Monday, April 30, 2012


For my last entry into my Neo-Pagan movie theme, I'm going to cover the name Lennox and how Paganism shows up in more coded ways.

Lennox (pronounced "LEHN-iks") is a Scottish and English place name derived from the Gaelic leamhanach, meaning "elm grove." There is actually some variation to the original source of Lennox depending on what reference you're looking at, but it seems like no matter what it has something to do with elm trees. It was the surname of an influential aristocratic Scottish landowning family during the 1500s.

The first time I, and probably a lot of other girls, came into contact with this name was in The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. In the book, Mary Lennox is an angry little girl who is constantly ignored by her parents. The parents die from cholera, and Mary gets shipped off from India to England. She settles into the creepy mansion of her absent uncle, Archibald Craven, by wondering around a secret garden. The garden used to belong to her aunt, but since she died no one took care of it. Mary's demeanor gradually improves as she becomes friends with Dickon and Colin, who is Archibald's bedridden son, and she nurses the garden back into it's former glory. I actually loved the Broadway musical more than the book.

So you might be thinking, "What's so Pagan about that?" Watch the movie version that came out in 1993. There is one scene that really stands out to a Neo-Pagan audience. The children get together and cast a spell around a fire in order to bring Archibald back home. I can't remember exactly, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't in the book. I think Mary just wrote him a letter. That's how it goes in the musical anyways. That's beside the very general Pagan springtime themes of healing and renewal. I've seen many Neo-Pagans online bemoaning the lack of Pagan friendly material in popular culture, and there's some truth to that. But you cannot keep Paganism out of the movies. That would be like keeping it out of all culture in general. If you dig deeper, you can find some hidden treasures.

The first time Lennox showed up on the top 1,000 was in 2010 at number #933 for boys. I would be very surprised if it wasn't in the charts for 2011 as well. Surnames, and in particular Scottish/Irish/English surnames, are in vogue for boys at the moment. Plus, it falls in line with other names that end in "x" like Knox and Rex, which are becoming increasingly popular. I can also see this being picked up by the girls as well. Not only because surnames are fashionable for girls too, but because of The Secret Garden.

Lennox is a very current choice. I would expect to see many more children with this name in the coming years.


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Saturday, April 28, 2012


I've got three word for you: "RELEASE THE KRACKEN!"

Perseus (pronounced "PER-see-us") is a Greek named derived from the word pertho, meaning "to destroy." Reading over the sources, I can't tell if it is actually more complicated than that or if scholars are making it more complicated than that. In any case, the name is fitting because the character in Greek mythology is known for slaying several monsters.

The story of Perseus begins at his conception. The King of Argos received a prophecy that he would be killed by his daughter's son. In order to keep his only daughter, Danae, childless, he imprisoned her in a bronze chamber. This was not a brilliant plan. Zeus was drawn to Danae. He took the form of a shower of gold and impregnated her. The baby boy was named Perseus. The King knew that he needed to get rid of them, but couldn't kill them for fear of being punished by the gods. So he locked them both in a chest and threw it into the sea. The two washed up on the island of Seriphos and was found by the fisherman Dictys.

Dictys was brother to Polydectes, the king of the island. Polydectes also wanted Danae, but Perseus constantly protected his mother. Polydectes got annoyed, and created a plan that would get rid of Perseus once and for all. He held a large banquet in which all of the guests would be expected to give him a horse, knowing that Perseus could not give such a gift. Perseus asked Polydectes what else he would like. Polydectes demanded the head of Medusa, the gorgon who turned men to stone with one look.

Perseus got lots of gifts from various mythical beings that helped him complete this quest. By only viewing Medusa in the reflection of his polished shield, he was able to cut off her head. In a separate adventure, Perseus saves the princess that would become his wife. Her mother, Casseopia, had been foolish enough to boast that her beauty was equal to the Nereids. This enraged Poseidon, who released a sea serpent upon the kingdom. The monster would only stop if Andromeda was given to him, so she was tied up on a rock by the shore. Perseus slayed the sea monster. Eventually Perseus was placed in the night sky in the form of a constellation.

These two stories are what make up the 1981 film Clash of the Titans. It was the last work of legendary stop motion visual effects artist Ray Harryhausen. It's pretty campy fare, but it is still wildly enjoyable and I was amazed at how much I liked it. While it was hard not to like the old Clash of the Titans, it's hard not to get bored during the new Clash of the Titans. I get annoyed when Hollywood changes a Pagan story in order to reflect Christian ideas. Stay with me on this. When they remade this movie they decided to add Hades into the mix (why, I don't know, it's not like Hades to get involved in the affairs of the living). And Hollywood always feels the need to make the "ugly" deities, the ones involved with death or destruction, evil. Because the fight against "good" and "evil," "light" and "dark," is an Abrahamic obsession. I've actually read sources on mythology in which the authors state that Greek and Roman myths are all about the "eternal struggle between good and evil." These people have more nerve than brains. Pretty much no deity is perfect in the Neo-Pagan religions.

