Thursday, March 31, 2011


It's the name of a very popular Norse god, but some would say that it's not appropriate for a little boy.

Loki (pronounced "LO-kee") is the name of the Norse trickster god in charge of magic. The etymology of the name is uncertain. It could mean anything from "to break" to "close."

Whether Loki is helpful or malevolent also changes depending on who you ask. He is the offspring of two giants. Loki gets around: he is the father of Hel (who is the goddess of the underworld), the wolf Fenrir, the serpent Jormungandr, and Narfi (the god of night). He's a shape shifter, and has appeared in the form of a salmon, a seal, a mare, and a fly. While in the form of a horse he gave birth to Sleipnir, Odin's eight-legged horse.

Loki is involved in numerous pranks and jokes. Once when the gods were struggling to build Asgard, Loki came up with the plan of hiring a giant to do the job. But as payment, the giant wanted the sun, the moon, and the goddess Freya if he completed his work on schedule. The gods were hesitant, but Loki convinced them that he would never finish on time.

But the giant brought with him a stallion that could haul boulders with ease. All of the gods, especially Freya, became increasingly anxious. So Loki changed into a mare to seduce the stallion away. With his horse missing, the giant's pace slowed down considerably. And Loki enjoyed his time with the stallion. Evidently.

But it seems like Loki grew progressively more and more unpleasant as time went on. The final straw was when he killed Balder, the god of light, joy, beauty, and innocence. The other gods chained him to three boulders and positioned a poisonous snake above his head. His devoted wife Sigyn catches it's dripping venom in a bowl, but has to leave occasionally when the bowl becomes full. When that happens, the venom drips into his eyes and face. Loki writhes in pain, causing earthquakes. It is said that on the day of Ragnarok, his chains will break and he will get his revenge on the Gods.

I've noticed on forums when people discuss the names of gods as potential baby names, Loki gets a bad reaction. Not enough to make it a controversial name, but it was noticeable. I understand the opinion, but at the same time I don't. It's really not the same thing as naming a child Baphomet. He's not all bad. And if you've read any Norse mythology you know that it's not like the gods stayed dead for very long. They were always reborn. Balder will come back.

But obviously I would expect a boy named Loki to be a handful. I think it's almost guaranteed. It just has that kind of Witchy power.


Image Credit:
"In the Wheatfield" found on


Here's an exotic and familiar name that is not really used that often.

Sheba (pronounced "SHEE-bah") is a Hebrew name meaning "promise." It's sometimes used as a nickname for Bathsheba, but could also be used on it's own. Sheba is the name of a kingdom mentioned in the Old Testament. The kingdom could have been located in what is now Yemen, Ethiopia, or both.

The kingdom of Sheba appears in many Biblical stories, but one of the most famous involves the Queen of Sheba. The Queen of Sheba has many different names. In Ethiopia she's known as Makeda. In Islamic tradition her name is Balqis. According to a Roman historian her name was Nicaule. But in America, as far as I know she is simply the Queen of Sheba.

So according to the story, the Queen of Sheba heard of the great wisdom of King Solomon of Israel and decides to meet him. Despite cultural beliefs to the contrary, there is no romance suggested between the two. At least not in the Jewish account. And yet many different royal families have claimed that they are descendants of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

Sheba is also the name of an important if somewhat controversial figure in Neo-Pagan history. Lady Sheba (born Jessie Wicker Bell) was born in 1920 in Kentucky. She had Irish and Native American heritage, and claimed to be descendant of seven generations of practitioners. She was introduced to the Craft at the age of six. Her grandmother taught her Irish faery lore and about the spirit guides of the Cherokee. When she was a teenager, she was initiated into a coven and took the magickal name of Lady Sheba. According to her, she could recall her past lives and this was her name in one of them.

As the years went by, she got married and divided her religious duties with raising her four sons and four daughters. Her coven eventually adopted influences from Wicca and British Traditional Witchcraft as they began to spread throughout the United States. Lady Sheba founded the American Order of the Brotherhood of the Wicca, in order for Neo-Pagans of all traditions to work together.

The reason Lady Sheba is controversial is because she was the first person to publish her book of shadows in the 1970s. A book of shadows, or a grimoire, is a Witch's personal book of spells and rituals, kind of like a religious diary. Lady Sheba claimed that the Goddess instructed her to publish her book of shadows for the benefit of the people. Nowadays, it seems like everyone and their mothers are publishing their book of shadows, but Neo-Pagans were still very secretive at the time. If you know anything about how traditional covens work, then you know that you have to take an oath not to talk about what is discussed in the sacred circle to anyone not in the coven. So a lot of Neo-Pagans felt betrayed. The criticism got so bad that Lady Sheba withdrew from the public eye altogether. But the book is still widely published, under the name The Grimiore of Lady Sheba, and very important today.

For the longest time, Sheba meant "cat" to me. I remember looking at photos of my mother as a little girl and there was a chocolate-point siamese cat in some of them. When I asked my mother about it, she said, "Oh, that's Sheba." But since I've never met the cat, I've gotten past that association. I'm not so sure my mother has, but that's her problem.

The more I say the name aloud, the more I like it. Sheba is a beautiful name that is Jewish/Christian/Islamic and Neo-Pagan. It's very exotic sounding but at the same time is not that different for Sheila or Susanna. It's a cute name for a little girl that will grow womanly as she becomes a woman.


Image Credit:
I don't remember.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Don't believe everything you read. You've heard this before. But it's equally true for baby name books. For example, I have a baby name book called The New Age Baby Name Book. It has some interesting suggestions and for the most part I like it. But it has this description for Quirin (pronounced "KEER-in"):

"The quirin stone." Exact origin unknown. The quirin, also known as the traitor's stone, is a magic stone said to be found in the lapwing's nest. According to legend, when placed on a sleeping person's head, the stone causes him to reveal his innermost thoughts.

Well, I have to tell you, I've looked all over the place for a Quirin stone myth, or traitor's stone myth, and there isn't one. There is no Quirin stone. It would be awesome if there was, but no.

And Quirin's meaning is anything but unknown. It's the German variant of Quirinus, a Latin name meaning "spear." Quirinus is a god that was important to the Sabine people, that was later mashed together with Mars. It's the name of several saints, for crying out loud.

All that aside, is Quirin a good name for today's little boys? It does have a similar sound to some currently popular boys names: Jayden, Soren, Aiden...Quirin. It doesn't seem like a stretch to me.

No matter what it means Quirin is a cool name for a boy, and look! It's the first "Q" name on this blog! And if anyone can prove that the story about a magic stone that shows people's thoughts actually exists, feel free to tell me.

The New Age Baby Name Book by Sue Browder

Image Credit:


It seems like Penelope, the name of Odysseus' wife, is getting more and more popular. Here is an more underused name from Homer's the Odyssey.

Nausicaa is a Latinized form of the Greek name Nausikaa. It has a rather odd meaning, "burner of ships." It's pronunciation is a subject of debate. Possibilities range from "now-SI-kee-ah," "now-si-KAY-ah," and "nahf-si-KAH." However, in America it is most often pronounced as "NAH-si-kah."

In the story Nausicaa is a princess, the daughter of King Alcinous. She is described as very pretty, and is compared to Artemis. She meets Odysseus when he becomes shipwrecked on the coast of Phaeacia. Nausicaa is at the shore, washing clothing with her father's servants, when Odysseus walks out of the forest, naked and desperate. He begs Nausicaa for help. She gives him some of her laundry to wear and takes him to the edge of town. Nausicaa doesn't want any rumors to start, so she instructs Odysseus to seek her mother, Queen Arete, while she goes through town with the servants. She knows that her mother is wiser than her father, and would allow Odysseus to stay as a guest.

The story suggests that Nausicaa and Odysseus are in love. Nausicaa says that she would like a husband like him, and King Alcinous offers her to him. But nothing every happens between them. When King Alcinous gives Odysseus a ship to return to Ithaca, Nausicaa says, "Never forget me, for I gave you life." According to Aristotle, Nausicaa later married Telemachus, Odysseus' son.

