Saturday, July 28, 2012


Like most people I was watching the Olympic's opening ceremony last night, and I was inspired to profile the name Olympia.

Olympia (pronounced "oh-LYM-pee-ah") is, of course, in reference to Mount Olympus. Unfortunately, the etymology of Olympus is unknown. Mount Olympus is a real place, not a mythical one. It is the highest mountain in Greece (over 1,000 feet) located along the northern border. Trying to climb it would be very dangerous, and this must have been the inspiration for it's status as the home of the gods.

In the stories, there isn't very much explanation as to how Olympus came into being. Apparently, the mountain just willed itself into being after the gods defeated the Titans. I'm serious. That's the origin story that I have. The gods who lived there were the main 12 Olympian gods: Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena, Demeter, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Ares, Aphrodite, Hermes, and Hephaestus. The mythical Olympus was a paradise. No human being was ever allowed at the home of the gods under any circumstance, although some did try. The mortal Bellerophon rode Pegasus up to Olympus. Zeus sent a fly to attack Pegasus, causing him to rear and toss Bellerophon.

For the Ancient Greeks, the Olympic games were tied with their mythology. It was essentially a religious festival held in honor of Zeus. The gods enjoyed running, wrestling, and jumping competitions, but there are several more origin stories. One states that a young man named Herakles and his two brothers raced to at Olympia. Herakles was crowned with a laurel wreath when he won. The ancient Olympics were quite different from their modern counterparts. The prize for winning the women's foot race was a Priestess position for Hera. The men would compete nude for many sports. The midpoint of the games would be celebrated by sacrificing 100 oxen. And the arts were a much bigger part of the games: there were competitions in things like tragedy and sculpture. The first Olympics took place in a sacred plain called, what else, Olympia.

Olympia has never been in the American top 1,000, which actually surprised me. For some reason I thought it might have shown up in the olden days. But that doesn't mean that the name is lacking in namesakes. The mother of Alexander the Great was named Olympias. Olympia Dukakis is a very well respected actress. There are quite a few other peaks named after the famous Olympus located around the world. Olympia is the state capitol of Washington. There is also Princess Maria-Olympia of Greece and Denmark. The masculine variant is Olympus but also Olimpio.

Olympia is a name filled with power and authority. It would be a great name for any witchlet or anyone with a connection to the Olympic games.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Back when I was researching for the Names of Real Witchlet's post, I found a Rowan Sebastain Aleister. I read that the mother used Aleister in honor of "crazy uncle Al." And when Neo-Pagans say "crazy uncle Al," they mean Aleister Crowley.

Aleister Crowley wasn't a Wiccan, he was an Occultist, Mystic, Magician, Writer, and Mountaineer. And he lived far before Gerald Gardner and his gang started the Neo-Pagan movement as we know it today. But his life and work continue to shape our culture. He is considered to be the most influential Occultist of all time.

Aleister Crowley was born Edward Alexander Crowley in an upper-class English family in 1875. His parents were devout Christians and he was sent off to Christian boarding schools frequently. He was often kicked out for his behavior. Eventually he became disillusioned with Christianity and went against the values of his upbringing. While in college he took on the name Aleister, began to experiment sexually, and read books on alchemy and mysticism.

He officially embraced Pagan culture when he joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. But the most important religious experience in his life was in 1904, when he visited Egypt. His wife, Rose, experienced visions while in the country and frequently informed her husband that "they are waiting for you." "They" were Horus and Thoth. Crowley then began to hear voices from what he believed to be his guardian angel, a being named Aiwass. Somehow he received a text called The Book of the Law, and it was from this text that he developed Thelema. Thelema is a philosophy based off of the Ancient Egyptian religion. It was founded on the idea that the beginning of the 20th century marked the Aeon of Horus, a time in which "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law," was the new ethical code. It encouraged it's followers to look beyond their egos and find out what path in life they are meant to have. Crowley believed himself to be the prophet of the new age.

