Thursday, June 30, 2011


I actually first saw a Seawillow at my last job, and no, I didn't work at a fishery. I was compiling a list of former customers, and for a name nerd it was like Yule! And when I saw this name I figured that her parents had to be hippies. To be fair, there is such a thing as a sea willow. It's a type of coral with long, flexible branches. But it does look like a made-up compound name, doesn't it?

But for those that saw this title and said something to the effect of, "Oh, I know a few Seawillows, there was my old algebra teacher, and my cousin's wife," let me ask you this: are you from Texas? Turns out this name has a weird American story attached to it.

Once upon a time, in a small town of Beaumont, Texas in 1855, there was a pregnant woman who was soon to have a baby girl. Things were going smoothly until all of the sudden the Neches River flooded and carried her away. She was rescued by the family slaves and placed under a willow tree. It was here that the woman gave birth to her daughter. Due to the dramatic circumstance of her entry into the world, the mother decided to name the daughter Seawillow Margaret Ann.

Seawillow grew up to become a teacher. At her husbands suggestion, the site of her birth was named after her. The town was a small farming village whose main crops were cotton and grain. Seawillow worked at her own school until she died in 1912.

Today, there is not much left in Seawillow, the population is around 100 people. But her name still lives on. She named one of her own daughters Seawillow. Her children named their daughters Seawillow. Friends of her family also named their daughters Seawillow. It became a tradition.

This story isn't known outside of that very small area. So if you want to use this name, most will assume that you are just a little quirky. It's an unusual nature name, I'll say that much. And it does look like a lot of the compound names that Neo-Pagans like to adopt for themselves. So I can see it having some appeal for the witchy.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Well, as all my fellow Americans know, Independence Day is coming up! And I'm feeling a little patriotic. So I'm going to do a week of strange American names! To the Australian and British readers, consider this a unique glimpse into American culture and history!

Missouri (pronounced "mis-SOOR-ee") is the 24th state in the union. It's moniker is derived from the name of a Native American tribe. This tribe was known as the Ouemessourita, which means "those who have dugout canoes." The indigenous people inhabited Missouri for thousands of years before the Europeans came, and recent archaeological excavations have uncovered evidence of a complex society.

Between 1000 and 1400 A.D., there were large Native American cities in this region. Thanks to the river system they had a trading network that stretched from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. Their large earth mound structures have survived. No one is sure what happened to them, and all of the descendants of these groups left the area ages ago.

The first White settlers in this region were mostly French Canadians, who used this area to trade fur with the Native Americans. It was the French who founded St. Louis, which remains the capital city of Missouri. In 1803, Missouri was part of the Louisiana Purchase, which expanded America's territory. This state would later earn the nickname "The Gateway to the West" because it was a major departure point for settlers.

Aside from the state being prone to earthquakes, there have been other struggles in the region as well. Conflicts between the "old settlers" (who were from the south) and the Mormons (who came from northern states and Canada) arose due to religious differences and slavery. Missouri also sided with the Confederate army during the American Civil War.

State names have always served as inspirations for baby names in America, but which states those are have changed throughout the years. Nowadays, Dakota and Montana are popular for both genders. And Virginia, Georgia, and Carolina have always been classics, never leaving the charts completely. But back in the 1880s, Missouri and Nevada were well used options for girls. Missouri ranked at #400.

The one thing I'm noticing about all those names is that they're all Confederate states except for Nevada. Which might make at least half of the country uncomfortable with them. Still, I would find it interesting to see of Missouri makes a comeback. I'm the child of immigrants myself, and I have to admit that it's kind of cool.


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Monday, June 27, 2011


Christian saints, Pagan tribes, and famous blue-eyed singers all come together in this name.

I have to admit that I have something of a bias on this name. My godmother's name is Francis, and she always hated it. She was named after her grandmother Francesca, and poor Francis always thought that was so much prettier and despaired in her having a "boys name" instead. But I'll put that aside because, even though this is never a name I would give to my child, it does have an clunky old-fashioned charm to it.

Francis (pronounced "FRAN-sis") is a Latin name meaning "free man" or "Frenchman." The land that we now know as France was originally the Kingdom of the Franks. The tribe name Frank has been traced to frakka, the Germanic word for "javelin." According to the tribe's mythology, they are named after their first ruler Francio. The Franks enter recorded history in 50 A.D. and as the years passed they were both enemies and allies of the Romans.

No matter what religion you follow, the most famous barer of this name is Saint Francis of Assisi. He's the guy that famously gave away all of his possessions, for loving animals and nature, and for inventing the first Christmas manger scene. He developed the Third Order of Saint Francis, and his followers are commonly known as the Franciscans.

The Franciscans are an interesting sect of Catholicism. Saint Francis was arguably the most committed person who ever modeled his life after Christ (he even gave himself the stigmata), he also believed that nature was the mirror of God. He wrote the "Canticle of Creatures," and in it he used terms like "Brother Sun," "Sister Moon," and "Sister Death." He referred to animals as his brothers and sisters. This all sounds strikingly familiar to anyone who has studied Native American culture.

