a sorcerer who gave up his human life in order to protect the balance of the oceans. He somehow managed to win the love of the goddess of mercy, who also lives in the oceans, and made many half-human, half-fish daughters. The most precocious and gifted of his children is Brunhilde. While he takes them out for an outing, Brunhilde runs away. She is found on the sea shore by a little boy named Sosoke, who names the fish Ponyo. Ponyo falls in love with Sosoke, but is quickly brought back home by her unamused father.

Fujimoto doesn't want his daughter to have anything to do with humans because, "They treat the oceans like their empty, black souls." Well, we kinda do. The oceans are in a deplorable state environmentally. Anyway, he intends to use elixirs to create a surge of ocean life that will put an end to humans. Ponyo makes a mess of that when she runs away a second time, and lets animals into the elixir storage too quickly. The oceans become completely off balance, and Fujimoto, along with the the goddess of mercy, have to set it right.

It would be difficult to separate this name from it's Japanese heritage. Therefore I would expect someone with this name to have Japanese blood somewhere. A Dutch person named Fujimoto would be interesting, but at the same time I'd be scratching my head.

In any case, Fujimoto is a great name for those that love the land of the rising sun. I see it as being a boys name, but since it's a surname it's open for either gender. Could be an exotic option for Neo-Pagan folks.


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Yes, it's a real name. But nowadays it's restricted to characters in historical fiction.

Pagan (pronounced "PAY-gan") is a Latin name that derives from Pagani, meaning "country dweller." It is a legitimate given name from the Ancient times. It was used for both boys and girls, although the more feminine Pagana was also an option.

The Ancient Romans and Greeks never referred to themselves as Pagans. A lot of them lived in city states. That didn't come until Christianity spread. I've heard two explinations for this. Either they began to use the word as a euphemism for "bumpkin." They believed that people who still practiced duotheism or polytheism were unenlightened, old-fashioned hicks. Or, the term instantly became derogatory due to their fear of anything having to deal with the wild, which polytheists worshiped. This association wiped out the given name Pagan almost completely from the name landscape.

Pagan is the anti-hero in the young adult series Pagan's Crusade by Catherine Jinks. Pagan is essentially a street urchin when he is picked up by one of the Knights of Templar. He takes Pagan on the Crusades with him. The Knights of Templar is a group that eventually became connected to Witchcraft.

But can Pagan be used as a real name today? Nowadays, Pagan is more often seen as a surname. Although a quick google search shows that it is used as a first name very sparingly.

Ignoring that it could possibly result in a strong negative reaction from ignorant people, it's still not a name I would suggest. What makes you assume that your child will be Pagan? Most Neo-Pagans weren't raised in a Neo-Pagan family. My birth name is Christina. You see how well that worked out. I changed it because the meaning of Christina is no longer true. If the child decides to pick another religious path, the name might feel like a lie rather than a gift.


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Friday, April 29, 2011


This name isn't for everyone, but it does have a history. Here's a party member that's a little out there.

Xanadu (pronounced "ZAH-nah-doo") is the English name for what was most likely called Shangdu, a Chinese palace that existed during the Yuan Dynasty. The palace belonged the Kublai Khan and his descendants, and it was built in 1252 in what is now Mongolia. The term "palace" is a little misleading, it was more like the size of a small city to accommodate all of the ruler's family and servants. It didn't last long. It was burned down in 1369.

The reason the city exists in the imagination of westerners is because of Marco Polo, who is believed to have visited it in 1275. But he referred to the place as Chandu. How did it turn into Xanadu? I'm afraid I could find no satisfying answer to that other than that's what it's translated into English sometimes.

Xanadu has been used to describe an exotic or illustrious place. Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem "Kubla Khan" references the Chinese palace. Xanadu was the name of Charles Foster Kane's mansion in Citizen Kane. It's the name of a movie musical from the 1980s that involves rock and roll, rollerskating, and the Greek muses. This movie was turned into a stage production recently.

It's also the name of a witch from the comic book series of the same name. Madame Xanadu is a mystic who, although she is in every story, she is never the main character. The different protagonists always stumble upon her shop. These people always have a romantic problem that they need fixed and Madame Xanadu, through tarot card readings, determines the problems are caused by something supernatural and she uses her powers to help them. She is actually Nimue, the Witch from Arthurian mythology.

But what about Xanadu for a real person? I'm not going to lie, it sounds a bit like a space creature. Zanadu is another spelling, which doesn't help much. Also, I think people are going to associate it more with Olivia Newton-John than with the Chinese city. The name will work on someone who's confident, but when you're dealing with babies that could be hard to predict.


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Thursday, April 28, 2011


There are many different types of feathered friends that could be inspiration for names, but how about just Bird? There is a Neo-Pagan fictional character with this name, so it's totally plausible.

Birds fill a variety of roles in mythology. Due to their ability to fly, they are associated with supernatural realms that humans cannot visit. They are frequently the messengers of the Gods, or they guide the souls of the dead to the afterlife. Many creation myths feature either birds or eggs. What the bird symbolizes is very specific to the type of bird and the culture, so it would be literally impossible to list every single story here.

The word bird came from the Old English bridd, which was a term originally used only for young birds. The word for an adult bird was fogul. Good thing they changed it, I like bird much better.

The only person named Bird that I've seen is the fictional character in the novel The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. He is both a musician and a warrior in a post-apocalyptic world. Before the story begins, Bird was captured by the Stewards, an authoritative government that has taken over the United States. At the beginning of the story he finds a way to escape back home to the Utopia where his lover, Madrone, lives. But when he regains his strength, he rejoins the fight against those that would destroy his home.

It's unlikely that you would find Bird in any baby name book. Despite this, Bird and variants of Bird used to be well used in the baby name world. In the girl's column there are lots of variants including Birdie (peaked in the 1880s at #168), Birdella, Birdelle, and Birdee. Bird might have been more well used for girls partially because it was a nickname for Bertha. But both Bird and Byrd were also a surnames which, back then, meant it was masculine as well. I can see this name catching on again for the girls. Boys, I'm not so sure. Today, this name could be potentially problematic in England if you give it to a boy. There, bird is a slang word for a woman, which is something I just know from watching too many interviews of the Harry Potter cast.

I've had a change of heart about Bird. Before I thought it was too vague, whatever that means. Although I'm still not sure if it's something I would use myself, I think it's a great name. For the right family, it'll be charming. It's a lovely name for a person with a free spirit.


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If you're wondering how I first came to be acquainted with the Pagan path, I was introduced to it via a novel that I received for my sixteenth birthday. It's a story that I promised for the party.

The book was called The Fifth Sacred Thing. It was written by a famous Neo-Pagan called Starhawk. Starhawk is credited for inventing a Wiccan sect called Reclaiming, which links spirituality with activism. Reclaiming is especially attached to environmentalism. So that should tell you that she wrote this book to make a political/social point.

The story takes place in the year 2043. The environment has collapsed. An authoritative government called the Stewards takes over most of the United States, creating a horrifying life of virtual slavery. The only free land is in the Bay Area, where people of all faiths live in peace, everyone works together, and no one is hungry. It's also a love story between a man named Bird, who is a musician and a warrior, and a woman named Madrone, who is a magickal healer. Both these characters are instrumental in defending their land from the Stewards. When it was published, it was hailed as the greatest Utopian novel and the greatest Neo-Pagan novel yet. But nowadays not many people have heard of it.

