Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Name Round Up: Inspired by Sagittarius

And so it has come to an end. I started with Capricorn, so that would make this the last one.

This post is also late as the month of Saggitarius ended ten days ago, but I've had day after day of family obligations. Forgive me?

So if naming your child Sagittarius is not your style, here are some other ideas:

1. Archer. Probably the most obvious option, this one has been getting increasingly more popular.

2. Bowman. I haven't seen this one used as a first name, but it means the exact same thing as Archer.

3. Chiron. The name of the centaur that the constellation of Sagittarius represents. Chiron is known for being a father figure and teacher to many boys in mythology, including Achilles. His name is Greek for "hand."

4. Arrow. Another archery related name. I've seen this used a few times on little boys.

5. Bow. A less obvious and less used archer related name.

6. Katniss. I'm not kidding. The scientific name for this plant is Saggitaria.

7. Nona. Latin prefix for "ninth." Sagittarius is the ninth astrological sign.

8. Moran. Means "teacher" in Hebrew. Sagittarians are very intelligent and like to share what they're learning with others.

9. Freedom. Sagittarians don't like anything holding them down.

10. Joy. Sagittarians tend to be jovial and good humored.

11. Jove/Jupiter. Sagittarians are ruled by this planet.

12. Plum. The color most associated with Sagittarius is deep purple.

13. Topaz. Other gemstone names that work well with Sagittarius are Amethyst, Ruby, Turquoise, and Sapphire.


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Friday, December 13, 2013

Very Late Baby Name Advice Part 2: Baby Leonardis

I have another request for baby name advice and this one is for a little Leonardis. This baby is due on March 12, so I'm still on time!

The sex of the baby is unknown, but it doesn't really matter because the family has a preference for unisex names. The parents are hobo style travelers (he hops freight trains, she hitch hikes) so a name with a sense of adventure is key. Because the baby will be a Pisces, Mama Leonardis is also looking for water names. She prefers the first, middle, and last names to all have a different amount of syllables. Here are the names that they like so far:


So far the winner is Farren because it rhymes with the mother's name (Lauren) and it means "traveler" (more on that later), but she has a hard time finding middle names to fit.

They're lifestyle is so fascinating! Their adventurous ways made me immediately think of Venture, Meander, Wilde/Wilder, Sojourner/Sojourn, Journey, and Odyssey. Venture Leonardis. Journey Leonardis. Meander Leonardis. I've even seen Traveler used as a name, but perhaps that's a little too obvious.

Peregrine/Peregrin also sprung into my mind very quickly. It means "pilgrim." Peregrine Leonardis. Pippin is a variant, if you don't mind the hobbit association. Rumer could also work, as it references pilgrims going to Rome. Rumer Leonardis. Rover means "wanderer," if you can get over the dog association. Wallace/Wallis means "foreigner." Mercury is a god of travelers, and even though he's a man the -ee sound at the end would make it okay for a girl. Or how about Atlas? I think a family like yours could pull of Atlas on a girl.

It might also help to look at famous explorers for inspiration. Kit (Carson), Meriwether (Lewis), and Osa (Johnson) are ones that seem a bit more unisex.

Ocean makes me think of River. River Leonardis. Or Mariner, Harbor, Cove, LakeRain, Delphin ("dolphin"), Kai ("sea"), Marlowe ("drained lake"), Afon ("river"), Dacre ("trickling stream"), and Morgan ("sea warrior"). Delphin Leonardis. Harbor Leonardis. Afon Leonardis. Mako (like the shark) could be interesting. Horizon is also lovely. Faro means "beacon" or "lighthouse," technically not water related but close enough. Faro Leonardis.

It seems like you enjoy unusual virtue names in general. Silence and Surrender make me think of Revere, Resolute, Prosper, Concord, Valor, Peace, Bravery/Brave, Courage, Merit, Freedom, and True. Prosper Leonardis. Freedom Leonardis.

Another name that rhymes with Lauren is Claren. Claren Leonardis. Koren, Oren, and Maren also come to mind. Or how about just Wren? Wren Leonardis.

Asa is a style outlier as it doesn't appear to have anything to do with travel or water. It's an Old Testament name, but it's also a name found in several African cultures, Japan, Indonesia, and Portugal. I'm not sure what to make of it honestly. In any case some names with a similar style are Avi, Noa, Levi, Kaya, Mose, and Zev.

