Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I've already discussed Riddle before. Now let's turn our attention to the villainous Voldemort's middle name.

Actually, Marvolo is a name invented for two characters in the Harry Potter world. One is, of course, Tom Marvolo Riddle. The other is his grandfather, Marvolo Gaunt. Marvolo Gaunt was a pure blooded wizard and a descendant of Salazar Slytherin. Centuries of inbreeding caused instability and violence in the once great household, and the first Marvolo was obviously mentally deranged. He had two children, Morfin and Merope. He tolerated his son but genuinely hated Merope, and constantly abused her.

Despite this, Merope bestowed her father's name to her son. Young Tom did very well in Hogwarts, excelled at all his classes and came off as polite and handsome. But he was hiding a sadistic, manipulative, and narcissistic personality. After graduating, he traveled and learned more about dark magic. Tom Marvolo Riddle always hated his name because it was normal, which is why he changed his name to Voldemort believing that it would strike fear in those that would stand in his way.

Marvolo was a name created out of necessity. J.K. Rowling needed the character's name to be an anagram for "I Am Lord Voldemort." Because there is no official meaning, I like to consider all the things that it could mean. What went into the invention of this particular name? It obviously sounds like it could mean "marvelous" or "marvels," which is certainly a positive association. I find Marvolo interesting because it suggests Italian or Spanish heritage.

But J.K. Rowling is inspired by names in Shakespeare plays. This name has a startling similarity to Malvolio, the character in Twelfth Night. He's the one that is tricked into wearing yellow stockings to woo Countess Olivia, who he believes has fallen in love with him. There's no real proof that that's where Marvolo comes from, but it's an interesting theory.

So, could Marvolo work in the real world? I would give it a very tentative yes. It's an obscure Harry Potter reference with a lovely sound, but none of the namesakes are particularly positive. I can see it appealing to people with gothic sensibilities, so it does have a place in the naming world. But if we're talking about it for my own future kids, I'm on the fence.


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This is one of my all time favorite botanical names. I honestly expected this name to be used more than it is.

It is believed that lavenders may have first originated in Asia. The Ancient Greeks called this flower nardus, after the Syrian city of Naarda. Now the plant is located throughout Africa, the Mediterranean, Arabia, South-East India, and Northern Iran. Because the flowers cross-pollinate very easily, there are countless variations of lavender. The flowers come in blue, purple, or lilac.

There are two different etymologies listed for Lavender (pronounced "LAV-in-der"). One states that it's derived from the Latin lividus, meaning "livid" or "bluish." But it is more likely derived from lavere, another Latin word meaning "to wash." The plant was given this name because it was often used to scent fabrics and perfume bathwater.

In Ancient Rome, one pound of lavender flowers cost as much as a farmer's monthly wages. They believed that using this flower in bathwater would restore the skin. It was the Romans that first introduced lavender to Britain. Lavender also used to be an old occupation name for a washerwoman, and another word for prostitute.

There are many other uses for this plant besides perfuming. It was the Ancient Greeks that discovered lavender's ability as a relaxant, they frequently used it in incense. This ability to relieve anxiety and induce sleep was proved by scientists. It is also used as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, an insect repellent. Culinary items include lavender sugar, syrup, marshmallows, scones, and tea. But it must never be ingested by those who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as lavender products are toxic to infants.

Lavender is also the name of a color, meant to describe a light shade of purple that is darker than lilac. In Western culture, this color symbolizes many things. It is often associated with sensuality and decadence, which may be in part because of the plant's historical use. In Victorian flower symbolism, lavender represents concealment, cleansing, or affection. In Wicca, all types of purple are believed to bring spiritual power and psychic ability.

As I stated before, Lavender has never appeared in the top 1,000 baby names in the United States. It was trendy in England during the Edwardian Era, which flower names were popular. But I don't think the character in Harry Potter is going to help it's image. Lavender Brown was the silly, nauseating girlfriend of Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. However, I first came in contact with this name because of another character from a different well loved children's book. In Roald Dahl's Matilda, Lavender is the good friend of the lead character.

This name might receive criticism for being "new and made up," but documentation indicates otherwise. Lavender has a history of use as a surname, much to my surprise. For variations you could look at what this plant is called in other languages, Lavendre from Anglo-French, Lavendula from Middle Latin for example. It's a very soft sounding name that goes very well with Rose and Lily, so this could be a more unique option for people who love those names. It's definitely on the list for my potential future daughter.


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Monday, August 29, 2011


Here's a name that I didn't really like before Harry Potter, but because of the books it's been growing on me.

Cedric Diggory first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but does not really become a character until Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He is a Hufflepuff student who is a competitor in the Triwizard Tournament alongside Harry. He is described as a handsome and popular boy who embodies the qualities of the Hufflepuff house: fair, friendly, and modest. He is the boyfriend of Cho Chang, who Harry has a crush on at the time. Cedric is also the first to die in the Second Wizarding War.