This name will be familiar to anime and manga fans because of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. The director Hayao Miyazaki became inspired while reading a Japanese translation of an anthology of Greek mythology, which painted Nausicaa as a lover of nature. He used this description as a base for his own character. In the Miyazaki movie, Nausicaa (which is pronounced "NAH-si-kah" throughout the film) is a princess (again) living in a post apocalyptic world. Most of the earth is covered in toxic plants and giant bug-like creatures called Ohm. Different kingdoms are competing with each other and many believe that the Ohm should be destroyed. Nausicaa tries to convince everyone that they can live in peace.

Aside from the contested pronunciation, this name's biggest challenge is the double "a" at the end. People are going to stumble on that and misspell it. I suppose you could try to take an "a" off if you like. When I did that it looked bizarre to me.

If those details aren't deal breakers for you, Nausicaa is a lovely name for the bold. If you want a unique name with a lot of history that has a heroine attached to it and feels exotic, Nausicaa is for you.


Image Credit:


Despite all the cold rain, I can feel springtime! Do you know what that means? An abundance of flower names, that's what!

Jasmine (pronounced "JAZ-min") is a tropical plant found . The word is derived from the Persian yasamin, meaning "gift from God." It is found in all tropical and temperate regions of the Old World. The Old World refers to Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia, while the New World is the Americas.

Jasmine is a very important plant, particularly in Asia. The flowers are commonly used for perfumes and oils. Jasmine tea is a favorite in China and Japan. In Thailand, the plant symbolizes the mother. In India, jasmine is cultivated for enjoyment in private gardens, and girls wear the flowers in their hair for beauty. The jasmine is the national flower of Thailand, Tunisia, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. The French are well known for their jasmine syrup, which they use to make marshmallows and scones. Although not indigenous to the area, jasmine is very popular in Hawaii. The Hawaiian word for jasmine is pikake, and they sing songs about the plant and use the flowers in leis.

Neo-Pagans associate jasmine with sleeping and dreams because the flowers blossom only at night. It is believed that burning jasmine flowers beside the bed will cause prophetic dreams. It is also associated with spiritual love, sexuality, and erotic energy. Jasmine tea and syrup can help sooth the nerves as well as coughing. Just don't use jasmine berries as they are very poisonous.

If you want a name to shoot up the popularity charts, just give it to a Disney princess. The name first appeared in the 1970s, but when Aladdin came out in the 1990s the name skyrocketed and settled at #25. Since then, Jasmine's star has been slowly but surly fading, it now ranks at #43. It's very popular globally as well. It ranks #22 in Australia, #32 in England, #37 in Canada, #59 in Sweden, #87 in Ireland, #106 in Scotland, and #482 in Norway.

It's interesting to note that in the original Aladdin fairy tale, the princess had no name, she was just "the princess." Then Disney gave her a name along with a (in my opinion) more assertive personality. I would suspect that Jasmine is especially popular in African American communities. For the longest time Jasmine was the closest thing Disney had to a Black princess.

If you want to use Jasmine you have a lot of variations to pick from: Jasmin, Jazmin, Jasmyn, Jessamine, Yasmin, Yasmine, Jazmine, or Jazmyn are all options. Jasmine is one of my favorites, and I think it's kind of a shame that there's so many girls with it. But it's a great Wicca-lite name that won't stick out in a crowd of non-Pagans but has an association with beauty.


Image Credit:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Look how the time flies. It seems like only yesterday that I was profiling Pisces.

The sun sign Aries (pronounced "AIR-eez") lasts from March 21 to April 19. It is the "first" sign of the zodiac, because the Ancient Romans considered the beginning of spring to be the beginning of the year. As you could probably guess, the name is Latin for "ram."

The constellation Aries is extremely old, first recognized in Ancient Babylon. Only at that time it was known as the "Agrarian Worker." Not quite as catchy. They later changed it to a ram possibly due to the influence of the legendary story of Dumizi the Shepard. This shepard is the subject of many Sumerian epic poems.

Anyone who has studied Greek/Roman mythology has at least a passing knowledge of the Golden Fleece. The story goes roughly like this: Phrixus and Helle were children of the mortal Athamas and Nephele, a cloud nymph. When Athamas decided to remarry, his previous wife Ino became wildly jealous and plotted to destroy the entire family. She arranged for their corn seed to be roasted so they would not sprout when planted. When the crops failed, Athamas sent messengers to consult the oracle in Delphi on what to do. But along the way, Ino stopped the messengers and bribed them to say that the oracle suggested to sacrifice Phrixus. In order to protect her children, Nephele sent a winged, golden ram to carry them away. Helle fell and died, but Phrixus arrived safely to a town called Colchis. He quickly became friendly with the King's daughter. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Zeus, and gave it's golden fleece to his new father-in-law. The King placed it on the branch of an oak tree, where it remained until Jason wanted it. As for the ram, it's form was placed in the stars.

Not everyone sees a ram in this grouping of stars. In Chinese astrology, Aries is a part of a constellation known as The White Tiger of the West. This constellation represents the autumn season.

It's a masculine fire sign ruled by the planet Mars, which is appropriate to the Arien personality. According to astrologers, Ariens are born leaders who are very competitive. Ariens are bold and confident, but also impulsive and hot headed. They have original ideas but no discipline. All very reminiscent of the powerful but flighty energy of fire.

Aries is probably one of the most usable zodiac names. I can see a little boy wearing it with ease. It's very similar to names like Ari and Ariel. I would expect a little Aries to be filled with a rams energy, always the first to dive into projects and new experiences. It'll be worth considering for a child born on the cusp of spring.


Image Credit:

Monday, March 28, 2011


This post is in dedication to, who else, Magaly of Pagan Culture. And the first time I posted a comment on her website, I mentioned that I had to look up Magaly because I hadn't heard of it before then. To be honest, I was kind of joking. But she's been asking for a profile ever since, so here it is.

So. Magaly. Which is pronounced "ma-GAH-lee." You mentioned to me that you thought your name was short for Margarita which is Spanish for "daisy." I was worried that your parents were going to hate me, but technically you're right. While looking up the word for "daisy" in the English to Spanish dictionary I found something interesting. The word for a cultivated daisy is deizi, while a wild daisy is margarita. Why the difference? I can't say.

But according to most baby name websites, you'll have to exchange flowers for gemstones. Almost everyone agrees that Magaly, or Magali, is a variant of the French name Margaret, meaning "pearl." In the Spanish language it's a form of Margarita, which is the Spanish form of Margaret.

This name could also be derived from the Persian name Mar Galiti, meaning either "daughter of the sea," or "child of light." Mar Galiti seems like an antiquated name, because I can't find anything more about it, or any namesakes. If anyone knows any more about Magaly's Persian roots I would love to hear it.

In any case, Magaly became popular among Spanish speaking Americans and Mexicans because of a telenova (a Spanish language soap opera). In the 1980s, a character named Magaly appeared in La Fea Mas Bella ("The Most Beautiful Ugly Girl"). Although it doesn't seem like she had that big of a part, some parents began used Magaly as their daughter's full names, or as a nickname for Margarita. It wasn't popular enough to chart in the United States, however it's now ranked at #3o4 in, oddly, Quebec.

What can I tell you, Magaly? Your name's a shifty one. For everyone else, Magaly is a cool name. Although if you're naming with intention, be warned that it's etymology is not so straight forward.


Image Credit:

A Magickal Name for Wendy

A few days ago, Wendy from E-Witch contacted me and asked if I could help her find a magickal name. It's a tough assignment, but here was her criteria. She's drawn to Celtic, Native American, and Greek/Roman traditions. She also likes to work with the Archangels and fairies. Her ancestry is Hungarian Jewish and Norwegian Saami. She loves animals, especially cats. She is into literature, movies, history, and the paranormal. She would also like it to sound like a "real" name, so no Moonfeather here.

I cast a wide net, so I apologize if this list is overwhelming. Of course, I won't be offended if you pick nothing off this list. I'm just here to open your eyes to names you might not have considered before. If you have any other ideas for Wendy, leave it down in the comments!

Cat Names:
Bastet, or Bast: The Ancient Egyptian goddess of cats, sex, music, dance, and joy. Why isn't Bastet used more?
Sanura: Swahili for "kitten-like."
Lynx: I'm seeing this used more and more as a baby name, so why not?