But to be honest, I have a strong suspicion that Lauren already knows the baby's name: it's Farren. I've done some research and found that Farren/Faron is an Old English name meaning "handsome servant" and could have possibly been an old occupational surname for people who herded oxen. I was concerned that I was going to have to break the news that the favorite name doesn't mean what Mama thinks it means. But then I saw that Farren/Faron could also be a variant of Faramond, an Old English boy's name meaning "traveler's protection." Faramond might also be a possibility. Faramond Leonardis.

Still, I'm pretty certain that Farren is the baby's name. She just hasn't found the right middle name. Part of the problem might be the desire to have all the names containing a different number of syllables. It's a bit too stringent a requirement in my eyes. Let's try it out by saying this name out loud:

Farren Rumer Leonardis

...Sounds perfectly fine to me. Here are some other combos:

Farren Bravery Leonardis
Farren Cove Leonardis
Farren Mercury Leonardis
Farren Journey Leonardis
Farren Peace Leonardis
Farren River Leonardis
Farren Zev Leonardis
Farren Gypsy Leonardis
Farren Prosper Leonardis
Farren Odyssey Leonardis

Here's more combos with other first names:

Noa Faramond Leonardis
Peregrine Kai Leonardis
Faro Horizon Leonardis
Gypsy Afon Leonardis
Prosper Avi Leonardis

The more combos I make the more it feels like Farren is THE name. So, Mama Leonardis, I hope this helped.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Very Late Baby Name Advice Part 1: Sibling for Pepper

People! I am so far behind on requests that I have two requests for name advice for upcoming pregnancy that are months old! This one in particular came to me in July for a baby that was due...early December. Ugh. Blog fail.

For the sake of fun and creativity, let us pretend that I am not a moron and that this is actually vaguely on time. I'll start with Chloe and, once again, I'm very sorry. They have one daughter already: Pepper Karen Pnina Albertine. Karen is a family name, Pnina is her Hebrew name, and Albertine is a French name honoring the grandmother's origin. The last name rhymes with "almond." The gender of the new baby was at the time unknown. She was looking for a gentle name that evoked plants and the high dessert. They've thought a lot about Fox, but that seemed way too "playful and wily."

Pepper makes me think of Forest, which could work for a boy or a girl. Or Cedar. Or Cypress. I like Pepper and Cypress for two little girls. Bryony, Clover, Juniper, Meadow, and Fawn all have potential.

If it's a boy I really like Hawthorne. Pepper and Hawthorne. Or Sage. I love Sage on a boy. Others that could work are Ash, Cyprian, Indio, Hickory, and Harvest.

The attraction to Fox makes me think of Foxbelle, which is another term for the Foxglove plant. I've heard of Foxwell and Foxworth used for boys. Reynard is a fox name that also incorporates France.

But it sounds like you want to stay away from that rascal fox energy altogether. Perhaps birds are more your thing. Bird/Birdie, Lark, Wren, Sparrow, Avi, Dove, Finch, Jay, Nightingale, Paloma, Swan, and Whimbrel work great with Pepper.

You're probably not going to like Wolf, but how about Lupin/Lupine? It's a plant name too. Pepper and Lupine.

The idea of the desert makes me think of Sirocco immediately, but perhaps it's too energetic. The desert also makes me think of shades of yellow like Saffron, Goldenrod, and Sunglow. It also makes me think of shades of brown like Copper, Tawny, and Fallow.

The attraction to Hebrew names makes me think of Zohara, Adalia, Seraphim, Zipporah, Zilpah, Salome, Tobias, Enoch, Gideon, Gershom, Malachi, Nathaniel, Ishmael, Ira, and Jethro. These will also help give the name a desert feel.

Albertine makes me think of Marcel/Marceline. Or Genevieve. Or Phillipa. Eponine is daring while still being gentle. You can also use Capucine, Celeste/Celestine, Clemence, Clotilde, Delphine, Florence, Gisele, Noemie, Ophelie, Patrice, Raphaelle, Sabine, Zephyrine, and Violette for girls. For boys I like Anatole, Auguste, Clovis, Honore, Isidore, Jules, Laurent, Phillipe, Sylvain, and Theo. Valentine could work for either gender.

Chloe didn't mention if there were any family names that she wanted to incorporate so I can't weigh in there.

Finally, here are some combinations. Somehow I don't think I have to worry about it being a mouthful considering the first child's name. I am assuming that you want to include a Hebrew, French, and nature name into the child's name:

Lupine Zipporah Raphaelle
Cypress Zohara Ophelie
Lark Salome Valentine
Delphine Goldenrod Seraphim

Whimbrel Jethro Isidore
Hawthorne Ishmael Phillipe
Wren Tobias Laurent
Theo Hickory Auguste

So that is my very, very, very late collection of ideas that will probably not help the requester at all on this point, but I hope they appreciate the thought anyway. There's always the possibility that the baby was born today.