Cedric (pronounced "SEHD-rik") is a name that was born from an author's mistake. When Sir Walter Scott was writing Ivanhoe, he created a character called Cedric of Rotherwood thinking that it was the name of an old king. In the book, Cedric is the father of Ivanhoe, who disowns him for supporting the Norman King Richard and for falling in love with a woman he intended to marry off to another man. But in fact, the historical Saxon king's name was Cerdic, not Cedric. Cerdic was the first King of Wessex. No one is quite sure where his name came from, although some believe it to be Germanic. Others think that it's derived from a Welsh name, either Cedrych, meaning "pattern of bounty," or Caredig, meaning "beloved." But I don't think anyone really knows for sure.

There was a point in history where Cedric had a "sissy" image. Cedric Errol Fauntleroy is the main character in Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. He is a genteel half-English half-American boy in a poverty stricken family who is adopted by his aristocrat grandfather. He is described as "a graceful, childish figure in a black velvet suit, with a lace collar, and with lovelocks waving about his handsome, manly little face." That would be a laughable outfit for a little boy today, but this book had a large impact on fashion. That look was incredibly popular in the American middle-class appearing right after publication in 1885. It stuck around until after the turn of the century. I mention this just in case you're considering this name and are getting wrinkled noses from the older set, because this is probably why.

A pre-Twilight Robert Patterson played Cedric in the Harry Potter movies, which I thought would give this name a popularity boost. But I'm looking at it's popularity over time, and it doesn't look like the books or films affected it in any significant way. The name first appeared in the 1900s and it briefly dropped out in the 1920s. But it was the most popular in the 1970s at #245. It's currently at #726, but it's declining. Cedrick also charted in the 1980s. Other variants include Caddaric, Cedrik, Cedro, Sedric, Sedrick, and Sedrik. Nicknames include the well used Rick and Ricky.

Most associations with this name are more literary than Pagan. But I don't think of Ivanhoe when I hear this name. I don't think about Little Lord Fauntleroy. I think about Cedric Diggory. This definitely gives it a witchy vibe. So it would be a great Wicca-lite name for a Neo-Pagan boy.


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Thursday, August 25, 2011


Better late than never, as this is the perfect time to profile to cover the name that this month's title is based on.

Originally, this month was known as Sextilis, Latin for "sixth" because it was the sixth month in the original Roman calender. Emperor Augustus renamed the month in honor of himself. He liked this month in particular because it was a time in which he achieved many impressive accomplishments, such as his conquest of Egypt. Augustus (pronounced "aw-GUHS-tus") is derived from the Latin augere, meaning "to increase."

Emperor Augustus is considered to be the first emperor of the Rome Empire. He was born Gaius Octavius Thurinus, and was adopted by Emperor Julius Ceaser in his last will and testament. He was given the name Augustus when he gained power, an honorific that was given to all emperors. He is well known for heralding an era of peace and prosperity and for expanding the empire dramatically.

There are many namesakes for Augustus and it's variants, many of them royalty. Augustus the Strong and Autustus III were both Kings of Poland, the former was well known for his strength and for supposedly fathering 365 children. Fredrick Augustus III was the last King of Saxony. Philip Augustus was the King of France. In England, Prince William Augustus was the son of George II, and Prince Augustus Fredrick was the son of George III. Non-royal namesakes include Augustus Dickens, brother to Charles. August is the name of the main (female) character in the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. Augustus Rookwood is a minor character in the Harry Potter series. And I can't help but think about Augustus Gloop, the pudgy boy who gets caught in the pipe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Augustus has been in the American top 1,000 for a while. It was most popular in the 1880s at #211. It dipped out of the charts in the 1970s and 1980s, but now it's back and currently rests at #776. August has a very similar trajectory, at least for boys. It could also be used as a girls name. August, with it's crisper, more rustic sound, is more popular with Americans at #429. Other variants include the masculine Augusto and Auguste, the unisex Augustine, and the feminine Augusta and Augustina. Nicknames include Gus, Gustie, or Augie.

If I were to picture boys in a classroom, August would be the popular heart-throb, while Augustus would be the quieter nerdy one. And I mean that as a compliment to both of them. All the different versions of Augustus are great names, it's just a matter of how much uniqueness means to the couple which would determine which one's best. They are all familiar to people, but not all of them are overused yet.


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In the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the three brothers make an appearance. Although "make an appearance" might not be a great choice of words for characters from the wizarding world's fairy tales by Beedle the Bard.

In the Tale of the Three Brothers, the three brothers angered Death by using their magic to create a bridge over a river, and thus not perishing. Death pretends to congratulate them, and offers each a gift of their choice. The eldest brother asked for a wand that would make him undefeatable. The middle brother asked for a stone that would grant him the ability to bring back the dead. The youngest and wisest brother did not trust death. He asked for something that would allow him to leave their meeting without being followed by Death. Death gives him a part of his own invisibility cloak.

The two older brothers meet terrible fates. The eldest loudly boasts about his powerful new wand in public, and is killed in sleep by thieves. The middle brother brought back his deceased fiance with his stone, but realized that she was only an apparition, and hanged himself. But Death could never find the youngest brother until he grew to a rip old age. He gave his invisibility cloak to his son, and greeted Death "as an old friend."