Francis has other namesakes attached to it besides the saint and the tribe. Frank Sinatra was Francis Sinatra on his birth certificate. There is also philosopher Francis Bacon, director Francis Ford Coppola, golfer Francis Ouimet, and "Star Spangled Banner" author Francis Scott Key. If we include other versions of this name, there are many more.

Frances is a feminine variation. Francois is a favorite in France for both genders. Franco, Francesco, and Francesca are Italian and Spanish versions. Others include Franz, Franzel, Fran, Franche, Feri, Chico, Paco, and Pancho, to name a few.

Although Francis has never left the top 1000, it has an antique charm. As a boys name it peaked in the 1910s at #31, and today it settles at #669. As for the girls, it also peaked at the same time at #253, and dropped out of favor in the 1970s. Francis is also a very common surname.

With all that, I can imagine why Francis would appeal to someone who loves names with no frills. It has a lot of history spanning many different cultures. But personally, I like Franco better.


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I bet all you readers that were born under the sign of Cancer will be feeling pretty underrepresented on this blog. I'm sorry. It's not my fault that the name of your sign is the same as that of a scary disease. But at least you have a pretty gemstone.

Emerald (pronounced "EH-meh-rald") is derived from the Greek word smaragdos, meaning "green gem," and from the Semitic word baraq, meaning "shine." These gemstones are a category of Beryl. When Beryl is deep green it's an emerald. Blue to bluish-green is called aquamarine, yellow is golden beryl, and pink to red is morganite. In antiquity, they were mined in Egypt, India, and Austria. Today, they are found in many other countries around the world, although some people insist that the best emeralds come from South America.

Several notable emeralds throughout history were mined in Columbia. The Chalk Emerald is a very large one that was owned by a royal family in India. The stone was donated to the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C., where it still resides today. The Mogul Mughal Emerald was also sold in India, as they were much desired by rulers of the Moghal Empire. Other famously huge uncut emeralds like the Duke of Devonshire Emerald and the Gachala Emerald were also found in Columbia. This profiteering of Latin America started when Cortez brought emeralds back to Spain in the 1500s.

Wiccans believe that emeralds are particularly good for love spells. The Ancient Greeks associated this stone with Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Like most green stones, emeralds are also used in money spells. Emeralds are also used to heal diseases of the eyes, as they are believed to aid perception and clarity.

Emerald experienced a short burst of popularity in the 1990s, ranking at #853. But perhaps the most popular variation of this name is the Spanish Esmeralda. Esmeralda got it's boost from a work of literature, she is the Gypsy girl loved by Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. The book prompted adaptations on stage and on film. As the Hispanic population in the United States is growing, so are little girls named Esmeralda. It first appeared on the charts in the 1950s, it peaked in 2003 at #199, and has now started it's slow descent. The French variation of this name, Esmeralde, has remained rare.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm placing this name in the girl's category. Could Emerald be a boy's name in the future? I have no idea, but I think it could work. In any case, Emerald is a dignified name that signifies royalty and riches. And of course, there's the subtle reference to the Wizard of Oz and to the Slytherin house. So Emerald is a unique option, but not completely unheard of.


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Sunday, June 26, 2011


If you were to travel to Delphi, Greece today, you would find an ordinary Greek tourist town with many well preserved ruins. But in the ancient days, Delphi was no ordinary Greek town.

The name Delphi (pronounced "DEL-fee") comes from the Greek word delphus, meaning "womb." This suggests that the town venerated Gaia, the Earth goddess. But the town is more well known for being connected with Apollo, who was also known as the Delphinian. According to legend, this town is the site of a battle between Apollo and the goddess serpent, Python.

Python, also called Pythea, presided over the site of the oracle and was also depicted as being a dragon. When Zeus impregnated the goddess Leto, who was the mother of Apollo and Artemis, Hera sent Python to pursue her throughout the land. This was so Leto could not deliver her children wherever the sun shown. When Apollo grew up, he slew Python and claimed the oracle as his own. Zeus was not pleased when he heard this, because Python was the child of Gaia. He ordered Apollo to purify himself for his actions by performing menial tasks for eight years.

As to how Apollo came to Delphi in the first place, he did so by transforming himself into a dolphin, while carrying Cretan priests on his back. Interestingly enough, the word dolphin is also derived from delphus. The Greeks gave the name delphis to this animal because they were "fish with wombs." This is why some baby name resources state this name and it's variants mean "dolphin."

Dolphins were very important to Greek culture. They were considered to be helpers of humankind and there are many legends that tell of people being saved by these animals. Many ancient coins depict a man or a boy riding a dolphin. They considered it a good omen when dolphins rode along a ship's wake. So those that give this name in honor of the animal aren't necessarily incorrect, there's just more to the story of this name.

Anyways, back to the town. Delphi was the site of the major temple Pheobus Apollo, which was originally a temple to Gaia. The title Pythia was given to the sybils or priestesses of Apollo. They would sit in front of the oracle (which is, from what I can tell, a deep hole into the earth that produces a gas high in ethylene). Legend said that Python fell into this hole when she was killed, and that the fumes coming out of it were from her decomposing body. The sybil would inhale these fumes, go into a trance, and Apollo would speak through her. People consulted the Delphic oracle on everything, and it had considerable influence. The festival Septeria was celebrated annually to commemorate the slaying of Python. The Pythian Games took place every four years to commemorate this event.

