Sunday, January 29, 2012


Up until recently, giving this name to a girl would have been very strange. But home many people would think about giving this name to a boy now?

I have yet to find any convincing etymology for Paris (pronounced either "PER-is" or "PAR-is"). It seems like all anybody knows is that it was the name of the man that had a love affair with the already-married Helen thus starting the Trojan War. He is portrayed as being somewhat of a coward in The Iliad, but then again the victors always write history. Paris did manage to kill the great hero Achilles, however. This would make it Greek I suppose, but who knows if it's based on an earlier source.

But when most people think of Paris, they think of the French metropolis. The name of the city does not come from the character in Greek mythology. The name of the city of Paris comes from the tribe that used to live there. The Parisii was a Gaulish tribe that existed during the Ancient Roman Era. Their name for their city was Lutetia. It is believed that the name Parisii comes from the Celtic Gallic word parisio, meaning "the craftsmen" or "the working people." Paris has a reputation for being a mecca of culture and elegance. In England, Paris was used as a surname for people who emigrated from France.

A man named Paris plays a small but important role in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Count Paris is the suitor intended for Juliet Capulet, even though she is secretly married to Romeo. Despite his self absorption and arrogance, he loves Juliet dearly.

Paris once experienced mild popularity in the United States. It charted in the 1880s and then was revived, peaking in the 1990s at #702. But after 2000 it nosedived out of use. What happened? Unfortunately, what happened here is a case of "who is this famous person and why did she ruin my favorite name?" You all know who she is, even if you don't understand why in the world people are interested in her. I might really like Paris if it wasn't for her.

To be fair, Paris was creeping up the charts as a girls name during the 1980s and 1990s. It had a sudden sharp peak in 2004 at #156. It has since wained somewhat, it is now at #327. In 2008 it ranked #379 in Scotland. The Italian form of Paris is Paride. Parisio could also make a great name, and a good option for those that are worried that Paris is now too feminine. At one point, the city of Paris was known as Paname. And you could also use Parisa, although that has a different origin (it's Turkish for "angel," I think).

Honestly, Paris is a bit to foofy for me for either gender. I just think of toy poodles wearing diamond collars when I hear this name. But that just might be Miss Hilton's influence. But if you're looking for elegant, Paris could be for you.


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Saturday, January 28, 2012


River is a popular nature name that rose up the ranks with the help of Hollywood.

The word river is ultimately derived from the Latin word riparius, meaning "of the riverbank." It is one of those hippy coinages from the 1960s that has since become normalized, which would make it about as old as Wicca in America.

There are many famous rivers both in mythology and in the mundane world. In Norse mythology, Elivagar is the name of eleven rivers that existed in Ginnungagap at the beginning of the world. The River Styx is a place that you will only find in Greek mythology, and that's where you meet the ferryman Charon who will take you across to the land of the dead. The Ganges River is the must sacred river in India, personified by the Hindu goddess Ganga. The Nile River was of great importance for the Ancient Egyptians because they depended on it's annual flooding for farming.

This vocabulary word entered "naminess" thanks to American actor River Phoenix. Believe it or not, the name he was born with was River Bottom. Well, River Jude Bottom. His parents named him River after the river in Herman Hesse's novel Siddartha. It sounds almost charming, like a Mark Twain character, but I can totally understand why it was changed. His sibling's names were Rain, Juaquin, Liberty, and Summer. River Phoenix became a teen idol most well known for the 1986 film Stand By Me, but he died from a drug induced heart failure in the early 1990s. In a way, his untimely death did a lot for his name.

As a boy's name, River has been rising since the 1990s. It is now at #436. Originally, it was only considered to be a boy's name, but a character from a television show may be changing all that. In the science fiction show Firefly and the film Serenity, River Tam is a gifted and mysterious teenager who takes refuge in the transport ship. The show premiered in 2002. And then it was given to a female character in Doctor Who, which added to the nerdy appeal. For girls, it first appeared in the top 1,000 in 2009 and now ranks at #972. You could use words that mean "river" in other languages as variations like Riviera and Riviere.

River is a lovely water element name that is both strong and gentle. I can certainly see it appealing to Neo-Pagan peoples. A religious factor would not be immediately apparent in this name, but there is a very strong love of nature conveyed in River.


