Saturday, November 24, 2012

Name Advice: A Girl Named Thistle

I recently recieved a comment on a name that I profiled almost a year ago: Thistle. It was from a couple that is considering this name for a hypothetical child. The name has a lot of meaning to them. Thistles were used during their wedding, and the Texas thistle is the guy's favorite flower. However, family and friends don't get it. So their question is twofold: a) how do they get people off their backs and accept the idea and b) what middle name combinations can I come up with for Thistle?

Ah, yes. The bane of all name enthusiasts: the family that doesn't understand. It could be worse. You could be dealing with the worst bane of all: the partner that shoots down all of your name suggestions and only contributes names in the complete opposite style of yours, if at all. Looks like you don't have to deal with that.

It is almost never easy to change someones mind with words alone. That's the bad news. The idea that a "weird" name is going to ruin a child's life has been imbedded into our culture for a very long time. Let me do what I do best and make everything about me. I've pretty much been a name enthusiast ever since I was a kid and I learned pretty quickly not to talk about names I like around my family. They're conservative and they have a strict Irish Catholic naming tradition. So I would be in the middle of saying how much I loved Isabella (hey, it wasn't as common twenty years ago) and Dad would chime in with, "You know what's a great name? Thomas! Bet you want to name your son after your beloved father!" Oy.

I could explain how having two people in the family with the same exact name has been a logistical nightmare for my mother. I could tell him that I view Thomas as too Irish Catholic and I want my children's names to reflect my Wiccan beliefs. I could point out that since he did not follow the sacred tradition when he named me that I was under no obligation whatsoever to carry it on with my children. I could remind him that there are already four people with that name in our family and that is quite enough, thank you. And I could admit that I thought that Thomas was just plain boring. And I have. It doesn't change his mind.

But you know what does change people's minds? Actions and experiences. I think you know where I'm going with this. When it comes to naming children, it's much easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. So when the time comes and you're pregnant with little Thistle, do not talk about names at all. Maybe you can let in a few trusted souls, but it'll be like fight club. First rule of name club, you do not talk about name club. Then, when Thistle is born and everyone is gathered around inhaling the intoxicating aroma of tiny human, announce the name.

Could they still be snarky about it? Could they get upset? Sure. But here's how I see it: giving your children names that you love is just one of my many dreams in life. If you ignore your dreams they'll eventually die. If you ignore your family and friends they'll manage to survive.

That is my advice. Since there is not much of a chance that I'll be having children of my own any time soon, take it for what it's worth. Maybe you'll have all boys and the Thistle thing will be a moot point.

Now for the fun part: combinations! Not sure what your style is, although you said that you liked Thistle because it was "whimsical and earthy." I would avoid names that begin with "S" because it kind of turns the name into a tougue twister. My personal instinct would be to put Thistle into the middle spot, but I'm operating under the assumption that Thistle will be the first name. I think I've managed to come up with a healthy variety:

Thistle Genevieve
Thistle Magdalene
Thistle Charm
Thistle Georgiana
Thistle Rosalind
Thistle Quinn
Thistle Linnet
Thistle Kalliroe
Thistle Isolde
Thistle Eden
Thistle Baudelaire
Thistle Paz
Thistle Tamsin
Thistle India
Thistle Monet
Thistle Juliet
Thistle Charlotte
Thistle Cora
Thistle Astoria
Thistle Astrid
Thistle Paloma
Thistle Avalon
Thistle Nova
Thistle Nouvelle
Thistle Riviera
Thistle Dorothy
Thistle Romilly
Thistle Valentine
Thistle Prudence
Thistle Capulet

I think that's enough for now. Now lets turn it over to the readers! What combinations would you make for Thistle?

P.S. It appears that my spellcheck is not functioning, so if there are typos you'll have to forgive me.

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I'm sorry to say that Thanksgiving just kind of sneaked up to me this year, so I didn't go through the trouble of preparing any type of theme week. Plus I have a whole bunch of name profiles to go through. But this is the time of year in which virtue names are brought up a lot. Could this one ever make a comeback?

Ernest is an English and German name that is derived from the Germanic word ernst, meaning "serious," "zealous," "firm," or "resolute." Some sources state that it also means "battle to the death." The vocabulary word is spelled earnest, which could also be used as a name, but usually the proper form drops the "a."

