Monday, December 24, 2012


Neo-Pagans should find this foreign holiday custom quite interesting.

Befana (pronounced "beh-FAH-nah") is a folkloric character from Italy. Her name is of uncertain origin, but there are a few pet theories. A popular theory is that her name comes from the Italian word for Epiphany (Epifania), because that is the holiday she is associated with. Other sources state that it comes from the name of a goddess, more on that later.

Befana resembles a traditional witch character, an old woman wearing black and riding a broomstick. She's often covered in soot because she enters people's houses through the chimney. But there is definitely nothing evil or scary about her. According to the story, Befana was visited by the Three Wise Men a few days before they saw Jesus. They were there to ask for directions, but Befana could not help them. The men stayed for the night. The following morning, they invited her to see Jesus, but Befana declined, saying she had too much housework. But she later had a change of heart and set out to find them, but to no avail. She is still searching for the little baby but while she looks she leaves gifts, candy, and fruit for good children and coal, garlic, and onions for bad children.

It should come to no surprise that Befana is based off of a Pagan tradition. Strenua, sometimes called Strenia or Strina, was the Sabine/Roman goddess of purification, well being, and the new year. The first recorded mention of her holiday stated that it took place on January 1st. Since the Ancient Roman new year was on March 1st, this doesn't really make any sense. It's unclear whether or not it was moved from the other date. In any case, the name Strenua comes from strenae. Strenae were the gifts that they exchanged as good omens, traditionally figs, dates, honey, and money. It is said that strenae comes from the Sabine word for "wellfare," but no one knows if this is correct.

The Befana tradition is virtually unheard of here in the United States. So if you use Befana, it'll sound like just a pretty if unique name. Pagans that practice Stregheria might hold a festival in Befana's honor, but aside from that not many Neo-Pagans pay attention to her. At the point in which the Catholics get gifts from her (January 6th) we're already gearing up for Imbolc, and our new year is on November 1st. But Yuletide would be a nice time to give her some attention.

So if you're looking for an unusual Yuletide name that honors Italian roots, Befana could work well.


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Friday, December 21, 2012


Joyous Yuletide is upon us! Except for those in the southern hemisphere celebrating Litha! Happy Solstice to us all! And you're probably looking at the title of this post and thinking, "Really? Couldn't you resist the temptation?" No. No I couldn't.

I thought that there would be more hype around the Mayan prophecy of doom than there would be this year. I lived through Y2K, but nothing akin to that happened, really. In any case, there are lots of different calenders from different cultures. Not sure why we spent so much time worrying about the Mayan one. Still, Ender seems like an appropriate name to cover on this day.

A lot of baby name resources say that this name is Turkish. I don't think I buy that. I find the fact that they list the meaning as "very rare" a little suspicious. One website says that it's a form of Anders, a common Scandinavian name and a form of Andrew. That seems plausible. The character in Orson Scott Card's novel Ender's Game is actually named Andrew, so that makes sense.

Never read the book? Let me spoil it for you. Ender's Game takes place in a future in which the human race is fighting against aliens called the Formics. There's a school that trains children to be commanders in the war. Andew "Ender" Wiggin is one of these kids. Ender proves to be especially gifted at the games they use for training, so the fleet decides to put him in command. But Ender doesn't know that he is commanding a real fleet in a real war, he is led to believe that he is just playing a game. That all happens in the first novel and the original short story, there are several sequels as well. I've heard people say that they're a Pagan friendly group of books. I wouldn't know, I've never read them.

Ender has never been a common name in the United States, which I admit surprised me a little bit. The book is very famous, so perhaps it's a bit too "fandom" for popularity. But the sound is very trendy to me. I really did think that the sound would trump the nerdiness, like it seemed to do for Draven.

So when another "apocalypse" comes along (and there will, trust me there will), Ender could be a great reference to that.


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Thursday, December 20, 2012


Here is a mythical name that I think deserves a little more love.

Osiris (pronounced "oh-SIY-ris") is actually the Greek form of this god's name. We know a lot of the Egyptian gods by their Greek names. His name in Egyptian could be written as Asar, Asari, Ausar, Aser, Wesir, Usir, Usire, or Ausare. The meaning of his name is unknown. However, Osiris had many titles including "Lord of Love," "Lord of Silence," and "He Who is Permanently Benign and Youthful."