Perseus has never been a common name in the United States. This name has something in common with Percival: they can both be shortened to Percy. For example, in Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief, Percy's full name is Perseus. I think it could potentially be used by more people in this country, since other names from mythology are doing very well in the charts. Perseus has potential.


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This unusual botanical name is almost always listed as a "witch's name" and there's a good reason why.

Eglantine (pronounced "EHG-lan-teen") is generally accepted as a fancy word for rose, which isn't completely true. It's actually another word for a sweet brier, which is technically a species of rose but it doesn't have the typical rose look. They almost look more like little pink daisies on a bush. Eglantine is a French name derived from the Latin aquilentus meaning "thorny" or "rich with prickles." They are native to Europe and West Asia and are considered an invasive species elsewhere. I couldn't find much about this plant's magickal uses, all everyone says is that it's for "pleasure" which is rather vague.

The first person to use Eglantine (in the form of Eglentyne) as a first name was Geoffrey Chaucer, who gave it to a character in The Canterbury Tales. She appears in "The Prioress's Tale" and she is a nun. She is described as gentle and soft-spoken, and it suggests that she joined the clergy in order to raise her social status. What happens in The Canterbury Tales is that all of these travelers have a story telling contest. Unfortunately, the story Eglentyne tells is anti-Semitic, which would not have been uncommon during that time but is still pretty unsavory.

But the Eglantine that's of more interest to Neo-Pagans in the one in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. In a pretty obvious attempt to repeat the success of Mary Poppins, Disney adapted the books The Magic Bedknob; or How to Become a Witch in Ten Easy Lessons and Bonfires and Broomsticks written by English author Mary Norton. The story takes place in Britain during World War II. Three siblings are sent away from their home in London and into the countryside in order to keep them safe from the bombings. The children are thrust upon Eglantine Price (played by Angela Lansbury) who thinks that they are going to be a nuisance. Eglantine is secretly studying witchcraft as a means to protect the country from the Nazis, but is only an apprentice witch. The children very quickly find out and Eglantine is forced to take them with her on her various adventures.

One of the reasons why Neo-Pagans love this movie so much (aside from the positive witch portrayal) is that there is a real Pagan in-joke going on here. According to legend, the New Forest coven gathered together in a forest on Lammas night 1940 in order to perform a ritual known as Operation Cone of Power. The purpose of the cone of power was to send the message into the mind of German leaders that they could not cross the English Channel. Gerald Gardner claimed he was there, which is how we know this. But I doubt that there is any way to prove that this meeting actually took place.

But back to Eglantine. It has never been a common name in the United States. I have to admit that the sound is a bit clunky. Not that that's a bad thing. I think it would appeal to Renaissance Fair folks in particular. It's an interesting option for those that like Medieval names.


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Her deviantart account has been deactivated, but the artist was felicefawn.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


A name associated with nighttime and darkness, Jet is more than just a nouveau coinage.

Jet has several meanings. However, I'm assuming that parents who give this name to their children are referring to "a stream of water" or "to prance." Most people think about the color black. The word is ultimately derived from the Greek gagates lithos, meaning "stone of Gages." Gages is a town and river in Lycia.

Many people think of fast planes when they think of Jet, which is probably why it's more popular for boys. And I'm sure Jet Li doesn't hurt either. Jett (I suppose the two "t"s make it look more like a surname) is now at it's highest ranking for boys at #353. A feminine form, Jettie, was most popular in the 1880s at #515.

Jet is also a geological mineral that is considered a gemstone. This mineral is created when decaying wood is placed under extreme pressure. Surprise surprise, it only comes in black. It's not a gemstone that is mentioned much in Wiccan handbooks, but it does have a history of magickal use. The oldest jet jewelry dates back to 17,000 BC, and it was a favorite material in Ancient Rome. The Romans believed that it had protective qualities and could deflect the evil eye. Jet was also fashionable during the Victorian era because the Queen wore it as part of her mourning dress. Therefore, jet is often associated with death. The Roaring Twenties revitalized it again. Young flappers would wear multiple long necklaces of jet beads.

It also appears on a witchy fictional namesake. Practical Magic was a fantasy film based on the novel by Alice Hoffman. In the film, the Owens family is a family in which all the women are witches. They are cursed and their husbands always die off. After their parents die, sisters Sally (played by Sandra Bullock) and Gillian (played by Nicole Kidman) are raised by their Aunts Frances and Jet. Sally is the more magically talented of the sisters, but doesn't want anything to do with her witchiness and tries to be as normal as possible. Gillian is much more of a free spirit, but gets into trouble frequently. When the two accidentally kill Gillian's abusive boyfriend and a resurrection goes awry it's up to Sally to put it right.

