Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Name Round Up: Inspired by the Tarot

Tarot cards are arguably the most popular form of divination in the modern Pagan world. Let's see if there are any names to be gleaned from them.

Tarot cards were invented in Medieval Italy as a regular deck of playing cards. It's probably not surprising then that the original iconography was a lot more Catholic than it is today. They didn't really become associated with mysticism or the occult until the 1700s. The major arcana has 22 cards and was originally called the trump cards because they were used for gambling. The minor arcana looks a lot more like a regular deck of playing cards except instead of clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades there's cups, wands, pentacles, and swords. Each card has a pictogram that represents a certain concept.

It is a myth that Pagans use tarot cards to "see the future" in a literal sense. Most people who give readings will tell you that tarot cards show you the forces at work in your life and help you see what your next steps should be.

I've only had two tarot readings in my life. The first person was obviously only telling me what I wanted to hear, the other read my life with stunning accuracy and I hadn't told her a thing. I've tried to do my own readings but it's not easy. It's a very intuitive process, and I am not the world's most intuitive person. I have recently gotten really into collecting tarot card decks. I see them as art pieces.

Here's some name options inspired by the major arcana.

1. Temperance. The most obvious name in the entire deck. The Temperance card usually shows a person (oftentimes a woman) pouring water from one vessel to another. It represents balance, moderation, and the blending of opposites.

2. Fortuna. In English decks it's "Fortune" or "Wheel of Fortune," and in the original Italian it was known as La Rotta ("The Wheel"). In the oldest cards it depicts the goddess Fortuna. This card represents sudden change and opportunity.

3. Cosmo/Cosimo/Cosima/Cosmina/etc. In most decks the last card in the Major Arcana is known as The World. But in some decks it's known as The Universe instead. This card traditionally represents wholeness and success.

4. Tarot. I've seen this suggested as a name a few time. Tarot is derived from the Italian tarocchi, which has no known etymology.

5. Justice. Another slightly obvious choice, although Justice isn't used as much as Justin. This card is associated with the goddess Athena/Minerva (and traditionally depicts her) and represents intellect, objectivity, and responsibility.

6. Stella. The Star card would have been known as La Stella in Italy. This card shows a naked woman at nighttime pouring water on land and earth. It represents tranquility, hope, and goodwill.

7. Thoth. It is not uncommon for different artists to do more with their own deck outside of simply creating new artwork. They can also reinvent the meanings of the cards and create new cards. Aleister Crowley did just that when he created the Thoth deck. Thoth is the Ancient Egyptian god of writing, science, and judgment.

8. Joan. The card now known as The High Priestess was originally known as The Popess. This could be in reference to the legendary Pope Joan who allegedly became Pope while disguised as a man. The High Priestess is associated with secrets, mystery, and powerful feminine forces.

9. Adelaide. The card known as The Empress may elude to Empress Adelaide, who was beatified by the Catholic Church. This card represents fertility, desire, and beauty.

10. Forteza. Now known as Strength, it's Italian name was La Forteza, meaning the same thing. This card is also sometimes called Fortitude, which could also work as a name. The Strength card shows either a man or woman with a lion and represents perseverance, self control, and kindness.

11. Mort. Obviously, this is in reference to the Death card, which is not as ominous and literal as the movies make it out to be. This card traditionally depicts a skeleton riding a horse and represents the ending of a chapter in life. Mort could be short for something. Like Mortimer.

12. Sagitta. The card now known as The Tower, which depicts an apocalyptic scene of people falling from a crumbling and flaming building, was originally known as La Sagitta ("The Arrow"). This doesn't seem to make any sense, unless it's referring to the lightning bolt striking the building. This card represents chaos, uncomfortable revelations, and ruin. Boy, the Death card is looking a lot better, isn't it?

13. Crescent. In reference to The Moon. Okay, I could have very easily went with Luna, but I wanted to go the less obvious route. The Moon card represents imagination and confusion.


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Wednesday, July 3, 2013


I know that my Uniquely American Name Themes have been popular in the past but, as you can probably guess, I didn't get a great head start on them this year. Plus, it's getting harder to find uniquely American names to talk about. This might be the only one this year as I'll be gone having fun most of tomorrow.