This name was introduced to England when the German House of Hanover inherited the throne from the House of Stuart during the 1700s. The name didn't become popular amongst regular people until the following century. The House of Hanover is still around or course, but their reign in England ended with the death of Queen Victoria. The current head of the House of Hanover is Prince Ernst August V. In fact, this name was used by royalty quite a lot. Mostly by Austrians and Bavarians.

In the olden days (definitely the 1920s and 1930s, I'm not sure how long this lasted) Ernest was slang for "homosexual." It came from the play The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, who was outed as a gay man when the play first came out. It's fascinating to watch old Hollywood movies that show characters named Ernest swishing about in the most effeminate way. Everyone was expected to get the joke. I'm not saying that to try to deter anyone, it's extremely dated slang and most people will not even be aware of it. I'm just saying that if you know people in the older set who are sneering at this name, this is probably why.

Americans are likely to associate this name with two famous namesakes. One of them is the author and explorer Ernest Hemingway, famous for works like For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. If you have a son named Ernest, it's probably not a good idea to name his brother Albert, unless you don't mind the Sesame Street connection.

On the American charts, Earnest peaked in the 1890s at #24. It's never left the charts, but it has been steadily dwindling since then. It now rests at #851. I do have an "Uncle" Ernie (my grandfather's cousin), although his name was actually Ernesto, which now ranks at #490. Other variants include Ernestus and Erno. The female variant Ernestine has also gotten a lot of attention amongst name enthusiasts, and there is also Ernestina. Those peaked in the 1920s at #203 and the 1930s at #774, respectively.

I hate to say it, but Ernest sounds like a bumpkin to me. So it's not one of my favorites. But there's a chance that it'll become a big name again. Perhaps when my children start having children this name will be fresh again.


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If I was doing the Pagan Name of the Year awards during 1976, Rhiannon would have won by a landslide.

Stevie Nicks discovered the name Rhiannon through the novel Triad by Mary Leader. Triad is about a woman named Branwen who is possessed by another woman named Rhiannon. Nicks thought that the name was beautiful and decided to write a song about it. Three months later, she joined Fleetwood Mac and "Rhiannon" became one of their greatest hits. The live performances of that song were way more intense than the studio recording, Mick Fleetwood described it as an exorcism. It wasn't until after she wrote the song that Nicks familiarized herself with the mythical Rhiannon. She was shocked to find that the lyrics she wrote correlated with the Welsh stories so perfectly.

Rhiannon (pronounced "ree-AH-non") is a Welsh name derived from the Celtic name Rigantona, meaning "great queen." Historians believe that Rhiannon was a local figure. Outside of Southwest Wales, Rhiannon was virtually unknown. She appears in a well known collection of Medieval Welsh stories called the Mabinogion, which contains most of what we know of Welsh mythology. Interestingly, there is no suggestion that Rhiannon is a goddess in these stories. She is shown as a mortal woman. Rigantona was a goddess in Celtic mythology, which makes people believe that she was a goddess to the Welsh as well. Also, Rhiannon is often associated with Epona, the Gallo-Roman goddess of horses. It is worth noting that the Mabinogion was written by Christians, so they might have been uncomfortable presenting her as a goddess.

Rhiannon's story begins when she goes against her fathers wishes and marries Pwyll instead of Gwawl. Soon they have a son together, but the boy disappears on the night of his birth when he is in the care of her ladies-in-waiting. They don't want to get into trouble, so they frame Rhiannon by smearing her in blood while she slept and accused her of cannibalism. Rhiannon is punished for seven years until her son reappears. The boy was named Pryderi. Eventually, Pwyll died and Rhiannon remarried to Manawydan, while Pryderi married Cigfa.

But at Rhiannon and Manawydan's wedding feast, a mysterious mist came through their kingdom. When it cleared, all the animals and people were gone except for Rhiannon, Manawydan, Pryderi, and Cigfa. They were forced to leave their barren land and travel to England as beggars. Years pass, and they decide to come back to Wales to see if the situation has improved. Pryderi and Rhiannon disappear (in some variations they're turned into donkeys, in another they are attached to a magical cauldron) leaving the remaining two to wonder were they are. Manawydan manages to grow some wheat but before they can benefit from it the crop is eaten by mice. Enraged, he caught one of the pests and was about to kill it when a passing stranger pleaded for it's life. The man promised that he would give Manawydan anything he wanted in return for the mouse's life. Manawydan wanted his wife and son-in-law back and the curse lifted. Both wishes were granted instantly. The stranger was the magician Llwyd, and the mouse was his wife. Llwyd was hired by his friend Gwawl to curse the four as revenge on Rhiannon.