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Friday, January 27, 2012


The name of this ancient mythical hero is enjoying increasing use.

Orion (pronounced "oh-RIY-ohn") is a figure from Ancient Greek mythology. No one is quite sure where the name comes from, but there is some speculation. It could be based off of the Akkadian term Ura-anna, meaning "the light of heaven."

There are several conflicting myths about Orion. Surprisingly, there isn't much official information about him. He was first referenced as a great hunter in Homer's The Odyssey, in which Odysseus sees Orion's spirit in the underworld. Ovid wrote a poem about Orion's birth, but that is really the only piece of ancient literature written about him. We know that he was particularly venerated in Boeotia, which is where Orion was supposedly born. In one version, he is the son of Poseidon (god of the seas) and Euryale. Because of his parentage, he could walk on water. He once got drunk and attacked Merope, which led to him being blinded by her father. Luckily, Helios (who is the sun) restored his sight. He was either slain by Artemis (because Orion threatened to kill every beast on earth) or by the scorpion that became the constellation Scorpio.

Aside from perhaps The Big Dipper, Orion is the most well recognized constellation in the the skies. The layman is especially adept at pointing out Orion's Belt, which is three bright stars in a row. It is believed that the constellation depicts him with a bow and arrow, although older depictions show him with a club. The star Sirius is believed to be his dog. Other cultures have different interpretations of the constellation. The Ancient Egyptians believed it was Osiris. The Babylonians called him "The Heavenly Shepard." In Old Hungarian tradition he is known as Nimrod, a giant hunter and father to Hun and Hungarian. The Chinese simply dubbed it Shen, literally meaning "three." The Ojibwa Native Americans called this constellation "The Winter Maker," because it's appearance in the night sky herald's the beginning of winter.

This name is often given to instruments used for astronomy and space exploration. Orion of Thebes was a scholar that lived in Ancient Egypt. Orion is the name of Sirius Black's father in the Harry Potter series, falling into the family's tradition of celestial names. There is a song that I enjoy listening to around Yuletide called "Bold Orion" by Susan Mckeown and Lindsey Horner.

It experienced modest use in the late 1800s, but it has come back with a vengeance. It now ranks at #466, and it's showing no signs of falling any time soon. Some attribute the growth to the fact that it's a sound-alike to the popular boy's name Ryan.

Orion is a great name. It's popularity would be a benefit for people who don't want to broadcast their Paganess to the world. At the same time, Orion's popularity (along with that of Athena and Isis) could help normalize other names that come from mythology.


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Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Fiona is a lovely name most associated with Ireland, but it's roots are a little more complicated than that.

Fiona (pronounced "fee-OH-nah") is a relatively new name with debatable origins. It was invented and first used by a Scottish poet named James Macpherson. It is generally believed that it is a Latinized version of the Gaelic word fionn, meaning "fair," "white," or "clear." However, it could also be a variation of the Irish language name Fiona or the Scottish Gaelic name Fionnghal.

The cycle of epic poems that James Macpherson used the name for is called Ossian. They were published in 1761. He claimed that it was a translation of Ancient Gaelic works, but he never produced the original sources. For that reason many believe that he wrote the poems himself after being inspired by Irish mythology. Nevertheless, the poems are well loved and were highly influential in their day. They achieved international success (Thomas Jefferson was a fan) and was hailed as the Celtic equivalent of The Odyssey.

Fiona has many fictional namesakes. Perhaps the most obvious is Princess Fiona from the Shrek movies, proving that a princess doesn't need to be from Disney in order to inspire parents. There are also a few Fiona's from children's literature, including a character from Lois Lowry's The Giver and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Fiona McLaren is also the main female character in the Broadway musical Brigadoon. There are also many real life namesakes, mostly from Britain and Scotland. But American singer Fiona Apple comes to mind right away. The 19th century Scottish writer William Sharp chose Fiona Macleod as a pen name.

Most people attribute the growth of this name to Shrek, but the name was steadily growing before that. It first showed up in the American top 1,000 in the 1990s. Right now it ranks at #257, which is the highest it has ever been. It is also a favorite in other countries. In 2008 it ranked #49 in Germany, #99 in Canada, #207 in Scotland, and #295 in Norway. In New York City, it is especially popular amongst families of Asian or Pacific Island decent, which strikes me as incredibly odd and I don't know what the reason for that would be.