Crowley was frequently demonized by the mainstream press in his day. But to be fair, he did make that really easy. He was an open pansexual (homosexuality was illegal at the time), engaged in recreational drug use, and openly criticized the social order. He was also racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist. Crowley enjoyed being a sensationalist figure and deliberately provoked the media. He died in 1947, two years before Gerald Gardner gained attention for promoting Wicca. But there are many parts of the Wiccan religion that evolved from Crowley's life and teachings as he and Gardner did know each other. The Wiccan Rede's most important value "an it harm none, do what thou wilt" came from Crowley.

Aleister (pronounced "AL-es-ter") is a variant of Alistair, which is the Gaelic form of the Greek name Alexander. It means "man's defender." It has never been a common name in the United States, but in 2008 Alistair rated #128 in Scotland.

No matter what anyone might think of him as a person, Aleister Crowley continues to be a very important figure in the Neo-Pagan community. Although I'm not certain if I would name anybody after him, I can certainly understand and respect why someone else would.


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Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Another name that I came in contact with in Spain, Nuria is a staple in that country.

I've seen several explanations for the origin of Nuria (pronounced "NOO-ree-ah"). One is that it comes from the Catalan title for the Virgin Mary: Nostra Senyora de Nuria ("Our Lady of Nuria). According to Catholic tradition, Saint Giles lived as a hermit in what is now known as the Vall de Nuria for four years around 700 AD. While there, he crafted a statue to the Virgin Mary and hid it in a cave so that it would be safe from the Romans. He also left a cross, a cauldron he used to cook in, and a bell he used to call shepherds to mass. Years later in the 1000s, the pilgrim Amadeu had a prophetic dream of the statue, moved to the valley, built a chapel and eventually found it.

The statue that is there now is not the one that Giles supposedly made, but it is still venerated. The whole valley has a reputation for being a holy place. There is a spring next to the famous cave whose waters are said to have healing properties. The bell and cauldron are used in a fertility ritual that requires the woman to stick her head in the cauldron while the husband rings the bell. If this ritual results in a pregnancy, the child is either named Nuria or Gil.

So that would explain the inspiration for using this name. But that doesn't really explain where the name comes from. Another source states that Nuria is the Spanish variant of the unisex Arabic name Noor, meaning "shining" or "light." Knowing Spanish history, this would make sense. The Arabs first conquered Toledo and Cordoba in 711 AD, the same time in which Giles' supposedly made the statue. So perhaps both explanations are correct.

Apparently Nuria is quite a common name in Spain, and in particular Catalonia. It ranked #34 there in 2008. But here in the United States, it remains a rarity. Not even the Spanish speaking population uses it much, and it has never charted. But it's a lovely name. It's not a trendy sound at the moment, which probably works against it a bit. But it also sounds a lot like classic chart toppers Olivia and Sophia, so perhaps there's a chance that it could be used more.

So if you're looking for a name with a definite Spanish flair, Nuria is for you.


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Saturday, July 14, 2012


I was worried that since Spain is mostly Catholic that there would be nothing but Jesus art all over the place. It turns out that that's not an issue in Madrid. Not at all. There is still lots of Jesus stuff, but Madrid has tons upon tons of Pagan-inspired art. They just love their Roman art. One of the most prominent is the Fountain of Cibeles.

Cibeles is actually Cybele in America (pronounced "SIB-eh-lee"). It is a Phrygian name, so I'm placing it under Greek names because Phrygian is very closely related to Greek. It's derived from Matar Kubileya which might mean "mountain mother." Cybele was originally worshipped in Anatolia, which was located in what is now Turkey. Not much is known about how she was worshipped back then except that she had something to do with mountains, lions, and hawks. We have a few statues from that period that depict her giving birth while sitting on a throne. Throughout the centuries she has remained a mother goddess and a primal goddess of nature.

Cybele was assimilated into Ancient Greek mythology when they took Anatolia as a colony. The extent of her influence depended on where in Greece they lived. She was a foreign goddess, so she was either seen as an exotic import or a dangerous influence. She is sometimes merged with Gaia, Rhea, or Demeter, which leads to some confusion. But Athens in particular loved her. Rites and processions depicted her riding a chariot pulled by lions (which is what the Fountain of Cibeles looks like). She had a wild reputation and her festivals were celebrated with much debauchery. A unique attribute to Greek mythology surrounding Cybele is that she has a eunuch consort named Attis, and her cult had many eunuch priests.