This wizarding fairy tale is based on the Peverell brothers. In order of age, they're names are Antioch, Cadmus, and Ignotus. Ignotus (pronounced "ig-NOH-tus") is the ancestor of Harry Potter, and the reason why the Potter family had the invisibility cloak. You would think that Voldemort would be the descendant of Antioch, the one with the elder wand, but that's not the case. His ancestor is Cadmus, the owner of the resurrection stone. These three powerful objects are the deathly hallows of the title.

Once again, J.K. Rowling shows her command of the Latin language. Ignotus is a Latin name literally meaning "unknown." This is appropriate since the character's location is unknown to Death. J.K. Rowling did not invent this name, it had been used before. The Hungarian author Hugo Veigelsberg often used Ignotus and a nome de plume.

This name is a variant of a much more commonly used name, Ignatius, derived from Egnatius. The spelling was altered so that it could more resemble ignis, Latin for "fire." Ignatius is a name worn by many saints, including Ignatius of Antioch. J.K. Rowling often uses saints names and their stories as inspiration for her characters. Other variants include Ignatz, Ignace, Ignasi, Ignazio, Ignacy, and Ignacio.

Ignotus is an interesting option that doesn't scream, "I AM A HARRY POTTER FAN," in the same way that Nymphadora or Bellatrix would. And yet only other Harry Potter fans are likely to immediately recognize the reference. Ignotus has some worldly appeal, since it's variations scatter around the world. Iggy could be a cool nickname. It's the type of name that I would expect to find on an aristocrat's child, although I'm not sure why I have that image in my head. So it's a lovely sounding, unusual choice.


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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We are in the mist of the Celtic tree month of Hazel, so it's the perfect time to profile this charming appellation.

This tree month lasts from August 5th through September 1st. Hazel (pronounced "HAY-zel") is an Old English name derived from the Proto-Germanic hasalaz, but it appears that the word's meaning has been lost in time. It's interesting to note that Hazel is also a variant of the Hebrew name Hazael, meaning "God sees." The Celts name for the hazel tree was coll. Hazel is associated with protection, wisdom, and inspiration. This is a good time to perform magick relating to knowledge, dream journeys, creativity, and divination.

The harvest is the time of year when hazelnuts start to appear on these trees. There are Ancient Celtic tales that tell of nine hazel trees that grow around a sacred pool. The hazelnuts fall into the pool and are eaten by the salmon, creatures sacred to the Druids. These fish absorbed the wisdom the nuts contained. One story tells of a Druid who wished to become omniscient, so he instructed one of his students to cook a salmon that he caught. A drop of hot juices splashed onto the boy's thumb, which he then sucked off. This boy, named Fionn Mac Cumhail, gained the fish's knowledge and later became one of the greatest heroes of Gaelic mythology.

The plant known as witch hazel is a completely different species. This shrub, like the tree, grows in temperate regions throughout the northern hemisphere. Witch hazel has been used for many medicinal purposes. Extracts from the bark and leaves are used for treating bruises, acne, and insect bites, and it's also contained in aftershave lotion. It is used in hemorrhoid medication because it contracts blood vessels back to a normal size. Using witch hazel to heal postnatal tearing is also common.

William Shakespeare was the first person to use this word in terms of eye color. In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio teases Benvolio, "Thou wilt quarrell with a man for cracking Nuts, hauing no reason, but because thou hast hasell eyes." The color of hazel eyes is brown with green, or at least that's what they look like to me. Everyone seems to have a different opinion because they look like they shift in color depending on the light.

In America, Hazel as a name is viewed by some as being old-fashioned. It was hugely popular as a girls name in the 1890s, it peaked at #23. It took a long time to fall out of favor, which it finally did by the 1980s. But it looks like it's ready to try to take the crown again, it rests poised at #262. In other countries, as of 2008 it's #88 in Ireland, #134 in Canada, and #258 in Scotland. It was also used as a boys name in America, peaking at #540 in the 1900s. Even though society appears to have declared it overwhelmingly feminine, I find it a charming name for a boy. One prominent fictional namesake is the male rabbit and hero in the classic novel Watership Down by Richard Adams.

Hazel is a Wicca-lite name. It's a name that everyone is familiar with that no one is going to raise an eyebrow to. At the same time it has a lovely sound and a connection to Ancient Celtic culture. It would be interesting to see how it resurfaces in the namescape of the future.


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Monday, August 22, 2011


Most gemstone names are used exclusively on girls nowadays. Could the gemstone for the astrological sign of Leo be a masculine option?

Onyx (pronounced "AUH-niks") is a Latin name meaning "claw" or "fingernail." Most onyx (onyxes? onyi?) comes in a flesh tone color, so it makes sense that they looked like fingernails to the Ancient Greeks and Romans. According to myth, these stones are the fingernail clippings of Venus that were left lying around. Onyx can also be found in green and blue. There is also a natural variation called sardonyx, which is a reddish brown. But this gemstone is more well known for being black, and throughout the ages this has remained it's most popular color. Onyx is a layered stone, so it could actually be multiple colors.