The book filled my sixteen-year-old self with many questions. But the most pressing was this: what the heck kind of name is Madrone?

Madrone (pronounced "mah-DROH-ney" or "mah-DROHN") is derived from the Spanish Madrono (I don't have the right keys to make the symbol over the n). The Pacific Madrone is a tree that grows in the Pacific Northwest, where the book takes place. It means "strawberry tree." The name refers to it's orange-red bark that peels off the tree like paper. Some local Native Americans have a myth surrounding the tree. According to a Karuk story, a young man had an illegitimate love affair. His skin peeled off in shame as he transformed into the first madrone tree. It's berries are tasty to both humans and animals. If you've never heard of it, don't feel bad. It's a stubborn tree that refuses to grow anywhere outside it's region of origin.

I know that the pronunciation might not be everyone's cup of tea. The majority opinion is that it's "mah-DROHN" but if Webster's Dictionary says "mah-DROH-ney" who am I to argue? However, I fell in love with it as "mah-DROHN" and that's how I've been saying it for the past ten years.

The book introduced me to this name, and since then I've grown to love it so much. Madrone is a strong and mystical name. It could work equally well on both genders. It's definitely something that I would consider for my child.


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I can remember when baby name books were saying that this name was never going to come back. That it was a dead, untouchable, ugly name. When was that, three years ago? And now look at it! It seems like I'm finding little baby Agnes' all over the place. Continuing on with the party, we're going to look at Agnes more in depth.

Agnes (pronounced "AG-nis," or if you're French "AH-nyez") is derived from the Greek Hagne, meaning "chaste," "pure," or "sacred." It has saintly associations, a thirteen-year-old Saint Agnes was martyred for her beliefs during Roman times.

In the United States, Agnes was hugely popular in the 1890s, peaking at #39. It's star slowly wained into the 1960s, and by the 70s it was gone completely. But that doesn't stop it from being an item in other countries. It's ranked #17 in Sweden, #65 in Iceland, #92 in Holland, and #108 in Norway.

Agnes belongs into a class of names that I like to call "clunky Caucasian grandma names." Other names in this category include Bertha, Ida, Frances, Gertrude, Mildred, Ruth, Maud, Olive, Thelma, Ethel, and Gladys. But these names appeal to some people, because they're becoming new again. Others pick these names specifically because they sound like a group of old ladies playing cards. That's the charm for them.

Agnes has a ton of namesakes, both real and fictional. But it's Agnes Nutter that interests us today. The character is from Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The book is a funny parody of the horror film The Omen. Kind of. Agnes Nutter is depicted as the only true prophet, who published a book of her prophesies in the 17th century that did not sell well. She is eventually burned at the stake, but because she foretold her own death she had the foresight to fill her petticoats with gunpowder and roofing nails, so the angry mob went down with her. Boy, did she show them. The last copy of her book belongs to her descendant Anathema Device, who uses it to find the Antichrist. Device....Device....where did I hear that last name before?

So if you would like to bring back Agnes, it's certainly the right time to. There are plenty of variations like Aggie, Annis, Inez, and Nessa. It's not going to be everyone's taste, but that's true of all names. No matter how many times they'll say that it's too old, once the little Agnes is born it'll be young again.


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I can't talk about Gwynneve without talking about her lover Giannon, both characters in the book Confessions of a Pagan Nun.

Like Gwynneve, searches for the meaning and etymology behind the name Giannon result in nothing. My best guess is that it has something to do with Gannon (pronounced "GAH-non"), an Irish surname meaning "fair skinned." It had a short burst of popularity in recent years, it peaked in 2003 at #694 but it's not on the charts anymore.

What we do know is what happens to the Giannon in the novel. Giannon is a Druid who takes Gwynneve on as an apprentice. Not much is known about Gainnon's life before he comes into contact with Gwynneve, but it is suggested that there is a significant age difference between them.

From the beginning, Giannon is a difficult and taciturn man. People who are aware of his attitude advise Gwynneve against looking for him. As the years pass by and the two become lovers, his attitude doesn't change all that much. You get the sense that he cares deeply for her, but despite his gift with words he doesn't express it all that well.

Giannon's job is interesting, but is also what ultimately brings about his demise. There's not a lot about the book online, so what I'm about to write next comes from memory, and I'm sorry if it's inaccurate. If I'm recalling the story correctly, he is hired by chieftains to write satires about their enemies and crush their image. One of those people that he writes a satire about becomes rather annoyed and wants revenge. So people come in the middle of the night and drag Giannon out while Gwynneve and Giannon are in bed. Gwynneve waits and waits for him to come back, but eventually comes to terms with the likelihood that the worst has happened and leaves.

I don't want to give away the ending, so I don't want to say too much. But Giannon has a cool name with a manly sound. Assuming I'm saying it correctly, the pronunciation seems pretty intuitive to me. I see no reason not to use it in the real world. I'd be stoked to meet a young Giannon.

Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley

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Another party member, Gwynneve, is the name of a heroine in the well researched historical novel Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley.

I'm not sure how the author picked the name Gwynneve, since I can't find anything about it. I assume that it's legitimate, since the rest of the novel seems so accurate. It does have an uncanny similarity to Genevieve, but I have no way of proving that they're related.

Confessions of a Pagan Nun is a novel without any hint of fantasy. It takes place in 6th century Ireland, when Christianity is just starting to spread throughout the country. It is told through the point of view of Gwynneve, a nun who grew up Pagan. She chronicles her life, starting with her early childhood relationship with her wild, independent mother.

Her life changes forever when she sees a Druid writing. Gwynneve had always loved stories and words, and the possibility of making those words immortal seemed magical to her. So after her mother dies, she walks out to find a Druid named Giannon in order to learn how to read and write. She becomes his apprentice, and eventually his friend and lover.

Due to circumstances beyond their control, Giannon and Gwynneve are torn apart. Gwynneve wonders the land on her own for a while, until she comes into contact with a friendly monk. The monk tells her that if she becomes a nun, she'll have access to books from all over the world. So she converts, continuing her quest for wisdom. Things go well until a dead infant is repeatedly dug up from it's grave, which arouses the suspicions of the other nuns and the Priest that leads them.

I'm not going to spell out the outcome of the story to you, in case you want to take my advice and check it out right now. But it's bad. Although I feel the obligation to point out that in actuality, Ireland's transition from a wild, free Pagan country to a severe, unamused Christian one did not happen as quickly as the book depicts. Horsley probably did that because it made a better story. But I still think that there were stories that happened in real life that were similar to this.

In any case, Gwynneve is a lovely name. I assume it's pronounced similar to Gwyneth, or at least that's what it looks like. I'm sorry that I can't write anything about where it comes from or what it means (maybe a reader can fill in those gaps), but I believe that it would fit in well into the naming landscape. It would be a lovely tribute to the fictional Irish heroine.


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Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This is a lovely obscurity from Roman mythology, but also happens to be a party member.