The Romans officially adopted her cult during the Second Punic War. They felt like they needed some extra protection after a meteor shower and a failed harvest. In Ancient Rome, Cybele was worshipped quite differently. The Romans decided that the Greek way was undignified and cut out the eunuchs and the wild celebrations. Her most important festival was the Hilaria which took place between March 15th and 28th. It commemorated the death of Attis and Cybele's rebirth. Spain was certainly part of the Roman Empire, so it is reasonable to believe that Cybele's cult reached there as well. The Fountain of Cibeles is actually a newer structure made in the 1700s. There is also Cibeles Palace, although that was not the structure's original name.

Cybele has never been a common name in the United States. A possible problem is that some people might want to pronounce this name closer to Sybil. I know that I did when I first saw it. The Spanish pronunciation of Cibeles is "sih-BEHL-es," which is quite lovely. One great thing about this name is that it's an interesting way to get to Belle or Bella. Kybele is a variant spelling.

Cybele is one of my favorites, and I love the connection to Spain. It's another great mother goddess name that would be lovely on a little witchlet.


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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Name Round Up: Names for the Number 7

I did 13 Names for the Number 13, and I've profiled Seven twice. But what if Seven just isn't your style? It's the seventh day of the seventh month, so here are some names that have something to do with the number seven. Should I just stick with seven instead of going up to thirteen? ...Nah!

1. Sabbath. In the Bible, God created the world in seven days. He rested on the seventh day which is when the Sabbath is. If you want to be more Pagan you could use Sabbat, but then it becomes an "8" name.

2. Jubilee. Another Biblical reference as well as a Jewish one, The Jubilee occurs at the end of seven year cycles and deals with property rights.

3. Wonder. Out of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, only one still exists (the Pyramids of Giza). But the existance of the others were recorded in Hellenic travel guides.

4. Atlantis. This legendary city consisted of seven islands.

5. Rhymer. In the British folktale, Thomas the Rhymer lived in the Faerie Kingdom for seven years.

6. Cuchulainn. This mythical Irish hero is heavily associated with the number seven. Each of his hands has seven fingers, each foot has seven toes, and he has seven pupils in each eyes. He was seven years old when he recieved his first weapons and defeats an army.

7. Nana. A Japanese girl's name meaning "seven." This may be to grandma-ish for Westerners, but it is a well used name in Japan.

8. Remedy. There is an old, traditional belief that the seventh son, or the seventh child, or the seventh son of a seventh son has special healing powers and clairvoyance. I have read that Doctor was a first name given to seventh sons in parts of Europe for this reason, but Remedy would be a more contemporary option.

9. Sage. There are seven sages in both Hindu and Chinese mythology.

10. Bond. As in James Bond, a.k.a. 007.

11. Ginny. Speaking of magical seventh children, Ginny is the seventh Weasley child from the Harry Potter series.

12. Pleiade. The Pleiades are a group of stars also known as "The Seven Sisters." In Greek mythology, they are the daughters of Atlas.

13. September. July may be the seventh month of the year now, but when the Romans started the calendar, September was the seventh month. The word actually means "seven."


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Wrapping up my strange American name theme week, I'll cover a name that was introduced to me through a song.

"Saro" (pronounced "SAH-roh") is an old traditional tune. It is sung from the perspective of someone who immigrated to America. He is thankful to be alive and loves his new home, but regrets that he left a girl named Saro back where he came from. As beautiful as the song is, I couldn't help but wonder...what kind of a name is Saro?

My name senses told me that Saro was a variant of Sarah, and I was right. Of course, Sarah is a Hebrew name meaning "princess." Saro is unique to the Appallacian Mountain region, which is why many Americans have probably not heard of it before. But the song suggests that it came from another country. Irish was my first guess, but I don't remember hearing it when I was in Ireland. In any case, there is more than one American song that refers to a girl named Saro.

Girls names ending in an "o" sound have been seeing more use in recent years. I can see Saro appealing to those that love Shiloh. It has the connection to the much more traditional Sarah without actually being Sarah, and therefore could be a great way to honor someone named Sarah if you have more unique tastes. The only possible downside is that it sounds a little bit like "sorrow."