This stone has a long history of being used in carvings and jewelry. Ancient Egyptian artifacts show that they used this stone for pottery. Roman soldiers wore talismans made from sardonyx with engravings of Mars or Hercules in order to make the wearer brave. Renaissance men regarded sardonyx as an aid in public speaking, as it was believed to bring eloquence to the orator. The stone is also mentioned in the Bible several times, it adorned the breastplate of the Priest of Israel. However, real onyx is getting increasingly more difficult to come by. Most so-called "black onyx" sold in stores are actually other gemstones that underwent a staining process.

Obviously, Witches have a deep connection with the color black. Certainly, it's the most stereotypical color that outsiders associate with us. For Neo-Pagans black is the color of protection, and is often utilized for banishing spells and binding or absorbing negative energy. So it should come as no surprise that this stone is believed to have protective and defensive power. It also improves concentration, self control, and emotional stability. It is used to strengthen the circulatory system, kidneys, nerves, eyes, and, of course, nails. On the other hand, those that use this stone say that it could be unpredictable and dangerous if used carelessly.

This is a very rare name, and there is only one namesake that I've come by. Onyx is the magickal name of Pagan author Deborah Blake. She has a very light-hearted writing style and her books are very enjoyable. Despite this, and the fact that I've only seen this listed as a girl's name elsewhere, I still feel that this name is more suitable for boys. It's strong and devoid of frills. I just picture a strong warrior when I hear it. Not that women can't be strong warriors, but I think we need more newfangled gemstone names for boys, don't you?

So if you're looking for a name for someone born under the current astrological sign and Leo is too common for you, Onyx could be right up your alley. Think of it as a way to give the child, or yourself, protection through life.


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Saturday, August 20, 2011


I love Sirius Black. I bawled when he died in the Harry Potter books. So I also few in love with his name and it's definitely in the running for a future son.

Sirius Black III was the escaped prisoner of Azkaban in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Sirius disagreed with his family's belief in blood purity, and broke tradition when he was sent to the Gryffindor house instead of Slytherin. He was best friends with James Potter, Peter Pettigrew, and Remus Lupin at Hogwarts. While a student, he and his friends became unregistered Animagi so they could keep Remus company while he was in his werewolf form. The animal he changes into is a large, black dog. James is so close to Sirius that he makes him Harry's godfather. After being wrongfully convicted of giving up the location of Harry's parents to Voldemort and for the murder of twelve muggles (crimes actually committed by Peter Pettigrew), he was sent to prison.

After seeing Peter Pettigrew in his rat form in the newspaper, he became filled with the need for revenge. He managed to escape. Sirius knew that Pettigrew was in Hogwarts, and he hung around the Forbidden Forest and Hogsmeade while trying to figure out how to get in. He was often mistaken for a Grim, an omen of bad luck. At the end of the Prisoner of Azkaban, a confrontation in the Shrieking Shack reveals Pettigrew for who he is to Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Afterwards, Sirius asks Harry if he would like to live with him, and Harry says yes. However, Sirius is still guilty in the eyes of the law, and he must go into hiding again. He eventually becomes a member of the Order of the Phoenix, and is killed by his cousin Bellatrix in a battle.

Sirius (pronounced either "SIR-ee-us" or "SEER-ee-us") is a Latin name derived from the Greek seirios, meaning "burning," "scorching," or "glowing." This makes Sirius a great fire name as well as a celestial one. Sirius is another name for what is known as the Dog Star because it is a part of the Canis Major constellation. It is the brightest star in the night sky.

In Ancient Egyptian culture, the rising of Sirius marked the first day of the flooding of the Nile. Their whole calender was based on this celestial event. They also believed that this star caused arousal in women. For the Greeks, this star signaled the start of the "dog days" of summer. The inhabitants of Ceos would offer sacrifices to Sirius and Zeus so that they may bring cool breezes to the island. The Romans celebrated the setting of Sirius by sacrificing a dog, incense, wine, and a sheep to the goddess Robigo.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the appearance of Sirius marked the beginning of winter to the Polynesians. For them, Sirius was a part of the Great Bird constellation called Manu. It's appearance during the Winter Solstice was celebrated by the Hawaiians, only they called the star Ka'ulua, meaning "Queen of Heaven." The Dog Star was an important tool for navigation in the Pacific Ocean.

For whatever reason, Sirius has never been a popular name in America. It is also the name of a satellite radio company, but that doesn't strike me as a reason to avoid it. I think that it's pronunciation might be holding it back. It sounds like "serious." That makes it slightly awkward when pairing it with other names.

If you really love Sirius, there's no reason not to try to make it work. The only well known namesake is the Harry Potter character, so everyone will recognize the name because of that. And the character is a great association.