Osiris is the son of Geb (the earth) and Nuit (the sky), husband and brother to Isis, and brother to Seth. He is considered to be the king of the gods in Egyptian mythology. Typically, he is depicted as a green-skinned (how's that for witchy?) man. He was the first Pharaoh, so he has a Pharaoh's beard and a crown. The lower half of his body is mummified, which symbolizes his status as the god of the afterlife. Osiris is a very important god as he was credited with bringing civilization into the world through agriculture.

The story of Osiris' death was central to Ancient Egyptian culture. Isis favored Osiris over Seth, and Seth became jealous. He also wanted his brother's throne. So Seth had a beautiful chest built and painted, and said that it would be a gift for whoever could fit inside of it. Osiris hopped in, and Seth sealed the box shut and threw it into the Nile River (some believe that the Egyptian sarcophagus was based off of the box in this myth). And then Isis brought Osiris back to life for a short time and they conceived Horus.

Worship of Osiris was quite popular in ancient times up until the 600s, which is quite a long time. People who witnessed Osiris' festivals described them as "gloomy" and "mournful." There were professional reenactments of the story of his murder, resurrection, and Horus' revenge. People who joined the cult of Osiris would have been particularly interested in the concept of immortality. After he died, Osiris became the guardian of the underworld and all who die face his judgement. Osiris was sometimes called "king of the living" because the Ancient Egyptians believed in life after death, and that Osiris had a glorious kingdom waiting for them.

He also became associated with the cycle of life and the first day of his festival also signaled the beginning of the harvest. Another annual custom was the making of "Osiris beds" which were planters in the shape of Osiris filled with soil and seeds. Wheat, and by extension bread, was considered to be Osiris' body. Doesn't all of this sound a little...familiar? Well, as it turns out, just like a some scholars believe that the Virgin Mary is actually Isis, some believe that Jesus' story comes from the myth of Osiris. Some sources state that Isis resurrected Osiris on December 25th, I'm not absolutely certain if that's true but he is heavily associated with the Solstice.

I was slightly dismayed to find that Osiris is now the name of a shoe company. Osiris is also the name of a planet (not one from our solar system, obviously), and there are a few comic book characters with this name. It has never been a common name in the United States, but there are more real life namesakes then I thought there would be. Quite a few of them are artists, so it might not be their birth names.

I think the name Osiris is really awesome. There's something really powerful about it, but also kind of suave. Similar to how I feel about Apollo, another underused name. So I'm hoping more people will consider it.


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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Bewitching Names!

Two years ago I started writing this blog! Isn't that something! And the readership has been steadily growing! Thanks to you all!

I don't have a photo of myself at the age of two for you as I have moved since last year and I don't have many baby pictures of myself on my computer. Oh well. Here's a picture of a witchy cake.

Here's something that I would like to gage your level of interest on. I don't know if you've noticed, but posts this year have been slightly...sparse? At least in comparison to the year before. So I'm thinking of doing a name round-up every week or so. A Thursday Thirteen, if you will. They would be easy to make, I would just need some ideas for topics. So if you have any ideas for name round ups please leave a comment in the request page.

Let's take a look at how this blog's been doing in the past two years:

Total Page Views: Over 242,000.

Website that sent the most viewers my way: Google, but after that Appellation Mountain.

Search term that brings the most viewers: "Bewitching Names," obviously.

Three most viewed name profiles:

1. Octavian
2. Icie
3. Rembrant

Three most viewed name round-ups:

1. Famous Witch's Cats (...really?)
2. Cirque du Soleil
3. A Series of Unfortunate Events

Countries that view this blog the most (highest page views to lowest):

1. United States
2. United Kingdom
3. Canada
4. Australia
5. Germany
6. Greece
7. Netherlands
8. Russia
9. India
10. France

My favorite posts: Well I never heard back from the mother, but I have to say that Tanya H's name consultation was my favorite to write this year. As for the most favorite post of all time, I have to say I was blindsided by the positive response that the Chinese Orphans post got, seeing as I typed it out in a hurry before work.

My least favorite posts: Anything that I write that deals mainly with my opinions and feelings is hard. In fact, I just took two of them off this blog because I am planning to rewrite them. I don't feel like I thought them through very well the first time so I hope I can make them better.