Even though it's a fantasy movie, I believe that Practical Magic really celebrates modern Witches. The overall depiction of us is very positive. The witches aren't punished at the end, and they're shown as being more misunderstood than inherently evil. I suppose one can argue that it doesn't prove anything because the witches still do kill someone, albeit accidentally. But I feel like that's so reductive. I feel that Practical Magic really is a great movie.

Many people associate witches with long, flowing, jet black hair. While that's a bit of a cliche, the name works great for Neo-Pagans. After all, we do tend to love the color black.


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Sunday, April 22, 2012


Rosemary is a perfectly lovely name, but some Neo-Pagans might be a little squeamish about it.

The origin of Rosemary appears to be obvious: it must be a combination of Rose and Mary. And it technically is. Because it it's name, the plant became involved with some stories involving the Virgin Mary. But it's also based on a much older name from Latin. Rosemarinus is derived from the elements ros, meaning "dew," and marinus, meaning "sea." Together it means "dew from the sea." This name refers to the rosemary plant, which only needs the water in a sea breeze to survive.

The herb can grow quite large, with evergreen-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. It originated in the Mediterranean and Asia, although it is hardy and can withstand most climates. It also has a very strong scent. Rosemary is a popular cooking ingredient. It is often mixed with meat and stuffing, potatoes, and wine. It is often planted in gardens because they are pretty and drought tolerant. Although it does occasionally cause allergic reactions, and you should avoid eating too much of it while pregnant or breastfeeding, it is generally a very safe plant.

Rosemary is used for many magickal applications. It has a very old reputation for improving memory (in Hamlet, Ophelia says the line "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance"). It is an old medieval wedding tradition for the bride to wear a wreath made from rosemary, and for the groom and all of the guests to wear a small piece of it pinned to their clothing. For this reason, it is also associated with fidelity, and was often given as a wedding gift. Because it was often cooked in kitchen gardens, rosemary was seen as a symbol of the wife's dominance in the house. By the 1500s, it was not uncommon for husbands to dig up the rosemary in order to show that they, and not their wives, were in charge. According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite was covered in rosemary when she arose from the ocean. Rosemary is used in incense for both Pagan and Christian ceremonies, and it is believed that it protects against evil. Burning this plant in your home can banish negativity.

So why am I profiling this name during my theme week? I'm talking about it because it's in the lexicon of Pagan culture due to a very controversial work: Rosemary's Baby. Rosemary's Baby is a novel by Ira Levin and movie by Roman Polanski that most Neo-Pagans find very offensive. I'm going to give away the ending here, so if you don't want to know skip to the next paragraph. The story starts when Rosemary Woodhouse (played by Mia Farrow in the film) and her actor husband move to a new home in the New York suburbs. They meet their neighbors who appear to be an eccentric elderly couple. Rosemary doesn't like them, but her husband develops a worrying attachment and visits constantly. On the night that the couple try to conceive a child, the neighbors give Rosemary some chocolate which makes her pass out. She has a vivid dream of being tied to the bed and being raped by a demonic entity while her naked neighbors look on. Rosemary becomes pregnant. As time passes, she suspects that her neighbors are part of a sinister witch's coven and that her husband made a deal with them in exchange for a successful acting career. When she awakes after being sedated during her labor she is told that the baby died, but she doesn't believe that. She walks into a coven meeting in which the witches are gathered around her newborn son who, lo and behold, is the child of Satan.

These types of movies express and amplify society's fear and hatred of us. Some people might say, "Oh, don't be so sensitive, it's just a movie. Nobody actually thinks these things of you." But I know that that's not true. I just need to listen to Newt Gingrich to know that I'm correct. Rosemary's Baby is not special, there are literally hundreds of movies and books like this. This movie was made in the 1970s, and not much has changed since then. Evil witches in non-fairy tale settings have not left the screen (The Wicker Man remake and The Wicker Tree are prime examples). It is going to take a very long time to eradicate these kind of harmful depictions. There are centuries worth of baggage here.

Rosemary has never left the top 1,000 in the United States, but it was most popular in the 1940s when it peaked at #91. It's now at #721. If you don't like the "devil-baby carrier" tag (and really, who does?), there is another literary work in which this name appears. The Giver by Lois Lowry takes place in a Utopia-like community. Rosemary was the Receiver before Jonah who is mysteriously not discussed anymore. Her name is even forbidden from use on another child. I suppose that you have to have read the book to know what I'm talking about, but for this one I'm trying not to give anything away. This book actually made me like the name when I read it as a child.

