Thursday, January 31, 2013


Ursula Rowe has requested Minerva, and what a witchy name it is.

Minerva (pronounced "mih-NER-vah") is the name of an Roman goddess. Many sources will state that her name is derived from the Latin word mens, meaning "mind" or "intellect." However, Minerva is based off of an earlier goddess from Etruscan traditions called Menrva, who was originally called Meneswa. She was only equated with Athena later. Meneswa means "she who measures."

Minerva is the daughter of Jupiter and as the stories go she was born in the same way that Athena was: she burst fully formed out of his forehead. She presides over wisdom, medicine, commerce, poetry, crafts, weaving, and magic. She was worshipped throughout Italy but Rome was the only place in which she shared the same warlike attributes of Athena. She is often depicted with an owl, but the Romans actually didn't like owls the same way the Greeks did. They thought they were bad omens. It made no sense to keep it but I guess they did.

The cult of Minerva spread pretty far throughout Europe. In Britain she was often equated with the local goddess of wisdom named Sulis. According to Etruscan traditions she is part of a holy triad that included Tinia, the supreme god, and Uni, the supreme goddess. She is also a part of the Capitoline Triad with Juno and Jupiter. In Ancient Rome, her festival is called Quinquatria and it took place from March 19th to March 23rd. The day was particularly important to artisans.

Today, there are literally tons of public monuments to this goddess, usually in universities and libraries. Seriously, there is a long list of institutions devoted to learning that make references to her. Minerva is displayed on the Medal of Honor, the highest military distinction awarded by the United States government. A large mosaic of Minerva is in the Library of Congress. In the early 1900s, President Manuel Jose Estrada Cabrera of Guatemala tried to start a "cult of Minerva" in his country with little success.

This is also the name of a famous fictional witch. Minerva McGonagall is a teacher at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series. As the head of the house of Gryffindor she's a pretty prominent character, and has to deal with Harry, Ron, and Hermione's adventures quite often. She is described as a severe and prim woman, but she's still pretty spry considering that she's seventy when we first meet her. She's also an Animagus, she can shape shift into a cat. At the end of the story, she is shown as a courageous warrior battling Voldemort.

Minerva has been used as a given name in the Western world ever since the close of the Renaissance. It's had more use in the United States than I first assumed. It peaked in the 1880s at #242 and wasn't off the charts until the 1970s. I suppose it fit in well with Mildred and Mabel.

I'm aware that many name enthusiasts love Minerva. I'm not a fan. I just don't like the sound. It's a bit too severe for my tastes. But if you do love the sound, than it's a great name for a Witchy family.


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  1. Thanks for the profile, Isadora! You found quite a bit more information than I ever did; but, then again, you've always been quite thorough.

    It's funny how popularity works; according to the statistics, it was quite popular, and yet I've never heard of a Minerva that's not fictional or mythological. Maybe there's a pocket of aging Minervas somewhere? Who knows?

    Again, thanks, and love the site!

  2. This is my cat's name! We call her Minnie - love the name but couldn't use it on a human... plus I never had a girl.

  3. I'm with you - it's not a name I can warm to personally, but can totally understand someone else loving it.

    It's a big name to live up to, but it has the fashionable M and the fashionable V in it, and you get the cute nn Minnie from it.


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