Monday, December 24, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, December 21, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thursday, December 20, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Happy 2nd Birthday Bewitching Names!

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

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

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

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

Total Page Views: Over 242,000.

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

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

Three most viewed name profiles:

1. Octavian
2. Icie
3. Rembrant

Three most viewed name round-ups:

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

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

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

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

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

Notes on Pagan Name of the Month:

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

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Monday, December 10, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Website news:

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


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Sunday, December 9, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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These two little vowels make up a name enthusiast favorite.

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

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

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

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

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


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Thursday, December 6, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Name Advice: A Girl Named Thistle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, November 18, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Saturday, November 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, November 16, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Sunday, November 11, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thursday, November 8, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, November 7, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Friday, November 2, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Blessed Samhain everyone! Even though I just learned that Samhain is technically tomorrow. But that's cool, because then it's possible to celebrate Halloween on October 31st, Samhain on November 1st, and Dia de los Muertos on November 2nd! Together they can be the Hallows! And I hope everyone in the southern hemisphere is having a Blessed Beltane!

Hallow comes from the Old English halgian, meaning "consecrated" or "to make holy." Or it could be from the Old English se halga, meaning "holy man." It doesn't really make much of a difference, does it? It ultimately derives from the Proto-Indo-European word kailo, meaning "whole," "uninjured," or "good omen."

Today, this word is mostly used in reference to the holiday of Halloween and Hallowmas. Hallow is another word for "saints," which makes sense considering that Hallowmas is more commonly called All Saints Day. This name definitely has a Christian tinge, as the word is mentioned in the beginning of The Lord's Prayer.

I have mentioned this name once before, it was second runner up in my Pagan Name of the Year contest last year because of the Deathly Hallows movie. In the book, the Hallows are three magical objects: the Elder Wand, The Cloak of Invisibility, and the Resurrection Stone. In real life, hallow is another term for a holy relic that could be either Christian or Pagan, real or legendary. The Holy Grail is considered to be a hallow. So are the Four Treasures of Ireland: the Spear of Lugh, Stone of Fal, Dagda's Cauldron, and the Sword of Light. In modern times, some Neo-Pagans believe that the four suits of a traditional tarot card deck (swords, wands, pentacles, and cups) are hallows.

Hallow has never been a common name in the United States. But I think names like Haven, Heaven, and Harlow lead the way to Hallow very easily. It does sound a lot like hollow, which could put people off. But I think that's a silly reason to discount it completely.

Halloween might be a bit much for a name, but Hallow would work perfectly.


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Monday, October 29, 2012

Name Round Up: Favorite Girls Names that Sound Like Boys Names

Welcome to Part II, in which I take the gender bending over to the boy's side.

My main criticism of the unisex name trend because it is very one-sided. Mainstream thinking says that we can name a girl Madison but we can't name a boy Heather. I think that's a load of crap, and it will start a lecture on how we need to value feminine qualities as much as masculine ones but I'm not going to get into that now. It's not like it hasn't been done before. Douglas was a girls name long ago. People always say that it's harder to bring names back to the boys side after they have been claimed by the girls. Lets challenge that. Here are my favorite girls names that sound like boys names:

1. Vesper. I'll admit it. This one reads masculine to me. I like it for girls too, but Vespertine sounds more feminine in my opinion. Vesper reminds me of Prosper, which is one of my favorite boys names.

2. Briar. I cannot even picture giving this one to a daughter at all. I know that the name is linked to Sleeping Beauty, but I can't get over the thorn connection.

3. Monserrate. I do have a family connection to this name, and I'm a fan of the idea of naming boys after the women in the family.

4. Artemis. It was a rare English tradition for boys to be named Artemis in honor of their fathers if their fathers were great hunters. I am not making that up. Also, the Artemis Fowl books.

5. Raven. This one feels masculine to me because I live in the Pacific Northwest and we are saturated with the story of the Raven from Native American mythology. It almost feels like a cliche to give this one to girls, because of all the witchy characters named Raven.

6. Opal. This idea became planted in my mind due to the Hindu boys name Gopal. It's just one letter off. Why not?

7. Lark. The novel Sharp Teeth introduced this name to me on one of it's toughest male characters. I love it for girls too, but I've always pictured using it for a son.

8. Ember. The first time I heard this one I instinctively thought it was a boys name. I was actually pretty surprised to learn differently.

9. Betony. One of the botanical names used during the Victorian flower craze, Betony feels very boyish. I know that it looks a lot like Bethany, but you can get the nickname Tony out of it and that was my first thought.

10. Saga. -A ending or no, Saga sounds manly to me. In my mind it's like naming him Legend or Epic. It's traditionally given to girls because of the goddess.

11. Madrone. Not commonly used for either gender, but Neo-Pagans will recognize it as the name of the heroine in The Fifth Sacred Thing.

12. Cricket. Cricket is traditionally given to girls because it was used as a nickname for Christina. But there is also a guy named Cricket in the film Lawless, which is based on a true story. I like Cricket for a boy much better.

13. Sojourner. Someone informed me that this name's connection to Sojourner Truth made it "too special" to ever give it to a child. Honestly, I'm not certain that I buy that. In any case, it always sounded more like a boys name to me due to a male character in a comic books series I always used to read.

So how about you? Are there any names usually given to one gender that feel more appropriate to the other in your mind?

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