Delphi is a rare place name to give to a person. Variations of this name include the masculine Delfino and Delphin, and the feminine Delfina, Delphinia, Delphia, and Delphine. The later is a favorite of many name enthusiasts, but it's not without unsavory associations particularly if you live in the American South.

Delphine LaLaurie was a famous socialite in New Orleans when the police went to her mansion to put out a fire. When they went inside her home they found her slaves chained up and horribly mutilated. It was obvious that they had been tortured. The police also found dead bodies on the premises. While the house was sacked by an outraged mob, rumor has it that LaLaurie fled to Paris. This story is well known in the folklore and ghost stories of New Orleans, but not so much elsewhere. Which makes Delphine an okay option for the most part.

For the most part, the name's girly variations have been the most popular. Delphia was most popular in the 1990s at #545. Delphine was a hit in the 1920s at #478, as was Delfina at #916. But I still think Delphi could work well for either sex. It's perfect for a family that follows the Greek traditions and wants a unique name with an interesting history.


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We are in the Celtic tree month of Oak, which is a strong botanical option for boys.

During the Oak Moon, trees start to reach their full blooming stages. The Celts called this month Duir, which historians believe means "door." Oaks were believed to be doors into other worlds, places where portals could be erected. The Celts and Druids frequently worshiped in oak groves. Duir may also be the root word for Druid. The word oak comes from proto-Germanic word, but aside from that not much is known about the etymology.

Oak is a wood of great density and strength, so it has been used for many practical purposes. Ever since the Middle Ages, oak has been prized for it's resistance to insects and fungus, and was used in the interior panelling of prestigious buildings. It is also used in the production of furniture, ships (until the 19th century), barrels for alcohol, drums, and wands. Today, some species of oak are under threat of extinction due to unsustainable farming practices, deforestation, and increased consumption of acorns by small mammals.

The oak is a tree whose range spreads far and wide in the Northern Hemisphere, from tropical Asia to the cold regions of the Americas. And every culture that has encountered it has considered it sacred. The Celts associated this tree with fertility, strength, protection, money, and success. They listened to the tree's rustling leaves, and the chatter of the wrens living in it, in order to divine the future. In the Norse tradition, this tree is particularly important to Thor. Historians speculate that this is because the oak, which towers over all other trees, is frequently struck by lightening. The oak was also associated with Zeus/Jupiter in Greek/Roman culture, and these gods also have dominion over lightening. Many ancient kings wore crowns of oak leaves, in order to symbolize that they were gods on earth.

During Christianization, the Catholic church attempted to replace the oak with the fir in the minds of the Pagans, because the triangular shape of the fir tree symbolized the Trinity. This didn't really stick. A fondness for the oak tree carried on into the Christian religion instead. Many countries have designated the Oak as their national tree including Germany, England, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, France, Serbia, Bulgaria, Wales, and the United States.

If you were reading this blog during Yuletide, then you would have read about the Oak King and the Holly King, which are both aspects of the Horned God. Each twin god rules for half a year, then battles on the summer and winter solstices. The young Oak King rules from Midwinter to Midsummer. On Litha, he dies at the hand of the elder Holly King, who will rule until Yule.

Oak has never been a popular name in the United States, but it sounds like it should be. Oakland and Oakley have also been gaining some attention, but simple Oak? Not so much. I'm not quite sure why. Oak is a strong, unique name that could appeal to the same people that love the more popular Rowan and Willow. It's also nickname resistant, if you're into that. And it's particularly appropriate for people born during the light half of the year.


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I don't remember.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Blessed Litha, everyone! Hope everyone above the equator is enjoying the longest day of the year. To our friends in Australia, Blessed Yule!

This holiday is also known as Midsummer, or the Summer Solstice. The name Litha (pronounced "LIH-tha") comes from a very old document written by a monk named Bede called De temporum ratione ("The Reckoning of Time"). The document describes a lot of Anglo-Saxon Pagan ideas, including their names for the months. It is here where we get the term Litha in reference to this time of year. Litha means "gentle" or "navigable," given because the breeze was very gentle and sailors could sail across a smooth sea.

This holiday focuses on the Horned God. During this time, he and the Goddess are living in married contentment, and together they bring abundance and growth to the land. But this day marks the beginning of the end. As the months progress and the days grow shorter, the Horned God will grow old. He will eventually die on Samhain. But don't worry, little witchlets, the Horned God will always be reborn again!

In the process of spreading their religion throughout Europe, the Christians remade this holiday into Saint Johns Day. To be frank, I grew up Catholic and I've never heard of it. But in many countries in Europe, South America, and in parts of Canada, it's apparently a big deal. Although most of their traditions used to celebrate the day are very obviously Pagan.

In terms of how the holiday is celebrated, Litha is basically a toned-down Beltane. It is customary to start observing the holiday the night before, which is why Midsummer's Eve is so important. It is a fire festival customarily celebrated with a bonfire, dancing, storytelling, feasting, and pageantry, just like in Beltane. It is believed that the veils between the human world and the supernatural world are thin during this day, and is considered an excellent time for divination. It might be argued that Litha is a more somber holiday, because we are reminded that nothing lasts forever. Neo-Pagans might take this time to give something away or let something go.

