Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Hallows Eve everyone (yes, Samhain is technically tomorrow)! To celebrate, I have a vampire-y name for you, and I'll have something a bit more Pagan-y tomorrow!

Marceline (pronounced either "MAHR-suh-leen" or "mahr-suh-LEEN") is the French form of the Latin name Marcella, which is the feminine form of Marcellus. It means "dedicated to Mars." Marcellus was originally a Roman surname and a diminutive of Marcus (some resources will say that Marceline means "little Marcus"). Saint Marcellus was an early Catholic pope.

A character named Marceline appears in the play and opera of The Marriage of Figaro (well, I assume she's in the opera too, I'm not sure exactly). She is a housekeeper and Figaro's mother, but she doesn't know that she's Figaro's mother. Marceline is in love with her son and is trying to marry him. Which is kind of weird.

But most people know this name because of Adventure Time. Adventure Time is technically a kid's show but there are a few jokes that children are just not going to fully understand. The humor is very weird (kind of like Ren & Stimpy) but that's why I'm a fan of it. Marceline the Vampire Queen is one of the main characters. If you've never seen the show and are concerned that this reference might be too scary, don't be. She only drinks the color red, not actual blood. Oh, and she also has a rock band.

Marceline actually spent a small amount of time on the American top 1,000 baby names. In the 1920s it ranked #785 and in the 1930s it lowered to #962. So the name is vaguely retro. The variant Marcheline has been getting some attention recently thanks to Angelina Jolie. She named her daughter Vivienne Marcheline after her mother Marcheline Bertrand. But there's still not enough interest for it to appear on the charts, though.

I'll admit that Marceline is one of my favorite names mostly because of Adventure Time. I don't see that as a problem. Sure, the show is very successful, but it's still not famous to the point that people outside the nerd-o-sphere will necessarily recognize the reference. Also, the name has a history beyond that. I've been seeing some Marcel's and Marcello's in America, so why not Marceline?


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Saturday, October 19, 2013


Samhain is coming up so I should probably have some fun with some darker names. Bathory is one such offering.

Bathory (pronounced "BATH-ohr-ee," at least America) is the name of a Hungarian noble family (side note: usually there is a little accent mark over the "a" in this name, but I still can't seem to figure out how to type stuff like that). They are very important to the history of that region, particularly during the late Middle Ages. Several Princes of Hungary and one King of Poland were Bathorys.

The family first emerged during the 1200s. King Ladislaus IV gave several men (who happened to be all related) an estate called Bator in order to honor them for military service. Eventually one man, Briccius, became the soul owner of the property and all of his decedents were given the name Bathory, meaning "of Bator."

The Bathorys are apparently so important that they have their own legend describing how they got their name. The story goes that there was once a warrior named Vitus who slayed a dragon that was terrorizing the local townspeople. The grateful citizens honored him by giving him the name Bathory, which supposedly means "good hero." It doesn't in real life. But the word the name came from, Bator, is Hungarian for "brave" or "valiant" so that's kind of true if you squint hard enough.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the Bathory family's most infamous member: Countess Erzsebet "Elizabeth" Bathory de Ecsed. One of her nicknames is "Countess Dracula" and she is labeled to be the most prolific female serial killer in history. The legend states that she tortured and killed 650 adolescent girls (a number which, as far as I can tell, was plucked from the ether since estimations vary greatly) in the belief that bathing in their blood would reverse aging. She also took pleasure in beating them, biting off chunks of their flesh, freezing them to death, and mutilating their hands. Bathory was never tried or convicted, supposedly because of her rank. But she was punished. She was locked in a tower until she died.

The story is so unbelievably horrific. It is so unbelievably horrific that some historians that you shouldn't believe it. There was no fair trial or hard evidence that any of this happened. There weren't even any bodies examined. She was a highly educated widow with a very valuable estate. It was rumored that she was a lesbian. To top it all off, the local king owed her a fortune of money that he could not repay. Is it so hard to believe that the whole story's a product of mass hysteria and greed? And the whole bathing in blood thing? Never actually mentioned in any of the witness testimonies at the time. That was tacked on to the story afterwards. Being a Wiccan means that I read a lot of stories about unfairly demonized women, so naturally I'm very skeptical of the Bathory folklore.

Yet many historians still push the "Countess Dracula" image (I guess because it makes a good story) and as a result Bathory has never been a common given name in the United States. In a vacuum, Bathory is a fashionable sounding choice. Kind of like Romilly or Bellamy. This is a name that I can see appealing to very gothic types. It is also worth mentioning in passing that Bathory is the name of a rock band.

I can't imagine this name being attractive to many people, but I've seen dark names used on little ones before. So if you run a little bit on the dark side and you don't care what anyone else thinks, Bathory might be for you.


Image Credit:
"Horned Witch" French School, unknown artist

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Thanks to AWdM for requesting Lyra.

Lyra is a Greek name meaning "harp." It seems like there is some debate over the pronunciation, but all official sources I've found say "LIY-rah." Lyre is the masculine version and that sounds like "liar," so there you go.

Lyre is the name of arguably the most famous ancient musical instrument, the predecessor of the harp. In Greek mythology it is strongly associated with the myth of Orpheus. This is the same guy that botched his attempt at getting his wife Eurydice back from the dead. After Orpheus was killed, his lyre was thrown into the river. Zeus sent his pet eagle to retrieve it. The eagle and the harp were both turned into a constellation.

Different cultures interpreted Lyra differently. In Wales, the constellation is known as King Arthur's Harp or King David's Harp. The Persian poet Hafiz referred to it as the Lyre of Zurah. Vega is Lyra's most notable star, so it's not surprising that this constellation is also associated with eagles and vultures. The Incas called this constellation Urcuchillay, who is a multicolored llama deity who watched over animals. For you Christians, this constellation has been called Praesepe Salvatoris, or the Manger of the Infant Savior.

But most people love this name because of His Dark Materials. Lyra Belacqua is the protagonist of the celebrated trilogy written Phillip Pullman. I've never read it, but I've heard that the trilogy could be read as Pagan friendly and/or Atheist (which is why it's gotten some controversy). It includes witches, different dimensions, polar bears in suits of armor, and spirit animal-like beings called daemons.

This name has been getting some attention from name enthusiasts but has never been a common name in the United States (although I hear it's fairly well used in England and Wales). The pronunciation of the boy's name Lyre is problematic, but Lyra doesn't have that same issue. It's one of those "why not?" names. Why isn't this as popular as Luna? I don't know.

I like Lyra a lot. It's very wearable for a little witchlet. Or any girl for that matter.


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