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Out of all the astrological signs, Leo is the most established as inspiration for baby names. This name and variations of it have appealed for parents for hundreds of years.

Leo (pronounced "LEE-oh") is a Latin name meaning, you guessed it, lion. Pretty much all cultures have looked up at this constellation and interpreted it as a lion. It was particularly sacred to the Ancient Egyptians because when the sun entered Leo, the waters of the Nile rose and lions came to the river to escape the heat. Ancient Egyptian society depended on the Nile River rising and watering their crops. Other names of this constellation include Ser or Shir from the Persians, Artan from the Turks, Aryo from the Syrians, Arye from the Jews, Simha from the Indians, and Urgula from the Babylonians. All of these names mean "lion."

In Greek mythology, Leo symbolizes the Nemean Lion. Slaying this creature was the first of Hercules' twelve tasks. This lion was sent to Nemea in order to terrorize the city. When Hercules fired at the cat with a bow and arrow, he quickly realized that it's golden fur was impenetrable. So he stunned it with his club, and then strangled him to death.

Of course, lions are important to mythology all over the Old World, because back then their habitats expanded to a much wider range. Despite the real risk of attacks, these animals are generally viewed favorably. In many cultures, they are a symbol of royalty, nobility, and bravery. Which is probably why people with Leo as a sun sign are usually...well...a little vain. If you've read about the attributes of those born between July 22nd to August 22nd, you would know that Leo is considered to be a masculine fire sign. Like lions, they are great leaders and are usually very dignified. But they can also be arrogant. Their sense of self importance comes from a genuine desire to change the world and make it better. They are also very hard workers and are the first to blame themselves when something goes wrong.

There are many well known Christians who bare this name, including thirteen Catholic Popes. One, Saint Leo the Great, is famous for persuading Attila the Hun to not attach Italy. But there is also a well known Pagan with this name. Leo Ruickbie is a Pagan author, historian and sociologist. He was awarded his PhD for his thesis: The Re-Enchanters: Theorising Re-Enchantment and Testing for it's Presence in Modern Witchcraft. He is also credited for launching Open Source Wicca, which aims to make Wiccan texts more available.

Not only has this name never left the top 1,000 in America, it remains a popular name worldwide. It peaked at #44 in the 1900s, and now hangs out comfortably at #193. As of 2008 it's also #16 in Sweden, #43 in England, #65 in Germany, #74 in Norway, #81 in Scotland, and #90 in Australia. There are also many related names, which all have a separate enough identity to deserve their own profiles in the future. In short, that's a lot of Leos, which makes this a perfect Wicca-lite option.

Leo has a lot going for it. It's peak in the 1900s gives it an old fashioned charm, and yet it doesn't seem grandpa-ish. It doesn't have any nicknames. It's rising up the charts, so people looking for a unused option won't find it here. But it's still a lovely name for any little cub.


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Saturday, August 13, 2011


Baby names referencing insects are few and far between. Butterflies are the most charismatic and well loved bugs around, so the majority of insect names is in reference to them. Following behind them may be bees, because their industrious qualities are revered (and the honey doesn't hurt). There are also a few spider names, not technically an insect but they are associated with female power and storytelling. Also the moniker Cricket, which started out as a nickname for Christina, has been getting some attention on it's own. This makes me wonder. Could Cicada be a new possibility or am I just completely bonkers?

Cicada (pronounced "sih-KAY-dah") is derived from Latin and it means "tree cricket." Cicadas live in deciduous habitats all over the world, but for the unfamiliar I'm going to enlighten you on some of the cicada's bizarre habits. Cicadas come in a variety of different colors, but for the most part they look like very large flies. They spend 13-17 years underground. No one really knows why, it might be a way to avoid predators or it might be a tactic left over from the Ice Age. They come out of the ground in order to mate. One of the cicada's most well known attributes is the male's loud chirping song meant to attract the females. For around six weeks they live in the trees, lay their eggs, and die. The eggs hatch, and their larvae stay in the trees for a while until they fall to the ground and the cycle begins again.

The cicada appears in many works of literature. In Jean de La Fontaine's collection of fables, he tells the story of "The Cicada and the Ant." Based on one of Aesop's fables, Cicada spends the summer singing while Ant stores away food. So Cicada starves when the weather turns bitter. In Ancient Greek myth, Tithonus is transformed into a cicada by Zeus which grants him eternal life, but not eternal youth. In the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji, the hero compares a woman to a cicada because of the delicate way she sheds her scarf, like how a cicada sheds it's shell while molting. These insects are also a frequent subject of haikus.

Cicadas feature prominently in Chinese and Japanese symbolism. In both the 36 classic Chinese stratagems and in mythic ninja lore, the cicada is the inspiration for using a decoy (like the cicada's old shell) in order to fool enemies. In Ancient China, high level officials used to wear cicada-shaped jade decorations on their hats. The sound of the cicada's song is used in Japanese film and TV in order to indicate that the scene takes place in the summertime. This insect also symbolizes rebirth, enlightenment, and evanescence in both cultures. Japanese children like to collect cicadas and cicada shells in the summer.