Celtic and Latin Names:
Aoife: The Celtic goddess of protection, knowledge, and teaching.
Belisama: The Celtic goddess of light, fire, and crafts.
Arianrhod: The Celtic goddess of beauty, fertility, and reincarnation.
Cerridwen: The Celtic goddess of death, inspiration, magic, and regeneration.
Coventina: The Celtic goddess of "featherless flying creatures" (bats?), time, life cycles, wishes, and divination.
Rosmerta: The Celtic goddess of healing and communication, also a minor character in the Harry Potter series.
Nemetona: The Celtic goddess of sacred places, circles and groves.
LeFay: The Celtic goddess of the sea, the Isle of Avalon, and healing. Speaking of which...
Avalon: A place name, where Arthurian legend takes place.
Maeve: Meaning "intoxicating." The name of a legendary Irish warrior queen.
Demeter: The Greek goddess of the harvest and fertility.
Fortuna: The Roman goddess of luck. This name's complete profile is coming up in the next month.
Epona: The Celtic/Roman goddess of horses.
Circe: A sorceress in Homer's The Odyssey.

Native American Names:
Onatah: The Iroquois goddess of corn. Full profile coming up next month.
Chula: Choctaw word for "fox."
Walela: Cherokee name meaning "hummingbird."
Isi: Choctaw word for "deer."
Tallulah: Choctaw name meaning "leaping water."

Faery Names:
Elfrieda: An Old German name meaning "elf or magical council," or "elf strength."
Parisa: A Persian name meaning either "fairy-like" or "angelic." Just don't use it if you plan on going to Germany.
Melusine: Meaning unknown. This is the name of a water fairy in European folklore.

Archangel and Jewish Names:
Raphaela or Rafaela: Archangel names are tough. They're all male, and their names range from utterly ordinary (Michael) to totally bonkers (Metatron). But I always had a love for Raphael.
Seraphina, Seraphine, Serafina, or Serafine
Vashti: a Persian name meaning "beautiful." In the Bible, Queen Vashti was banished after disobeying her husband.

Norwegian Names:
Anniken: Norwegian diminutive of Anna.
Benedikte: Norwegian feminine form of Benedict.
Cecilie: Norwegian form of Cecilia.
Eira: Meaning "mercy." Derived from Eir, the Norse goddess of healing and medicine.
Freyja: Old Norse goddess of beauty and love.
Gudrun: Meaning "devine rune."
Kenna: Meaning "to have knowledge."
Nessa: Meaning "headland."
Saga: Meaning "the seeing one."
Valkyrie: In Norse mythology, these were maidens who decided who lived and who died on the battlefield.

Hungarian Names:
Boroka: Meaning "juniper."
Oriana: A name of debated meaning. Possible meanings include "gold," "east," or "sunrise."
Szibilla: Hungarian form of Sybil.
Klotild: Hungarian form of Clotilde, a French name meaning "famous in battle."
Tunder: Meaning "fairy." Created by Hungarian poet Mihaly Vorosmarty.

"Dark" and Supernatural Names:
Ulalume: An Edgar Allen Poe invention, possibly derived from the Latin ululare, meaning "to shriek" or "to wail."
Vaidote, or Vaidota: A Lithuanian name meaning "ghost-like."
Arachne: A name from Greek mythology, meaning "spider."
Desdemona: A Greek name meaning "wretchedness," but it's most prominent namesake in Shakespeare was anything but.


Image Credit:
Found via


Love Gideon but concerned that it's become too trendy? How about Gilead?

To clarify, Gideon is a name that I actually like a lot, or at least I did, before I converted and before celebrity parents got their grimy paws on it. My own personal rule is that I couldn't use a Biblical name for my children unless a) it's also Pagan related or b) it's nature related. Gilead fulfils the later.

Gilead (pronounced "GIL-ee-ad") is a Hebrew name meaning "monument of testimony." It's the name of a mountain region in what is now Jordan. This place is well known for it's healing balm. Whether the balm is real or metaphorical I had a hard time finding. Jesus is sometimes referred to as the "balm of Gilead" in texts and songs.

But Christianity is not the only culture that can lay claim to this name. And here's where the nature comes in (mountains are also nature, but you know what I mean). Gilead is also an Arabic name meaning "camel hump." Camels were immensely important to Arabic and Jewish people. For a long time camels were the only means of transportation for long journeys across the desert. The sacred mountain region might have looked like camel humps, and that's how it may have got it's name.

But I'm afraid Gilead is not all good. This name might have a sinister aftertaste if you're into reading novels that present a distopian version of the future. In the feminist horror The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, all the women are trapped in a place called the Republic of Gilead, where they are treated as property of their husbands. In Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem The Raven, the tormented man asks, "Is there a balm of Gilead? Tell me truly I implore." On the bright side, a more recent novel called Gilead by Marilynne Robinson is a fictional autobiography of an elderly man who is chronicling his life for his seven year old son.

Gilead has never charted in the United States although there are several American towns with this name. It might be too Biblical for some Neo-Pagans. But if I get married to a Jewish man I would consider Gilead.


Image Credit:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Belladonna is a plant that has a witchy reputation. For you see, this plant is also known as deadly nightshade.

This plant plays a very important part in the film Practical Magic. Witchy sister Gillian laces her boyfriend's drinks with belladonna just so she could get some rest. Later in the story, her sister Sally accidentally kills him by giving him too much. Turns out there is truth to this story.

Belladonna (pronounced "bel-ah-DON-ah") is an Italian name meaning "beautiful woman." This name was given to the plant due to it's historical use by women as a cosmetic. Dilated pupils were considered very attractive in the 1500s, so woman would use eye drops made from belladonna in order to achieve this look. Unfortunately, prolonged usage also caused blindness.

The belladonna plant is famous for it's use as a poison. With the exception of cattle and rabbits, all animals will go into paralysis or die if they eat it. Ancient civilizations made poison arrow tips with the help of this plant. In Ancient Rome, it was used to kill Agrippa the Younger, wife of Emporer Claudius.

Other historical uses include medicinal and pharmaceutical uses. Belladonna was used to treat headaches, motion sickness, and menstrual symptoms, among other things. When Queen Victoria became the first woman to use painkillers during childbirth, the mixture she used contained belladonna. Belladonna was also used as a recreational drug. The plant causes vivid hallucinations when eaten. However, all of these uses are now considered extremely dangerous due to the risk of accidental overdose and death.

Belladonna has a folkloric connection to Witchcraft. People believed that Witches made an ointment out of belladonna that they would rub on their brooms to make them fly. If only that were true. These Pagans were most likely experiencing hallucinations due to the plant's contact with the skin. I've also noticed that some spells and rituals call for deadly nightshade, but of course we are very careful, using the plant with extreme caution. This plant is believed to have a connection with Belloma, the Roman goddess of war. Roman priests used belladonna in rituals in order to invoke feminine aggression or the frenzy of battle.

So why would anyone name their child after this plant? Because I've seen it used as a girl's name very occasionally. I suspect it's partially for the same reason that names shoot up in popularity every time it's given to a demon child in a horror movie. It has a Gothic allure. And it's a very beautiful name. It even has the fashionable Bella nickname. I don't think the name is all that controversial, no one will be shocked to discover that deadly nightshade is deadly. But Neo-Pagans respect the plant rather than fear it. And if parents keep that attitude than they should definitely consider it.


Image Credit:

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Blessed Ostara, everyone! When I saw that a Pagan blogger from Australia had a daughter named Ostara, I clapped my little hands in glee. Glee, I tell you! Because I always thought it would make a gorgeous name.

Ostara (pronounced "oh-STAR-ah") is a Wiccan holiday that is almost identical to Easter in terms of how it's celebrated. It's just that we celebrate the renewal of spring, not the rebirth of Jesus Christ. Almost all of the customs associated with Easter had Pagan beginnings. For example, eggs and rabbits are both very obvious fertility symbols. In Northern Europe, painted eggs were used in folk magick to bless children.

The origin of the Easter egg hunt might have been more sinister. When Christian authorities began to crack down on Paganism, they could no longer leave the painted eggs on the doorsteps of neighbors as a blessing because that would have been too obvious. So instead they would hide them around in gardens and tell the children to look for them. Then trouble came when officials started to bribe children with coins in exchange for ratting out on the people who had eggs in their yards. This way they could arrest more Witches. To be fair, there is no official documentation of this. But if it's true, it brings my childhood egg hunts with plastic eggs filled with money into a new light.