Fortuna (pronounced "for-TOO-nah") is a Latin name meaning "lucky" or "fortunate." It's also the name of the Roman goddess of, you guessed it, luck, but also fate. Her name is derived from the name Vortumna, meaning "she who turns the year." This is the earliest known reference to the Wheel of Fortune idea. She is the daughter of Jupiter, and in Greek mythology she's known as Tyche. She is described as being very fickle, one day favoring you and the next day spurning you. She used to be depicted as being blind, like the modern day portrayals of Justice. Apparently, there's nothing Fortuna despises more than immoral public officials, so she saves a special kind of ill-fortune for them. The Romans celebrated a festival in her honor called Fors Fortuna on June 24th.

She was far from being obscure in Ancient Roman times, on the contrary she was reasonably popular. There were quite a few cults that sprouted up in her honor. In early Roman times she was linked to the cult of Isis. When Christianity swept Europe, her influence did not disappear by any means. Many Christians saw her as an agent for God.

You will recognize this name if you're an opera fan. In the cantata Carmina Burana composed by Carl Orff, they open and close with a song about the goddess called "O Fortuna." It is the most famous song from that piece. The music is based off of a series of Medieval poems that cover the fickleness of fortune, the ethereal nature of life, the coming of spring, and the mixed-blessing of lust, drinking, and gluttony. If you've never heard "O Fortuna," which I seriously doubt, you can listen to it with a translation here.

Fortuna is also the name of a character in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. She's the Witch that captures the unicorn for her zoo, if you could call it that. She places half starving and miserable animals in tiny cages and puts magic on them that makes the viewers see a much more impressive animal instead. Seriously, what's that about, Mommy Fortuna? Real Witches don't engage in animal cruelty.

Despite all that, there are not a lot of little girls named Fortuna anymore. Well, I'm not sure about Italy, but certainly not in the United States. Which is kind of surprising since fashion is smiling on mythical names at the moment. Fortunata and Fortune are accepted variations, if you like those better.

Fortuna is one of my personal favorites. It's something I can picture using for a daughter, particularly if I had a difficult pregnancy or the child was sick in some way. I could use Lucky as a nickname. Not that I'm actually wishing for that, Gods forbid. But you get the idea. Hopefully fortune will smile on those who have this name.


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During this party I would be remiss if I covered Nessarose and not Liir, another Gregory Maguire creation for his mature version of Oz.

Liir (pronounced "LEER") is "probably" the son of Elphaba and Fiyero. I say "probably" because there is a point in time in Wicked where Elphaba is unconscious for a few years, long enough to carry a baby to term and give birth without her being aware of what's happening. Throughout Wicked, Elphaba never treats Liir like a son, but she is not shown to be an affectionate person in general. Liir is the main character of the sequel to Wicked, Son of a Witch. For you fans of the musical, don't feel bad if you don't recognize his name, he was written out of the adaptation. And if you didn't read any of the original books, what I'm about to say next might have some spoilers, so you might want to skip to the second-to-last paragraph.

Throughout Son of a Witch, Liir is trying to find out what happened to his half-sister Nor, but this quest is often interrupted. When he is shown as a little boy in Wicked he's described as being a little pudgy, but he seems to have grown into his beauty by this book. He has inherited some of his mother's abilities, like being able to fly her broom. He does not have his mother's green skin or allergy to water.

Liir is not your typical hero. Throughout the course of the sequel he is filled with self doubt. He is also bisexual, which was foreshadowed in Wicked. In the first book he had a brief crush on Dorothy, but also on his half brother. In Son of a Witch, he has a love affair with another man. But he does manage to impregnate Candle, who gives him a daughter named Oziandra Rain. Rain is born with green skin, which proves that Elphaba was her grandmother.

Attempting to find out where Liir's name came from is tricky. Maguire has never stated how he came up with it. Some sources list Liir as a variation of Liam. I'm not sure I buy that. It does have a similarity to the Hebrew name Lior, meaning "my light." But I think it has the most in common with Lir. Lir is the Irish version of the Welsh name Llyr, and it means "the sea." Llyr was the Welsh god of, what else, the sea. This god was probably the basis for the legendary King Lear.

For those that aren't familiar with the books, it looks like it could be a Medieval name. So it's kind of sneaky-nerdy. An interesting option.


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Monday, April 25, 2011

Name Round Up: The World of Wicked

While researching names for the party, I've been looking through the character list for Wicked, Son of a Witch, and A Lion Among Men. This collection of names is intriguing to say the least. Just look:

Oziandra Rain

Turtle Heart

So what do you think? Are any of these usable in the real world? A daughter named Candle? A son named Avaric?


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I don't remember.


Continuing on with the party, we have a name from the Middle East.

Sherine (pronounced "shuh-REEN" or "SHUH-rin") is a Persian name that means "sweet" or "pleasant." It has many variations including Shereen, Shireen, Sherin, Chirin, and Shirin. The legend of Khosrow and Shirin is a popular Iranian love story. King Khosrow wins the love of Princes Shirin by completing several heroic tasks, and also by conveniently getting rid of his rival Farhad by exiling him from the kingdom.

There is another Sherine in The Witch of Portobello, a novel by Paolo Coelho, although throughout most of the book she goes by Athena. At the beginning of the story, Athena is dead. The book recounts her life through the eyes of several people who knew her.

Athena was born Sherine Khalil to a Gypsy family in Transylvania. She was orphaned and later adopted by a couple in Lebanon. As a child, she has the unique ability to see and communicate with angels and saints. This is also the time when she changes her name. As Athena grows up, she goes on a quest to find herself and eventually comes into contact with Goddess religions. She becomes a controversial spiritual presence in London as, you guessed it, The Witch of Portobello. The book is full of Coelho's trademark mysticism.

You might be thinking, "Why would she feel compelled to change her name? Isn't Sherine exotic enough?" Well, as far as I can tell, it's pretty well used in the Middle East. Same goes for all of it's variations. So, to her, it might have felt like Stephanie. It's not so exotic of you see it everywhere, all the time.

But it would definitely be unique for the United States. And also relatively pronounceable and not all that different from Shannon. Sherine is an exotic appellation that will work no matter what your heritage is.


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Had I known that there would be a party, I would have saved Elphaba and Glinda for it. But it's the perfect time to discuss Nessarose (pronounced "NEH-sah-rohz").

What is there to say about Nessarose? In the original L.Frank Baum books and the movie, she's just a pair of shriveled feet under a house. It wasn't until Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked that she was given a history, a personality, and a name.

If you've seen the musical adaptation, you know that Nessarose Thropp is Elphaba's younger sister. Elphaba loves her and takes care of her, but Nessarose finds her green-skin sister embarrassing. On the stage, she is depicted as being wheelchair bound. In the novel, the nature of her disability may be more upsetting for those that don't spend time researching side shows. She has no arms. Nessarose is also her father's obvious favorite, which becomes a point of contention between the two sisters.

In the musical, Nessarose is a sympathetic character. She wants to have friends and be like everyone else, but that's hard to do when you have a weird sister that no one likes. In the book, Nessarose is extremely religious to the point of being obnoxious. Eventually, Nessarose becomes the ruler of Munchkinland while Elphaba is missing and presumed dead. She is not a very nice leader. She uses sorcery to keep people in line. Due to her cruelty, her subjects call her the Wicked Witch of the East. She, of course, meets her demise when Dorothy's house falls on top of her.

Nessarose might be the most usable out of all the Wicked names. Although it's not a well known name yet, Elphaba was invented solely for the character. Glinda is a "real" name, but it is so attached to pinkness and bubbles. Nessarose, however, is a secondary character with a combination of existing names. The meaning of Rose is obvious. Nessa's a little trickier. It's a variant of both Agnes and Anastasia, and a nickname for Vanessa. On it's own, it could come from the Cornish word for "second," or the Hebrew word for "miracle."

