Saturday, May 25, 2013


I did not just make this one up, although I don't blame you for thinking that. I have actually seen this used on a person. Her parents were scientists, so I suppose it was a meaningful choice for them. I find it intriguing.

Chrysalis (pronounced "KRIS-uh-lis") is a scientific term that refers to the pupa stage of a butterfly, the time in which the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon and changes into it's adult form. The word comes from the Greek khrysallis, and roughly means "golden sheath." This name comes from the metallic gold coloration that many butterfly pupae have. Butterflies in this stage of development could also be referred to as an aurelia or a nympha.

The process that a chrysalis goes through is actually pretty gross. Once the cocoon is formed, it liquidizes it's whole body. A chrysalis is literally a bag of fluid filled with growing cells that create the butterfly's body parts. Many people confuse the cocoon as being a part of the chrysalis (even dictionaries make this mistake), but it is protecting it separately.

Outside the world of insects, chrysalis has another meaning. It could be used to describe a project or idea that is in development. The name does appear in literature and films and there is a decidedly science fiction slant to the namesakes. It's the name of a story be Ray Bradbury, a French science fiction film, and an alien species in a computer game to name a few. And I had to laugh when I saw that it was the name of a character from My Little Pony.

Chrysalis has never been a common name in the United States. I think it works great for both genders but it might read as feminine to most people. First because of the nickname Chrystie or Chrysta, second because of the connection to butterflies.

Chrysalis has a beautiful sound and would be an interesting name to use for a person born in the springtime.


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Wednesday, May 1, 2013


Blessed Beltane, everyone! And a Blessed Samhain to everyone in the Southern Hemisphere! Since flowers are very important in this festival let's talk about Yarrow.

Yarrow (pronounced "YEH-row") is an English word derived from the Proto-Germanic garwo. It has never meant anything other that "yarrow." It is possibly related to the word "yellow" but no one is certain of that. The scientific name for this plant is Achillea millefolium, but people also call this plant Milfoil, Seven Days Love, Woundwort, Plumajillo ("little feather") and Devil's Nettle (the later comes from it's association with Witches).

Yarrow is native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere specifically in Europe, Asia, and North America. The plant is known for it's strong, sweet smell and it's featherlike leaves. It's flowers come in many different colors. It is considered a great plant to have in a garden because it repels insect pest and attracts predatory insects that eat insect pests.

But that's not the only benefit yarrow gives us. This plant has a long tradition of being used for medicinal purposes, and most of its healing properties have been proven. Yarrow was often used in battle during ancient and medieval times because it encouraged clots and stopped the flow of blood. It's naturally dark blue essential oil can be used as an anti-inflammatory and is classically used to treat colds and the flu. Yarrow is traditionally used in Native American medicine by tribes all across the country. Yarrow is also edible, and was a very popular dietary staple in Europe during the middle ages (although pregnant women should not eat yarrow). It was also occasionally used as a flavoring for beer. Even birds know that this plant is useful. The common starling uses yarrow to line their nests because it keeps parasites away.

It should be no surprise that yarrow shows up a lot in mythology. Yarrow features heavily in Chinese culture where it is considered lucky. For example, they say that they grow around the grave of Confucius. In Greek mythology, the centaur Chiron taught Achilles how to use yarrow on the battle field, knowledge that he later used in Troy. In Britain, they were commonly placed in Saxon amulets for protection.

Yarrow is especially connected to Beltane because of it's use in love and fertility spells. This plant is associated with Aphrodite, one of the goddesses of this holiday. In nursery rhymes, placing a satchel of yarrow under your pillow will make you dream of your true love. Using it as wedding decorations and placing it over the marriage bed will guarantee at least seven years of love and passion. An old British tradition dictates that shaking a yarrow leaf inside ones nostril determines the devotion of a lover. If it bleeds, his love is true (this is not particularly reliable, yarrow is a nasal irritant so if you stick it up your nose it's going to bleed no matter what). Yarrow is also used to boost courage and self esteem, things you also need in order to have a healthy relationship with someone. If a large patch of yarrow grows in a field it is believed that there's a lot of energy grounded in that space. They are good places to relax and meditate. Yarrow can also be used to drive away negativity.

Yarrow has never been a common name in the United States. I don't even see any indication that it was used during the Victorian flower craze. But the popularity of Willow makes me think that it's not so crazy. In Neo-Pagan tradition the plant is considered feminine, but lots of baby name resources that I've seen will list this as a boys name. This is most likely due to it's history as a surname. I think it works just fine for either.

Yarrow is interesting to me. I don't think I would ever use it, but the plant's history only shows good things. It's a great unusual botanical name for a little Witchlet.


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