This holiday occurs on the Spring Equinox, a time of year when the days and nights are equal lengths. Wiccans believe that during this time, the God and the Goddess are young, playful, and curious of their bodies and each other. They are like preteens feeling the first stirrings of attraction towards each other.

Ostara is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Eostre or Oestre, which is the name of the Ancient Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and the dawn. The Ancient Pagans used to celebrate a festival for her that lasted several days. Thanks to Jacob Grimm, of Brothers Grimm fame, we know that the Germans celebrated a similar holiday called Ostara. Both Easter and Ostara also most likely come from the root word for "East," the direction of the rising sun.

I have a special connection to this holiday and it's customs. Because I was actually born on Easter Sunday. Don't get me wrong, having a birthday during a major Christian holiday in which none of my friends can celebrate with me because they're at home with their families is a major bummer. But Ostara has all the things that I loved about the holiday--the pastel colors, the adorable bunnies and chicks, the chocolate--with an added layer of special meaning. And Ostara is an absolutely stunning name. I would definitely give it to a daughter.


Image Credit:

Saturday, March 19, 2011


When I profiled Vixen a while ago, I knew the day would come when I had to profile it's more usable masculine option.

Reynard (pronounced "ray-NARD") is the word used for a male fox. In the French language, reynard is the vocabulary word for all foxes, male of female. But the name goes a little deeper than that. The word comes from a series of Medieval fables.

In these stories, Reynard is an anthropomorphic fox. He's a trickster hero who appears in satires designed to poke fun at the aristocracy and the clergy. Other characters in these fables include King Noble the Lion, Isengrim the Wolf, Bruin the Bear, Baldwin the Ass, and Tybalt the Cat. In some stories, Reynard has a wife named Hermeline. The stories still remain very popular in Germany, France, Holland, and many other European countries. He even appeared in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, under the name Rossel.

Unfortunately, this name might leave a bad taste in some people's mouths. In 1941, the story was twisted into Nazi propaganda for antisemitism. In Robert van Genechten's new fable, Reynard rounds up and kills some rhinoceroses (think about it). This story was even adapted into an animated film in 1943. However, the film never had a proper theatrical release. At that point, most of the Jews were in concentration camps, so there was no longer any point. Fortunately, there have been much better (read less bigoted) adaptations of the Reynard stories in recent years, so this association may have slipped away.

For a long time, the French word for "fox" was goupil. But Medieval farmers believed that saying the word aloud brought bad luck. So they exchanged goupil for reynard. Nowadays, goupil is an antiquated term.

So the question becomes, where did the name Reynard come from before the stories? Reynard is derived from the Old German name Raginhard, which could either mean "strong council" or "made hard by the Gods." Reynard is a rare first name but a very common surname. It has many variations including Raynard, Renard, Renardo, Reynardo, Renauld, Reinhard, and Reinhardt. The last form has a famous namesake: Gypsy jazz guitar player Django Reinhardt. Another form, Raynard, had some fleeting popularity in the United States in the 1960s, peaking at #818.

I really like the name Reynard and it's literary association. It has kind of a retro, old man feel too, because of it sound's similar to Bernard and Leonard. It's a great name for a mischievous, suave, and cunning boy.

Bewitching name sighting:

Forgot to mention that a few days ago I met a little girl named Sahara (or Zahara, maybe). That'll be a profile sometime in the future, I'm sure.


Image Credit:

Friday, March 18, 2011


Continuing my trend to ignore commercially accepted birthstones by month, and going with the historical and less disputed birthstones by zodiac sign, I'm profiling Amethyst, the gemstone for Pisces.

An amethyst (pronounced "AM-eh-thist") is a beautiful variety of quartz. It's most well known for being a violet color, but occasionally forms in red or blue. The largest amethyst vein in the world is in Austria. Other deposits include South Korea, Russia, India, Uruguay, and Zambia. It's an expensive stone in most cases, although the discovery of a large vein of amethyst in Brazil lowered the value somewhat. This gemstone can also be found in some regions in the United States.

The name of this gemstone is derived from the Ancient Greek word amethustos meaning "not intoxicated." This comes from the Ancient Greek belief that wearing this stone, or drinking from a cup made out of it, prevented drunkenness.

The Ancient Greeks had a myth for how the stone came into being. In the story, the great partier Dionysus pursued a maiden named Amethystos. Amethystos had a vow of chastity to uphold, so she was not amused. Why Dionysus didn't back off, Amethystos prayed to the gods. Her prayer was heard by Artemis, who turned her into a white stone. Dionysus cried in remorse, and his purple tears (so colored because he drank so much) stained the stone.

Aside from it's alcohol related use, amethyst's main function has always been ornamental. The Ancient Egyptians and Greeks engraved on the stones to make amulets. In Medieval times, soldiers wore amethyst in the belief that the stone had healing powers. It is one of the few stones recommended for men in attracting women. Violet is a color that Wiccans associate with the spirit, which is the fifth and most important element represented by the top point of the pentagram. Therefore, this gemstone is associated with spirituality.

Amethyst is one of my favorite gemstones, and it works beautifully as a name too. It's unusual but it has the ordinary Amy as a potential nickname. A great name for a Pisces girl.


Image Credit:

Thursday, March 17, 2011


You might tell me that you don't know anyone named Maewyn, but you do. Only you know him better as Saint Patrick. Historians believe that Saint Patrick's given name was Maewyn Succat.

Maewyn (pronounced "MAY-win") is believed to have been born in Wales or England. His father was a Roman Briton named Calpurnius. There is no information regarding his mother, but I have to wonder since Maewyn is definitely not a Latin name. It's most likely Welsh, although no one seems sure of that at all. Because of that, the meaning is hard to come by. And Succat is the name of a Jewish festival, which also seems odd to me.

Anyways, young Maewyn had an ordinary childhood until the age of sixteen, when he was kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold to a Druid chieftain as a slave. Well, that explains why he didn't like Pagans so much. For six years he worked for the High Priest as a sheperd. During this time he began to have vivid dreams and visions, one of which showed him the means to escape.

He left and walked 200 miles eventually finding a ship sailing to France. He somehow found a ministry in St. Germain, where he quickly moved up the ranks to become a Priest. He wanted to go back to Ireland to "cleanse" the land, so to speak. But before he left the bishop gave him the name Patritius. The rest, as they say, is history.

Even though Maewyn was traditionally a boy's name, today's naming trends would dictate that it's feminine. It looks like many names that have been used for girls, like Maeve and Bronwyn. But at the same time, I have to wonder about the name's resemblance to Merlin. Could the two names be related somehow? Probably not, as Merlin's original name was Myrddin, but still. I wonder.

I would think that Maewyn would really appeal to today's parents. Win and Winnie, the latter being one that I keep hearing more and more these days, would work well as potential nicknames. If you genuinely like Saint Patrick's day and want to honor it with something a little more creative than Patrick, then Maewyn might be something to consider.


Image Credit:


A lot of names were popularized by the Harry Potter series. Draco is one of them.

Draco (pronounced "DRAY-koh") is a Latin name derived from the Greek drakon, meaning "dragon" or "serpent." The Ancient Greeks used Draco as a word to describe both dragons and snakes, so that makes this a very good snake name as well. Dragons are very popular mythical creatures that appear in mythology and literature around the world:

-Travel writers of Ancient Greece wrote about dragons in India and Ethiopia.
-Most European cultures viewed dragons as malevolent creatures. A notable exception is the Red Dragon on the national flag of Wales.
-In most countries in Asia, dragons are seen as benevolent water deities and are usually depicted without wings. They are particularly popular in China where the dragon was used as a symbol for the Emperor.
-The Persians believed that a baby dragon would be born with skin the color of the mother's eyes.
-In J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the main villain was a dragon named Smaug.
-Dragons are beloved by children, with more movies and books centered around them than I could list. A recent example is the film How to Train Your Dragon.

There is also a dragon in the night sky called, you guessed it, Draco. Its among the oldest constellations to be defined, appearing in astronomical records under the name Tawaret. Tawaret is the goddess of the Northern Sky in the Egyptian pantheon. It was the Greeks that name the constellation Draco. In Greek mythology Draco represents Ladon, the dragon that Hercules had to slay in order to get to the golden apples of Hesperides. In Roman mythology, the dragon was slayed by Minerva and then tossed into the sky. Christians interpret Draco as the serpent that tempted Adam and Eve.