I've never heard of anyone naming their child Litha, but it's an intriguing option. Personally, I see it as being feminine. It's soft and simple with an intuitive pronunciation and spelling. This name could be an special way to honor a child born during this holiday.

Circle Round: Raising Children in Goddess Traditions by Starhawk

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Monday, June 20, 2011


Tomorrow is Litha, so it's Midsummer Eve! And what better name to bestow upon someone born on Midsummer Eve than the world's most famous Midsummer reference?

Puck (pronounced the way it looks) is derived from the Old English puca, but it's unclear weather the word originally came from the Germans or the Celts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it means "unsettled." It's possible that it may be etymologically related to Pixie.

Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow or Hobgoblin, is a legendary creature older than the Shakespeare play. In English folklore, pucks are mischievous woodland sprites that gives mortals all sorts of troubles from curdling their milk to leading folks astray into the woods. In illustrations, they appear to be very similar to satyrs, with the bottom half and horns of a goat with a human upper half. And, yes, if we are being historically correct there is more than one puck.

But thanks to A Midsummer Night's Dream, most people just remember the one. In the Shakespeare play, Puck is ordered by the King of the Faeries, Oberon, to place a magical juice from a flower called love-in-idleness onto the eyelids of the Faerie Queen, Tatiana, and two Athenian men while they are asleep. This will make them fall in love with the first thing they see when they wake up. The Sprite's actions are what set the play into motion.

In more recent years, Puck has been used for a character in a very well known television show. Names from Glee have become fashionable recently: Quinn, Finn, and Santana are mentioned a lot nowadays. And then there's Noah "Puck" Puckerman, who is not as famous as some of the other characters, but is important nonetheless.

There are a number of reasons why this name could be potentially challenging. First, it could be off-limits in Iceland, as there it means "Devil." There could be a problem with the Glee character, as he is sometimes not particularly pleasant. And then, of course, there's the matter of what it rhymes with.

If you're willing to look past that, Puck has an air of rebelliousness about it. I don't really trust the source, but I read that Puck is also a Dutch girl's name, but for the most part I would say that it's pretty masculine. Of course, you could also use any number of Faerie names for this time of year, but Puck has a charming, impish quality to it.


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I always kind of liked Maurice. It's Sonic the Hedgehog's real name, you know. According to the Archie comics version, anyways. Actually, Maurice is his middle name, his first name is Orville. Orville Maurice Hedgehog. As for the other two main characters, Sega already gave Tails a real name when they created him: Myles Prower (you have to say it a few times in order to get the joke). Knuckles real name really is Knuckles, the poor sod, and his middle name is Michael. Knuckles Michael Echidna. OH MY GOD, I still remember that without looking it up. Why did I spend endless hours pouring over Sonic the Hedgehog comic books while my mind was still fertile? I could have been learning Italian instead of this pointless crap!

Anyways, Maurice (pronounced "maw-REES") is often characterised as a French name, but what it's derived from is a subject of debate. Most sources will state that it's a Latin name meaning "Moorish" or "dark-skinned." It could also be a variant of the Irish Gaelic Muirgheas meaning "seafarer." Others say that it's derived from the Phoenician term mauharim meaning "easterner."

Maurice has a lot of nifty namesakes. Most people might remember this name from that Steve Miller song "The Joker," with the "Some people call me Maurice" line. There is also the awesome childrens book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak. Maurice Gibbs was a singer in the Bee Gees. In the television show Bewitched, Maurice is Samantha's theatrical Witchy dad.

But is Maurice a clunky, old-guy name? Something maybe for a doddering old man, like Belle's dad in Disney's Beauty and the Beast?

Wrong. As it turns out, Maurice is more popular than I could have ever imagined. Sure, it's peak was in the 1910s at #101. It also had some mild popularity as a girls name during this time, a fad that disappeared in the 1930s. But for the boys, it has never left the top 1,000 and is now at #447. So how come I've never met one?

It's probably because the majority of people who use this name are African American. Maurice falls in the same category as Antoine and Monique, French names that have been adopted by Black culture. I, unfortunately, have lead a rather sheltered suburban existence, and have never had a ton of contact with the Black population. This is why this name will be so unfamiliar to some people depending on your community.

If Maurice doesn't strike your fancy, don't worry. There's a ton of different variations to choose from like Mauricio, Maurell, Maurids, Maureo, Maurie, Maurin, Mauritius, Maurus, Morrill, Morris, and my favorite: Moritz (because of the musical Spring Awakening). Overall, it's a Wicca-lite name that, depending on your culture and where you live, could have a cool retro vibe to it.


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Sunday, June 19, 2011


Happy Fathers Day, everybody! My father is half-Irish, half-Sicilian, his father is the Irish side, so I guess that means I must profile an Irish name.