I'm not sure how easily Neo-Pagans can shed the terrible association of this movie. Many of us like botanical names so...possibly? Rosemary is a nice name, so it's a shame.


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Saturday, April 21, 2012


Many Neo-Pagans are drawn to names that were invented for a fantasy story. Katara is a more recent one.

For the uninitiated, Avatar: The Last Airbender was an animated television show marketed for children, but it has a lot of adult fans as well. It only lasted for three seasons, but that was intended. Avatar is set within an Asian influenced fantasy world in which characters can manipulate the four elements: air, water, earth, and fire. This ability is called "bending" in the show. There is one being that can manipulate all four elements: the Avatar. But at the point where the story begins, the Avatar had been missing for a hundred years. Katara and her brother Sokka find him, and airbender named Aang, trapped in an iceberg. It is up to them to stop the Fire Nation, who wants to control the whole world. There is a sequel currently on television called The Legend of Korra. There was also a movie adaptation, but we prefer not to think about that.

Neo-Pagans love this show in particular because of the natural and spiritual elements of the world that they made. Natural occurrences like eclipses and comets have an effect on bending ability. The spirit world plays a big part in the story. I don't know if any of the creators knew anything about Neo-Paganism. But within the four main benders, the boys are fire and air and the girls are water and earth. Those are the corresponding genders for those elements in Wicca. It's interesting that they got that detail right. It's a bit unfortunate that they made an episode with an evil woman that is referred to as a "witch."

None of the characters names are used by a lot of parents in the United States. However, Katara's (pronounced "kah-TAHR-ah") name probably made the biggest splash (no pun intended, but pretty good anyway!) when the show came out. In the show, Katara is a gifted waterbender and Aang pretty much falls in love with her immediately. Her personality is loyal and very mothering. But she's also a warrior who fights just as well, and sometimes better, than the boys. She's a great roll model for girls. Her name doesn't really fall into any name trend that I can think of. Parents are much more inclined to adopt unique fantasy names of girl characters rather than boy characters, I think.

All of the names from Avatar: The Last Airbender are Asian names or invented names based on an Asian language. Katara is one of the later. Katara is derived from the Dravidian (a language from India) word kattari and it's the name of a type of dagger. Kataras are characterized by their "H" shaped handles, and they are sometimes used for rituals. Here's a little bit of trivia that's of some interest to Neo-Pagans: her name was changed to Tamara in the Greek version because in that language katara means "curse."

Katara is a feminine, exotic, and strong sounding name, so I have no doubt that it has a following. Some people might not recognize that it's from a television show, especially since the show has already ended. That definitely makes this a bit of a nerd name.


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Thursday, April 19, 2012


If you had to pick just one Shakespeare tragedy that is part of the lexicon of Neo-Pagan theater it would not be Hamlet. It would definitely be Macbeth.

Those with a passing familiarity of Scottish names should be able to figure out pretty quickly that Macbeth is a "son of" name. More specifically it's an Anglicized form of the Old Gaelic MacBeatha, which means "son of life." It started out as a first name, then gradually became a surname once the government introduced personal taxation.

I have a soft spot in my heart for Macbeth, as I played one of "The Three" in a college production. I'm sure most people are familiar with the story, but I'll recap it here just in case. Macbeth is a thane (kind of like a knight) at the beginning of the play when he receives a prophecy from three witches that says that he will be king. After that, he becomes afraid that his position is in jeopardy and kills more and more people including his best friend Banqou and Mcduff's wife and children. He is eventually slain by Macduff. It's worth noticing that his wife Lady Macbeth is sometimes considered to be a "witch" character also. Which makes sense if you think about the type of women who were often charged with witchcraft, they were women who were in some position of power, or women who lived alone and owned property.

Unfortunately, this name is famous for having a curse attached to it. You are not supposed to say Macbeth in a theater unless it's a part of the script. Any other time you're supposed to refer to it indirectly like saying "The Scottish Play" or "The Scottish King." If you do say the name, you are supposed to leave the theater immediately, turn in a circle three times, spit over your shoulder, and shout an obscenity. Then you have to wait to be brought back into the building. Having been in the theater world, I have met both people who believed in the curse 100% and people who thought it was a bunch of nonsense. I've even met someone who was horrified when I said the name in casual conversation.

Macbeth was written during a time in which the existence of witches was pretty much regarded as a fact. It is believed that Shakespeare used the spells of real witches, who became angry and cursed the play. But when a modern-day Witch tried to reverse the curse she failed. I have another theory. The play is based on a real life monarch named Macbeth that lived during the 1000s. He was known as Macbeth the Usurper because, exactly like the play, he became king after slaying the prior king, who was indeed named Duncan. He only ruled for under twenty years, but he was apparently a very good king. Perhaps Macbeth doesn't like his good name being smeared like that. So whenever he hears his name said in a theater he makes bad things happen.