Stormalong is a name that you might have heard of if you live in Massachusetts. It's worn by an old folk hero that appears in a genre of traditional American literature called the tall tale. These stories originated from bragging contests held by frontier men. This genre has created many iconic and beloved heroes like Davy Crocket, Johnny Appleseed, Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Calamity Jane.

Alfred Bulltop Stormalong is a seafaring dude. He was originally described as a pirate to me, but he never actually looks for treasure or anything else related to pirating, so he's really just a sailor. It's unknown if Stormalong is partially based on a real person or not. He is said to start the tradition of referring to fishermen as "able-bodied" because he always signed his name as "Stormalong, A. B."

According to the stories, Stormalong is a giant of a man. Literally. Like thirty feet tall. He has an enormous ship to fit him, called either the Tuscarora or the Courser depending on the story. It has a stable of Arabian horses so that the crew could ride from one side of the boat to the other, and it's masts were hinged in order to avoid knocking into the moon. Like Ahab and the Great White Whale, Stormalong has an oceanic nemesis: the Kraken of Norse mythology. It's this rivalry that dominates most of his tales.

I've only seen one family use this name, and that was how I was introduced to it. I'm assuming that Stormalong is an invented name. It first appeared in a collection of sea shanties collected by Stan Hugill, who traced it back to African American folk songs. As far as tall tales go, Stormalong is not one of the more popular ones. Many have probably never heard of him.

But we are naming kids Storm and Stormy. Stormalong just seems like their eccentric brother. I like it. I like it a lot. It's lyrical and adventurous. Meeting a Stormalong in the playground would make me smile.


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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Spirit Animal Round Up: Eagle

Yes, I know that I said that turtle was going to be the next animal round up. I lied. Because a certain American holiday is coming up.

This bird has long been a symbol of leadership, power, and masculinity in many cultures. The eagle is the national symbol of the United States, but it's the national symbol of a lot of other places too. The famous Bald Eagle, on the other hand, is unique to North America. Eagles feature prominently in the mythology of almost all Native American tribes. Some believed that they were the earthly incarnation of the Thunderbird. Eagle feathers were given to non-indigenous people and Natives from other tribes as a sign of trust, but this traditions is not often practiced anymore as it is illegal to own an eagle feather in the United States. Not everyone thought that the Bald Eagle was the best choice for our mascot (Teddy Roosevelt thought that it should be the grizzly bear, go figure). But our love for the Bald Eagle has held fast, and the bird was even rescued from the brink of extinction.

So in honor of the upcoming Independence Day, here are some names inspired by the eagle:

1. Aquila. Literally means "eagle" in Latin and is what the English word is derived from.

2. Zeus/Jupiter/Jove. The eagle is the patron animal of the ruler of the Gods.

3. Ptolemy. The eagle appeared on the seal of the Ptolemaic rulers of Egypt. The most famous member of this family was Cleopatra. Greek for "warlike."

4. Vega. This star is known as "the falling eagle" or "the swooping eagle" in Arabic.

5. Griffin. A griffin is the chimera of an eagle and a lion, so it could work here.

6. Arnold. A German name meaning "eagle power."

7. Golden. In reference to the Golden Eagle, the most widely distributed species. It is also the largest eagle species.

8. Erne. It means "the soarer" in Anglo-Saxon and it's another name for the White-Tailed Eagle in parts of Scotland.

9. Garuda. Garuda is a lesser Hindu god who looks mostly human except for his eagle's wings and beak. He's a pal of Vishnu's and regularly gives him a ride.

10. Roc. A giant eagle capable of eating elephants from Persian mythology. The creature was popularized in the West due to stories like One Thousand and One Nights and Sinbad the Sailor. Also spelled Rokh.

11. Pallas. In reference to Pallas' Sea Eagle from Central Asia. It is, unfortunately, a rare bird nowadays.

12. Steller. In reference to Steller's Sea Eagle from coastal Northeast Asia. On average, this is the heaviest eagle in the world. Steller could also work as a virtue name, come to think of it.

13. Rome/Roman/Roma. In ancient times, the eagle was the symbol of the Ancient Roman army.


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