In Neo-Paganism, Rhiannon is primarily a horse goddess because she first appears to Pwyll while riding a magnificent white horse. She is also seen as a queen of sovereignty. Pwyll was not royalty before she agreed to take him as her spouse. Aside from horses, Rhiannon has a strong association with birds. She has a magical set of them who can both sooth the living into a deep sleep and wake up the dead.

To the surprise of no one, Rhiannon first appeared in the American top 1,000 in the 1970s. It's highest ranking was in the 1980s at #598. It fell off the charts in 2008, but it remained popular in Scotland that year at #296. I've seen a few children of Neo-Pagan families with this name, although Rhiannon is not nearly as common as Tabitha and Rowan. There is also a well known Wiccan from Australia with this name, Rhiannon Ryall, who has made a lot of controversial claims in the past.

The issue I have with Rhiannon is that it's slightly cliche. It feels like it's in the same group as Raven, Willow, and Ember. It's a bit of a witchy stereotype. Rhianna was one of my favorites when I was younger, but that now has a hip-hop vibe to it thanks to Rihanna. Rihanna is the more popular option at the moment, it peaked in 2008 at #311 and is now at #729, and it's also very popular in Scotland and Canada. Other variants include Riannon, Rianna, Rhi, and Rhian.

Even though the name feels a bit obvious to me, it's still a lovely name for a Neo-Pagan family. And thanks to Stevie Nicks, it's one that everyone is familiar with and one that everyone associates with witches.


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Sunday, November 18, 2012


Before you think that this one is incredibly crazy, allow me to explain.

Otter is an English word that comes from the Pre Germanic otraz. It is ultimately derived from the Proto Indo European udros, which literally means "water creature." This is the same source for the Greek word hydra, which is a type of mythical sea serpent.

Most people are familiar with what an otter is. They are semi aquatic mammals similar to weasels only slightly bigger and cuter. There are species of otters living throughout Europe and in parts of Asia, North America, South America, and Africa. Most people have a positive association with otters as they playful, beautiful to watch when they're swimming, and do adorable human-like things with their paws.

Many cultures refer to this animal as the "water dog." In Ancient Persia the otter was the most sacred creature and killing one was forbidden. In Scottish mythology there is the tradition of Otter Kings who grant wishes when captured. Otter Kings are hard to kill, but if you manage the task their pelts bring invincibility. In Celtic mythology, there are many stories of otters helping humans, often by bringing them fish to eat. St. Cuthbert is the patron saint of otters. In a Norse myth, Loki killed the dwarf Otr while the later was in the form of an otter. The other dwarfs were furious and demanded compensation from the gods, who gave them an otter pelt filled with gold.

There are many stories about otters amongst Native American cultures too. Generally, the otter is seen as a trickster spirit, mischievous but never evil. Tribes in which the otter is their totem include the Muskogee Creek, the Abenaki, the Menominee, and the Chippewa. Amongst the tribes along the Alaskan and British Colombian coast, otters are associated with ghosts and drowning and are therefore unlucky. This animal also appears in recent works of literature like Wind in the Willows and Ring of Bright Water. It's J. K. Rowling's favorite animal, that's why it's Hermione's patronus in the Harry Potter series.

The only person I have ever seen with this name was a well known Neo-Pagan. Timothy Zell went by Otter G'Zell for a time before settling on Oberon Zell-Ravenheart. Mainstream people might not be convinced that this name can be used because of that. But if parents can name their kids Bear, Bunny, and Fox, then they can use Otter. Otters make me smile. I like names that come from things that make me smile.


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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Name Round Up: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra

I am such a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra that I am convinced that I am annoying all of my followers on Pinterest with all the fan art I keep pinning. If you're not familiar with the shows, I highly recommend them. You don't need to be a kid in order to enjoy them.

There are also a lot of great names in the Avatar world. Some of them could be used for children, especially if you like Asian inspired names. So without further ado:

1. Tenzin. A Tibetan name heavily associated with the Dalai Lama. I can see this one catching on with Westerners.

2.  Katara. It's the name of a type of dagger, but it could also be translated as "droplet" in Arabic. The later is more fitting to the character.