Draco is a very old name with many namesakes. One of them is an Athenian from the 7th century BC, who was a legislator known for his harshness. The term draconian comes from him. There was other Athenian Dracos in the Hippocrates family line and, as you can guess from the family name, they were all physicians.

But the most famous Draco is Draco Malfoy. Draco is the snooty, rich bully of Hogwarts, who spends a great deal of energy trying to make Harry Potter and his friends miserable. Some people think that this puts the name off limits, but I don't think fictional bad guys and tragic characters leave nearly as big a stain as real ones do. Besides, some Harry Potter fans really like the Sytherins, and Draco is sort of redeemed at the end of the series.

Draco has never appeared in the social security list of popular names in the United States. Variations of Draco include Drake and Drakon. Drake has been climbing the charts since the 1980s, and in 2009 it reached #230 with no signs of stopping. With a popular cousin and a famous fictional namesake, Draco might not be far behind.


Image Credit:


So. It's Saint Patrick's Day. If you celebrate it, Happy Saint Patrick's Day. And if I sound unenthusiastic, it's because we Neo-Pagans have some very mixed feelings about the holiday.

That's not surprising, since Saint Patrick became a saint for driving the "snakes" (read Druids) out of Ireland. Many Neo-Pagans refuse to recognize the holiday because of this. However, if you walk up to a random American and ask, "Do you plan to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day by going to church and thanking him for destroying a whole Pagan way of life?" the answer will probably be no. Unless you live in a very Irish neighborhood. No, most people use St. Patrick's day as a way to celebrate Irish heritage by engaging in random displays of public drunkenness. You're more likely to see decorations with leprechauns and rainbows than paper cut-outs of St. Patrick.

So what's a Witch to do on this day? Engage in some snake magick, of course. Snakes are sacred to Neo-Pagans, and particularly the Druids, due to their ability to shed their skin. The snake therefore symbolizes rebirth and renewal. Some Neo-Pagans have taken to pinning a snake accessory on their lapels, instead of wearing the traditional green "Kiss Me I'm Irish" badges. Snakey magick calls for snakey names for Neo-Pagan children born on this day as well.

Kundalini (pronounced "kun-dah-LEE-nee") is a Sanskrit name meaning "the coiled power." The name specifically refers to a type of yoga practice. Kundalani yoga is believed to release an energy that rests at the base of the spine, that is ordinarily curled up like a snake. The kundalini energy moves up the base of the spine. When it reaches the top of the head the practitioner experiences a mystical awakening.

As is common with incredibly unique names, I've only seen this listed as a girls name. For some reason it's more socially acceptable for girls to have unusual names than it is for boys. But there's nothing in the sound or the meaning that seems predominantly feminine, so I'm going to say that it's unisex.

I'm not going to lie, Kundalini would be a bold name for a baby. It's funny how a baby named Kabuki wouldn't feel out of step at all to me and yet Kundalini would. However, it would make a perfect magickal name for a Witch that loves yoga and/or our slithery friends.


Image Credit:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I know that Neo-Pagans are a daring bunch when it comes to names. But a while ago I came across a nome de plume that made me raise an eyebrow: Ladyhawk Whispers.

Many Neo-Pagans are in love with these Native American inspired compound names. However, I don't want to make a habit of posting them. One reason is because I feel like I would just be repeating myself if I tried to profile every possible combination people come up with. Another is that some of these names are too wack-a-doodle even for me. Like Ladyhawk Whispers. I assume that it was inspired by the cheesy fantasy-romance film of the same name.

Ladyhawke is a movie from the eighties staring Matthew Broderick, Michelle Phieffer, and Rutger Hauer. It's about two lovers who are cursed; the lady transforms into a hawk by day, and the man is a wolf by night. They break the curse with the help of a runaway thief. It has a goofy soundtrack by the Alan Parsons Project. I don't want it to seem like I'm knocking the movie, it's enjoyable. But it's corny too.

If you love this film but prefer a name that doesn't scream, "I AM IN LOVE WITH MATTHEW BRODERICK," you could always go with Ladyhawke's real name: Isabeau. Isabeau (pronounced "IS-ah-bow") is a French variation of the mega-popular Isabel, which is in turn based on Elisabeth (the Spanish heard this name and interpreted it as "el Isabet"). Elisabeth comes from the Hebrew elisheba meaning "God is my oath."

Isabeau was a well used name in the Middle Ages. Isabeau of Bavaria was the Queen of France through her marriage to Charles VI. But there were many other Isabeaus before and after the Queen, including one that was tried and convicted as a Witch. "Belle Isabeau" was also the name of a popular song. The name eventually found it's way into the Americas in regions where the French settled.

Today, Isabeau has faded into obscurity. Although it's still used in works of fiction. The Witches of Eileanan series by Kate Forsyth features an Isabeau as a heroine. In a place where Witchcraft is forbidden, Isabeau must learn the Craft before taking her place in the battle against those that would destroy her way of life.

Isabeau seems like the perfect choice for Neo-Pagans. Many of use love Medieval things, and I can see it appealing to a couple who lives for Renaissance Fairs. Isabeau has never charted in the United States, and has fallen out of favor in it's native France. But it seems like the right time for a revival, with parents looking for unique variations of Isabelle. I would love to see a little Isabeau on the playground.


Image Credit:
Found via


I have said before that I don't believe in bowing down to the ridicule of juveniles while picking a name. That a clever bully can use wordplay to twist any name into a taunt, and that shouldn't keep you from naming your son Birch. But there are some names that make me think twice before dismissing the concern. Names in which the joke is so obvious and well remembered from my childhood that it's difficult to brush away. One of these is Urania.

Urania, sometimes Ourania (pronounced "your-AIN-ee-ah"), is a Greek name meaning "heavenly." She is one of the Muses, and her hobbies of choice are astronomy and astrology. Urania is often associated with Universal Love and, in Christian mythology, the Holy Spirit. Some stories say she is the mother of Linus, a Greek musician considered to be the inventor of melody and rhythm.

People have no problem with the name Urania. For places, anyway. Writer Charles Dickens established a shelter for "fallen women" called Urania Cottage. I imagine these women were good inspiration for some of his characters. In reference to her calling, many astronomical observatories in Eastern Europe are named after her.

You'll notice that I make no mention of planets. Uranus and the element uranium are actually named after an entirely different deity. In Greek mythology, Uranus was the god of the sky, the father of Cronos, and the grandfather of Zeus. His name is derived from Ouranos, meaning "sky." Sky, heavenly, they're similar but not the same.

Neo-Pagans have no problem using the name for themselves either. Lady Urania was a minor High Priestess in the United States who was well loved by her community. And the Isis-Urania coven is still in existence. But naming a child is another thing entirely. The only thing I can think about is way back when I heard boys giggle like idiots when they said "Uranus." And they were just talking about the planet! I don't think I need to tell you what the name sounds like, you most likely already know. But if you don't, say Uranus aloud a few times.

So is Urania lost forever? I don't know how the name plays out in other languages. But in English speaking areas, I would be very surprised to see it. Which is a shame. It has a beautiful sound and a lovely history. If you plan on using this name, I hope you're daughter's confident and laid back enough to carry it.


Image Credit:
Ekaterina Grigorieva, but I can't find the website again.

Monday, March 14, 2011


I've made a point to profile some famous Neo-Pagans here: Gardner, Laveau, Sybil. But after being in the Craft for a while, you might be curious to know what other well-known Neo-Pagans there are besides Witches and Priests. So here's one you might be surprised by: William Butler Yeats.

You might know William Butler Yeats as a famous Nobel Prize winning Irish poet and dramatist, the first Irish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize. He also had a life long interest in Hinduism, Mysticism, and the Occult, which influenced much of his work. This interest started when he was very young. He was enchanted by Irish myths and legends. He once said, "The mystical life is the centre of all that I do and all that I think and all that I write." His belief system later evolved into something much more tame, but he was still interested in the cyclical nature of life.