It's a shame that this name is so tainted. The meaning in particular is very beautiful. In an alternate world it could have fit in nicely with modern name trends. Scottish and Irish surnames are a popular source for boy's names in America. And for a girl, it's just Mackenzie and Elizabeth smooshed together, right? But, alas, it's not meant to be. If I met a little Macbeth, I would be very surprised.


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Monday, April 16, 2012


A favorite for name enthusiasts but not actually used much anymore, Ophelia has lots of Witchy cred.

Ophelia (pronounced "oh-FEEL-yah") is a Greek name derived from the word ophelos, meaning "help" or "succor." It was not, however, used during Ancient Greece. It is believed that the name was invented by Jacopo Sannazaro (as Ofelia) for his poem "Arcadia," which is about a man living the big city by retreating to a utopia.

But most people remember this name from Shakespeare. The young noblewoman is the love interest of Hamlet who famously goes mad and drowns herself at the end of the play. Shakespeare plays are rife with Pagan subtext, in Hamlet's case it shows itself in the form of the ghost of the slain king. The only one without any Pagan subtext is, I believe, The Taming of the Shrew. Don't quote me on that, though. I can't find the source where I heard that.

But it doesn't end there. Ofelia is the name of the young heroine from Pan's Labyrinth. Pan's Labyrinth is a dark and bloody fairy tale set in post-Civil War fascist Spain. Ofelia and her pregnant mother go to live in the forest cottage of Ofelia's new step-father, who happens to be an evil captain of the army. Ofelia starts exploring the surrounding woods with the guidance of fairies, and she finds her way into an ancient labyrinth and meets a faun, not the actual god Pan (the original title of the movie is El Laberinto del Fauno, but they didn't think Americans would know what a faun was). The faun tells her that she is the long lost Princess Moanna of the underworld, but in order to make sure that her spirit is intact she must complete three tasks. These tasks are terrifying, but they reflect the terror happening in the conflict between the fascists and the rebels. People interpret the ending of this movie in different ways, so I'm not going to give it away. But it is required watching for Neo-Pagans. I am actually still furious that it did not win best movie in the Academy Awards.

There are other namesakes for Ophelia. There's an Ophelia St. Claire in the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Ophelia Frump was in the television series The Addams Family. In the world of hybrid tea roses, this name is given to a type of pink variety. This name was also given to one of the moons of Uranus.

This name was last popular during the 1800s. It was pretty high up there when the top 1,000 baby names were first recorded in the 1880s: it ranked at #260. But it was out of the charts completely by the 1960s. There is quite a bit of resistance to this name today. Many believe that the chances of a boy saying, "Hey Ophelia, can I feel 'ya?" is enough to avoid the name. As stupid as that is, (and if that's really bothering you there's always Ophelie) that's not the worst of it. The feedback I got as a child was that the name was cursed and that everyone called Ophelia would meet an untimely end. I'm a little concerned that they could say that with a straight face. I'll admit that the fictional track record isn't good, but that's just silly.

Ophelia, Ofelia, and Ophelie are some of my personal favorites. I can't decide which one I like best. A juvenile taunt is not enough to make me turn them away, I would be happy to use any one of them on a future daughter.


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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Name Round Up: 13 Names from Mother Goose

Anyone who was four years old at some point in their lives has heard of Mother Goose. She is a particularly important cultural figure in England, where it is traditional to put on Mother Goose plays during the holiday season. Some people wonder if Mother Goose is supposed to be a witch. After all, she is a crone and she does have a broom (although she prefers to ride her enormous goose) and a witch-like hat. I'm not convinced that that was the intention. She could simply be an archetypal country woman wearing the traditional dress of Wales. However, many Neo-Pagans believe that the image of Mother Goose comes from the goddess Holda, who's spirit companions were wild geese. The identity of the real life Mother Goose who wrote these stories and rhymes is a mystery.

It seems like most of the names in these poems were selected because they rhymed, but that doesn't mean that there aren't gems to be found. Here are thirteen of them:

1. Muffet. This name will probably have the hardest time separating itself from the famous Miss Muffet. It's hard to not think about curds and whey and spiders.

2. Hickory. I mentioned the "Dickory Dock" connection when I profiled this name. I still think it's beautiful.

3. Blue. This name has been getting a lot of attention lately thanks to Beyonce. It pops up in a number of rhymes, there is "Little Boy Blue," "Betty Blue," and "Blue Bell Boy."