If the constant association with the princess is going to annoy you than I would stay away from this name. However, it is a beautiful name that has been given to daughters for almost a century now, so it is pretty well integrated. It's a great Wicca-lite name for those that love all things Celtic.


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Monday, January 23, 2012


The novelty of our first snow storm in years faded pretty quickly when we were left without electricity, Internet, phone lines, and heat for two and a half days (and not just me, everyone in my county lost power). Our Internet is still down, I am writing this from the library. So if you've been wondering about the lack of updates, that's why. Anyway, continuing onto our Wicca-lite theme month, let's move on to Sage. My home Internet problems mean that this post didn't save the first time and I have to write it all over again, which is not even slightly annoying (GRR!).

Sage's (pronounced "SAYJ") two uses, as a plant and as a term for a wise person, have different etymologies but they both ultimately derive from Latin. The word sage as in the plant comes from the word salvus, meaning "healthy" or "safe." Sage as an adjective comes from sapere, meaning "to have good taste" or "to be wise."

The term sage can be applied to a number of plants, but when most people talk about it they mean salvia officinalis. This plant originated in the Mediterranean area, but now it can be found almost anywhere in the world. Sage has a long history of practical applications. When cooked it has a slightly peppery taste and it has been used to flavor meat, cheese, and sauces. It is one of the major herbs used in turkey stuffing for the Thanksgiving holiday. As for medicinal purposes, sage has been proven to be effective as a antibiotic, anti sweating agent, antifungal, estrogenic, astringent, antispasmotic, hypoglycemic, and tonic. Sage has also successfully treated mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. This plant in recent years has been used for ornamental purposes. Appearance can vary greatly in size, leaf and flower color. Lavender flowers are the most common, but they can also be white or pink.

Sage is the spiritual spackle of the Neo-Pagan world. They are most commonly used for smudge sticks, which are a bundle of leaves wrapped into a wand shape. The smudge stick is then burned, and the smoke is spread throughout a house or some other space in order to banish negative energy or supernatural entities. Anyone who enjoys watching reality television shows that feature haunted houses have seen someone using sage in this way. Sage has also been used to heal snakebites and increase female fertility.

Of course, Sage could also be used as a virtue name. Being a sage person is an admirable quality. The word can be used as both an adjective and a noun. A Sage can be a title for a wise person, a mystic, or a prophet. In Plato's Symposium, he explained the difference between a philosopher and a sage. A philosopher seeks great wisdom, a sage has already attained it.

So is this name Wicca-lite? Depends on which gender you give it to. As a girls name it peaked in 2004 at #361 and now rests at #471. It does chart as a boy's name, but it's much lower. It peaked in 2003 at #610 and is now at #813. It is also fairly common as a surname, and variations include Saige and Sayge.

I really love Sage a lot. I personally prefer this name for boys, but it is equally beautiful for either gender. Sage is a simple, wise, and lovely name for the magickally inclined.


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Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Despite some debate against using this name, Dakota has come to embody the rustic American West.

Dakota (pronounced "dah-KOH-tah") is a Lakota/Sioux word meaning "the allies." My understanding is that Dakota (sometimes spelled Dakotah) is the name of two out of three different ethnic groups within the Sioux tribe. There is the Eastern Dakota (also known as the Santee) and the Western Dakota (also known as the Yankton-Yanktonai). The third group is the Lakota. Lakota comes from the same language and means the same thing.

The earliest recordings state that the Dakotas were originally living at the source of the Mississippi River, but eventually they migrated. The Sioux were well known for dominating the Northern Plains region, mostly in what is now the Dakotas, Minnesoda, Nebraska, Montana, and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Culturally, they had pretty much all of the trappings of what people think about when they think of Native Americans. They had tepees, feathers in their hair, and horses. They are featured in films like Dances With Wolves and Thunderheart.