Yeats is credited for founding the Isis-Urania Temple of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, although other people played a part as well. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had many influences including Ancient Egyptian practices, Qabalah, Alchemy, Christian mysticism, and Renaissance grimiores. Sadly, Yeats eventually left the group due to squabbling amongst the leaders.

William Butler Yeats might be near-worshiped in Ireland, but his name is not of Irish origin. Yeats (pronounced "YAYTS") is a variation of Yates, which is a Middle English name meaning "gates."

Well, you might be thinking that this is interesting and all, but is Yeats "namey" enough for a person? The answer is yes, if you like surnames as first names. This name would appeal to those that like Oates, Keats, Foster, Griffin, and Graham. In all the sources I looked at Yeats is listed as a boy's name, and that's how I prefer it. But with today's naming trends it wouldn't surprise me to see it on a girl.

When confronted with a baby Yeats, others will not necessarily think about the occult. But they might think that the parents are literature teachers. So if you're going to use this name, it might be a good idea to actually read some of his poetry. In any case, Yeats is an interesting choice for the bookish Witch.

Other Name News:

I'm participating in the Pagan Culture Blogoversery Party! What does that mean for you? Well it means that starting April 13th through May 1st, Bewitching names will be devoted to the names of fictional witches! So look out for it, and feel free to make requests for name profiles!

I also very quickly changed the look of the blog. It's a very generic template, but I like it much better now.


Image Credit:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

13 Names for the Number 13

Hey, it's my first round up post! Inspired by today's date!

Most people know 13 as an unlucky number. Hotels don't have a 13th floor, most airplanes don't have a 13th seat, and in French restaurants you can't sit 13 at a table. People even have a phobia of the number 13. But unlike the Christians, Neo-Pagans consider this number lucky. This is because the moon is sacred, and there are 13 full moons in a year. During the full moon the goddess is at the hieght of her power. A Wiccan observes 13 Esbat days, and covens traditionally have 13 members. And we're not the only ones that love 13. In Hindu culture it's considered auspicious to name a baby girl the 13th day of her life. Many coming of age ceromonys, like the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, occur when a child has reached 13 years of age. And several succesful sports stars have worn the number 13.

So have you looked at today's date and wondered, as I have, if there are any names that celebrate the number 13? Well, it was a tough search, but I managed to find 13 of them:

1. Luna. The number's connection to the moon makes every moon name a good choice.

2. Epiphany. The three wise men reached Jesus on the 13th day of his life. Christians celebrate this event with the Epiphany.

3. Dekatreea. Greek for 13, but somehow I don't think it will catch on.

4. October. On Friday, October 13, 1307, the Knights Templar were arrested. Some people believe that this is how the superstition started.

5. Fatima. Apparitions of the Virgin of Fatima were believed to occur in Portugal on the 13th of six consecutive months.

6. Trecena. This is the name of the Mayan calendar, where months consist of 13 days.

7. Eiwaz. This 13th rune is the oldest in the runic alphabet.

8. Judas. Judas was the 13th apostle, who betrayed Jesus.

9. Loki. According to a Norse myth, Loki crashed a party at Valhalla and became the 13th guest. The party ended in Loki killing another god.

10. Friday. Aside from the unlucky day, the HMS Friday set sail on Friday the 13th and was captained by Jim Friday. It was never seen again.

11. Apollo. From the oceans to outer space, Apollo 13 experienced some horrible luck when technical difficulties forcing the astronauts to cut their trip to the moon short.

12. Winchester. The nutty Sarah Winchester was obsessed with the number 13 while designing the famous Winchester Mansion.

13. Baudelaire. This was the family name of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny in The Series of Unfortunate Events, which was comprised of 13 books with 13 chapters in each.

What do you think? Do you like any of these? Can you think of any other options that I missed?


Image Credit:

I don't remember.

Friday, March 11, 2011


There are certain names that no matter how popular they get, they will always be witchy. Sybil is one of them.

Sybil (pronounced "SI-bel") derives from the Latin Sibylla, which means "an oracle," or "a prophetess." In ancient Greece and Rome, sybils were groups of women who would tell the future while under the influence of a deity. In the Middle Ages, sybils were embraced by Christians and at least twelve of them were made into saints. Which is how the name Sybil became accepted by the Catholic Church. Historians admit that these women so far only exist in legend, and that there's no concrete proof of their actual existence.

The name's association with Pagan culture continued into recent history. Sybil Leek is one of the most important witches in Neo-Pagan history. Like Gerald Gardner, she rose to fame in the 1950s after the last of the anti-Witchcraft laws were repealed in England. Her life was very interesting. She claimed that she was the descendant of a long family line of High Priestesses, and that she grew up learning the Craft. She had only received three years of conventional education, and was home schooled the rest of the time. Her family focused on esoteric studies like astrology, eastern philosophy, nature, and herbs. Her family was acquainted with H. G. Welles and Aleister Crowley. After Sybil was widowed at the age of 18, her family sent her to act as High Priestess to a coven in France. Eventually, Sybil returned to England and became friendly with some Gypsies. She lived with them for a year while going to coven meetings. In time, she also got a "real" job as an antiques dealer.

She became famous as a Witch mainly just by being open and honest about her lifestyle. She openly disagreed with other witches on some topics, like disapproving of nudity and drugs during ritual. But she did believe in the practice of hexes and curses, and was one of the first Neo-Pagans to take up environmental causes. But her fame brought some unwanted media attention with news reporters coming to her home without warning and following her around, and this got so bad that she was eventually asked to leave by her landlord. She moved to America and appeared on many television shows about ghost hauntings.

I have to admit that until recently I had a slightly negative association with the name Sybil. I first heard of this name because of the book Sybil by Sybil Dorsett and it's film adaptation about her struggle against Multiple Personality Disorder. For a few years, this name made me think of mental illness. On a lighter note, it's also the name of a Harry Potter character. Sybil Trelawny is the talentless divination teacher at Hogwarts.

Sybil was a name that was most popular during the Roaring Twenties. In the United States it reached up to #319. The last time the name was seen on the charts was in the 1960s, and today it's considered rare and somewhat dated. There are some variations as well, like Sibyl, Cybil, Sybilia, Sybella, and Sibella. The later two should appeal to those that like the stylish Bella names.

Sybil definitely still has a mystical vibe to it. It doesn't matter if you don't know who Sybil Leek is. It won't matter if it suddenly becomes vogue again. It's hard to hear or see it and not think of Witches. Which of course, to us, is a good thing.


Image Credit:

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Somehow I totally missed Marti Gras. I apologize, but to be fair it's not a holiday that we pay a lot of attention to up here in the Pacific Northwest. But it's important to Neo-Pagans because the roots of the Mardi Gras celebration are also in Lupercalia. Didn't we talk enough about Lupercalia back during the Valentine's day week? Well, I guess I should still acknowledge Mardi Gras in some way. To tell the truth, I've always been more drawn to Carnival in Italy. Why? Because I'm half Italian American, that's why! And since Mardi Gras and Carnival are actually the same holiday, it works out great.

Venetia (pronounced "veh-NEE-shah") is the Italian city of canals that we English speakers know as Venice. And when people think Carnival, they think Venice. This city holds the most internationally well-known Carnival celebration is famous for it's beautifully crafted carnival masks. Carnival and Mardi Gras is celebrated by committing all manner of debauchery the days before Lent. The masks were used to aid such debauchery by hiding people's identity and social class.

The origin of the name Venetia is somewhat debated. It could possibly be a Latinized form of Gwynedd, which was the name of an ancient kingdom in Wales. A popular variation of Gwynedd is Gwyneth. So the names Gwyneth and Venetia are cousins, if you can believe it.

For the longest time, Venetia was a place name, and nothing more. But in the 1600s, Venetia entered namehood with the help of a celebrity. Go figure. Venetia Anastasia Stanley was the child of a minor noble in England who was well known as a sensual beauty and for her suspicious death. A descendant of Venetia Stanley with the same name was a well known English socialite. Other namesakes include Venetia Phair, the English girl who gave the former planet Pluto it's name.

The name is relatively unknown in the United States, and has never charted. But it has some popular sound-alikes. Vanessa peaked in the 1980s and still remains on the charts. Vienna has been getting some exposure. And the name of another popular Italian tourist city, Florence, is much more widely used. Alternate variations of Venetia include but are not limited to Venezia, Venitia, Vonita, and of course Venice.