3. Mako. A shortened form of the Japanese name Makoto, meaning "truth" or "faithfulness." Used for both genders.

4. Ursa. Latin for "bear." Some might prefer Ursula.

5. Korra. Derived from Kore, a Greek name meaning "maiden." Some people might be more inclined to use the variant spelling of Cora.

6. Iroh. I actually wouldn't have put this one on the list, but apparently parents are already using it. As far as I know the creators invented it.

7. Rohan. A Sanskrit name meaning "to ascend." There is also a Tolkien connection.

8. Jet. Quite well used already, the character was named after another character from Cowboy Bebop.

9. Asami. A Japanese girl's name meaning "morning beauty," "morning sea," or "beautiful linen." In Greek it means "silver."

10. Azula. Invented for the show, but there is a definite likeness to the Spanish word for "blue," and this mirrors the blue flames she makes. There is also an Azulon in the series.

11. Yue. Pronounced "YOO-eh" in the show, the name means "tragic accident" in Japanese and is traditionally given to infants who die shortly after birth. But it also means "moon" in Mandarin. Both apply to the character very well.

12. Momo. Yes, it is the name of an adorable pet lemur in the show, but Momo is a real name. It's Japanese for "peach." A bit too cute for me, but I can see some people liking it.

13. Haru. A Japanese boys name meaning "spring." The long form Haruki has the famous author attached to it.

One more, because I just can't resist...

14. Zuko. Okay, maybe not many parents would actually use this one. But it's possible, if people are using Iroh. He's my favorite character, so I had to squeeze him in. His name was invented for the show, but it does bear a resemblance to the Filipino word for "angry."

Any fans of the Avatar world reading this? Do you have any favorite names from the shows?


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Here is the name of a woman that continues to be a huge influence on Pagan culture.

Hypatia (pronounced "hih-PAY-shah" or sometimes "HIH-peh-shah") is derived from the Greek hypatos and it means "highest" or "supreme." Hypatia of Alexandria is the most famous Pagan "martyr." Generally, Neo-Pagans have a real distaste for the idea of the "martyr," but we use it for her for lack of a better term.

Hypatia is considered to be the first female mathematician and was also a philosopher. She was the daughter of mathematician Theon Alexandricus, and he gave her a good education. She was also known for being very beautiful. She studied in Athens and Italy and soon became a teacher of philosophy and astronomy in Alexandria, Egypt. She accepted anyone as a student whether they be Pagan, Christian, of foreign. Keep in mind, this was during the 300s, when tensions between the dominant Pagan civilization and the growing Christian community were at it's peak. Many Christians were hostile against her, because she was a Pagan woman who taught science. But lots of Christians admired her as well. Hypatia never married or had children, so she was seen as virtuous.

Hypatia became a point of contention because Orestes, the governor of Alexandria, often sought her advice. This made her a target by people who were unhappy with some of the decisions Orestes made. There's more to the story, but that is essentially what it came down to. One night, a group of Christian thugs kidnapped her on her way home from work. They took her to a church where they tortured her, killed her, and mutilated her body. Her murder effectively marked the downfall of Ancient Pagan civilization, even though it did limp along for quite a few centuries after that.

Hypatia's memory lives on. Many scientific discoveries are named after her in honor of her accomplishments. Hypatia was portrayed by Rachel Weisz in the film Agora, which is considered by some to be the Pagan Gone with the Wind. Hypatia Day is on March 15th, which is a day of remembrance observed by many Neo-Pagans.

Hypatia has never been a common name in the United States. At first I wasn't overly fond of the sound, but I'm liking it the more I hear it. It fits in well with other unique names like Titania and Olympia. And with the wonderful woman attached to it, I'm sure that someone will claim the name at some point.


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Because the weather is very grey here, I felt inspired to profile this name.

The word grey comes from Old English but it is ultimately derived from the Pre Germanic grisja. The word has always been in reference to the color. It can also be spelled gray, which is the dominant spelling in the United States. But I just prefer Grey, the dominant spelling in the United Kingdom, for a name.

Grey doesn't really get a lot of love as a color. Some consider it depressing or boring. But there are times in which grey can be a very beautiful color. Think of morning with fog amongst the trees or the buildings in a city. Grey coats on animals are quite lovely (grey horses are my favorite).