Their relationship with White men was turbulent, to put it mildly. By the late 1700s they were trading fur with the French settlers. Then throughout the 1850s treaty violations and late or unfair annuity payments caused increasing hardship and starvation amongst the Dakota people. The trader's refused to issue them any more credit, and one trader named Andrew Myrick said, "If they're hungry, let them eat grass." This led to the Dakota War of 1862, in which Dakotas attacked and murdered white settlers. 303 Native Americans were found guilty of rape and murder and sentenced to hang in the largest mass execution in United States history. Other conflicts include Red Cloud's War, the Great Sioux War of 1876-77, and most famously the Wounded Knee Massacre.

This name also belongs to two American states: North Dakota and South Dakota. South Dakota is the home of Mount Rushmore. As far as human namesakes go, most people will associate it with young American actress Dakota Fanning, who has recently been overshadowed by her younger sister Elle Fanning (interesting fact, they both go by their middle names).

There is some debate over whether the popularity of this name is appropriate. Most families that use this name are Caucasian, which some Native Americans see as being disrespectful. Clearly their objection applies to all tribe names, but Dakota is the name that is often specifically talked about. That makes sense when you think about that particular tribe's past with White men. However, the name is not controversial enough for people to stop using it. For girls it peaked in 2006 at #191 and is now #287. For boys it peaked in the 1990s at #81 and is now #293. As of 2008 it also ranked #191 for girls and #310 in Canada and, oddly, #400 in Scotland for girls.

Dakota is not exactly my tastes, but I can see the appeal. It points back to a time in which America was wild and untamed terrain. Only the namer can decide whether or not the controversy is enough to avoid it.


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Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Response to "What You're Child's Name Says About You"

So this article has been making the rounds around baby name blogs called "What You're Child's Name Says About You." I wasn't offended by it, but I thought it was slightly ridiculous. Apparently I'm not the only one.

I agree that a child's name says more about the parents than it does about the child. But the rest of the article is just silly. It reminds me of those Internet quizzes that I used to take when I was in high school like "Which mythical creature are you?" or "What city should you live in?" The assumptions of the article are too simplistic.

Let's take a look at the author's assumptions and my response:

If you're child has an unusual name, you crave the spotlight.

I disagree with this opinion for two reasons. One is that the term "unusual name" is so porous that it could literally mean anything depending on who you ask. Secondly, I don't believe for two seconds that people give unusual names to their children to get attention, especially not the type of judgemental attention that Pilot Inspektor, Apple, and Kal-El got.

I'll be the first to admit that I have a fairly unusual taste in names. I would not be giving these names to my children so that it would get a reaction from other people besides, "Oh, how lovely!" I would give these names to my children in order to bring as much inspiration into my family life as possible, and I couldn't possibly care less what anyone else thinks about that. Therefore, if you're child has an unusual name, you dare to be different. But that description was given to another group of people in the article...

If you're child has an old-fashioned name, you're on the conservative side.

Again, "old-fashioned" could mean anything! And the examples she used (Agnes, Homer, and Tabitha) don't strike me as being conservative at all. Instead, I would assume that they wanted names with historical gravitas.

I can understand the conservative tag if we're talking about George, Elizabeth, and William. But Isadora, Leocadie, and Alphonsus? Not so much.

If you choose a creative spelling, you dare to be different.

No. If you choose a creative spelling (and we're not talking about Isobel instead of Isabelle, she means Cyreniti instead of Serenity), you don't like to read.

This reminds me of a anecdote on a baby name website told be a teacher. She said (and I'm paraphrasing from memory here) that whenever she looks at the call list and finds a name like Aayden, she inwardly groans. Because she knows that the family that child comes from does not value phonics. And low and behold, she finds that the child is a terrible reader and writer. I believe every word that she says and not what some other sources say, that teachers give children with strange names worse grades just because of their names.

If you look at the list I made of real witchlets, you will notice that there is a complete lack of kre8tively spelled names. Journalist Margot Adler conducted a survey of Neo-Pagans for her book Drawing Down the Moon. Do you know what quality all Neo-Pagans have in common? A love of reading.

If you choose a family name, you're sentimental.

I suppose that's possible, but I don't think that's the case most of the time. I think either they value tradition or they were pressured to conform to tradition. But that could be my baggage flaring up again. It depends on why they picked the family name.

A pop culture name means that you're looking for a confidence boost.