Nessarose is an interesting character. She does a lot of villainous things, but no one ever talks about her as a villain. She has a lovely name, though. So Nessarose could be the witchy, nerdtastic name for you.


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I'm trying to not do too many Harry Potter names because 1) my fandom can get out of hand and I want to talk about other books and 2) I can always go crazy when the last movie comes out. But I do have room for one name for the party.

So let's say that you're a little macabre and very pregnant (oh, come on, I know you're out there), and you love the Voldemort character. Voldemort is obviously too much for a baby, and Tom is too ordinary...would you consider Riddle?

When J.K. Rowling picks a name for her characters, they usually mean something. Sirius Black references the character's ability to transform into a giant black dog, for instance. But in the case of Tom Marvolo Riddle, she was looking solely for it's ability to be an anagram of "I am Lord Voldemort." It's interesting to note that in the translated versions of the novels, his name is not the same. In French, his name is Tom Elvis Jedusor ("Je suis Voldemort"). In Finnish, Tom Lomen Valedro ("Maa Olen Voldemort"). In Dutch, Marten Asmodom Vilijin ("Mijn naam is Voldemort"). And so on. I can only imagine how difficult this whole anagram business was in kanji.

But let's talk about Riddle. A riddle is a question or a statement that has a double meaning, and it appears in many myths from all over the world. Riddles are probably most associated with the Sphinx. The Sphinx is an Egyptian and Greek creature with the face and breast of a lady, the back legs of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. If you don't answer her riddles correctly, she eats you. Oedipus killed the Sphinx after answering the riddle it posed.

As it turns out, Riddle is a real surname. There is actually a Tom Riddle that is, or was, running for office, which made me giggle. But using it for a first name could be really interesting. Pushing aside the evil wizard association, which I'm guessing will not be people's first thought, it's a cute name for a boy or a girl.

So if you would like a name with a bit of a mysterious edge and a playful side, Riddle could be an option. Just make sure he or she doesn't show a worrisome interest in snakes.


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Saturday, April 23, 2011


I'm going to take a break from the party in order to take care of some seasonal names, starting with Diamond. I know that we usually do zodiac stones instead of birthstones, but the gem for Aries is the bloodstone. That doesn't really work as a name, does it? So Diamond it is.

Diamond (pronounced "DIY-mond") comes from the Ancient Greek adamas, meaning "unbreakable," "untamed," or "proper." Historians believe that diamonds were first mined in Ancient India, where the gem was used for religious icons. Their most common use was for adornment, which continues to this day. Diamonds were also used as a cutting tool, due to their durability. Diamonds are usually colorless, and therefore gives off pale shades of many colors.

The diamond has many magickal properties. It is considered to be a symbol of purity and innocence, but it also protects mothers. It also symbolizes perfection and invincibility. It is believed to reflect negative energy back at the sender, and to protect against sorcery. It is also used to heal a variety of bodily complaints, like stomach aches, memory loss, poisoning, depression, bad dreams, fevers, infections, and skin disease.

Today, diamonds are most well known for being used on engagement rings. This "tradition" is really the product of a marketing campaign. In the 1930s, the jewelry company De Beers wanted to establish diamonds as the standard engagement ring gemstone. And it worked, to the point where there's now a lot of peer pressure.

There is a controversy surrounding the mining of diamonds. In certain African countries, the industry is run by revolutionary groups exploiting child workers and using the profits to fund wars. Diamonds from these areas are called blood diamonds or conflict diamonds. Roughly 49% of the worlds diamonds come from Africa, so this is a big issue. This gemstone could also be found in Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, and Australia.

Although the name is unisex, it has only charted for girls. It's highest peak was in the 1990s at #194, and is now at #501. It's probably the engagement ring association that makes people see this is a girl's name. Personally, I see it as a masculine name because the gemstone is connected to the element of fire, which is a masculine element. Either way, it's a great, strong name for an April baby.

Offbeat Bride by Ariel Meadow Stallings

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Friday, April 22, 2011


Today is Earth Day, a holiday intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the environment. As a Wiccan I'm inclined to say, "What's the big deal? I'm a Pagan. Every day is Earth Day." But we are going to profile Eartha all the same.

Eartha (pronounced "ER-thah") is an Old English name with an obvious meaning. The question is, where does the word Earth come from? Unfortunately, it seems like that question is impossible to find an answer for. It could come from the Saxon "ertha," the Dutch "aerde," or the Old German "erda."

Earth is one of the sacred elements in not just Neo-Paganism, but in other religions as well. In Wicca, it's a feminine element associated with stability, prosperity, and strength. Earth was one of the four classical elements in Ancient Greek philosophy, which basically consist of all the Wiccan elements except for Spirit. The Greeks associated Earth with the mortal matters of life and death, a heaviness that keeps the body grounded.

The biggest criticism against this name is that it's very attached to it's most famous namesake, Eartha Kitt. Frankly, I'm baffled as to why that would be a deterrent. Eartha Kitt was one of the classiest, badass woman ever to walk the...well, you know. She was both a singer and a film/television actress who was most famous for having an exotic yet unidentifiable accent. Her heritage is Cherokee and Black on her mother's side and her father was "Dutch or German" (Eartha is the child of rape). Orson Welles cast her as Helen of Troy in his production of the play Doctor Faustus. Eartha starred as Catwoman in the final season of the 1960s Batman television show.

The reason she never got super famous, aside from being a biracial woman in the 1950s and 60s, is because she made a lot of anti-war statements during the Vietnam War. One of her quotes were, "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot." Her remarks actually made Mrs. Johnston cry. So I suppose the association would be a problem if you're a fan of President Johnston. Her opinions led her to be ostracized in the United States, so she devoted her energy to performing Europe and Asia, where she is much more well known. She continued to act and sing well into old age, and was also a vocal supporter of same-sex marriages. Since I know there are some young people reading this blog, I'll school you and link to her songs "I Want to Be Evil" and "C'est si bon." She wasn't beautiful in a conventional way, but she's still so gorgeous.

Today, Eartha is a unique name. It was well used by the Puritans in the 1700s, if you can believe it, but has been rare ever since. The only time Eartha ever charted in the United States was in the 1930s at #961.

So if you would like a beautiful name for an Earth Day baby, Eartha is your girl. It's unique but familiar, very soft, and as lovely as it's namesake. I mean the planet, but the late, great Mrs. Kitt works too.


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Thursday, April 21, 2011


It's serendipitous that we're having the party during the Celtic tree month of Willow Moon. Willow (pronounced "WIH-low") is a very popular name, for Neo-Pagans and non-Pagans.

The willow is a tree that grows best in places with lots of rain, which there is a lot of during this time of year. This tree is sacred in many cultures, and is associated with healing, growth, nurturing, and women. The plant was used as a medicine for aches and fevers by the Assyrians, Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Native Americans. Willows contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin. People believe that if you plant a willow tree by your home it will protect you from natural disasters. Because of the tree limbs flexibility, they were used to make everything from baskets, chairs, dolls, wands, brooms, flutes, and fish traps.