In Neo-Pagan culture, grey symbolizes the moon as well as balance and neutrality. Think of the term "grey area." Because it contains the extremes of both black and white, grey is the color of compromise. Grey is also associated with wisdom, which most likely comes from it's association with age. There is something elegant and dignified about the color as well. The human eye can differentiate between approximately 500 shades of grey. Not just 50. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

There is a Neo-Pagan namesake for this one. Grey Cat was the author of the book Deepening Witchcraft, and was an outspoken advocate for elders in the community. I highly doubt that Grey Cat was her name when she was born, but I couldn't find out what her original name was. She has recently passed away.

Grey/Gray has never been a common name in the United States, but I think that it has a chance. Grey/Gray is a surname, and surnames in the first spot are popular. Use of Grayson/Greyson has been increasing, and that has a wolf connection. I've also seen Graylin and Grayla suggested as girl's options.

If you would like a unique but refined name that has little change of inspiring any cuteness or nicknames, Grey can be a great option.


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Friday, November 16, 2012


I admit that after profiling September and October I got a little bored with the month names last year. So now I'm going to pick up where I left off with November.

November is derived from the Latin novem, meaning "nine." This stems from the fact that this was the ninth month in the Ancient Roman calendar. At one point in Ancient Rome, the Senate suggested that the name of this month should be changed to Tiberius, in honor of the Emperor of the same name. Clearly, that idea did not catch on. Like September and October, November is a new name option that has a growing number of fans in the name enthusiast community.

November's macabre undertone is less widely acknowledged than October's, but it is there. This month's Old English name was Blotmonag, meaning "blood month." Winters are harsh in Northern Europe and sickly cattle are not likely to survive. So in the olden days the weakest of the herds would be sacrificed to the gods. And then, of course, Samhain, All Saints Day, and Dia De Los Muertos are all on this month as well.

In America, November is considered to be the last autumn month before winter comes. It's the time of the year in which the last of the autumn leaves are falling and the trees are bare. At least, that's what it looks like in the Northern hemisphere. If you're British, you associate this month with Guy Fawkes Day. If you're American, you associate this month with Thanksgiving. Both countries celebrate Remembrance Day and Veterans Day, respectively. It's the same holiday, they just have different names.

November has never been a common name in the United States. But it does have a beautiful sound, even though it's my personal least favorite of the "-ber" months for no logical reason. Nova and Ember could be used as nicknames. Novembris was the Ancient Roman name, and that can be used too.

So if you're looking for a unique autumn name, November could be a great choice.


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This botanical option is something of a new favorite in the name enthusiast community.

The etymology of maple is Old English derived from mapultreow, meaning "maple tree." The word could either come from the Pre Germanic malto or maplo, but the meaning behind both words is a mystery. It is interesting to note that this word first appeared in print in Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Knights Tale." This word has an obsolete adjective form as well, mapelin. That could work as a name, too.

Most species of maple trees are native to East Asia. The Japanese maple is probably the most well known because it's leaves stay red year round. But, of course, the tree can also grow in North America, Europe, and North Africa. It is not considered to be one of the super-important Celtic trees because maples are definitely not native to Ireland. They have very distinctive leaves that have three points.

In Neo-Pagan culture, maple is considered to be one of the most spiritual trees. Therefore, wands made from this wood are used predominantly for spiritual healing. It is also a great wood for travelers, and will help with magickal work that has to do with focus, learning, and love. In mainstream culture, the maple has long been a symbol of strength and endurance. The maple tree has a strong association with Canada as the leaf appears on their flag. In Japan, there is an Autumn tradition of viewing maple trees as their leaves change color.

As far as practical uses go, maple trees are famous for their syrup. Syrup can be collected from a few species but the sugar maple is the most popular. The dried wood is often used for smoking food. The wood is also used to make bowling pins, pool cues, butcher's blocks, and bows for archery. Maples are also a popular choice for Japanese bonsai, the art of growing and cultivating miniature trees.

Maple is still a new name and has never appeared in the American top 1,000. Most people read this name a feminine because of it's similarity to Mabel. But there is some history of it being used as a surname, which would traditionally point it towards being used for boys. But there isn't enough use for it to be claimed by either gender.

It's not one of my absolute favorite tree names, but I think that Maple sounds sweet and thoughtful. I look forward to seeing it used more.


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Sunday, November 11, 2012


This profile is inspired by an ancient folkloric character who continues to have a hold on popular culture.