This is the only one that I actually agree with. Nobody names their children after icons they don't like, unless they weren't aware that the person or character existed. They do it because they believe that the namesake has favorable qualities. Whether or not this works out in the long term is not something people can control.

If you name a child after a destination, you're adventurous.

...What? That theory that people who use place names are world travelers is such nonsense. People who watch samurai movies don't all love to fight.

If you go with a unisex name, you focus on success.

If by "unisex" she means "traditionally masculine names on girls" then I agree. People may give these types of names to girls because of the belief that it will help them do better in the workplace because guess what? Men do better in the workplace. Meanwhile, a man can't name his son Meredith without the naming police getting on his case. I believe someone who gives their son a unisex name like Juniper may be focusing on emotional success. Making sure that he is nurturing an introspective, qualities traditionally associated with women. But when most people say "successful," they're referring to careers.

I encourage you to read the original article and draw you're own conclusions. What do you think?

Friday, January 13, 2012


This name is well known for belonging to a loyal wife in The Odyssey, but nowadays there are a lot more bearers.

Penelope (pronounced "peh-NEHL-eh-pee") is a Greek name with a somewhat debatable meaning. A lot of sources will say that it means "weaver" because of the Greek word pene, meaning "thread on a bobbin." If you know Penelope's role in The Odyssey, that meaning makes sense. But there is also the word penelops, which is a type of duck. According to legend, when Penelope was left to die as an infant she was fed and protected by a duck.

In Homer's The Odyssey, Penelope is the Queen of Ithaca and the wife of Odysseus. Shortly after giving birth to their only son Telemakhos, Odysseus was called to fight in the Trojan War. Penelope waits twenty years for his return. During this time, she has the difficult task of fighting off marriage proposals from 108 suitors. She pretends to weave a burial shroud for Odysseus' late father Laertes, and tells the suitors that she will pick a mate after she is finished. Every night for eight years, she undos part of the shroud. This goes well until one of her maids discovers this and blabs to the men.

One day a beggar arrives at her house, and she tells her story to him. She also says that she has decided that whoever can string Odysseus' ridged bow and shoot an arrow through twelve axe shafts will have her hand in marriage. There is some literary debate as to whether or not Penelope is aware that the beggar is Odysseus in disguise. But in any case, Odysseus is the only one able to string the bow and shoot the arrow. After this, he slaughters all the suitors, and the family is reunited. Penelope has traditionally been seen as a symbol of fidelity within marriage. I can tell you this, Odysseus wasn't nearly as loyal to her as she was to him. Does the name Calypso ring a bell, Odysseus?

This used to be among the names that I would pick for a future daughter. My problem is that I started loving this name the same time everyone else started loving this name. Some attribute the growth to the movie Penelope, a fantasy romance about a girl with the nose of a pig. But I thought that movie got horrible reviews and didn't do very well in the box office (I liked it, but still). I think it's rise in popularity has more to do with Penelope Cruz, the gorgeous Spanish actress. The name did experience a spike in popularity during the 1940s, but it is now the highest in the top American 1,000 that it has ever been before at #200. Variations include Penelopa, Penina, Pipitsa, Popi, Pinelopi, Peniel, Pelicia, Peni, Penna, Pennie, and Penny. You could also use Nellie or Nell as a nickname.

After a quick google search, it looks as though Penelope is a popular magickal name, or at least a lot of Neo-Pagans are using it online. It's a beautiful name with a clunky, bookish grace to it. It might be too popular for me at the moment, but I would love to meet a Penelope in real life.


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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Name Round-Up: Dinotopia

This is getting pathetic. I'm only did four names in my Wicca-lite theme month, and I'm already feeling like I just can't take it anymore. Therefore, I'm taking a short break back into strangeville.

Dinotopia has been a major influence in my life. I'm completely serious. I mean, think about it. Obviously the dinosaurs would appeal to any human child, but it also has beautiful designs that are inspired by multiculturalism and nature. The whole idea of the series is that every human on Dinotopia is a descendant of someone who was shipwrecked there, so you can see that each of the cultures put a stamp on the design of the cities and towns. Also, the dinosaurs are not their pets. They're intelligent beings with equal citizenship. So all of the places are built with animals in mind. The series is written and illustrated by the awesome James Gurney, and I have seen a gallery of the full sized paintings used in these books and they're enthralling.