4. Peter. Might be a nice subtle name for Samhain, because he's a pumpkin eater.

5. Hector. Perhaps "Hector Protector" is not one of the more popular nursery rhymes, but his name is pretty fabulous.

6. Bo. As in Bo Peep. Perhaps Americans are more likely to use this as a nickname.

7. Horner. There are quite a few Jacks in Mother Goose stories. One of them is Jack Horner, who pulled a plum out of a Christmas pie.

8. Locket. Another one of the more obscure ones, Lucy Locket is known for loosing her pocket. Locket would be an unusual option, but it's a sweet one.

9. Mary. The nursery rhymes are full of Marys, because for the longest time that was the most popular girls name. A stand-out Mary is the one whose garden grows with silver bells and cockle-shells and pretty maids all in a row.

10. Cole. Old King Cole was a merry old soul, and his name is pretty nifty too. A pretty fashionable choice today.

11 & 12. Robin & Wren. There are lots of robins and wrens in nursery rhymes. There's "The Dove and the Wren," "Robin and Richard," "The Robin," "A Robin and a Robin's Son," and "Little Jenny Wren."

13. Simon. Simple Simon does not have particularly good luck in his rhyme, but that hasn't hurt the name any. Simon is still an unpretentious classic.

Do you have any favorite names from Mother Goose stories?


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Friday, April 13, 2012


So it's time to mix things up a bit. Last year I participated in a Pagan Blog Party in which I profiled lots of names atached to fictional witches. I'm going to do something slightly different this time. This theme is inspired by The Celluloid Closet, a documentary/book about how gays and lesbians have been portrayed in Hollywood movies that I am slightly obsessed with. For the next two weeks I'll glen names from mostly movies but also television, plays, and books that say something about how Witches, Neo-Pagans, and Neo-Paganism have been portrayed throughout the years.

Gillian (pronounced either "JIL-ee-an" or "GIL-ee-an") is a variant of Julian that emerged during the 16th century that was given to children of both sexes. Nowadays, it's much more associated with girls. It first appeared on the American top 1,000 in the 1970s and peaked in 2003 at #467. It fell off the charts pretty quickly after that, and I'm really not sure why. It's a perfectly lovely name.

So the name was not fashionable when Bell, Book, and Candle came out in 1958. The movie's heroine is a witch named Gillian Holroyd played by Kim Novak. She's a spunky, free-spirited lady who has a familiar (a siamese cat named Pyewacket) and a fondness for walking around barefoot. She has a crush on her neighbor Shep Henderson played by Jimmy Stewart. But Shep is about to marry an old college enemy of hers, so Gillian casts a love spell on him. They get together and Gillian falls in love with him as well. Then Shep meets an author who is in the middle of writing a book about witches living in New York. This author is collaborating with a wizard named Nicky, who is Gillian's brother. Gillian uses magic to make Shep loose interest in the project and confesses her identity. The two quarrel, and Shep leaves her heartbroken. Months later, Shep returns to find Gillian powerless, because witches who fall in love loose their magic. The two get back together.

Something interesting happened to witch characters during the 1950s and 1960s. They became a symbol for how women were treated during that time. The message behind a woman loosing her power once she has a boyfriend should not be lost on anyone. Bewitched had a similar motif. While Samantha never lost her ability to do magic, she constantly felt the need to repress it. People are frightened of witches because they are powerful women. That's why these types of depictions were so popular. These witches threatened nobody because they conformed.

Bell, Book, and Candle is kind of a cult film for the Neo-Pagan community. I think we're inclined to see the humor in this campy romantic comedy. And it gives the name Gillian more Witchy cred, not that it didn't have any before but now it's more obvious.

Gillian is a bit more exciting than Jill while still being familiar. Perhaps it might be seen as passe since it's peak was not that long ago, but Gillian is more of a classic than, say, Skylar. I can totally see someone looking for a Witchy but not obvious name being drawn to Gillian.


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Thursday, April 12, 2012


It's great when people suggest name for this blog that I had never heard of before. Thanks to E. for suggesting Livana.

I can see why E. is having trouble finding information on this name. Livana (not sure how this is pronounced, but "lih-VAH-nah" seems like a good bet) is a variant form of two separate names from two separate cultures. As it turns out, both meanings are equally Witchy. The first is Levana, a Latin name derived from the word levare, meaning "to rise" or "to lift." Levana is the goddess of newborn babies.

The Roman culture was a patriarchal one. Not as patriarchal as the Greeks, in which a woman from a rich family was not allowed to every leave her house. But still, men ruled their households in Rome. They had the power to claim their children as their own or to have them abandoned. This was literally expressed in a birth ritual in which the mother places the newborn on the ground and the father lifts the baby up, showing that he has accepted the child into the family. This is where Levana's name comes from. Neo-Pagans may invoke her for spells used to bring out paternal instincts in the fathers of their children.