Notes on Pagan Name of the Month:

Well, no notes really except C'MON, NOMINATE SOME MORE NAMES ALREADY! Baby Name Wizard had some problems with their Name of the Year contest too, so maybe it just wasn't a "namey" year. I'll be willing to lengthen the nomination time to Christmas so that you have a few more days anyway. So...nominating a name would be a nice birthday present for the blog. Just saying.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Rue was one of my favorite characters in the Hunger Games, and I know I'm not the only one that adored her. Her name has been getting some attention too. I don't want to give away too much, but judging from what I've found on this name, it's pretty fitting for the character.

Rue (pronounced "ROO") is an English word ultimately derived from the Latin ruta, which has pretty much always been associated with the shrub. My experience with this name was similar to Katniss in that before the book I had never heard of the plant. It is native to Southeastern Europe, specifically the Balkans area, but can now be found throughout the world. Rue is an evergreen shrub with small yellow flowers and blueish leaves. It is sometimes known by it's other name, herb-of-grace.

This plant has many practical uses. Traditionally, the plant has been used to induce abortions in humans and livestock. Despite that, it can still be used in cooking, although sparingly. Used in excess it will cause vomiting. While it used to be quite a common ingredient in Ancient Roman and Middle Eastern food, rue has fallen out of favor in most of the Western world (it is very bitter tasting) and you can't even find it in a grocery store. Italian Renaissance painters commonly ate rue and cress sandwiches to sharpen their eyesight. Cats don't like the smell of rue, so this plant can be used to deter them. Unfortunately, exposure to rue can also cause severe blisters on the skin.

The plant's association with regret goes back a long way. Supposedly the expression "rue the day" comes from the old practice of throwing rue at an enemy while cursing him. But rue as a verb meaning "to feel regret" has a different etymology from rue the herb. It is ultimately derived from the Proto Indo European kreae, meaning "to push" or "to strike."

In any case, regret is not rue's only association. Rue is important to many different religions. This plant is considered sacred to Mars, Diana, and Aradia. Rue is the only herb to be blessed by the Prophet Mohammad. During the Middle Ages it was hung in doorways to protect against evil spirits. It was also thought to protect against the plague, which it probably did as rue repels fleas. Rue was sometimes called witchbane because people carried it around to protect against witches. This plant is the national herb of Lithuania, where it is associated with virginity. Today, Neo-Pagans use the plant to develop second sight and for protecting the home.

Rue has never been a common name in the United States, although it has occasionally been used as a form of Ruth. American Actress Rue McClanahan is one well known namesake. I've also heard of one variant: Ruey. There is no relation to Roux, although they sound exactly the same.

I can definitely see Rue being used more in the future. I don't see the "regret" meaning as much of a problem although that might put some people off. Rue is also French for "street," I don't know if that makes a difference. Perhaps the Hunger Games film will give this name a push.


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Monday, December 10, 2012


Granted, silver is important to Neo-Pagans year round, but it is a color associated with the Yuletide season too.

Silver is an English word derived from the Proto Germanic silubra. It's earliest known form could have possibly come from a language in Asia Minor. As far as I can tell it has always been used for the metal. Silver could also be an action as well as a thing. To silver something would be a process similar to gilding. Only with silver. Obviously.

Since ancient times, silver has been associated with the moon and, by extension, goddess energy. Silver reflects light much in the same way the moon reflects the light of the sun. It is sacred to Isis and Arianrhod. Silver connects to all things feminine, flexible, creative, and emotional. Silver is a very important metal in alchemy. It is one of the seven sacred metals which is what existed before the periodic table of elements. In meditation silver is associated with the sixth chakra, also known as the third eye.

Silver appears in lot of macabre folklore as a protective charm. A silver bullet is said the kill werewolves. Magic mirrors are commonly made out of silver. Silver is believed to have purifying effects, which might come from the observation that water kept in a silver pitcher takes longer to get scummy. Silver is used in rituals to encourage peace and harmony. Silver is used to make jewelry, currency, and mirrors. Medically, it has antibacterial properties.

One well known Neo-Pagan with this name is Silver RavenWolf. RavenWolf is the leader of the Black Forest Circle and Seminary, which is an organization comprised of several covens throughout America and Canada. But her primary claim to fame is as an author of both fiction and nonfiction. Just from my experience it seems like many people either love her or hate her because her writing tends to be geared towards what we call the "fluffy bunny" crowd ("fluffy bunny" is slang for "teenagers who take up Paganism because they want to shock their parents").