Ah, my poor Dad and I. We clash so much on names. If I could describe his style it would be Traditional Irish Catholic. You know those names: Thomas, John, Kevin, Joseph, Kathleen, Mary Ellen, Josephine, all names of several people on that side of my family, because the Irish tradition is that everyone is named after everyone else. Anything not falling into that category and it's, "I see therapy in his/her future," from Father. Sorry, Dad. When the time comes, it's just not happening. But "real" Irish names, before-the-Christian Irish names, might be a possibility.

Clodagh (pronounced "KLO-dah") is a uniquely Irish name. It refers to the River Clodagh located in Tipperary, which is also sometimes known as River Clody. Unfortunately, not much is known about it's origins beyond that. We can suppose that it's the name of a goddess, because many Irish rivers are named after deities, but no one really seems to know.

Another theory is that it comes from the Latin name Clodna. Clodna is a variant of Claudia and means "lame." Would Roman influence have reached that far? It's probable: remember Maewyn. I checked to see if there was any relation to the famous Claddagh rings, but there doesn't appear to be any connection.

The Marquess of Waterford was the title of a noble British family that lived in Ireland. They propelled Clodagh into the name landscape when they used it for one of their daughters. It is extremely popular in that section of Ireland and virtually unheard of everywhere else.

Clodagh could work well in the States. It's not really frilly. It has a strong sound. It's pronunciation is a lot more intuitive than many Irish/Gaelic/Celtic names. And it'll be one of a kind. There's a whole lot of Marys but not a whole lot of Clodaghs. It's a great option for those that love Irish culture but not necessarily their naming tradition.


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Saturday, June 18, 2011


Will this old fashioned name attract new parents? I'm willing to guess that it will.

The word pearl (pronounced "PERL") is borrowed from Old French, but the word's ultimate etymology is uncertain. It's possible that it could be from the Latin given Perna, which was their word for "sea mussel" but literally meant "ham." However, Perna is also a name of Norman origin, and in Catalan and Portuguese perna means "leg."

Pearls are, as far as I know, the only gemstones that come from living things. They lie withing the soft tissue of shelled mollusks, usually the conch. They need them because they defend against parasites. They are most well known for being white spears, and that is the type that is considered most valuable for retail. More recently, black pearls have also become popular. But these gems can come in a variety of shapes and colors like green, pink, blue, chocolate, champagne, and lavender. Pearls that occur spontaneously in the wild are rare nowadays, so most of them come from farms.

But before the 20th century, this gemstone was hunted by divers. Pearls were hunted in the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea for thousands of years. When the Spanish Conquistadors sailed to the New World, they found large beds of pearls by the islands of Cubagua and Margarita. Today, China exports the largest amount of pearls.

The pearl is a jewel of great religious significance. The sacred Nine Pearls in the Hindu tradition is made from various real and mythological pearls: the oyster pearl, conch pearl, boar pearl, cobra pearl, elephant pearl, bamboo pearl, whale pearl, fish pearl, and cloud pearl. This gemstone is also associated with many deities, most noticeably Lord Vishnu. Pearls were also very popular wedding gifts in India. In Christianity, Heaven is often referred to as the "Pearly Gates," and the Qu'ran claims that the dwellers of paradise will be adorned with pearls. The Chinese considered it to be the hidden soul of the oyster.

The pearl has long been associated with purity, chastity, innocence, and tranquility. It also has a history of being used to cure bodily ailments. In India it was grounded into powder and used to aid digestion. Mixed with milk it was used to cure ulcers and the plague. It was also believed that the pearl cured headaches, impotence, and leprosy.

Pearl has many different namesakes. Personally, I associate this name with the American south, thanks to country singer Minnie Pearl. A well known place name is Pearl Harbor, a famous fort in Hawaii that was attacked by the Japanese in WWII. It's Hawaiian name is Wai Momi meaning "pearl waters." Pearl is also the name of Hester's daughter in the American literary classic The Scarlet Letter.

Nowadays, people are likely to associate Pearl with femininity. But when this name was popular, it was used for both boys and girls. For girls, it peaked in the 1890s at #26, and slowly petered out until it disappeared altogether in the 1990s. For boys it peaked at the same time at #266. Perle, Pearline, and Pearlie also charted around this time. Perla is the new hit, it peaked at 2003 at #281.

So if you want a Wicca-lite name that's a little old fashioned, Pearl's your girl. It's a bit too Southern Belle for my tastes, but it's sweet and it stems from nature, so there's lots to love.


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Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Circle round, and I'll tell you the story of Herculine Barbin.

There was a child in France named Alexina Barbin who was born in 1838. She grew up just like any other little girl. But poor Alexina didn't think that she was pretty. She had been sickly all her life, but things got worse as she went into puberty. She was flat-chested and was embarrassed by her mustache and sideburns. She was an orphan and her birth family was poor, but she somehow obtained a scholarship to study in a convent.

While at the convent, she became friends with an aristocratic fellow student. Alexina had a crush on her and would sneak into her room at night, which got her into trouble. Regardless, she did well in her studies and was sent to a school for teaching when she was seventeen years old.

Eventually, she got the job as an assistant teacher in an all girl's school. She fell in love with another teacher named Sarah. Alexina demanded that only she should dress her. The two became lovers, and rumours began to circulate throughout the school. It was during this time that Alexina began to suffer from excruciating pains.