Possibly standing in the way of Cicada's use as a namesake is the fact that many Americans see the bug as a nuisance. Their song keeps you up at night, and their shells and bodies can litter the streets. However, cicada's are very important to the environment, taking down the weaker branches of trees and making the soil better for plants. In many countries, this bug is also eaten by humans.

What spurred this post is the fact that there is an independent bridal shop in my area called Cicada. That got me thinking. It really is a beautiful sounding name. But then I look at pictures of actual cicadas, and I get a little grossed out. Just because I'm Pagan doesn't mean I magically started liking bugs, even though I'm better with them now than I used to be. Still, Cicada is a lovely name, and it fits in well with Cricket. So could this name be given to a person, or is Cicada just weird?


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The Harry Potter character Bellatrix Lestrange is responsible for reintroducing this old gem, but it's also it's main obstacle. Parents have been giving this name to their daughters since the books came out, which has stirred up a little bit of a controversy.

Bellatrix Lestrange is the sister of Narcissa Malfoy and the cousin of Sirius Black. Their clan is an elite pure-blooded family, and Bellatrix has contempt for muggles, mudbloods, and blood traitors. She is one of the few known female Death Eaters, and is also one of the most dangerous. After the first Wizarding War, she was given a life sentence in Azkaban for torturing the Longbottoms to the point of insanity. She was married, but had no affection for him whatsoever. She is in love with Voldemort and would do anything for him. In the movies, the actress Helena Bonham Carter portrays her in a deranged way, as if she has some kind of mental disorder. This isn't suggested in the book, she is simply a murderous person who truly believes in Voldemort's world view.

Villains always have the snazzy names, don't they? Bellatrix (pronounced "BEHL-ah-triks") is a Latin name. Bella is both the plural word for bellum meaning "war" as well as meaning "beautiful." Trix is a feminine suffix. Therefore, Bellatrix could mean either "female warrior" or "beautiful woman."

Her name also follows the Black family tradition of celestial names. Bellatrix is the third brightest star in the constellation Orion. This star is also known as the Amazon Star. The Amazons were a legendary tribe of female warriors who removed one of their breasts in order to draw their bows better.

I can see the appeal of this name. It really is beautiful. It's many potential nicknames are lovely: the currently popular Bella, Belle, Trixie, or Ella. However, since the character is the only notable namesake, it's not something that I would use. If we are to read the Harry Potter books as a warning against bigotry, then the Death Eaters are kind of like the Nazis of the story. Which would make Bellatrix the Joseph Goebbels of the Harry Potter world. That association is enough to put me off it.

However, it certainly wouldn't bother me one bit if I met a little baby Bellatrix. It is certainly not as controversial a name as Pink or Jezebel, and neither of those names offend me either. Perhaps the association is too new to cause a significant cultural aversion to it. Either way, if you have a daughter named Bellatrix, I wouldn't worry too too much about a negative reaction.


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Tuesday, August 9, 2011


One of the fun things Pagans get to do is pick a patron or matron god that is special to them in some way. And I do believe that you pick them. The "you don't pick them they pick you" argument is pointless because it takes both parties full involvement to make a partnership. Anyway, I could say that this was hard for me, but I would be fooling absolutely no one who knows me. My patron god is the extremely popular (and adorable) Hindu god Ganesh.

Ganesh (also known as Ganesa or Ganesha) is immediately recognizable, he has the body of a man and the head of an elephant. He appears in lots of iconic art in India and beyond. His name means, roughly, “lord of the group” or “leader of the group.”

Ganesh is the god of new beginnings, so it is an Indian custom to say a prayer to him before starting any new project. When you do, he will remove all obstacles in your way, which is symbolized by the ax he carries. He has quite a sweet tooth, and likes it when people leave deserts on his altar. This love of deserts has also made him a bit pudgy. Ganesh is also the god of science and the arts, of intellect and wisdom. His tusk is broken off because he used it as a pen when he transcribed Vyasa’s epic Mahabharata (this is a real work of ancient Indian literature, it’s about three times the size of the Bible). He is commonly invoked as a patron of letters before writing sessions. Because he is considered to be the god of the everyman, Ganesh was often used as an icon of protest against British rule.

One of the most prominent myths about Ganesh is how he got his elephant head in the first place. In the most popular version of the story, he wasn’t born that way. Parvati, the goddess of love, created her first son Ganesh out of dirt to protect her while her husband Shiva, the god of transformation, was away. When Shiva came back home, the two men didn’t recognize each other. Ganesh denied him entry into the house, and Shiva became so annoyed that he beheaded him. Parvati was filled with grief when she saw what happened. Shiva panicked, found a baby elephant in the woods, killed it, and gave the head to Ganesh when he brought him back to life.

If you look at pictures and statues of Ganesh, you might notice that he has a sidekick. He has a rat that he rides to get to where he needs to be. The rat is interpreted a number of ways. Rats are obviously a menace to farmers, therefore making it an obstacle. The fact that he’s riding it reiterates his main claim to fame as a clearer of obstacles.