Venetia is a beautiful, cultured, and regal sounding name. And if you're living in America, it'll be very unique. It's so similar to other names that I have a hard time thinking of any potential negative reactions. It's a subtle tribute for a Mardi Gras baby.


Image Credit:
Couldn't find the artist again at


I have to admit something about cataloging names of interest to Neo-Pagans. I'm kind of doing this job in the dark. It would be extremely helpful if I actually knew the names of real Neo-Pagan children, but most of the time parents don't share them. I understand the desire for secrecy, we still face stigma in parts of America. It just means that I have to sit here and keep guessing. So you can imagine when I stumbled upon a blog detailing a Wiccan mother's life and challenges with her medically fragile son named Acorn, I clapped my little hands with glee. Not because little Acorn is medically fragile, but because his name is so new and awesome.

Acorn (pronounced "AY-korn") is a nut that comes from oak trees. It's also sometimes called oak corn, which is probably where the word comes from. The acorn has a lot of surprising history as an important symbol and food source for ancient cultures.

The Norse used acorns as good luck charms against the wrath of Thor, the god of lightening. People would leave acorns on their windowsill in order to protect the building from being struck by lightning. This tradition lives on in the acorn-shaped decorations on the ends of window-blind cords. It is also used as a motif in Roman, Celtic, and Scandinavian art and architecture.

Acorns used to be a more popular dietary staple than they are today. They were useful food items because they don't need to be eaten or processed right away. People would keep them stored for times when food was scarce. If you were in a poor family in ancient Greece, you would eat them out of necessity. In ancient Japan, the nuts were processed to make acorn cakes. Nowadays, it's only viewed as a tasty treat for squirrels. The only cultures that still eat acorns today are the Native Americans and the Koreans. In Korea you can eat acorn jelly (called dotorimuk) and acorn noodles (dotori guksu.)

To be fair, Acorn might not be the boy's real name. The mother has a baby in-utero that she refers to as Leaf. That might not be out of the question. Acorn and Leaf is a logical sibling set. But the father is listed as Big Oak. Hm. These names might be made up to protect the family's identity. But let's not kill my hopes and dreams and assume that it's a real name.

There's something wonderfully elfin about Acorn. I can definitely picture it on a little kid. The only problem is I don't know if I can picture it on an adult. But this might be just because I've never heard it on an adult, ever. It would be very interesting to see how a child named Acorn would turn out. I see someone woodsy and sweet. Hm...what do you think? Could the name Acorn stand out in a good way?


Image Credit:
Photo by The Brothers Wright found via

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Here's a lovely name that turned out to be a lot more controversial than I thought it would be. Which is a pity, because it's one of my absolute favorites. But I'm still not giving up. All in favor of naysayers getting off their high-horses and embracing Gypsy as a name, raise their hands. Hopefully by the end of this post, it'll be more than just me.

But first to the factual stuff. A baby name book I have says that Gypsy is a Gypsy name meaning "wanderer." This is complete rubbish. Gypsy (pronounced "JIP-see") is a term that was taken from the word "Egyptian." This term was given to them due to the mistaken belief that they were cast out of Egypt for harboring the baby Jesus (as I explained in my profile of Nicabar, they are most likely from India).

I've been in love with the name ever since I saw it as a character's name in a young adult book who's title I've unfortunately forgotten. It's a historical fiction that takes place in the deep south during the Great Depression. Gypsy is a beautiful girl who was still reeling from her father's suicide and didn't like that her mother was remarrying. Maybe a reader knows what book I'm talking about. But ever since I've read it I've just loved the name Gypsy. Little did I know what kind of knee-jerk negative response it gets.

The brunt of the reaction against Gypsy is that some people think it's a racist slur. I'm sure that it was used in that way at some point in history, but I'm not convinced that this is still true. I've heard a lot of people say that people should use the term Romani instead of Gypsy, but the Roma people make up only one section of people that are characterized as Gypsies. Using Romani to describe all of them is kind of like using Cherokee to describe all Native Americans. And since there has yet to be a more inclusive term, Gypsy it is.

I'll give you an example that I've actually experienced. I took a class with a woman who traveled all over Europe studying Gypsy dance, meeting with actual Gypsies. One day she was super excited because she was introduced to Django Reinhardt's niece (Django Reinhardt was a guitarist famous for popularizing gypsy jazz in the 1950s). They were talking and at one point the teacher called her Romani, and she said, "Ugh, don't call me Romani. Everyone keeps calling me Romani and I hate it. I'm not Romani." The teacher apologized and asked what she should call her. "Just call me a Gypsy. It's easier." Works for me. Who am I to go against Djrango Reinhardt's niece?

But even if you get over that hurtle, there's still one more challenge. When I said "Gypsy," my parents said, "Rose Lee." Gypsy Rose Lee, who was born Rose Louise Hovick, was a well known burlesque performer whose life was immortalized in the stage musical and musical adaptation Gypsy. But Gypsy Rose Lee was a while ago. There are been other namesakes. Before Gypsy Rose Lee there was Gypsy Abbott, a silent film actress. And as far as I can tell, Gypsy is Mrs. Abbott's real name, unlike Rose Lee. It's the name of a Fleetwood Mac song. American Actress Drea de Matteo named her daughter Alabama Gypsy Rose. If you're a fanatical fan of the television show Mystery Science Theater 3000, which I am, then you know Gypsy as the robot with some great one liners. And I was extremely excited when I came across "Gypsy Abbott, Ph.D."

Today people would pick the name Gypsy because the word is used to describe a free-spirited, bohemian lifestyle and fashion sense. There were 17 little girls named Gypsy in the United States in 2009. There are alternate variations, like Gipsy, Gypsie, Gypsee, Gipsee, Jipsy, Jipsee, or the Spanish Gitana. I've also heard it used as a boy's name. There was an SNL skit that I saw that showed a man named Gypsy that was supposed to be some sort of celebrity from the seventies, but I haven't been able to prove his actual existence.

Let me make a few more arguments to why Gypsy is perfect for Neo-Pagans. Aside from it being the name of a few covens and music groups, the name honors our mixed history. The "regular" folk were scared of Gypsies because they roamed in out-of-doors wilderness alongside animals, elves, faeries, and, oh yeah, witches. Discrimination against anything associated with the scary, untamed outdoors is a story all too familiar to us. I would name my daughter Gypsy as an honor to them. And if a name is used out of respect, how could it be racist?

I wouldn't use Rosalie as a middle name though. That's a bit much.


Image Credit:


It's the name of a god, a planet, a month, a teen sensation, and a candy bar! Is it a good option for a person?

Mars (pronounced "MAHRZ") was the Roman god of war. His name is possibly derived from the Latin word for "male": mas. His symbol, a circle with an arrow pointing towards the upper-right side, is also the symbol for men. The month of March, which was originally called Martius, is named after him because this was the month when a festival was celebrated in honor of him. In contrast to his Greek counterpart Ares, who is viewed as being a destructive force, Mars was seen as a protector. He represents the power of war as a way to secure peace. Mars is the father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. He is also the father of Cupid and Aeneas, both products of his love affair with the goddess Venus.

His birth story is an interesting one. Juno is the Roman goddess of motherhood, but Jupiter stepped on her toes when he gave birth to Minerva without a woman's help (Minerva broke through his forehead). Juno was very disturbed by this, and consulted with the goddess Flora on how to restore the balance. Flore found a magic flower, touched Juno's belly, and she became pregnant. And that's how she gave birth to Mars without a man's help.

Aside from being the god of war, Mars is also the god of agriculture. His warlike nature and his virility are seen as two facets that achieve the same end. War and crops were both seen as a way towards security. He was often called to ward off hostile forces, weather that means drought or a neighbor coming to do battle. He was also called to ward off "rust." This, too, had a double meaning. It could mean the rust on weapons, but it could also refer to the wheat fungus that killed crops.

There are two animals that are important to Mars, the wolf and the woodpecker. The wolf is due to his association with Romulus and Remus, who were raised by a she-wolf. But the woodpecker might be a little surprising to some people. The woodpecker was sacred to the ancient Romans due to it's strong beak. The beak was believed to contain Mars' power to ward off danger, so it was often worn around the neck as an amulet.