Silver has never been a common name in the United States. As I keep pointing out, "-er" names are becoming increasingly fashionable, even for girls. There is a strong association with femininity here, but Silver can certainly work for a boy as well.

This is a new favorite of mine. Silver is a name that sounds gentle yet strong. I think it's a great name for a little witchlet.

Website news:

Okay guys, there are only two nominations for Pagan Name of the Year. Lame. Lame I say! I need more! More! There's only 12 days left!


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Sunday, December 9, 2012


When I picked the name Isadora Vega for myself, I didn't think about the Vega part beyond it being a family name. But what I found was interesting.

Some baby name books will say that Vega (pronounced "VEY-gah") is Latin or Spanish and it means "star." That is not true. This is just another instance of some baby name resources being lazy. Vega is Spanish for "meadow" or "fertile plains." It is the name of a specific star, though.

Vega is the fifth brightest star in the sky and the second brightest that can be seen in the northern hemisphere. It is a part of the constellation of Lyra. Aside from our Sun, Vega was the first star to be photographed. Vega is a tenth of the age of our Sun but is a lot bigger in size, which means that Vega will most likely die first. There is evidence that there is at least one planet orbiting Vega. Right now, Polaris is the northern pole star, but in the year 14,000 it will switch to Vega.

"Fertile meadow" as a name for a star makes no sense at all, so as you might have guessed it has a second etymology. Vega is a loose Spanish interpretation of the Arabic word waqi, which means "falling" or "landing." It comes from the expression an-nasr al-waqi, meaning "the falling eagle." Many ancient cultures have interpreted the constellation of Lyra as being an eagle, which is where the name comes from. The Greeks believed that the constellation was the harp of Orpheus, hence the name Lyra. In Chinese mythology, Vega is a woman called the "weaving girl" who is separated from her husband and children.

Some people, particularly in the United States, might be more familiar with the variant Vegas. As in Las Vegas. When the Puerto Rican side of my family immigrated they changed their name from Vega to Vegas in order to seem more American. ...Yeah, I didn't want to use Vegas. I can't stand Las Vegas, or to be more accurate I can't stand the overpriced, touristy aspect of Las Vegas.

This name has a history of being used on famous transportation. Vega is the name of the ship of Nils Adolf Erik Nordenskiold, who discovered the Northeast Passage in the Arctic. Vega is also the first star to have a car named after it. As a surname, Vega heralds from the Castile in the north central region of Spain.

Vega has never been a common name in the United States. But I think it has a definite chance of being used more, what with the trend towards surnames and the Spanish speaking population. And I'm very glad that I've chosen it for myself.


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These two little vowels make up a name enthusiast favorite.

Io (pronounced "IY-oh" or "EE-oh") is a Greek name with an unknown meaning. But "Io Saturnalia!" was the traditional greeting during Saturnalia, the Ancient Roman holiday that our Yuletide celebrations are partially derived from. One can assume that Io in that case meant good things, like "happy" or "merry."

In Greek mythology, Io is a nymph and a priestess to Hera. She catches the eye of Zeus, which is not particularly difficult as Zeus lusts after any animate and inanimate object. He then transformed Io into a cow in order to escape his wife's suspicion, but Hera was not fooled. Hera sent an all-seeing giant named Argus Panoptes to guard her, but Zeus sent Hermes to distract him. Cow-Io wandered off, was stung by an annoying gadfly sent by Hera, and eventually wound up in Egypt. Admittedly, it's not much of a story.

Io is also one of the moons of Jupiter. It is quite an interesting moon, as it is the most geologically active object in the solar system. It has over 400 active volcanoes. Some of it's many mountains are taller than Mount Everest. It was discovered by the great Galileo Galilei, which makes it an important satellite in the history of astronomy.

Io has never been a common name in the United States. I'll admit that this name is not one of my favorites. I need a little bit more than two letters. And the pronunciation isn't immediately obvious, which is an accomplishment considering how small it is. But the connection the the Yuletide season is appealing. It also has some nerd association as Io is a programing language. It has one alternative spelling: Eyo. I don't know if that makes the pronunciation easier or harder.

Io has a lot of fans, though. There's a lot of Witchiness in Io. So I like Io, just more so on someone else's kid.


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Thursday, December 6, 2012


Calm yourselves, I don't actually think that this name has much of a chance of being used on an actual person. Nevertheless, he is an important figure of the Yuletide season.

