Thursday, February 28, 2013


Sorry for the long absence. Did you miss me? The botanical Fern was requested by Bree.

It should come to no surprise to anyone that has actually seen a fern that it's name comes from the same root as "feather" and "wing:" the Proto-Indo-European por-no. No doubt it was given to the plant in reference to the delicate appearance of it's leaves. Ferns are an ancient species of plant with fossils dating back to 360 million years ago. That would make them older than dinosaurs. There are many species of ferns that can live in a wide variety of habitats. The most common places are woodlands, mountains, swamps, tropical forests, deserts, and fields. In some places, they can be a very serious weed.

In Neo-Paganism and spell casting, ferns are predominantly used for protection. An English tradition says that hanging dried fern leaves inside the house will protect the inhabitants. They can also be carried by travelers for this purpose. Due to the plant's ability to grow as if from thin air (ferns reproduce via spores), it was believed that ferns could grant invisibility. Ferns have no flowers or seeds, but that doesn't stop such things from appearing in mythology. There are many Northern European traditions that say that fern flowers and seeds grant happiness or riches. Ferns have very few practical uses, although they can be eaten and used for decoration.

Many baby name resources might say that Fern first appeared as a given name in the classic children's book Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, but that is simply not possible. The book was published in 1952 and the name's peak in the United States was before that. Remember the Victorian flower craze? Well, there was a similar craze for all things fern going on at the same time called "Pteridomania." Fern motifs were printed onto everything. I'm willing to bet that that's when the name first came into use. Speaking of the Victorians, in their "language of the flowers" ferns symbolize magic, sincerity, and fascination.

Fern is a name with a retro vibe. It peaked in the 1910s at #197 and dropped sharply off the charts during the 1950s. Ferne peaked during the same time at #450. It has never been used as a boy's name with any regularity, which is somewhat surprising to me. We use Fernando, Fernand, and Vern, so why not Fern?

I really like this name. I think the time is ripe for a revival on this one. What do you guys think?


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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Spirit Animal Round Up: Snake

It is now the Chinese Year of the Snake! It started on February 10th, so I'm a little late to the party. Nevertheless, it's a good time to catalogue a few snaky names for the year to come.

Like the owl, the snake is another animal that is highly respected by Neo-Pagans but distrusted and feared in many other cultures. The most obvious example is in Judeo-Christian mythology due to the association with Adam and Eve and the fall of man. Snakes are often equated with Satan because of this story. However, the snake has a long connection with creation, fertility, feminine energy, and wisdom. Depictions of the Great Goddess often have a snake as her familiar. Snakes can symbolize the umbilical cord tying us to the Great Mother and they are worshipped as guardians of birth.

For this list, I tried to stay away from vicious sounding names like Viper, Venom, and Cobra, if that's alright with everyone. There are still plenty to choose from:

1. Serpentine. A word used to mean anything from "snake-like," "winding," or "devious." This is also the name of a gemstone.

2. Asp. A specific species of snake common in the Nile region, asps were a symbol of royalty in Ancient Egypt. Famous for being Cleopatra's suicide method.

3. Egle. In a Lithuanian fairy tale, Egle is a maiden who marries a sea snake. Her name means "fir tree."

4. Veles. From Scandinavian mythology, Veles is the god of the Underworld who takes on the form of either a snake or a dragon depending on which stories you read.

5. Apophis. "To slither" in Greek. It comes from the Ancient Egyptian Apep, a snake god representing chaos.

6. Ouroboros. The name of the iconic "snake eating it's own tail" symbol, representing the idea of eternity.

7. Naga. There are lots of snakes in Hindu mythology and Naga is Sanskrit for "serpent," think Nagini. Oddly, Naga could also mean "elephant." There's also Nagendra, meaning "lord of snakes."

8. Adder. We have Adam and Asher, why not Adder?

9. Ethelinda. An Archaic English name meaning "noble snake."

10. Tanith. The Phoenician goddess of the moon, the stars, love, and fertility. Her name means "serpent lady."

11. Rainbow. Many people in Australia and Africa have myths about a Rainbow Snake. This being is either believed to be Mother Earth or a water god.

12. Ophion. In Greek mythology, a snake named Ophion incubated the primordial egg from which all things were born.

13. Eobshin. The Korean snake goddess of wealth. Wealth was tied to crops and snakes ate the mice and rats that destroyed them, so the connection makes sense.

So how about you? Have you ever seen any snake inspired names?


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Friday, February 15, 2013


To those who celebrate it, Blessed Lupercalia! It's the perfect time to profile one of my all-time favorite boy names: Romulus.