As for the second origin, Livana could be a form of Lewana. Lewana is a Hebrew name meaning "shining white one" or "the moon." I, of course, do not have to tell you how important the moon is to Neo-Pagan religions. Because of it's connection to the Semitic root lbn, meaning "white," Lewana is a cousin to the name of a country: Lebanon.

Livana has never been a common name in the United States. It has an interesting dichotomy because Livana is connected to both Paganism and Judaism. In Neo-Pagan culture, there is actually a branch called Semitic Neo-Paganism or Jewish Neo-Paganism. This particular group focuses on the historical goddess cults of the Israelites. I can certainly see the name Livana appealing to members of this religion. Livana is perhaps more accessible than Levana or Lewana because it can be seen as a combination of Liv and Ana.

So to all you Pagan/Jewish families, Livana could be perfect.

The Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes

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I actually have a theme planned for the next few days starting tomorrow, so I need to get the requests taking care of. This seemingly old American name has some surprising Pagan roots. Thanks to Saranel for suggesting Felicity.

Felicity (pronounced "feh-LIS-ih-tee") is a Latin name derived from Felicitas, meaning "happiness," "lucky," or "fortunate," depending on who you ask. In Roman mythology, Felicitas is a minor goddess of good luck and success. She is not extremely popular anymore and most of her temples were burned down, but we know that she was an important figure in Roman culture. Sometimes Felicity its listed as the feminine form of Felix which, even if it might not be strictly true, makes sense.

Felicity also has a Christian connection. There is a Saint Felicitas of Rome who lived during the 100s and is occasionally called Saint Felicity. Not much is known about her, but according to legend she gave birth to seven other martyrs known as the Seven Holy Brothers. This was also used a Puritan virtue name, but it has since lost that straight-laced vibe.

Depending on how old you are, Felicity will make you think of either the American Girl books/dolls or the television show. The former was a red-haired, spunky Colonial girl and her doll premiered in 1991. I remember that she was one of the first characters. The television show Felicity follows the title character coming of age in the "University of New York," which doesn't exist. You might also remember this name appearing in an Austin Powers movie.

Felicity doesn't have mega-popularity, but it's used fairly often. Despite it's early history it's peak was in 1999, the year after the television show premiered, at #390 and now rests at #764. It is a bit more popular in England and Wales at the moment, it was #236 in 2007. A related name, Felicia, was well used during the 1970s. Other variations include Felice, Felicite, Felicita, and Felicidad.

You could say that this is a Pagan virtue name, because it has a very similar meaning to Mirth. Felicity is very light on the tongue and girly. But I don't think it's too sugary. I think it strikes the right balance. It's a great Wicca-lite name, most people wouldn't know about the Pagan connection.


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Sunday, April 8, 2012


I first came across the name Nimbus in Dinotopia. It's used for a dinosaur, but I love it for a human.

Nimbus (pronounced "NIHM-bus") has a few different definitions. Literally, it's derived from nebh, which is Latin for "cloud" (it's like a brother to Nephele). It is specifically used today in reference to storm clouds. I see a lot of nimbostratus clouds living in the Pacific Northwest. They are almost uniformly gray and hang low in the sky. But the dictionary gives a few more meanings.

1. A cloudy radiance said to surround a classical deity when on earth.
2. A radiant light that appears usually in the form of a circle or halo about or over the head in the representation of a god, demigod, saint, or sacred person such as a king or an emperor.
3. A splendid atmosphere or aura, as of glamour, that surrounds a person or thing.

Halos are usually seen as property of the Christian religion, but the truth is that it's used as a shorthand in art from many different cultures. You can find it in some form or another in the iconography of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Hinduism, Buddhism, and some Islamic art. In his poetry, Homer describes an unnatural glow around the heads of heroes in battle. A nimbus can also take the form of flames surrounding the head or the whole body, and this is more common in Asia. The Islamic religion is famous for condemning any art that depicts humans or Muhammad, however they are present in Persian miniatures from various time periods.

Nimbus has never been a common name in the United States. I doubt that many people are even familiar with the term. I've seen a few little girls named Halo, but never Nimbus. Nimbus shows up in the world of Harry Potter, but it's not on a person. The Nimbus 2000 was Harry Potter's first broomstick, given to him when he became a seeker on the Quiddich team.

I see Nimbus more as a boy's name because of the "-us" ending. But that doesn't mean that it could only be used for boys. Could be a neat name for someone born during an April shower.


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Saturday, April 7, 2012


I've found this name intriguing ever since I've first heard it. But this particular "Ella" moniker might be an acquired taste.