Saro is growing on me. I think it has the potential for being used more. It's a simple but alluring name for those that like traditional with a twist.

So hopefully you've enjoyed these posts and the scheduling has worked according to plan. There is another scheduled post coming up in a few days. After that, you'll just have to wait for me to come home. See you then, and enjoy Independence Day!


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Leif might seem like a foriegn import, and to some extent it is. But it is also deeply intrenched in American history.

Leif (pronounced "LEEF," "LAYF," or the same as "life," depending on who you ask) is a Scandinavian name derived from leifr, meaning "what is remaining" or "relic." This is ultimately derived from lev, "to leave." Many baby name sites list that it means "beloved" or "love," but they're confusing it with the Germanic leib or lip. Not to long ago, it was accepted that Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on American soil. Now we know quite differently.

Leif Ericson (also recorded as Leifr Eiriksson, Leifur Eiriksson, and Leiv Eiriksson) was a Norse explorer who lived during the 900s-1000s. He was the son of Eric the Red (hence the name Ericson), who is known for establishing the first permenent settlement in Greenland. Leif's grandfather was banished from Norway for manslaughter, which is why Leif was born in Iceland. Leif is described in records as having a strong and striking appearance. He was known for being kind and wise.

Leif apparently converted to Christianity (a decision that his Pagan father did not take very well) and was in charge of bringing the religion to Greenland. Leif's vessel was blown of course and he landed to a place that he called Vinland. Nowadays, it is generally accepted that Vinland was in what we now know as Newfoundland, a provence of Canada. There were several settlements in Vinland. So the obvious question is why did they leave? Apparently, relations with the Native Americans were increadibly hostile, which could be part of it. But it was mostly because the discovery was not seen as terribly important at the time.

Leif experienced a brief surge of popularity during the 1960s-1980s. Leif's settlements were discovered by archeologists during the 1960s, so I definitely think that there's a connection. It could also be due to Leif Garrett, who was the teen idol of the moment. It peaked during the 1970s at #771. In 2008 it was ranked #347, which is not surprising.

I'm starting to warm up to Leif. I'm usually not attracted to North European names, but I like this one. This could be do to it's similarity to the word "leaf," though. It sounds like a nature name but is also a strong "legitimate" name. I can't see it becoming popular again anytime soon, but it's a name that most people know so it won't feel unusual.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2012


On British Baby Names, the author mentioned that the name isn't used in America because of the maple syrup. I'm sorry to say that there's much more to it than that.

To give you an idea of how deep this goes, the character of Syllabub in the musical Cats was originally named Jemima in the London version. The character was renamed for the American version. It wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference. They never say the character's name and for gods sakes it's a silly musical about cats! But the American producers thought that the audience would find the name Jemima too upsetting. And that's not because it's a brand name for pancakes.

Jemima (pronounced "jeh-MIY-mah") is a Hebrew name literally meaning "warmth" or "affection," however it is often taken to mean "dove" as their word for dove is derived from the word for warmth. In the Bible, she was Job's eldest daughter and sister to Keziah and Keren. She is discribed as one of the most beautiful women in the world. She is given an inheritance along with her siblings and then disappears from the book completely.

Aunt Jemima is indeed a company that makes breakfast foods in the United States, but that name has an unsavory past. Aunt Jemima came from minstrel shows, an old form of entertainment that lampooned Black people as stupid, supersticious, happy-go-lucky fools. The character was often portrayed by White men in blackface. Thankfully, these types of skits died after the Civil Rights Movement. Aunt Jemima is what people call the "mammy archetype." She's the subserviant, friendly black slave that runs the household and takes care of the children. They've since changed her appearance so that she looks more like a housewife, but calling someone an "Aunt Jemima" is still a bit of a derogatory term.

In England, it's just considered a girls name that was well used during the Victorian era. It is apparently rising in popularity in that country again. They associate it with famous actresses and Beatrix Potter. As for the United States, the last time it was ever on the charts was in the 1880s at #959. Yemima is a variant, but I'm not sure if that helps.