The series also features some pretty great names. These are from Dinotopia, The World Beneath, and Journey to Chandara. Figuring out which ones are humans and which ones are dinosaurs might be a little harder than you think:

Rita Rose

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Like many Wicca-lite names, Arthur seems normal enough but has a long history.

The etymology of Arthur (pronunciation "AHR-thur" if you speak English, in other languages it can also be "ar-TUYR" or "AHR-toor") is a little bit mysterious. It could be derived from the Celtic elements artos, meaning either "bear" or "stone," combined with either viros, meaning "man," or rigos, meaning "king." It could be derived from Artorius, an obscure Latin name. It could also be a variant of the Old German name Arnthor, meaning "Thor, the eagle."

But a theory that has been gaining a following amongst scholars is that Arthur comes from the stars. Thy hypothesis is that Arthur is derived from Arcturus, which is the name of the brightest star in the constellation Bootes, which is near Ursa Major (the "Great Bear"). Arcturus is the Latin form of the Greek Arktouros, meaning "guardian of the bear."

The most famous namesake is King Arthur from Arthurian legend, who presided over the Knights of the Round Table. Some believe that King Arthur is based on a real person who lived sometime in the 5th or 6th century. According to Medieval texts, he is responsible for defending Britain against the Saxons. His story varies widely from text to text, so it's hard to pin down historical facts. Most of what we know of King Arthur comes from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, a fanciful book published in the 1100s. This book introduced many of the key characters and plot points that we now recognize: his father Uther Pendragon, his wife Guinevere, Merlin the wizard, his sword Excalibur, his final battle with Mordred, and his final rest in Avalon. No matter what the history is, King Arthur is a very popular icon. He has long been associated with idealistic qualities like chivalry and purity.

The name Arthur came into general use during the Middle Ages when Arthurian romances became popular. It also enjoyed a surge of popularity in the 1800s due to the Duke of Wellington Arthur Wellesley, who is credited with vanquishing Napoleon. Therefore, there are a lot of namesakes for Arthur, and it's even a popular name for English royalty. But one namesake is particularly important for Neo-Pagan culture: Arthur Miller.

The year after the last of King James I's Witchcraft Acts were being repealed in England, Arthur Miller's stage drama The Crucible premiered on Broadway in 1952. The play is a not-historically-accurate portrayal of the Salem Witch Trials. Of course, The Crucible is not really about the Salem Witch Trials. It was meant to draw a parallel between that time period and McCarthyism, which would have been going strong at the time. The initial reception for the play ranged from mixed reviews from people who believed that it didn't live up to his earlier work Death of a Salesman, to downright hostility. A few years after, Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities. Nevertheless, the The Crucible won a Tony Award for Best Play, and became a classic. Some Neo-Pagans believe that without this play, the Neo-Pagan movement would have a harder time achieving what would come later. The Crucible helped people see what the Salem Witch Trials for what it was, hysteria gone out of control.

Not only has this name never left the American top 1,000, it has never left the American top 500. It was most popular in the 1880s at #14, and has been steadily trickling down since then. This might make the name feel old to some people. But right now it ranks #389, which is still pretty well used. It is also popular around the world. In 2008 it ranked #6 in Belgium, #7 in Armenia, #79 in Quebec, #266 in Norway, #294 in Canada, and #330 in Scotland. Arthur is a classic. Variations include Arturo, Artair, Artor, Artturi, Artus, Arthwr, Artie, and Art.

Arthur is a sweet, noble boy's name. There are a few Neo-Pagans with this name, but I'm not sure if it's their magickal names that they chose themselves or the names that they're born with. But it doesn't really matter. Arthur effortlessly belongs to both the magickal and the mundane.


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Sunday, January 8, 2012


Continuing on with our top 500 most popular names theme, today we will cover the Wicca-lite but still exotic name Jade.

I've read that one baby name book listed the meaning of Jade as "priceless one." Whoever wrote that book is an idiot. Jade (pronounced JAYD), also sometimes spelled jaid or jadeite, is an Old French word derived from the Spanish term piedra de ijada, meaning "loin stone." This name comes from the belief that jades could help heal ailments of the loins or kidneys. In some countries, this gem is simply known by a more unimaginative name: "greenstone." As that name would suggest, jade is most well known for being green. However, they can also come in a creamy white, blue, lavender, and pink.