Ganesh even has his own holiday. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival celebrated for ten days, typically around late August and early September. It is celebrated with street parades, music, and submerging terracotta idols into sacred rivers.

Ganesh is slightly different from other artsy gods in that he is all about follow-through. A muse might give you inspiration, but she doesn’t stick around to make sure you aren’t dilly-dallying around. Ganesh sacrificed his own tusk in order to complete his work. What are you willing to do for yours? Plus he’s just so damn cute. How could you look at him and not be happy?

Now you might be thinking, "Well, that's all nice and stuff. But is Ganesh a name used by, you know, people in realityland?" It actually is, in India. That doesn't really come to a surprise to me since he is so beloved over there. One baby name book tried to convince me that Ganesa is also used for girls, but I've been steered wrong by this particular book before.

But could this name be used in Western cultures as well? It depends on how daring you want to be. It's overly exotic as a first name, but could be a daring middle name option. Or a great magickal name.

Note: This is an edited version of the guest post I wrote for The Pagan Mom Blog.

The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel

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Found via
I took the second photo in Ireland!


Pop quiz! Is this name for boys or for girls? Trick question, it's for both.

Artemis (pronounced "AHR-teh-mis") is a Greek name with an unknown meaning. The Greek etymology could be related to either artemes meaning "safe" or artamos meaning "butcher." However, some historians believe that the etymology may be Proto-Indo-European because of evidence found on Neolithic remains, in this case the name could mean "bear." This is also the name of a popular goddess. Artemis presides over the moon, hunting, wilderness, childbirth, virginity, and maidens. She is the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She is often depicted wearing a crescent moon on her head, and always carries her bow and arrow. Deer, bears, hunting dogs, and cypress trees are especially sacred to her. Her Roman attribute is Diana.

Artemis is also well known for being something of a man hater. I don't blame her, since so many of them tried to rape her or her attendants. Artemis was determined to hang on to her virginity. The only one that captured her heart was her hunting companion Orion, and even he died at her hand (or Gaia's hand, depending on who tells the story). She also plays a large part in the story of the Iliad. Artemis, her brother, and her mother were venerated in Troy, so they were on the side of the Trojans. In order to stop the Greeks journey, she became the sea. The only way she would let them pass was if they would sacrifice Iphigenia, Agamemnon's daughter. Agamemnon promised to commit this sacrifice, but later broke this promise. Artemis remains popular with Neo-Pagans today. A UK-based organization called Children of Artemis is well known for holding festivals and conferences.

Naming boys after female deities is nothing new. Don't believe me? I'll give you an example: Jose Maria. I have two ancestors with this name (I should post my family tree, my Puerto Rican side is quite epic for name nerds). It's seen as quite a posh option in some European countries today. Many other Virgin Mary names, like Socorro, Monserrate, and Guadalupe, are used for boys as well as girls. Not convinced? How about Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest? I was rather shocked to find that lists this as a boys name only. Demetrius and Demetri are male variants of Demeter.

Artemas is the male variant of Artemis. Apparently, this name survived well after Christianization, because it's mentioned in the New Testament. Saint Artemas was one of the seventy disciples. It was, shockingly, a popular Puritan name in the 17th century. One famous bearer, Artemas Ward, was a general in the American Revolutionary War. He was also the congressman of Massachusetts and an author. I went to college with a Ukrainian guy named Artem, so it's variations are used in other parts of the world.

However, if it's used on a boy and spelled Artemis, it's a good bet that the namer was influenced by Artemis Fowl. Artemis Fowl is a series of young adult books by Eion Colfer. The title character is a teenage criminal mastermind, scheming to build his fortune. In the first book, he kidnaps Captain Holly Short of the fairy LEP, but in later books he works with the fairies and only steals from those who deserve it.

If you plan to use any variation of this name, you should know that they are quite rare in America. Artemis has some well known namesakes, including an English writer and an American actress, but it hasn't charted. Artemisia, which is also a botanical name, is equally rare. One option some might not know about is Arthemise. It's a French surname that experienced some use in the Cajun region. For boys, there is also Artenio. And all versions could be easily shortened to Artie.

So if you want a name for either gender that honors Greek mythology and the moon and you are not afraid to rock American gender politics, Artemis could be for you. I have heard that some parents feel uncomfortable using this name if they already have a boy named Orion, but if you don't have that problem go for it! Artemis is an old favorite of mine, and Artemas is a new one. Let's see if people can free their minds and start using these gems.


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Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Yes, I know, I know, I didn't do well with the Harry Potter theme. I ran out of time. But I did get a new temp job that has taken a lot of my time and will take a lot more this month and half of September, so please bear with me. I'm going to be sprinkling in more Harry Potter names throughout August in order to make it up to you guys, m'kay? And if I'm going to do Harry Potter creature names, we can't forget Hedwig.

Hedwig is the beautiful snowy owl that Harry buys as a pet in Diagon Alley. In the wizarding world, owls are used to transport the mail, so Hedwig is not just a pet, she's a connection to the outside world. For such a small character, her name has tons of history.