Willow is one of the Nine Sacred Trees of Wicca and Witchcraft. The Wiccan Rede states that it guides the dead to the Summerland. But Neo-Pagans aren't the only ones who consider willow sacred. Taoist Witches use carvings from willow branches to communicate with the dead. In the Jewish religion, willow is one of the Four Species used during the holiday of Sukkot. A willow branch is one of the attributes of Kwan Yin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. Christians of Northwestern Europe sometimes use willow branches in place of palms on Palm Sunday.

The willow is a very striking looking tree. They almost look like they're crying. The branches are really thin and hang down, swinging in the breeze. Willowy is an adjective that means "graceful and slender," which are desired qualities in a woman.

There are several prominent references to the willow tree in literature and film. In the Harry Potter series, the Whomping Willow's branches angrily thrash at anything that comes near it. This might have been inspired from English folklore, in which willow trees are portrayed as sinister beings uprooting themselves and stalking travelers. The Japanese ghost story Green Willow features a young samurai falling in love with a woman who has a spiritual connection with the tree. Willows are referenced in many Shakespeare plays including Hamlet, Othello, and Twelfth Night. In the Disney film Pocahontas, the lead character seeks the council of Grandmother Willow.

But the most well known fictional Willow might be the one in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Willow Rosenburg, played by Alyson Hannigan, was in the series from the beginning. She starts as a lovable, shy, nerdy girl, but develops her magical talent with Witchcraft. The character is seen as being a positive portrayal of both Witchcraft and lesbians. But after her lover dies, her magic becomes a dark force that threatens to take her over completely. She is the villain throughout the whole sixth season, but with the love of her friend she returns to her good self.

Despite all that, Willow didn't enter "namehood" until fairly recently. Many people still consider it a hippy name, despite it's popularity. It's currently at it's all time peak at #315. In other countries it's #156 in Canada and #280 in Scotland. It's rise is partially attributed to the several celebrity children with this name, both Sarah Palin and Will Smith have daughters named Willow.

Willow is seen almost exclusively as a girl's name. If it is given to a boy, you can bet that the parents are a fan of the fantasy film of the same name. Willow Ufgood is a character that is from a race of dwarf-like people. He is an amateur sorcerer and a farmer.

I wouldn't say that Willow is a Wicca-lite name. I would almost expect a girl named Willow to have a sister named Raven. But if the name's popularity surges any higher, that might not last. So come get Willow while it's good and Witchy.


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I think we can just go ahead and put all Hayao Miyazaki movies into the Pagan-family-friendly category. Continuing on with our fictional Witches, this post was inspired by the Witch in Kiki's Delivery Service.

In the story, Kiki (pronounced "KEE-kee") comes from a family of Witches. Kiki reaches the age of 13. According to family tradition, that means that she must leave her home and live on her own for one year. So Kiki takes off for the big city along with her talking cat Jiji. She's really good at flying, so she starts a delivery service in order to earn money. She runs through a few rough patches and must learn to overcome her own insecurity. That might sound trite, but as we all know it's not what you do, it's how you do it.

This is another story that Miyazaki did not come up with himself. It's loosely based on the children's novel of the same name by Eiko Kadono. It is available in English, although you might have a hard time getting it. It's out of print.

Kiki is a name of many cultures. It's used on it's own in Japan, although as far as I can tell it's not a traditional Japanese name. In Korean it means "lovely flower." It's also listed as an Egyptian name, meaning "from the castor plant." But most of the time, in the Western world anyway, it's used as a nickname. Sources list Kiki as a nickname for the Spanish Enriquetta (and Enrique). Kiki is also a Scandinavian nickname for Kristina. Both of those make sense. However, it's also listed as a French nickname for Magali. I don't see how you can logically make that leap, but there it is.

Kiki has an artsy, bohemian air about it. Most of it's namesakes are creative people. Kiki also looks like she could hang out with Fifi, Mimi, and Bebe. That sounds like a group of beatniks dressed all in black with berets discussing their poetry. Or a group of poodles.

Kiki sounds like a name that should be very common, but it isn't. It actually has never charted at all in the United States. It could be a new alternative for the once-overly-popular Kristy. It's a very cute name, short and sweet. And with a namesake from Kiki's Delivery Service, how can you go wrong?


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Well I guess I'm supposed to post a link to Pagan Culture if I want the post featured. I thought it was enough that it was a fictional Witch. Magaly, I know it's late, but can you post up Bensiabel? Please? There's not that many male Witches. Okay, there are, but they call them Wizards or Warlocks which isn't technically correct if you're Wiccan.

Anyway, Howl. Fans of anime, and specifically director Hayao Miyazaki's work, will recognize this name immediately. It's the name of one of the lead characters in Howl's Moving Castle. Howl is a Wizard that comes into contact with Sophie, the movie's young heroine. As the title suggests, he has a castle that movies. Picture a steampunk building with legs and a face and you get the idea of what it looks like. Sophie comes to the castle while looking for a way to reverse the curse that made her into an old woman.

Howl is not your typical hero. A Westerner would say that he's metrosexual. He's in touch with his feminine side and is very concerned about his appearance. But at the same time he has a dark side to him, which threatens to take him over because he has no heart. His heart was taken from him. It' up to Sophie to figure out what happened to his heart so she can save him.

Howl's Moving Castle is one of the few Miyazaki movies that isn't the director's original creation. The film is based on the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones. Aside from the basic bones of the story, the two versions are very different. Sophie's sisters play a bigger role in the book. Sophie has magical powers, which are not hinted at in the movie. Howl's door leads to a totally different place (trying not to give anything away, so I'm sorry if that sounded cryptic). Howl's apprentice Markl is actually Michael and is quite a bit older. And Miyazaki added the anti-war message that is so prevalent in a lot of his movies. That's just a few of the differences. Personally I prefer the movie version, but I'm a Miyazaki nut.

Because of the movie, I picture this name on a boy. Although I suppose that you could use it for a girl. But the thing is that one a boy it sounds dark and boisterous. On a girl it almost sounds like an insult. I'm not sure what that says about my gender assumptions.

So if you're into fantasy and anime and you want a nerdtastic name, Howl is for you. I'm not sure how many other people will get the reference, though. It might just sound like the kid was really loud when he was born. Or they might think that you're a big Allen Ginsberg fan, as "Howl" is the name of his most famous poem. No matter what, I highly doubt that most people would have come across a little Howl on the playground before.


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Monday, April 18, 2011


Most fairy tales don't give names to their witchy characters. They're simply called "the Witch" or "the Sorceress." Bensiabel is different in many ways. 1) He's one of the few male Witches, 2) he has a name (well, obviously), and 3) he's a good guy.

Bensiabel (pronounced "ben-see-AH-bel," I think) appears in the supposedly-Italian fairy tale Prunella. The story was first published in The Gray Fairy Book by Andrew Lang. Bensiabel falls in love with the beautiful slave girl that his mother, also a Witch, had kidnapped and imprisoned. This girl's name is, you guessed it, Prunella.

In the story, his mother instructs Prunella to complete a series of impossible tasks on penalty of death. First, she instructs her to collect some water from a well, but gave her a shoddy basket to do it. While Prunella cries, Bensiabel first comes to her and asks if she would kiss him if he filled her basket. Prunella says no, because he's the son of a Witch. Bensiabel fills her basket anyways.