Scheherazade (pronounced "sheh-heh-rah-ZAH-day") is a Persian name derived from Sahrazad, a name recorded by a scholar named Ibn al-Nadim. The meaning he proscribed to the name was "she whose land is free." Other sourced state that the name means "born in the city" or "of noble lineage." The popular fairy tale character was partially based off of another legendary queen. Homay, daughter of Bahman, was sometimes known as Cehrazad, meaning "she who appears noble."

This is the name of the legendary Persian queen and the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights, a compilation of folk tales throughout West and South Asia. Scheherazade's story is what is known as a frame story, a literary technique in which the main narrative exists for the purpose of setting the stage for other stories. So in a way, Scheherazade is really just a device much like how The Illustrated Man really isn't about The Illustrated Man. One Thousand and One Nights includes a wide variety of genres. Some are very long while others only last one sentence. The English translations added popular stories like "Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp," "The Adventures of Sinbad the Sailor," and "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves."

Most people have at least a passing familiarity with Scheherazade's story. Before he met Scheherazade, King Shahryar was married to a woman who turned out to be unfaithful. Unable to trust a woman again, he would marry a new virgin only to behead her the next day. Eventually the Vizier cannot find any more women. Against her father's wishes, the Vizier's daughter volunteers as the new bride. That would be Scheherazade.

Scheherazade was a very bookish girl, and was determined to stay alive. So that night she asked the King if she could bit farewell to her beloved sister Dinazade. Dinazade asked Scheherazade to tell her a story, which was preplanned. The King listened to her all through the night, but then Scheherazade stopped in the middle. The King wanted her to continue, but Scheherazade replied that she couldn't because it was dawn and therefore it was time for her execution. He had no choice but to allow her to live for another night. The next night, she finished the story but left the next one unfinished. So the King had to allow her to live for the next night. After 1,001 nights and having given birth to three princes, Scheherazade finally ran out of stories. But the King had fallen in love with her and decided to make her Queen.

Scheherazade has been a well known character in the Western world for a very long time, but her name has never been a popular name in the United States. It's a heck of a name to figure out how to spell and pronounce if you're unfamiliar with it. Still, it has a positive association and an exotic sound. There are lots of reasons to be attracted to it.


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Thursday, November 8, 2012


So there are quite a few requests that I need to take care of. Jelly, whose mother has encountered a little boy with this name, has requested Aslan.

This name is heavily associated with the benevolent and mystical lion leader in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. He's aptly named. Oddly enough, Aslan (pronounced "AHS-lan") is a Turkish name meaning "lion." In Lewis' classic stories, Aslan is the only character to appear in all seven books. He possesses godlike powers and even created Narnia through his song.

C. S. Lewis made it pretty clear that Aslan is supposed to represent Jesus. He stated that Aslan is supposed to be an incarnation of Christ in this fantasy world. In the Bible, Jesus is sometimes compared to a lion which is why Aslan is a lion. The whole Narnia series is a Christian allegory, even though Lewis was very hesitant to call it that. A lot of Christian groups now use the name Aslan.

Because of this, the Narnia series has a mixed reception amongst Neo-Pagans. Some of us find it too preachy and we don't like how some Christians use it to convert people. However, it's worth noting that just because the books are pro-Christian it doesn't mean that they're anti-Pagan. There are lots of Pagan references in Narnia, and not just Jadis the evil White Witch. Many Pagan characters are depicted in a positive light, like Dionysus, Dryads, Satyrs, Fauns, and many others.

Aslan has never been a common name in the United States. I've noticed that this name is used a lot in Russia, which was kind of surprising. It's also well used in Muslim areas, which is not surprising. Historically Aslan, as well as it's variant forms Arslan and Arsalan, was the title of several sultans. Aslan is also the name of an Irish rock band.

I like Aslan. It kind of makes me want to give the books another chance (I didn't really get them as a kid). I find the name's association more literary than Christian. Overall, it's pretty cool.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012


It's not exactly "faery" season, most people would profile those types of names in the springtime or during Midsummer. But do you really need a "season" for profiling Titania? And it's spring in the southern hemisphere.

Titania (pronounced "tiy-TAY-nee-ah") is a feminine form of Titanius supposedly invented by Shakespeare but it actually appeared before in Ovid's Metamorphosis. Titanius means "of the Titans," and Titania was a name often given to the daughters of Titans. The Titans were the powerful deities that ruled before the Olympians in Greek mythology.