Hedwig (pronounced "HEHD-wig") is a name of Old German origin. It is derived from the name Haduwig, meaning "fighter." There are many different variations of this name from around Europe. Hedy (as in Hedy Lamar) is the Anglicised diminutive. Edwige and Edvige are from France and Italian, respectively. Hadewych is Dutch. Jadwiga, Iga, and Jadzia are Polish. Hedvika is Czech and Hedviga is Slovak.

Hedwig is a name worn by several saints. Saint Hedwig of Andechs was the Duchess of Poland who had a great zeal for the Church, and gave all of her fortune to it. St. Hedwig's Day is observed on October 16th. Later, another Polish Saint Hedwig was crowned as king (the idea of a queen regnant was unheard of at the time). She is the patron saint of queens.

This was also a name popular with royalty. Hedwig of France was the daughter of Hugh Capet, the first King of France. She was named after her grandmother Hedwige of Saxony, a German noblewoman and mother of Hugh Capet. Hedwig of Kalisz was the Queen consort to Wladyslaw I the Elbow-high. Hedwig Jagiellon was the Duchess of Bavaria, wife of Duke George of Bavaria.

When it comes to fictional namesakes, Harry's owl is not my first thought. If you're a fan of musicals, you may or may not be familiar with Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Both the stage and film versions are about a fictional punk rock band fronted by Hedwig, a transgender singer from East Germany. It's much better than it sounds, and the music is awesome. Both versions have a cult following, and stage productions are performed all over the world. But this association might be a turn off for some people.

Hedwig is a name that used to be popular in America. It's two peaks were in the 1890s at #492 and in the 1910s at #566. It was a companion to other German names that were popular at the time like Mathilda and Wilhelmine. But nowadays, it's a rarity.

I'm not Caucasian enough to see Hedwig as a potential name for my own child. That being said, I do like it. It's sweet, yet strong. She's a warrior, and yet she's soft as well. The adorable owl connection doesn't hurt. So I would like to see a little Hedwig on the playground.


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Monday, August 1, 2011


Blessed Lughnasad, fellow witches! To everyone else, Happy August! Let's profile Lugh, shall we?

Lughnasad, sometimes written as Lughnasadh or Lughnasa, is the Wiccan holiday that celebrates the start of the harvest season and specifically the harvest of grains. Mabon, a holiday occurring in late September, is all about the harvest of fruit. The celebration is Gaelic in origin, and it's Welsh and English equivalents are called Calan Awst and Lammas, respectively. Calling this day Lughnasad is a relatively new Neo-Pagan practice, in early literature the festival is referred to as August Eve.

This holiday is celebrated by...well, harvesting. And eating. And if you grow and tend to your own crops, this whole holiday could have a feeling of melancholy. We know that the summer is going to end very soon. The Horned God is getting older as the days grow shorter, and it will only be two more holidays until his death. Aside from harvesting, this festival is celebrated with the Neo-Pagan standbys of dancing, singing, and lighting bonfires. This is also a time to give offerings to the earth. Some Wiccans bake a figure of the Horned God out of bread, sacrifice it, then eat it. In Ancient Ireland, there were contests of strength and skill on this day. What fruits you harvest during this time is dependent on where you live. In northeast America it's time for the blueberry harvest, while blackberries are the festival fruit in the Pacific Northwest. Because the bees are especially active during this time of year, this is also a good time for gathering honey. Traditionally this is considered an auspicious day for handfasting (getting married) and for family reunions.

As the name would suggest, Lugh (pronounced "LOO") is the god of Lughnasad. His name is ultimately derived from the Indo-European word leuk which means either "shine" or "light." According to mythology, Lugh established this holiday as a memorial feast in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu. Tailtiu died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. Lugh is a divine hero who presides over the arts, all skills, the sun, and justice. He fights against all forms of slavery and discrimination, so you can call on him to make the world freer for everyone.

Lugh may or may not be based on a real person that existed in history. According to the Book of Invasions, an old text which recounts much of Ireland's early history, Lugh belonged to the monstrous race of the Fomorians. Balor the Evil Eye received a prophecy that his grandson would rise up to kill him, so he imprisoned his daughter. That didn't work. His daughter was seduced by one of the Tuatha, the Fomorian's enemy. Balor's daughter gave birth to triplets. He managed to drown two of them, but Lugh survived and was raised by a blacksmith. When Lugh grew up, he did indeed kill Balor.

Lugh has never been a popular name in the United States, but it looks like a name that would fit in very well. Generally, it's easy to spell and pronounce once you know it. However, most people will want to pronounce it so that it rhymes with Hugh, so just be aware of that. The Welsh variant is Lleu, and Lugus is a Gaulish version, and both those names belong to pretty much the same god. It's a short, manly name that will be unburdened by nicknames, if that's what you're looking for. It's a great name for any boy born during the Lughnasad festivities.

Circle Round by Starhawk

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