The next task the Witch gives her wheat and tells her that it better be bread by the end of the day. That's an impossible span of time to make bread from scratch. Bensiabel returns again, and asks if she would kiss him if he made the bread for him. Prunella gives him the same answer as before. But he makes the bread anyways.

The Witch then tells Prunella to go retrieve a casket from her sister's house, who is also a Witch. She knows that she will enslave Prunella and starve her to death. While Prunella is walking, Bensiabel meets her and warns her that she will be killed. He says that he'll save her for a kiss. Prunella still refuses. But he still gives her the tools in order to rescue herself, because he "loves her more than life itself."

The Witch is infuriated that Prunella has still managed to stay alive. She tells her that if she is unable to distinguish which of the roosters crowed during the night, she will eat her. Bensiabel meets her in the night. They have the same exchange. Dude is persistent, isn't he? The Witch asks her which rooster crowed and Prunella answers correctly. Just then another one crows and the Witch quizzes her again. She answers correctly again with Bensiabel's prompting. Another one crows and the Witch asks again. But Bensiabel hesitates because he wants her to kiss her finally. But then the Witch lunges for her. Bensiabel breaks into the house and pushes her down the stairs, killing his mother. Prunella finally comes around and the two get married. The end.

Bensiabel's name origin is a mystery. It certainly doesn't seem Italian. Which is curious because Prunella is a recognized Italian name. Perhaps Andrew Lang invented it, thinking that a magical character could not have an ordinary name. But no one really knows for sure.

I really wonder why Bensiabel isn't more widely used. Okay, it's not that popular a fairy tale, but come on. It's a wonderfully romantic character. It has the simple Ben as a nickname. And I guarantee you it's very unique. I guess most people are just not aware it exists. Well, now you know.


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Us party goers like some dark Witches. But could you name your daughter after a Witch that does something really, really bad?

Not to brag, but I played the 1st Weird Sister in a college production of Macbeth. You know the character, one of three witches who's prophecies change the course of Macbeth's life forever. The, "Double, double, toil and trouble" Witches. One of our acting assignments was to give each of our characters a proper name. So imagine my surprise a month or so ago when I found out that the Weird Sisters "official" names are Ursula, Glenda, and Medea. Rats. I picked Niarne.

Medea (pronounced "meh-DEE-ah") is a Greek name that could either mean "ruling" or "to ponder." Out of the three names, Medea is the one with the most unpleasant baggage. Whenever I hear this name I automatically think, "baby killer."

As the story goes, Medea was a sorceress living in what is now the country of Georgia. She has quite an interesting family tree. Medea's father is King Aeetes, her Aunt is the sorceress Circe, and her grandfather is the sun god Helios. She is often depicted as a priestess for Hecate, the goddess of Witchcraft and the dead.

Medea agreed to help Jason retrieve the Golden Fleece on the condition that he marry her. He agreed. Medea used her witchcraft to help Jason complete a series of tasks. She made an unguent and told Jason to rub it on himself and his weapons so that he would be protected from the fire breathing bulls. She warned him that the dragon's teeth turn into warriors when you remove them, and told him that throwing a rock at them will confuse them. She also gave the sleepless dragon a potion of herbs to make him sleep. Medea practically did all the work for him. They were married and bore two children: Mermeros and Pheres. She seems like an innocent heroine in the first part of the story.

Things went well until King Creon offers his daughter Glauce to Jason. Jason accepts. Jason's not so bright. The betrayed Medea sends Glauce a gown and a golden coronet, both laced with poison. This gets rid of Glauce. Medea also kills their two children and flees, and some say that she remarried and had another son. In some early versions of the myth, her killing her children was an accident. This later part of Medea's myth was made into a very famous play by Euripides, which depicts her murdering her children on purpose. This is the generally accepted version of the story.

Because the play is still being performed today, I find it highly unlikely that anyone would be unfamiliar with this story. So imagine my surprise when I read on a message board that they met a little girl with this name. Someone else responded, "That's bold!" Yes, it is! But Medea is actually beloved by some Neo-Pagans. The story may or may not have been based on a real live person. Others see her as a demoted goddess. In Athens, there is evidence of a mother cult in honor of both Hera and Medea that was either in honor of dead children and their grieving mothers or was involved in the ritual sacrifice of children. I'm really hoping it's the former.

If you still like the bold darkness of the name, there are variations of this name, like Media, Medora (which is also the name of two characters in one of my favorite comics Castle Waiting), Medorah, and Madora, which won't have an obvious "baby killer" association. But Medea? For a child? Um...


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Sunday, April 17, 2011


So, even though I'm participating in the party that doesn't mean that I can't continue on with remembering those that were killed during the Burning Times. In fact, I found one that applies to both.

When I first came across Alizon (pronounced "AH-li-zon," I think), I raised an eyebrow. Because I saw it in the description of a historical fiction novel. I can't remember the title of the book, I only remember that it was inspired by the Salem Witch Trials. I was thinking, "Come on, really? You can't make up kreative spellings for a historical piece!"

But then, lo and behold, I found it on historical records. In the list of people killed during the Burning Times, there is an Alizon Device, who was executed in Lancaster, England in 1612. She was one of the legendary Lancaster Witches. Their trial was one of the most meticulously documented in English history, although whether or not they were actual practicing Pagans is questionable. Mary Sharratt was inspired by this event and wrote a book called Daughters of the Witching Hill, featuring Alizon Device. So what do you know? It is a real, historical name.

But I'm still a bit suspicious of it. I keep thinking that someone made a mistake along the way and it's supposed to be Alison. Alison is one of the few matronymics, which is a name inspired by the child's mother, grandmother, or female ancestor. In the Western world, matronymics traditionally would have been given to the child of an unwed mother, the child of a father who died before the birth, or the descendant of an especially famous woman. In rare cases, the mother could have been especially strong-willed, insisting on giving their children names from their family tree.

There's a curious thing about Alison. Anyone with a basic grasp of English names can figure out that Alison means "son of Alice." However, I've never seen any specific instance in which Alison was given to a boy. Even Alizon Device was executed alongside a James Device. I can only assume that they were husband and wife, but I could be wrong. Some sources list that Alison a French diminutive of Alice, which I'm not sure I buy. The "son" thing just seems too obvious.

There are many variations of Alison, but you won't be able to find Alizon in any baby name book. So what do you think? Is Alizon a legitimate variation or is it a typo from the past?


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Continuing with the party, this name can't quite seem to get away from the grasp of a certain teenage witch.

Sabrina Spellman fist appeared in the comic book series Sabrina the Teenage Witch in 1962. Sabrina is really half-witch (the magical talent is on her father's side), and she lives with her two aunts, Zelda and Hilda. She also has a male witch-turned-cat named Salem. I refuse to call him a warlock, that term is always used incorrectly (sorry, it's a pet peeve of mine). In her stories, Sabrina learns how to use her powers, tries to help people without revealing who she is, and deals with the everyday challenges of being a teenager.

The character became very popular. It was made into several movie and television adaptations. One animated series retells the story, starting when Sabrina's in Junior High and just learning about her powers. There were also made into a series of paperback novels.

Sabrina (pronounced "sah-BREE-nah") has uncertain roots. But it does appear in a Celtic myth. Sabrina was the illegitimate daughter of the Welsh King Locrine. The King's wife Queen Gwendolyn ordered that the infant be drowned in the river. The river where the baby was killed was named after her, but it's since been changed to Severn.