Prunella (pronounced "proo-NEH-lah") is Latin name meaning "little plum." Prunella is the name of an Italian fairy tale that features a heroine of the same name. I've already told most of the story when I profiled the name of the hero, Bensiabel. But I left out how she got to be the witch's slave in the first place. Prunella loved to eat plums, which is how she got her name, and she ate plums off of a particular tree. This particular tree happened to be owned by the witch, who was infuriated that someone would steal her property. So she hid and waited for whoever was taking her food, and caught Prunella in the act. The witch kidnapped her and took her as a slave. She has her for a few years before Bensiabel shows up and the story really begins.

Those that have read the story might question Prunella's status as a heroine. Gods, she's a little miss issues-with-tissues, isn't she? She breaks down and cries at every little obstacle in her path, Bensiabel does everything for her. I find that very interesting. It might be Prunella's fairy tale, but Bensiabel and his mother are much more interesting and (I think) more sympathetic. Also, looking at this tale in particular, it's very clear why people gravitate towards witches. The witch might be punished in the end, but the good girl is punished throughout the whole story.

Another plant associated with this name (besides the plum tree) is Prunella vulgaris, which lives in temperate regions throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. This plant has purple flowers, which is probably why it has that name. It is also known as the self heal, heal-all, or heart-of-the-earth. As it's nicknames suggest, this plant has long been used to cure many ailments. Some of them include fever, internal bleeding, diarrhoea, and infection. Christians believed that it was a holy herb brought down by God, and Native Americans would drink heal-all tea in order to sharpen their senses before hunting. It is edible as well and is often used in salads, stews, and soups.

Prunella has never been a common name in the United States. One one level, it seems like it would be perfect for those looking for an uncommon name that can be shortened to Ella. But some people might have a problem with the word "prune" in it. Many associate it with wrinkly old people. The only two namesakes I could find were both English actresses, Gee and Scales, but they're both above the age of sixty. There is only one variant form: Prunelle.

Prunella is somewhere between exotic and clunky. It might appeal to those that like names like Earnestine or Opal. It has appeal but it won't be popular anytime soon.


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Name Round Up: Happy Birthday Names

Today is my birthday! So I'm doing an easy post. I looked through a list of well known people born on April 7th and found a few name gems.



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Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Sorry for the hiatus, I was spending time with a visiting friend and therefore wasn't paying attention to this blog. I've seen a few children named Tibet here and there. This name is surprisingly multi-faceted.

Tibet also proves that when it comes to names, there is not much that's new under the sun. Tibet (I believe it's pronounced "TIH-beht" in this case) was actually quite popular during the Middle Ages. It was a nickname for Theobald, an Old German masculine name meaning "brave people." But it didn't stay that way. The trendy sound of femininity at the time included names that ended with "-ot" or "-et." So it didn't take long for Tibet to switch sides. After 1300, Tib, Tibbot, and Tibet was considered the sole property of the girls. Until it faded into obscurity altogether.

But when most people think of this name nowadays, they think of the country. Tibetans call their own country Bod, meaning "plateau." The English word for this country is derived from the Arabic Tibat or Tubatt, which is in turn derived from the Turkic Tobad, meaning "The Heights."

As the name would suggest, the country of Tibet (pronounced "tih-BEHT") is quite mountainous. It is, in fact, the highest region on earth. The country has a turbulent history, in various time periods it was split up and under the rule of the Mongols or Chinese. Tibet's architecture reflects the influence of neighboring India and China.

The country's main religion is Tibetan Buddhism, and is famous for it's Dalai Lama.The Dalai Lama is a spiritual and political leader who is believed to be the reincarnation of a long line of gurus as well as the manifestations of Avalokitesvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. The line started with Gendun Drup, who lived during the 1300-1400s. In the 1500s, a Mongol ruler coined the term "Dalai Lama," which is a Mongolian translation of the name of the third reincarnation, Sonam Gyatso (and if you're an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan, you're laughing). Soman means "merit" and Gyatso means "ocean." The Dalai Lama living in exile today is the 14th. He believes that the institution of the Dalai Lama may be abolished in the future, and that the 15th in line may be born outside of Tibet and will probably be a female.

But the Tibet that most of us have in our minds is quickly disappearing. After a military conflict in 1951, Tibet was incorporated into The People's Republic of China. Because the Chinese government has a "all religion is bad" policy, they've been trying to crush the spirituality that exists in the region. This has been a major source of tension. As a result this name could be seen as a political statement, which might become problematic in the future. People who openly support a free Tibet are often banned from China.

I don't dislike the name Tibet, I just think that it's a risk. But it's a risk that everyone takes when they use a place name. If you're willing to chance it, Tibet is a very interesting option.


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