When most people think of this name, they think of Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titania is the name of the queen of the fairies. The character is based off of the Faery Queen in traditional English mythology, who has no name. Titania is a strong and proud equal to her partner Oberon. She and her husband get into a fight regarding an Indian changeling and this quarrel propels the action of the play. Oberon wants to teach her a lesson. So he gets his servant, Puck, to cast a spell on her that causes her to fall in love with enchanted, donkey-headed Nick Bottom.

There is something decidedly Pagan about Oberon and Titania, aside from the fact that they're Fae. They might be husband and wife, but you don't really get the sense that they spend very much time together. In fact, it seems like they spend more time with overnight guests at separate dwellings. Oberon tricks Titania into bedding another man, but Titania doesn't seem too mad about it afterwards. Their relationship echos a lot of the relationships I see in the Neo-Pagan community in that it's sexually free and not monogamous. It's interesting if you consider the time period the play came out in.

Due to the play's influence, Titania is often used as a fairy name. She is referenced in Edmund Spencer's book Faerie Queene. She also makes an appearance in Alfred Lord Tennyson's drama The Foresters. Titania has a celestial association, it is the name of one of Uranus' moons.

Titania has never been a common name in the United States, which is a little bit surprising to me. I thought that it would be at least at the bottom somewhere. I wouldn't use this name for practical reasons. I constantly confuse this name with Tatiana (pronounced "tah-TEEAH-nah"). I always write one when I mean the other and read one as the other and I don't know why I just can't get it right. I still think it's a lovely name, but I couldn't use it.

Titania is one of those names that everyone is familiar with but no one is using. Perhaps Witchy people can lead the way.


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Friday, November 2, 2012


Last year I continued my Hallows theme through November 2nd because of Dia de los Muertos. So here's one more creepy name for the road.

Oiwa (I'm not sure how this is pronounced) is arguably the most famous horror character in all of Japanese culture. She first appeared in a kabuki play called Yotsuya Kaidan in 1825. This time in Japanese history was marked by social unrest and intense subjugation of women. The playwright, Tsuruya Nanboku IV, incorporated shocking murders from the headlines into his play. The audience for Yotsuya Kaidan was the common man, who were seeking increasingly violent forms of entertainment. Which this play delivers. The play was incredibly successful in it's debut, forcing the producers to schedule more performances.

The story is about Oiwa, the faithful and beautiful wife Tamiya Iemon. Oiwa loves her husband very much, but he is bitter about his lack of prospects and wants to get ride of her so he can marry a wealthier woman named Oume (from what I've noticed, this seems to be a common plot point in old Japanese horror stories). Oume worries that she is not as pretty as Oiwa, so Oume's father sends Oiwa some face cream mixed with poison that disfigures her. Her hair falls out and her left eye begins to droop. Iemon is horrified by her looks and asks a friend of his to rape her so that he would have a basis for divorce. This friend of his cannot bring himself to do it and instead shows Oiwa her reflection. She becomes hysterical and kills herself accidentally.

Not long after, Iemon marries Oume. But one his wedding night the horrifying ghost of Oiwa appears and tricks him into murdering Oume and her father. She continues to do this with the rest of Oume's family. Iemon soon descends into madness and is eventually slayed out of compassion and vengeance. There is also a subplot involving Oiwa's prostitute sister Osode, but lets face it. Oiwa steals the show.

In Japanese folklore, Oiwa would be characterized as an onryo, a spirit seeking vengeance. Most are women. They have the power in death that they did not have in life. Oiwa has traits that make her distinct from other onryo. The drooping eye, for one. She also is partially bald and has long, ragged hair. She is wearing the white kimono that is associated with burial. There are many different retellings of this story in stage, movies, and television. Oiwa is iconic, so this appearance is referenced again and again in Japanese storytelling. If you've watched the film The Ring, the girl that crawls out of the T.V. is a direct reference to Oiwa.

Yotsuya Kaidan is the Macbeth of the kabuki world. There have been many reports of strange accidents and injuries happening to the actors who have performed in it. According to an urban legend Oiwa is buried at a temple called Myogyo-ji in Tokyo, and it is a tradition for the actors and the director to make a pilgrimage to this temple to ask for her blessing.

I've searched for the meaning of the name Oiwa and have come up with nothing except that it's used as a surname. Everyone thinks I'm looking for the meaning behind Iowa and, well, no. Oiwa is not a household name in America, so the connection to the play isn't something that everyone is going to be familiar with. I'm not sure how this name would play out in Japan, however.

So if you want an unusual and creepy name, Oiwa could work for you.


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