Alexina went to the doctor for a physical examination. The doctor told her that she had to leave the school, but wouldn't tell her why. Alexina was greatly disturbed, so she went to confession and asked the Bishop to send for a different doctor. This doctor told her the truth, and it would change her life forever. Alexina wasn't a girl at all. She had a small vagina, but also a small penis with testicles. Alexina was a hermaphrodite (hermaphrodite is considered a historically derogative term, nowadays you would call her an intersex person).

Because of this new information, there was legal action. The courts declared that the now twenty-one year old Alexina was legally a male. He was forced to leave his job and his lover. His name was changed to Abel Barbin. There was a short media frenzy, newspapers called him/her a "preternatural monster." He moved to a seedy, poverty-stricken section of Paris and began writing his memoirs. At the age of twenty-nine, Abel was found dead in his room. He committed suicide by inhaling gas fumes from a stove. His finished memoirs were laying on his bed.

It's impossible to know what Alexina/Abel would have felt about what happened next. The man who conducted her autopsy gave her/his memoirs to a psychologist friend of his who had it published. They have been re-published several times, and have inspired many other works of art. The novels Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf, and Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides all have Alexina/Abel's diaries to thank as a resource. Barbin appears as a character in several plays: A Mouthful of Birds, Herculine, and Hidden: A Gender. The case also inspired the French film The Mystery of Alexina.

So what does this have to do with naming? It has everything to do with naming.

Did her mother, or anyone working at the orphanage, know that something was decidedly different about the girl with the prissy name? You do have to undress a child for some things. Did he/she choose to switch identities from Alexina to Abel, or was that something the courts decided he "should" do? And where the heck does the name Herculine come from?

One of the first signals that a name communicates is gender. You have to pick one. Boy or girl. But what if that's not where you're child's identity is? I've always wondered what name I would give to a child with ambiguous genitalia. It's rare, but not impossible. It's one of the reasons I keep an unisex name list.

But I don't think that American society, who freaks out over little boys with pink toenails, knows how to deal with intersex children. Studies show that if you wrap a baby in a yellow blanket and give no gender details, people will react with confusion and alarm. In that way, not much has changed since Herculine's time.

But in general, Neo-Pagans are overwhelmingly supportive of intersex people. Some believe that they should be revered because they are a living mixture of the God and the Goddess. There are even intersex deities, although for the life of me I couldn't tell you their names.

I could not find any information as to when precisely the name Herculine Barbin began to be used in reference to Alexina/Abel. Originally, the memoirs were published as The Story and Memoirs of Alexina B. It wasn't until later editions that it had the name Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-Century French Hermaphrodite. The only scientific article in English that I could find refers to her as Adelaide Herculine Berbin, which confuses the issue even more. Either way, I'm relatively certain that Herculine is an invented name that did not exist before the Barbin case. A combination of the manly Hercules with a feminine French -ine ending. It's fitting.

I'm not writing this profile because I expect the name Herculine to catch on anytime soon. I'm writing because I am honestly curious if there is anyone besides me that thinks about how to give a happy life to an intersex baby and give him/her a positive outlook on his/her unique identity, starting with a name that can flow between genders along with him/her. In this world were people believe that Madison can't be used on a boy anymore because more parents are giving it to girls.



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Monday, June 13, 2011


The stone for Gemini is Agate, which is believed to help the flighty Gemini retain focus. It could be a unique name to reference this zodiac sign.

The Greek philosopher and naturalist Theophrastus gave the stone it's name. Agate (pronounced "AH-guht") was named after the Achates River (now the Dirillo River) in Sicily, where Theophrastus discovered the stones. Sicily is well known for having the largest active volcano in Europe. Many agates are formed from volcanic activity. They can be found all over the world including Italy, Africa, Asia, Brazil, the USA, Mexico, Germany, India, and Nepal.

Agate has several practical applications. They are often used for jewelry, but they are not considered to be a very valuable stone nowadays. However, they experienced widespread use in the ancient world in the art of handstone carving. They have also been used as leather burnishing tools for centuries.

The stone comes in any color and in any pattern imaginable. Each type of agate is believed to possess different magickal properties. But in general, agates are associated with intelligence, truth, and remembering. Because it takes a very long time to form, it symbolizes patience and reliability. It's a grounding stone that grants protection and longevity.

Agate is also a French form of Agatha. This appears to have it's own separate pronunciation, "ah-GAH-tay," or maybe "AH-gah-tay," I'm not sure. I personally find these sounds more appealing.

Agate is not one of the more popular gemstone names like Jasper, Ruby, or Pearl. In fact, many baby name books will not even list it. But there are many interesting stones with interesting names that have yet to experience any real use. I think that Agate has some real possibilities. How about you?


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Sunday, June 12, 2011


You know what day it is? It's Tony Awards day! Hooray! That means that I get to profile this name with Broadway, literary, and witchy street cred!