When I think of jade, the culture that pops into my head immediately is Ancient China. They have been mining jade since 6000 BC. The importance of jade in this culture is comparable to gold or diamonds in Western cultures. They were used to make both ceremonial and utilitarian objects. The Chinese thought this stone would give them inspiration and quickness of mind, as well as purity and serenity. There are also many references to jade being a symbol of love. It's an old Chinese tradition for a prospective bride to give her betrothed a gift of a jade butterfly in order to seal their engagement. Then, the prospective groom would give her a gift made from jade before the wedding. The stone was also highly esteemed by the Maori's of New Zealand. To this day, jade in New Zealand is protected under the Treaty of Waitangi, which means that it's exploitation is strictly monitored. Jade artifacts have also been found in Ancient Mayan cities.

Aside from curing ailments of the loins, this gem is believed to have other magickal abilities. Some people wear jade in the belief that it will help the body heal itself while working on underlining problems that cause disease in the first place. Many ancient cultures thought that jade helped heal eye ailments. Wearing jade while gardening supposedly improves the health of the plants.

Most Americans will associate this name with girls, but it's actually unisex. Jade appeared in the top 1,000 as a boy's name in the distant past. It peaked in the 1990s at #848. However, if you want to give it to a girl it's going to be Wicca-lite. It peaked in 2002 at #86, and now rests at #115. There are also many lady Jade's worldwide. In 2008 it ranked #6 in Quebec, #9 in France, #27 in Belgium, #44 in Australia, #78 in Ireland, and #242 in Scotland. Variations include Jada, Jayde, and Jaden.

Personally, I like Jade a lot. I would like it a little better if it wasn't so popular, but that's just my tastes acting up. Jade certainly has witchy appeal, but it is very integrated into "muggle" culture. Unless, of course, you give it to a boy.


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Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Dear television professionals,

It has come to our attention that there is a remake of the 1960's television show Bewitched in the works. I am sure that you all believe that this is a fail proof plan given the recent success of some other remakes like Hawaii Five-O (which is is due to it featuring sexy men making sexy poses and, oh yeah, crime is involved somehow). If you plan on keeping Bewitched in it's retro time frame, it will ride on the coattails of other stylish shows like Mad Men and Pan Am. I hate to be a party-pooper, but on behalf of the Neo-Pagan community I'm going to let you know that we're dubious.

Perhaps you are not aware of what a history making and vitally important television show this was for us. But first let's start with the name of it's heroine, Samantha. No one is quite sure where Samantha (pronounced "sah-MAN-thah") came from, but it's believed to have been invented in America sometime in the late 1700s. It seems like a pretty good bet that it's a feminine form of Samuel, a Hebrew name meaning "God helps." Also, the suffix -antha is Greek for "flower." In the year before Bewitched aired in 1963, Samantha was a complete obscurity. The original writers of Bewitched knew that this character couldn't have any ordinary name. They were looking for something that was quirky and unusual, and Samantha fit the bill. On 1964, Bewitched premiered on television and the name skyrocketed into a classic almost immediately. It peaked in the 1990s all the way up to #4, and in 2010 it ranked #15.

Around this time, Wicca was just starting to be introduced to America. So although this new movement had been making headlines in the United Kingdom for a decade or so before hand, it had not yet penetrated into the American consciousness. Therefore Bewitched, a comedy about a witch trying to lead the life of a normal suburban housewife, isn't really about Witchcraft. Instead, Samantha embodies the bubbling feminist tensions of the early 1960s while she struggles to be the "perfect" wife by denying who she is.

Nevertheless, the show wound up being eerily prophetic. For example, the first season featured an episode called "The Witches Are Out." In this episode, Samantha and her witch committee are trying to combat negative images associated with witches. Meanwhile, a client of her husband Darrin wants his Halloween candy represented by an ugly, wart-nosed witch. When Samantha stumbles upon Darrin's illustrations, she is shocked and appalled. Darrin doesn't understand her reaction, but changes it to a sexy witch anyways. The client shoots down the idea, but has a change of heart after he is visited during the night by protest-sign-carrying witches. Not only was this one of the first media pieces that presented witches as a minority group, it was one of the first television shows to tackle issues like intolerance and prejudice before it was considered acceptable to do so. A decade later, real Neo-Pagans like Laurie Cabot made headlines for staging similar protests to the one depicted in "The Witches Are Out."