Romulus (pronounced "ROM-yoo-lus") is a Latin name meaning "man of Rome." As the name would suggest Romulus, along with his twin brother Remus, are the mythical founders of Rome. His mother was Princess Rhea Silvia of Alba Longa and his father was either Mars or Hercules depending on who you ask. Rhea's father, King Numitor, was usurped by his brother Amulius. Amulius killed all of Numitor's male heirs and forced Rhea to be a Vestal Virgin. It was during this time that the twins were conceived.

When they were born, Amulius ordered that the boys be abandoned in the wilderness. Romulus and Remus were carried away safely by the River Tiber, a mother wolf found them and suckled them, and they were fed by a woodpecker. This she-wolf is sometimes believed to be the goddess Lupa, and the holiday of Lupercalia was held partially in honor of her. Eventually, the shepherd Faustulus and his wife found Romulus and Remus and raise them as their own. Although they are raised to be simple shepherds, the boys grew up to be natural leaders. The two came into conflict with the shepherds of their old home, and Remus was arrested by Amulius. The truth of the boy's parentage was uncovered (I'm not sure how). Romulus rescued Remus and killed Amulius, and Numitor was returned to the throne.

Rather than wait to inherit the throne of Alba Longa, Romulus and Remus set out to build their own city. The two brothers got into a heated argument regarding the placement of the city and Romulus killed Remus. Considering that history I would think that naming twins Romulus and Remus would be inauspicious. In any case, Romulus named the new city Roma after himself. The place attracted exiles, outcasts, criminals, and runaway slaves. But they soon ran into a problem: there was a shortage of marriageable women. So they kidnapped a bunch from the neighboring tribes: the Sabines and the Latins. That didn't go over well with the girl's fathers, but the two tribes were defeated by Romulus.

Romulus was a respected ruler for most of his life. Over the course of two decades he gradually expanded Rome's territory. He ruled the people of the conquered nations fairly. The city became a democracy with a Senate and a Governor. But as Romulus grew older he became more "king-like." The decisions of the Senate held less and less weight as Romulus did what he wanted without their consent. Resentment grew into hatred and Romulus died under suspicious circumstances (the official story is that he "vanished" in a "storm"). After his death, Romulus is deified and is sometimes identified with Quirinus, the patron god of Rome.

There was no doubt in the Ancient Roman's minds that Romulus was a real person. Modern historians are more doubtful. Romulus' name is part of the problem. You can't be named after a city that doesn't exist yet. Ultimately, it makes no difference whether this story literally happened or not. The story of Romulus and Remus is iconic, a reflection of what the Ancient Romans liked about themselves.

Romulus has never been a common name in the United States. But the popularity of names like Atticus and Augustus make me think that Romulus could get picked up by more people. Romulo is one variant form. Some might not like Romulus because the morals of the mythological namesake are a bit...spotty. But that doesn't bother me. I love the strength and wildness attached to the name. And it references my Italian heritage. It's definitely in the running when the time comes for me to have a son.


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Thursday, February 14, 2013


Saranel requested Briar because she knows someone who is considering it for their son.

Briar (pronounced "BRIY-er") is an English nature name. It comes from the West Saxon language and it means "bramble" or "prickly bush." Originally this word was used to refer to all thorny bushes, but now it's used specifically for wild roses.

This name could also be a variant of Briareus. In Greek mythology, Briareus was a giant and a god of sea storms. The son of Uranus and Gaia, he had fifty heads and one hundred hands. He's credited with inventing warships. In the Iliad, Homer stated that only the gods could call him Briareus. Mortals could only address him as Aegaeon. His name comes from the Greek word briaros, meaning "strong" or "sturdy."

But when you mention this name, most people will think less about giants and more about princesses. "Briar Rose" or "Little Briar Rose" is a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm, but the story is more commonly known by it's French title: "The Sleeping Beauty." I assume most everyone knows the story, so I won't rehash it here. But some might not know why she is called Briar Rose. The reason she has that name is because during the one hundred years when the princess was in an enchanted sleep briars slowly grew around and encased the castle. So the princess was the "rose" in the briar. The original versions of the story involved a Part II in which the prince takes Briar Rose and their two children to visit his mother who has ogre heritage. In typical ogre mother-in-law fashion, she tries to eat Briar Rose and her children while her son is away. In retellings of Sleeping Beauty she's not always named Briar Rose (she's Aurora in the Disney version) so not everyone is familiar with the fairy tale connection.

Briar has never been a common name in the United States. This name is traditionally given to girls but, as I said before, it feels more like a boy's name to me because of the thorny meaning and it's similarity to Brian. That seems to be a growing opinion as I see it suggested as a boy's name more and more. Variations include Brier, Briarly, and Brierly. I've also seen Briarose.