If you've been a Broadway musical fanatic all you're life, it's pretty much a given that you're familiar with Les Miserables. The songs are iconic, the story is iconic, and you can't really call yourself a musical geek unless you know it by heart. I remember listening to the soundtrack on a continuous loop when I was a child (think three years old). This was where I first heard the name Eponine (pronounced "eh-poh-NEEN," I think).

The play was adapted from the Victor Hugo novel of the same name. Many sources will state that the name has no meaning. That Victor Hugo fabricated it because it needed to look like it was "found in a horribly written, cheap romance novel." In other words, Eponine's mother picked her daughter's name out of a porn book. I don't get that impression from this name, but I suppose name fashion was different back then.

Other sources, while they don't deny that Victor Hugo invented this particular variation, state that Eponine is a form of Epona. Looking over the evidence, I'm inclined to agree. Epona was originally a Gaulish (pre-Celtic) goddess, and she's one of the few deities from that pantheon to be adopted by the Romans. It is believed that her name is derived from ekwos, the pre-Celtic word for "horse." So it should be no surprise that Epona is the goddess of horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys.

Research indicates that the Cult of Epona had greater influence than one might think. Her role eventually evolved into a protector of the army, which is how her influence spread so far throughout the Roman Empire. Icons of Epona have been found in ruins of stables and barns. In some inscriptions she's called Eponina, in Spain she was known as Epane. Her feast day is on December 18th.

Today, remnants of her worship can be seen in places you wouldn't expect. In Mackinac Island, Michigan, where the primary mode of transportation is on horseback, Epona is celebrated every June. They bless the animals, hold stable tours, and hold a parade. In the video game Legend of Zelda, Link rides a horse named Epona.

But back to Eponine. Anyone with a familiarity with play is going to associate the name with it's character, so let's talk about her. Eponine's story is a tragic one. She falls in love with an upper class boy named Marius, who in turn has his eyes on Cosette. Jealous, Eponine concocts a plan to make Marius hers. She sets up a way for both Marius and her to be killed at the barricades so that they would be together in heaven. Ultimately, she decides not to go through with it, takes the brunt of the gunfire and saves Marius' life. So Cosette gets her happy ending, but Eponine never does.

I'm pretty gung-ho about using Eponine for one of my children. The tragic nature of the story doesn't bother me. I have an emotional attachment to that character. There is something hopelessly romantic about the name. It has a barrage of adorable nicknames: Eppie, Nina, Nine, and Pony. What's not to like? On second thought, don't like it. I want it to keep being the unique gem that it is.


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Saturday, June 11, 2011


Tired of Rose and Lily? Here's another unique name from the garden patch.

I've just out what exactly a wisteria (pronounced "wih-STEE-ree-ah") looks like when I walked through a small public garden in the city. It's a vine plant. It's flowers kind of look like upside down lilacs. They can be purple, violet, pink or white. This plant is native to the Eastern United States as well as to China, Korea, and Japan, although it can grow almost too well in other areas and is seen as an invasive species.

There is a little bit of a debate as to where the name of the plant came from. When botanist Thomas Nuttall established it, he said that it was in reference to Caspar Wistar. Wistar was a prominent doctor in 18th century Philadelphia, who is well known for his work in the University of Pennsylvania. When he was later questioned about the difference in spelling (why wisteria instead of wistaria), Nuttall said that it was just more phonetically pleasant that way. But the speculation is that he actually named the plant after his friend, Charles Wister, Sr., a man with no particular fame at all. Not much is known about this surname other than the fact that it's German in origin.

The plant has a large cultural significance in China and Japan and it appears in many stories and religious teachings. It is often used as a symbol for lost love or unrequited love. The Fuji Musume ("Wisteria Maiden") was a popular subject of folk paintings. It is believed to have been inspired by a dance. Fuji Musume paintings were given at weddings as a good luck token. It was even adapted into a kabuki drama. The title character becomes smitten with a young man and steps out of the painting to try to win his heart. Her attempts are futile, and she steps back into the world of the painting with a heavy heart.

In Feng Shui, wisteria represents honor and respect because the flowers appear to be bowing down. Shin Buddhism also sees the flower as a symbol of prayer and reverence. In the Victorian language of flowers, wisteria symbolizes clingy love or obsessive love. A wisteria plant can live up to 100 years, so it should be no surprise that it also symbolizes longevity. Some European families mark the passing years with the growth of the plant.

In many ways, wisteria is very similar to ivy. Both are very hardy vines that can survive in deplorable conditions. They can span out over acres of land and both are known for growing on the sides of houses. Both can grow out of control to the point of destruction, so they must be closely monitored.

Despite that, Wisteria is nowhere near as popular a name as Ivy. I think I see why: it kind of rhymes with hysteria. Personally, I don't see it as a problem, but that's up to the namer. I really wish more parents would consider Wisteria. It's sweet and...well, wistful. Plus, you just gotta love the nickname Wisty.


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Saturday, June 4, 2011


Ah, the mystery of Romilly. It seems to be a favorite of many name enthusiasts, including me. And we'll suggest it to people and they might say, "Oh, that's cool. What language is it from?" Uh...I don't know. "Um...okay. Where is it used the most?" Nowhere, really. "Then how did it get to be a baby name?" I have no idea. "They why are you even suggesting it?" sounds cool?