Given all that history, it would seem that Mars would be a great namesake for a little boy. But Mars isn't a very common name at all. There might be more kids on the playgrounds named Mars if it wasn't also the name of a planet. Mars is the fourth planet in our solar system, and is the planet most likely to harbor life besides ours due to the presence of water. The planet has taken hold in the public imagination, many aliens in movies are Martians. The general consensus is that all of this makes this name a little too spacey. Some people believe that naming a child after a planet is just weird.

But aside from the name's mythological and celestial connotations, Mars has been used to make more recent namesakes. If you know some teenagers, you might have heard of the television series Veronica Mars. The show might be the reason that I'm seeing some comments from people who think that this is a girls name. Or if you live in the United Kingdom, you might have eaten a Mars bar. There are also many other characters and products named after the god, many of them I've never heard of before.

I would have to respectfully disagree with whoever thinks that this name could be used on a girl. To me it's all masculine. And I don't think Mars is completely unusable because of the planet. It is, however, a bit too militant for my tastes. And the idea of the god, that peace can only be achieved through war, is not one that I share. I far prefer March. I would definitely use the name of his month for my son. Still, Mars an interesting choice.


Image Credit:


A few days ago I had a great time visiting the money vacuum--I mean the Emerald City Comic Con. And I saw David Mack again. You might know him for his work on Daredevil, and for creating the heroine Kabuki in the comic book series of the same name.

Kabuki (pronounced "kah-BOO-kee") is also a type of Japanese theater that's been around for centuries. It originated during the Edo period in the 1600s. The three kanji characters that make up the word kabuki mean "sing," "dance," and "skill." It could also be derived from kabuku, which means "to be out of the ordinary," which suggests that this classic art form was considered bizarre back in the day. The expression kabukimono is used to describe someone who is bizarrely dressed.

The kabuki theater is characterized by the historical settings, themes of doomed love and societal pressure, and the elaborate make-up worn by the actors. Many plays also include elements of the supernatural, like kitsune and ghosts. They were originally performed by all women, but eventually included male performers as well. Oftentimes kabuki plays last up to a whole day.

The character Kabuki in the comic book series is the only time I heard it used as a first name. The story centers around a Japanese woman who experiences much inner conflict regarding her job as an assassin and with her personal identity. It's a story that focuses on introspection and memories as opposed to action and violence. But it's not the story that makes the comic book so interesting. It's David Mack's artwork. He uses a lot of different techniques and mediums and collages them together to create a style all his own.

Kabuki has intrigued me as a first name option ever since I first read the stories. It's very stylish and unique, and associated with exotic beauty. If you think that naming your child after a comic book character is a little weird, consider how that doesn't seem to get in the way of parents naming their children Kal-el and Rogue. The fact that the word has a history outside of the comic books is an advantage.

Whether you use Kabuki for a girl or a boy, it would be an avant-garde choice. Hell, the name even means "avant-garde." But in the age of names like Lyric, Symphony, and Unique, is it really all that jarring?


Image Credit:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Here's a stormy Neo-Pagan favorite that has some problematic associations.

Tempest (pronounced "TEM-pest") is an English name meaning "storm." This is another name that people know but is very rarely used. It is associated with Shakespeare due to his play The Tempest. But some people just plain-old don't like it. They think that Tempest is synonymous with "temper tantrum" and that anyone given this name will turn into a brat (which is nonsense, by the way). But Neo-Pagan parents might avoid this name for an entirely different reason.

In 1988, the Smith family greeted a new baby girl. The little girl was named Tempest, because she was born during a storm. Tempest Smith grew up in Lincoln Park, Michigan. Due to her shy demeanor and black clothing, she was an outcast in all her schools. Tempest was one of the many teenagers that discovered Wicca and fell in love with the religion. She showed what she was learning to her mother, Danessa Smith, who approved and supported her. But her new passion inspired more ridicule and ostracization from her classmates, some of who followed her shouting Christian hymns. The abuse from her peers was so relentless that in 2001, she hung herself with a leopard print scarf. She was twelve years old.

After her child's death, Danessa Smith became enraged when the school district failed to take any responsibility for what happened. She started a crusade against religious intolerance in schools. The Neo-Pagan community embraced Danessa and helped her spread her message. She started the Tempest Smith Foundation in order to stop religious intolerance, which later broadened to stop bullying in general. Danessa continued with her mission until she died in an accident in 2008.

When I first wrote this post I believed that Tempest Smith's story left a black spot on her name. And certainly some people might feel that way. I remember reading a comment from one woman who had a niece named Bailey. Even years after the child was born she could not erase the photograph of the other little Bailey who died in the Oklahoma City bombing from her mind. Sometimes tragic associations are hard to shake, just ask anyone who's named their daughter Ophelia.

But the idea that society will avoid a name because of a tragic news story doesn't hold up in the real world. In fact, names belonging to crime victims actually rise up the charts after they appear in the news. When toddler Caylee Anthony was murdered Caylee became the fifth fastest rising name that year. There's no such thing as bad publicity? I guess? It all seems so morbid. Or maybe it's not morbid. It's kind of nice that the child dies, but the name lives on.

So I have mixed feelings about using this name. Tempest Smith wasn't from The Burning Times, but she certainly was persecuted. On the other hand, this incident happened relatively recently. If you still love Tempest, great! It doesn't sound bratty to me, but it certainly sounds spirited. It seems especially suited for a girl with a lot of energy. I prefer the Italian variant Tempesta, because, well, I'm me and I love Italian names. Tempest is very beautiful and unique, but if you're a Neo-Pagan family, you're going to have to explain to your children who Tempest Smith was at some point.


Image Credit:
Found via


Natalie Portman won best actress for Black Swan, and I couldn't be happier! And even though this name was never mentioned in the movie, I'm still profiling it to celebrate.

In Black Swan the dancers are performing Swan Lake, so let's start with where this famous Tchaikovsky ballet comes from. The origins of the story are a little bit of a mystery. We don't even know who the author of the original libretto was. Historians believe that it creators of the ballet might have cobbled together different fairy tales. The symbol of the swan was chosen because it was seen as quintessentially Russian. The outline of the story is based on The Stolen Veil by German author Johann Karl August Musaus. The Russian folktale "The White Duck" also bears some similarities to the ballet. And the inspiration for Prince Siegfried might have been the real life King of Bavaria, Ludwig II.

Here's a brief overview of the story. Odette is a princess who has been enchanted by the evil Von Rothbart. She is a swan by day and a human by night. She lives by a lake that was made by the tears her mother cried when she was kidnapped. The only thing that can break the spell is eternal love, but if the vow of eternal love is broken she will remain a swan forever. Enter Prince Siegfried, who sees Odette transform. He instantly falls in love and promises to break her spell. He invites her to a ball where he will make her his bride. Von Rothbart hears about this, and devises a plan to disguise his own daughter, Odile, as Odette to get Siegfried to break his vow. Siegfried falls for it. Once he found out what he did, he finds Odette, who now will never be free as long as she lives. The two lovers kill themselves, and are free in heaven.

Odette and Odile. Looking at these two names makes the book-character-creating nerd in me gets all jittery with glee. Because the people behind Black Swan had to have known this. Even though they didn't use them. There's no possible way that they couldn't have. Odette and Odile are the "same" name.

Odette (pronounced "oh-DET") and Odile are both feminine versions of Otto, which is a German name meaning "prosperous" or "wealthy." They join other feminine variants like Odila, Odalys, Otilia, and Ottilie. Odette is French while Odile is German. This is interesting because in the movie, in accordance to the ballet's tradition, the parts of Odette and Odile are played by the same person.

Odette is one of those names that everyone is familiar with but is rarely used. Odile, on the other hand, was on the United States popularity charts. It peaked in the 1900s at #917. But Odette has never appeared. But that doesn't mean that there aren't other namesakes besides the dancing swan. There is actress Odette Juliette-Yustman. And there is the Odette in the goofy Disney-wannabe animated movie The Swan Princess, based on the same story.

Odette's first association will always be the ballet, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's a lovely name with graceful connotations. It's really a shocker that there aren't more Odettes on American playgrounds. But some say that French names are making a comeback, so maybe in a few years that will change.


Image Credit:
found via