I don't think Jemima has much of a chance at popularity anytime soon. If you think about it, the Civil Rights Movement really wasn't that long ago. There might be people that still remember the minstrel shows. I think it'll have to be a few more decades before the association dies away. It certainly doesn't make Jemima a bad name, and I'm not trying to deter anyone from using it. But it is a shame.


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Monday, July 2, 2012


I almost never see this name on human beings, but why not?

For the geographically challenged, Vermont (pronounced "ver-MONT") is in the Northeast United States right next to New Hampshire and Canada. Originally, the state was inhabited by two major Native American tribes: the Iraqouis and the Abenaki. They apparently did not have a good relationship with each other as they were competing for hunting grounds. Archeologists have found that there has been civilization living in the area since the 8th millennium BC.

The area was conquered by the French during it's early colonial period, which is how this state got it's French name. Vermont means "green mountain." The state is aptly named, as it is known for being mountainus. The French gave this territory to Great Britain after they were defeated in the Seven Year's War. Vermont has the distinction of being the first American state to abolish slavery. Also unusual, it had a sovreign government for a while even after the revolution. Many fossils have been found along Lake Champlain. The Champlain Sea used to be there, so the remains found have been from beluga whales and mullusks.

The state of Vermont is particularly loved by hikers and skiers that enjoy it's mountains. Despite this, Vermont doesn't exactly have a rustic reputation. It certainly doesn't have a cowboy reputation, and that's the common thread through a lot of popular American place names. Think Dallas, Aspen, and Dakota. You need either cowboys or luxury (think Paris and London) to be a popular baby name that's also a place name, it seems. Vermont doesn't have either.

I'll be perfectly frank and say that this state isn't exactly known for being very exciting. But you know what? I think the name should be used anyway. It has been used in the past. Vermont Connecticut Royster was a successful editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal. His unusual name was the result of a family tradition of naming offspring after states. Vermont Connecticut was named after his grandfather, who had brothers named Arkansas Delaware, Wisconsin Illinois, Oregon Minnesota, and Iowa Michigan.

Vermont is an distinguished and dignified sounding name that honors American heritage. I see no reason why it shouldn't be used.


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Sunday, July 1, 2012


The surname of F. Scott Fitzgerald's most iconic character has a good chance of getting more popular.

A confession: I hate The Great Gatsby with a fiery passion. I suppose they keep it on the High School curriculum so that students can write a lot of baloney about what the green light means (hint: it means "go"), because they sure won't empathize with any of the characters. Had Baz Luhrmann not directed the new movie version coming out I would not be interested in seeing it at all. Apparently most people at the time shared my opinion because it was not a commercial success when it was first published in 1925. It wasn't until it was republished and thousands of copies were given to World War II soldiers for free that it found an audience and became an American classic.

Part of the allure of the book is the setting, and I get that. The Roaring Twenties is an era in history that a lot of people are fascinated by. People were prosperous and stylish, women were free, and there was great music. The Great Gatsby is supposedly a window into the lifestyle of that time.

So the story is basically this: the narrator, Nick, rents a house next to Jay Gatsby's mansion.  This place is also close to the house of his second cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom. The Buchanans are "old money" while Gatsby is a recently made his fortune by bootlegging. But Daisy knew Gatsby before she met her husband and Gatsby is still in love with her. They rekindle their affair and this is the main conflict of the story. Also featured is Tom's affair, lavish parties, and a faded billboard with specticalled eyes.

I'm sorry to say that the origin of the name Gatsby is a little bit of a mystery. The character was born James Gatz and changed it to Jay Gatsby later in life, so it is possible that Fitzgerald simply invented it. But the name, and variations of it, had popped up before. It appears in works by Mark Twain, George Eliot, Ernest Vincent Wright, and Rudyard Kipling. It was occasionally used as a boy's name during the late 1800s, years before The Great Gatsby was written. Some speculate that it's a German name meaning "God's boy," but I've seen no reliable proof of that.

I actually like the name Gatsby a lot. If it weren't for my dislike of the most famous namesake it would be one of my favorites. It's snazzy and gives off the impression of wealth. It has a trendy sound as well and I can see it being used for girls as well as boys. It wouldn't surprise me if it got more use.


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