Sabrina has been on the top 1000 baby names of the United States since the 1950s. It reached the peak of it's popularity in the 1990s at #91. Since then it's been steadily dropping, and now its rated #214. It's also #93 in Quebec and #437 in Norway.

Even with the name's popularity, people with this name confess that the first thing anyone says when they introduce themselves is, "Oh, like Sabrina the Teenage Witch!" They say it gets old. I don't blame them. But it's still a familiar name that is accepted by non-Pagans. Personally, I think it's a little passe, but if you really love it, who am I to steer you away from it? And if you are a Neo-Pagan, the teenage witch association could be a plus.


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Friday, April 15, 2011


It's Magaly's Blogoversary Party! That means that here on Bewitching Names, we'll be concentrating on fictional witches. So starting of, I'm profiling the happiest Disney witch there is: Poppins. As in Mary Poppins!

"Wait a minute! Mary Poppins isn't a Witch!"

Oh really? Let's review the evidence, shall we?

-Children Jane and Michael write an advertisement wishing for a fun and kind nanny, which their father throws into the fireplace. The paper floats up the chimney, and a few days later Mary Poppins floats down on her magical umbrella dressed all in black. I mean, hello.
-Has a magical bag that can hold enormous objects without being heavy.
-Can clean rooms by snapping her fingers.
-The birds obey her.
-Can travel into worlds by using chalk drawings on the sidewalk.
-Lives by her own rules, and goes where she pleases.

She sure seems like a Witch to me. Don't know what movie you were watching.

Mary is a pretty ordinary name. So let's look at her distinctive surname. It would seem that with today's fashions leaning towards surnames for girls that Poppins would be a good choice, right? But there is a problem. Poppins is not a "real" surname. Poppins was, as far as I can tell, invented by the author of the original Mary Poppins books, P. L. Travers.

So how did she come up with Poppins? I'm not sure exactly. If anyone has exact sources regarding this I would love to see it. I do know that it's very similar to Poppy. Poppy is seen as being a very happy and charming name, so it makes sense to use a variation for a charming, kind nanny.

So can Poppins be used as a baby name? I don't know. It kind of makes me think of the Poppin' Fresh Pillsbury Doughboy. But still, it's a happy, whimsical name that would fall in line with surname names even if it isn't "real." Plus, with a namesake like Mary Poppins, how can you go wrong?


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Monday, April 11, 2011


Continuing with our names from the Burning Times, I'm profiling Nicodemus. Nicodemus Hirsch was beheaded at Wurzburg, Germany in 1629.

Nicodemus ( pronounced "nic-oh-DEE-mus") is a Greek compound name derived from nike "victory" and demos "the people." Therefore the name means "the people's victory."

According to the Bible, Saint Nicodemus was the name of a friend of Jesus. He appears several times, first while listening to one of Jesus' lectures, again while debating the law that had Jesus arrested, and once again after Jesus died, assisting his burial.

In the Middle Ages, the books Acts of Pilate and Gospel of Nicodemus were allegedly penned by a member of the Order of Nicodemus. Unfortunately it's hard to figure out what the Order exactly was. If anyone has any information about the Order, feel free to let me know.

You will recognize this name if you've watched The Secret of NIMH. Nicodemus is the name of the wise and mystical leader of the rats. The movie is based on the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.

Nicodemus has never been a common name in the United States. Variations include Nicodemo, Nikodim, Nikodema, and Nikodemus. It also has the more accessible Nico as a nickname. People are attracted to names like Atticus and Agustus nowadays, so Nicodemus doesn't seem like much of a stretch.

Some people will feel that this name is a mouthful. But there's a lot to love about Nicodemus. It does give off the feeling that whoever has this name is very sage-like. It's a great name for a boy that seems wise beyond his years.


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Sunday, April 10, 2011



No, Virelai. I've loved it ever since I fist saw it.


No, although I love that one too. It's Virelai (pronounced "VEER-ah-lie"). It's derived from the Old French virer meaning "to turn" or "to twist."

Virelai is the name of a type of rhyming structure for poetry and songs that was popular in France during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It was one of the three formes fixes ("fixed forms") along with the ballade and the rondeau. The "to turn" meaning suggests that this music was meant to be accompanied by dancing. However, no virelai music exists today and it's pretty much used exclusively for poetry.

The basic explanation is that a virelai has an ABBA structure, only it's more complicated. It will probably make more sense to actually read one, so here's an English language virelai by Eric Armentrout called "People I Once Knew."

Thinking back a few
Years, three, maybe two,
I'd say,
On Fifth Avenue
Stood my house of blue
And gray.
Neighbors (I had a few)
Were friends that I knew
Would stay.

But to my dismay
They all moved away
From me.
I don't know where they
Are living today,
You see,
But I do still pray
They'll come back someday
To me.

Virelai is one of my absolute favorites. It's so lyrical and exotic. I would love to use it for a daughter one day. Or son. I mean, it does read feminine to me, but I guess if you're Russian and you come into contact with a lot of boys names like Alexei, it might read masculine.

"Are you sure this is actually used as a name?"

Well, since I found it on a baby name website, there has to be at least one Virelai. But it would be very rare.

"Ah...I think I got it now. Lorelei, right?"



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Saturday, April 9, 2011


I have a request for Chloe from a reader called A. I'm excited, the websites very first request!

Chloe (pronounced "KLOH-ee") is derived from the Greek khloe, meaning "young green shoot." Chloe was used as the summer name for Demeter, goddess of grains, fertility, and the seasons. This name is also featured in the ancient work of literature Daphnis and Chloe. The story is about two young people in love and struggling with they're new feelings for one another. This story was made into a ballet with music by Maurice Ravel.

Chloe became popular as a name during the Classic Revival period, where there was a renewed interest in Roman mythology. A woman named Chloe also had a fleeting appearance in the Bible. The name was adopted by the Puritans.

In the American South, Chloe was a popular slave name. It was very common for slave owners to give their slaves names from Roman and Greek mythology. In Harriet Beecher Stowe's anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, Chloe is the name of Uncle Tom's wife.

Chloe continues to be extremely popular not just in America but around the world. Last year it peaked at #9 in the United States. Elsewhere, it rates #2 in Australia, #4 in Scotland and Wales, #5 in France, #6 in Canada, #7 in England, #12 in New Zealand, #14 in Ireland, and #19 in Belgium. That a lot of little Chloes.

Variations include Cloe and Khloe, although the later has been tainted by the way-too-famous-for-no-reason Khloe Kardashian. Not the best namesake in the world. Which is probably why I'm not overly fond of this name, aside from it being just too popular for my tastes.

But it does have a very beautiful sound, and is popular enough to fit into a non-Pagan crowd. Even with how common it is, some people still have trouble pronouncing it. But that's a small problem. Chloe is a lovely name for a little witchlet.


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I don't remember.


Another name from the Burning Times is Babel. Zuikel Babel and "no first name" Babel (possibly his wife) were beheaded in Wurzburg, Germany, in 1629.

Babel (pronounced "BAH-bul") has an interesting etymology. The name was especially popular in Germany and Poland. Babel is derived from Babylon, and the name is Assyrian for "God's gate." The Jews were imprisoned in Babylon for years, and the name would be adopted by those that felt that they were an oppressed minority in a foreign land.