I actually had no idea who Krampus was until last year. I was researching seasonal traditions and kept thinking, "What the heck is this black demon thing? I'm very suspicious of Satan-like beings. Is this actually Pagan or is this some Christian invention that they're attaching to us?" Chances are he could be both, but he's mostly the later.

Krampus (pronounced "KRAM-pus") supposedly comes from pre-Christian Germanic traditions, but we don't know anything beyond that. He does bear a striking resemblance to the satyrs from Greek mythology, but we don't know if there is actually a correlation. Other sources state that Krampus is more of a folkloric figure than a mythical one. If there has ever been a Pagan connection, it's been buried under layers of Christinization. The name Krampus comes from the Old German word for "claw," but the character has many names including Grampus, Klaubauf, Bartel, Wubartl, Niglobartl, Pelznickel, Gumphinckel, and Schmutzli.

Depictions of him vary from region to region. In a few, he looks quite a bit like Satan. In other drawings, he looks more like a wild beast-man with black fur covering his body, cloven hooves, and horns. His long, pointed tongue lolls out obscenely. Basically his main function is to scare children into behaving. While Saint Nicholas deals with the good children, he deals with the bad. Coal is the best you can hope for from him. He also beats children with whips or birch swatches, drowns them, eats them, and/or drags them to Hell. All of that seems like overkill for not eating your vegetables.

His holiday is Krampusnacht, which occurs on the night before the Feast of Saint Nicholas (which is today, so Krampusnacht was yesterday). People celebrate by dressing up like Krampus and parading through the streets. Not surprisingly, alcohol is involved in the festivities. Krampus' favorite drink is Schnapps, and it is customary to offer some to anyone dressed like him. This tradition is common in Germanic countries and also in pockets of America that have a heavy Germanic population.

Krampus is a bit of a controversial character. The Catholic Church, traditionally prejudiced against wild goat-like figures, has tried to stamp out the customs a few times to no avail. There have been similar attempts made in Austria recently that also failed. Today, there is still a lot of debate as to whether Krampus is appropriate for children. There has been a few attempts to make Krampus a bit "cuter," so that he's more funny than scary. In any case, the popularity of Krampusnacht is growing, even though it's still very rare.

Admitedly, the Neo-Pagan community doesn't pay all that much attention to Krampus. I can see how the more macabre amongst us might like him, but he doesn't do it for me. As for the name Krampus, it doesn't have the most pleasant sound in the world. I certainly can't picture it on a child, although I'm sure it's been done because everything's been done. But could someone use it on themselves? Whatever makes you happy, man.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


This name got some attention thanks to The Hunger Games. Let's take a look at it's more magickal associations.

Cloves are dried flower buds that come from a tropical plant native to Indonesia. They can also be harvested in India, Madagascar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Zanzibar. Clove trees can be recognized by their large leaves and red flowers. These flower buds were at one time one of the most valuable and expensive products in the world. Clove is derived from the Latin word clavus, meaning "a nail," because that's what the flower buds look like.

Cloves are most commonly used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cooking as a spice. They have a very strong taste, so you never need a large quantity. Cloves are traditionally used in dentistry because they numb the mouth when you chew it. They can also be used to treat nausea and have been used as ingredients for perfume, cigarettes, and cosmetics. In Neo-Paganism, cloves are associated with prosperity, banishing, purity, and sensuality.

My first thought when I heard this name was actually a clove of garlic. That type of clove has a different etymology. It comes from the same source that the word "cleft" comes from, the Proto Indo European gleubh, meaning "to tear apart." Like the clove, garlic is a popular and strong-tasting ingredient for cooking, particularly in the Mediterranean. The plant is native to central Asia, but ever since the Ancient Egyptian era it has grown and eaten throughout the world. The bulb is what is typically used, but the plant is technically a flower.

Garlic has a strong association with protection. Thanks to contemporary pop culture, it is most well known for warding off vampires. But garlic has been used for protection against any kind of negative force. The plant is commonly used for exorcisms, and they were hung in door frames to protect the home. It is also believed to increase strength and endurance, which most likely comes from it's long history of medicinal use of treating nearly everything.

As previously stated, the name Clove was introduced via The Hunger Games. Clove is not a very nice character. And she doesn't last very long. And, needless to say, her name has never been a common one in the United States. But her name has some new fans. I adore unique nature names that haven't been used that much. It could also be used as a nickname for either Clovis or Clover. And hey, Clove is a better name than Garlic.


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