So now I'm going to explain why remaking this show might not be the best idea in the world. If you are going to feature Witchcraft and magick in you're stories it is best if a) the author is incredibly familiar with Neo-Paganism or b) the Witch is a fantasy figure symbolizing something else. I can understand how Neo-Paganism might be rich, virgin territory for television, ripe for exploitation. But, like an actual virgin, once you have us you have no idea what to do with us. This has become abundantly clear in shows like True Blood and The Secret Circle, where there is no clear firewall between fantasy Witches and real Witches. There was no such temptation in the early 1960s.

Don't get me wrong, we really hope you succeed. We hope that you blow all our expectations out of the water and get the tone of the show just right. But we kind of doubt it. We can only hope that you are aware of what a burden of responsibility you will have in attempting to breath new life into our Samantha.

Blessed Be,

The Neo-Pagan community (via Isadora Vega)


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Tuesday, January 3, 2012


I'm a cheerleader for the strange names. We all know that. But according to this small sample, most Neo-Pagans choose subtler names for their children. So for one month, or for however long I last, I'm going to profile names in the American top 500. Hey, I'm just going by what I see in the greater Neo-Pagan community. Let's find the magickal in the mundane, hmm?

Griffin (pronounced "GRIH-fin") is a name with somewhat debatable meaning. Some list it as a Latin name meaning "hooked nose." In Ireland, the name is often associated with the Welsh name Griffith, which depending on who you ask means either "red" or "prince." What is not debatable is that the griffin is also a mythical creature.

Griffins are depicted with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle. Sometimes they are portrayed without wings, and these creatures might be given rather odd names like alces or keythongs. It's considered to be the king of all creatures. Some people believe that the creature was born from misconstruing the fossils of dinosaurs found in modern day Kazakhstan. Griffin imagery was most common in Ancient Greece, but there are depictions dating to Ancient Egypt and the creature is probably Persian originally. A similar creature called the hippogriff is said to be the offspring of a griffin and a horse. Griffins are revered for being bold and courageous fighters. It is considered to be a protector from evil.

The creature was adopted by the Christians. It was believed that griffins mated for life, and when their mate died they would not find another. This went nicely with the early Church's stance against remarriage. They also took the hippogriff as a symbol for Jesus, because they are half earthly and half divine. This is why both creatures can be found in Churches. There are several well known statues of griffins like the one in London, the one in Pisa, and the one in Persepolis. This creature is often common in heraldry. If you have a griffin in your coat of arms, it means that you had an ancestor that was strong and courageous, and probably served in the military.

I was heartbroken to see that Griffin has become so well used. I have loved that name ever since I read Griffin and Sabine as a child. It was calculated that in 2000 Griffin was the 114th most common surname in America. That probably is the largest contributing factor to it's popularity as a first name, as they are currently in fashion. Although it had a small amount of popularity in the 1880s, it's peak was in 2010 at #231. For some reason it is especially popular in Vermont and New Hampshire. it's used even more in Canada, in 2008 it ranked #124. Variations include Gyphon, Gryffin, and Gryffen. Griff is also sometimes listed, but I would advise against it. "Griff" is an old term for a mulatto person who looks mostly Caucasian. It isn't always used in the nicest fashion. But to be fair, I'm not sure how many people are familiar with that term anymore.

There are many famous namesakes that have Griffin as a surname, but there are a lot less that bear it as a first name. One exception is a fictional character from a science fiction classic, Griffin is the main character in The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. I've read in on source that one set of parents were concerned by this name's connection to the television show Family Guy, but decided it wasn't enough to stop loving the name.

Griffin is a great name for those looking for a strong, Wicca-lite name. It's integrated enough that no one will know that the family is Neo-Pagan just from looking at it. But at the same time, it's deeply linked to our mythical past.

Website News:

I've been toying with the idea of starting a facebook page for this site (If I can figure out how, you would think that facebook would have a how-to page, but no). Would you like it if I did that?


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