In France, the name Babel is given in reference to Saint Babylas. The origin of the name Babylas is uncertain, but he was a 3rd century Christian patriarch of Antioch who died in prison while being persecuted by the Romans. In Germany, Babel is sometimes a variant of Babo, a name developed from German baby talk.

The name Babel is also, of course, in reference to the Tower of Babel. After the Great Flood and Noah's Ark, all the remaining people spoke the same language. They resolved to build a city that touched the sky and kept them all together. God for some reason didn't like this. He felt that they were too united, and nothing would prevent them from accomplishing anything they set their minds to. So God split them up and "confounded their language." They never finished building their city, which became known as Babel. There is a Sumerian myth with similar elements to this story, you can find it in Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta.

Babel has no specific gender attached to it. To me it reads as a boys name, but other sources have listed it under girls. Also, even though it's a legitimate name, it feels like a joke name. Like how Octave sounds like a name you would give to a very loud baby. I would expect someone named Babel to be very talkative.

I do really love the name Babel, though. It's a name that might prove beneficial if you live in a very Christian area because they'll think of the Christian meaning first and wouldn't need to know about it's witchy past. It's definitely one that I would consider for my own child.


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Friday, April 8, 2011


Starting off with my names from the Burning Times profiles really quickly before the Blogoversary Party, is Marable. Marable Couper was burned in the North of Scotland in 1622.

Can you guess what familiar name Marable (pronounced "MAR-ah-bul") is a variant of? I'll give you a hint, have the e and l switch places. Marable is an old form of Mirabel. Some sources say that Mirabel is derived from the Latin mirabilis, meaning "marvelous" or "wonderful." Other sources are more likely to say that it's a combination of Mary and Belle.

By coincidence, a well known person with this name died recently, although Marable was his surname. Manning Marable was a professor of African American studies who was involved in many progressive causes. Before he died he finished a biography of Malcolm X. This makes me think that nowadays Marable is more used as a last name.

This name will not appeal to everyone. When you say it aloud, it does sound like a combination of "horrible" and "marble." That will be all that some people will be able to hear.

On the plus side it feels very witchy. Like a character in a long lost fairy tale. "The young girl wanted the love of a man that would not have her, so she went across the river to see the Marvelous Madam Marable and ask for a potion." See? It totally works.

So Marable might not be for everyone for the reason that I mentioned, but it's an interesting name from the past. A unique choice for a little girl.


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Thursday, April 7, 2011


It's my birthday. 04/07. Four seasons, seven wonders. So seven is one of my favorite numbers.

You'll notice that I don't post a lot about the names of celebrity children. This is because, to be honest, I just don't care what famous people are doing. But it seems like you can't be a name enthusiast without hearing, "Can you believe what so-and-so named their kid? These crazy celebrities! When will they learn?" And I still remember years ago when Erykah Badu and Andre 3000 named their son Seven.

The knee-jerk reaction against Seven was, "Why did they give their child a number? It's degrading." I'll admit that it was my reaction at first. But the more I thought of it the more it made sense as a name. Seven isn't just any ordinary number. Seven is a very sacred and lucky number in many cultures. There are seven archangels, Seven Lucky Gods in Japanese mythology, seven saintly virtues and deadly sins, and seven islands of Atlantis. In European folklore, the seventh son or daughter will be a werewolf or a vampire. Others say that the seventh child of a seventh child will be gifted in clairvoyance and healing. In some countries, cats are said to have seven lives instead of nine.

There are also Seven Wiccan Clans. Most people believe that the Seven Clans are a work of fiction. Whether they're based on Witches that have existed or not, they have really awesome names. The clans are Rowanwand (teachers), Wyndenkell (spell writers), Vikroth (warriors), Leapvaughns (tricksters), Burnhides (gifted in gem and metal magick), Brightendales (gifted in medicine), and Woodbanes (the "Slytherins" of the group). They're practically asking for a big fantasy epic.

So do I still think Seven is degrading? No. And neither does anyone else, it seems. The snarky "weird name" police seems to have completely forgotten about little Seven. That's what happens. If you're famous and dare to name your children something outside the box, the media is going to jump on it and start a judgmental snit about how terrible it is. But then they're going to forget about it and move on to the next one. The parents will have the last laugh because after the storm, names like Seven become generally accepted.

If you would like a unique name that has a lot of symbolism attached to it, or maybe if you just really like math, Seven is a bold option.

P.S. How old am I? Um...22? Is that plausible? Okay, I'm 26. Ugh. At least I get cake and presents.


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Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Zisanda is a lovely name from Africa, and that's all I can tell you etymology-wise. But that's not why I'm posting about it.

I learned about this really late, but from March 29th to April 27th a campaign of South African Pagan Rights is holding 30 Days of Advocacy Against Witch-Hunts. When most people talk about The Burning Times they're referring to the witch-hunts of the Middle Ages. But what many people don't realize is that The Burning Times include today.

Witch-hunts are still carried out in Africa, India, The Philippines, South America, and parts of the United States just to name a few. Some of them are carried out by disturbed individuals. Others are supported by the governments of their respective regions.

Which brings us to little Zisanda. Zisanda Ntleki, along with her mother and a sibling, was burned to death in South Africa for being a "Witch" on January 1999. But she is by no means the only one. The estimated number of children in Africa that have been tortured, killed, or abandoned for being suspected of being a Witch is over 15,000. Many were punished as infants.

People, this nonsense must come to an end. There are all of these wonderful resources and articles compiled on Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom, so please take the time to look over them. Donate money if you can. Pray or cast spells if you can't.

Goddess knows I have a lot of names waiting for profiles, but in honor of this campaign I'm going to try to include some names of those lost during The Burning Times. Because these people had names that someone whispered lovingly into their ears when they were babies. The least we can do is remember them.


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You might be thinking, "Really? Yellow? As a name? Yellow's not a name. It's a color." It is a color, but so is Scarlet and Violet and Gray. Why not use Yellow as a name?

I did actually hear of one person named Yellow. I was watching the Travel Channel when one of the shows featured a guest named Yellow Contractor. I swear, I did not make that up. She's a chef and restaurant owner in India. On the show the host brought up her odd name, and she admitted that her parents were hippies. Naturally, my name radar perked up.

Yellow is a color that symbolizes many positive things. Most people associate it with joy and optimism. In Wicca, yellow is the color for the element of air. It's a masculine element that is in charge of communication and intellect. It's also a color that's associated with the sun, which is very sacred to Neo-Pagans. On the other hand, yellow could also be used as an adjective meaning "cowardly," and it's also an old racial slur for an Asian person. But I doubt that will be any one's first thought.

Well, that's all nice, but most people would still consider Yellow a word, not a name for a person. But that doesn't mean that it will stay that way. Is there anything that could change someone's mind?

The only thing I can come up with is Coldplay's first big hit song. "Yellow" was released in the year 2000 and catapulted them into worldwide fame. The song begins, "Look at the stars/Look how they shine for you/and everything you do/yeah, they were all yellow." It's actually an incredibly sweet love song, and I don't think it's out of the question that someone could name a child after it.

So if you want to use Yellow as a name you can be sure that it will be a conversation starter. I wouldn't worry so much that people would say, "That's not a name!" Remind them that a lot of names that are common now (like Grace and Archer) started as words.


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