Even though I can't imagine using it for a daughter at all I think it's a great name for both genders. It's strong, has a connection to the natural world, and can be found in literature. What more could a Witch want?


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Tuesday, February 5, 2013


Since this goddess is responsible for making winter, and we are slowly moving into spring (around here, anyways), this is an appropriate time of year to be profiling her name.

Demeter (pronounced "deh-MEE-ter") is a Greek name. Most sources will state that the name comes from the elements da ("earth") and meter ("mother") which would make the meaning "earth mother." That is the most popular theory and it makes perfect sense. But the "De-" could also come from deo, meaning "barley," turning the meaning into "corn mother." This also works as Demeter is seen as a food giver in general. Lastly, "De-" could come from the Proto-Indo-European dem which means "house." "Mother of the House." All of these explanations fit.

Demeter is the Greek goddess of agriculture and the harvest and that is how she is most well known. However, she also presides over the sanctity of marriage, sacred law, and the cycle of live and death. She may be linked to an earlier goddess from Minoan Crete traditions or maybe even the pre-Hellenic Great Goddess. In Homer's The Odyssey she's described as a blond. Demeter is the daughter of Cronos, the sister of Zeus and Poseidon, and the mother of Persephone. Her Roman equivalent is Ceres.

According to some of the oldest myths, Poseidon and Demeter conceived Persephone when they were in the form of horses. As a mare-goddess, Demeter tried to hide from Poseidon amongst the horses of King Onkios. This didn't work. Poseidon found her right away. Demeter was furious at Poseidon's assault but washed her anger away in the River Ladon. Persephone was born as a horse but changed into human form later along with her parents. In some versions of the story the union also conceived Arion, an immortal stallion. He did not change into a human, but he could speak.

Demeter features prominently in story of Persephone and Hades. Demeter was very protective of her daughter, and hid her away from men. That didn't stop Hades from falling in love with Persephone and stealing her away. Wild in her grief, she neglected her duties as the goddess of the harvest and created winter, which killed all the plants and a good number of animals and humans. Some might argue that the overbearing mother figure that went crazy and killed a whole bunch of mortals isn't a great namesake. But come on, her daughter was kidnapped! Wouldn't you go a little crazy?

Demeter has never been a common name in the United States. Variations include Demetrius, Dimitri, Demitry, and Demitria. A lot of these variations are well used in Russia, or at least that's my impression. I was shocked to find that some baby name resources will only list Demeter as a boy's name. So like Artemis it is a unisex goddess name.

Persephone's been getting some attention and I wonder why some of that love hasn't reached over to Demeter yet. Personally I like Demeter much better. Ever since I first heard it as one of the "sensible, everyday names" you could give a cat in the musical I've loved this name. The "overbearing mother" tag doesn't bother me. It's a good, strong Witchy name.


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Saturday, February 2, 2013


Blessed Imbolc to everyone in the northern hemisphere, and a Blessed Lughnasahd to everyone in the south!

Candle is derived from the Latin candela, a word which refers to the same object. Candela comes from candere, meaning "to shine." I assume that everyone who is reading this knows what a candle is. Candles were used heavily by the Etruscans and the Ancient Romans and they were the first to use them in the Western world. The technology was unknown by the Ancient Greeks as their olive oil lamps were sufficient.

Candles have been used for a number of purposes throughout history and were particularly important before the use of electricity. The earliest candles were made by the Chinese at around 200 BC. Obviously, candles were used for light and heat. It was common to use candles to tell time. The custom of putting candles on a birthday cake was started by the Germans. Today, candles are mainly used for ambiance and scent, but they also have a strong religious connotation. They are a traditional element of Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, and Neo-Pagan rituals.

So why am I even bringing this up as a name? When the Christians adopted this holiday they changed it to Candlemas (and eventually the more secular Groundhog Day). Imbolc is also considered a ritual of fire. It is traditional to light a candle in each room to honor the sun's rebirth. Some Witches like to take on the Scandinavian tradition of wearing a wreath of lit candles on their heads. On this holiday, the candles represent illumination and inspiration. That makes Candle an interesting option for anyone who is born on this holiday.

I've seen Candle used as a name exactly two times. One was on a fictional character from the Wicked books by Gregory Maguire and I saw that For Real Baby Names found it on a real person. Someone who makes candles is traditionally known as a Chandler, and anyone who remembers the television show Friends knows that that can be used as a name too. And if people can used Christmas as a name then they can certainly use Candlemas as well.

Candle is a very unusual option, but I don't think it's completely daffy. You just need to consider what the candle represents.


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