Here's what we do know. Romilly (pronounced "RAH-mi-lee") is the name of several small towns in north central France. Romilly is also a district in Barry, the town in Wales, and while there you apparently have to watch out for the local goblins. None of these places really seem to have much of a claim to fame.

It is also a surname used in France, but for some reason it has a lot of namesakes in England. The aristocratic Romillys, Esmond Romilly (who married one of the infamous Mitford sisters), and his brother Giles Romilly (a journalist imprisoned by the Nazis) all lived in England. In present times, Emma Thompson's daughter is named Gaia Romilly. For this reason, Romilly is familiar, if uncommon, in England.

There are a lot of possibilities for the etymology of Romilly. Some believe that it's derived from the Old English romen, meaning "to roam." Others believe that it has some reference to the city of Rome.

My theory (and I can't stress that enough) is that it's an old variation of Romulus. The similar pronunciations seem to support that, and some sources insist that it's traditionally a boy's name. But then why the concentration in north central France?

I'm not sure if this name will appeal to many Neo-Pagans. I would think that most of use would prefer names with a clear history or meaning. For magickal names, it's pretty much a requirement. If that's not a prerogative, Romilly is a unique option. I disagree with those that say the pronunciation is straight-forward, I keep wanting to say "rah-MIL-ee." Nevertheless, it's a great name for boys and girls. I'm guessing that all it will take is a new Glee character named Romilly to get the ball rolling in the United States.


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Here's a name for people that are a little bit new age and hippy. Okay, I lied. It's incredibly new age and hippy.

Anyone with a vague familiarity with meditation has heard the word Om. Most associate it with monks from the far east. Phonetically, the word is "aum" and it's chanted in a long, drawn out drone. It is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainists because it represents a full range of sounds that can be made by the human voice.

The Sanskrit name for this syllable is pranava, which means "sound" or "to shout." And if you go to India or Nepal, you will see the symbol everywhere. Aum, Om, and Ohm are also used as place names and given names, but only for boys.

Although my first association with the name is meditation, it is by no means the only origin. Om and Ohm are also surnames from Middle German meaning "relative," and it was used as a respectful way to address elders. In Old Norse, it refers to farmsteads.

With some names, you can see a very specific type of family that would use them. Hamish is very English Aristocrat to me. Shaniqua is a stereotypical urban Black name. Assuming that little Om has no Indian ancestry, I picture his parents as crunchy granola, yoga obsessed, dreadlock wearing hippy-types. And hey, I'm not judging. I like yoga. I just don't know who else this name would appeal to. In America, anyway.

No matter why it appeals to you, Om is a spiritual name that everyone will be able to spell. I wish I could say the same thing about the pronunciation, but it's a small challenge. Although it's traditionally a boy's name in India, I see no reason that it can't be used for girls in the Western world. So there you go, my darling hippies. I am supportive of your alternate baby name choices!

Website news:

As you can probably tell by now, I created the master list for boys names (the princes) and unisex names (the shape-shifters). I know that pretty much all names have the ability to become a shape-shifter, but you get the idea.

Name sighting:

Hey, look at that! For Real Baby Names found a girl named Candle. Where have I read that name before?


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Happy June to all! Over where I live, we're finally getting weather that resembles spring!

There are two different theories about the origin of the name June, according to Ovid. One is that it's derived from the Latin iuniores, which means "young ones." The other is that the month of June is named after the Roman goddess Juno (pronounced "JOO-noh"). Juno is the sister and wife of Jupiter and her Greek counterpart is Hera.

Juno's mythology is perhaps the most complex of all the Roman gods, and historians debate about her theology to this day. What we do know is that she was extremely important. Juno looks after all the women of Rome, is the patron goddess of the Roman Empire, and was often referred to as Regina, meaning "Queen." She was often depicted in military garb, ready to protect her children from any enemy. As the etymology of her name suggests, she is also associated with eternal youth. Although she is not the moon goddess (that duty belongs to Diana) a lot of historical texts suggest that she has a connection to the moon because of it's spiritual connection to menstrual cycles and pregnancy.

Juno is most well known as being the goddess of marriage. It was considered extremely lucky to get married on the month of Juno. This is why this month is still a popular time for weddings.

There are other well known namesakes besides the goddess. The award winning film Juno came out in 2007. In this comedic drama, Juno is a quirky, wisecracking teenage girl who has an unplanned pregnancy. She decides to carry the baby to term and give it to a suburban couple. One real life Juno is the as-of-yet not famous British actress Juno Violet Temple, who appeared in such movies as Atonement.

But it doesn't look like either of these film references inspired that many parents as Juno has yet to appear in the top 1,000. June, on the other hand, was a popular girls name way back when and peaked in the 1920s at #45. It disappeared in the 1990s but is coming back and is now at #597. If you can believe it, June was also used as a boys name. It appeared at the bottom of the charts from the 1880s to the 1930s. I've also heard a new variation: Junella, a combination of June and Ella.

I'm hoping that more people will consider this name. Juno is a confident, powerful moniker for any girl. It also manages to be quirky and artsy. It's a great option for someone that wants to reference this month but wants something less traditional.


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