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I am so behind on the requests. Saranel requested Antigone a while ago, so let's start with that.

Antigone (pronounced "ahn-TIH-goh-nee") is a Greek name meaning "against birth." The name suggests a lot of other figurative meanings. One of which is "against men," as the mythical Antigone defied the masculine authority common in Ancient Greek culture. It could also be interpreted as "unbending."

Antigone is the daughter of Jocosta and Oedipus, so she's a product of incest. The most famous myth regarding Antigone is a tragic one. After Oedipus' death, the kingdom of Thebes was left for his sons to rule. The plan was that they would take turns being the ruler, but Eteocles wanted all the power to himself. He cast out his brother Polynices, who set up an army to overthrow him. The battle wound up killing both brothers.

Creon, Jocosta's brother and Antigone's uncle, decided that Polynices was a traitor to Thebes. It was forbidden to provide any burial for his body, and instead it would be left out to rot and be eaten by animals. But Antigone ignored Creon's orders and buried her brother herself. She was captured and brought to Creon. There are various different endings to this story. In one, Antigone is walled up in a cave and left to die. In another, Creon orders Antigone's fiancé, Haimon, to take her and kill her. Haimon disobeys and steals her away where they eventually have a son named Maeon.

Apparently this particular myth strikes a cord with people. It has been quite popular as the years have gone by. It is the subject of many plays and operas. It is worth noting that there are two other Antigone's in Greek mythology but their stories are nowhere near as popular.

But it doesn't appear to have caught on as a given name. Not in America, at any rate. Nevertheless, there are a few real life namesakes. Antigone of Macedon and Antigone of Epirus were ancient noblewomen. Antigone Plantagenet of Gloucester was another noblewoman and the granddaughter of Henry IV of England. Most recently there is Antigone Kefala, an Australian poet.

Antigone is a heroine in ancient lore, and for that reason it should make an excellent namesake.


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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Name Round Up: Many Different Doras

It's the holiday season! A time in which we are thinking about getting gifts for our loved ones. So it's the perfect time to look for some gift-related names.

It should come as no surprise that I love Dora names. Dora is Greek for "gift." Dora is used as a standalone name nowadays, but traditionally it is more of a nickname for an infinite number of other names.

I'll admit that I've never actually read any source in which, say, Musidore is referenced as an official name. But I figured that since there is a Theodora and a Theodore, a Isadora and a Isadore, that it is not an illogical assumption to think a Musidore has existed somewhere. I only did that a few times on this list. Even if it has never existed and I just invented it, I love it anyway.

So here are some great Dora names to choose from:

Adora/Adore. "A gift."

Aldora/Aldore. "Winged gift."

Amadora/Amador. "Gift of love."

Apollodora/Apollodorus. "Gift of Apollo."

Artemidora/Artemidoros. "Gift of Artemis."

Callidora/Calidore. "Gift of beauty."

Cleodora/Cleodore. "Gift of glory/pride/fame."

Diodora/Diodorus/Diodoros. "Gift of Zeus."

Dionysodora/Dionysodoros. "Gift of Dionysus."

Eldora. In reference to El Dorado.

Elladora. Invented smoosh-name.

Eudora. "Good gift."

Floradora. Most likely an invented smoosh-name.

Heliodora/Heliodoro/Heliodoros. "Gift of the sun."

Isadora/Isidora/Isidore/Isidros/Isadoro. "Gift of Isis."

Leodora/Leodoro. Variants of Leander meaning "lion of a man."

Medora. Variant of Medea, possibly meaning "to ponder" or "cunning."

Menodora/Menodore. "Gift of the moon."

Metrodora/Metrodore. "Gift of the city."

Musidora/Musidore. "Gift of the muses."

Nymphadora/Nymphadore. "Gift of the nymphs."

Olympiodora/Olympiodoros. "Gift of Olympus."

Pandora. "All gifts."

Plutodora/Plutodore. "Gift of wealth." Might be invented.

Salvadora/Salvador. "Salvation." Usually in reference to Jesus.

Theodora/Theodore/Teodora/Teodoro/Pheodora/Pheodore/Feodora/Feodore/Dorothea/Dorothy. "Gift of God."

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Friday, November 1, 2013


Blessed Samhain! I have promised you post today and a post you shall have!

Pluto (pronounced "PLOO-toh") is the Latinized form of the Greek Plouton, meaning "wealth." I found it very interesting that a god of the Underworld would have a name meaning "wealth." This is because all forms of mineral wealth (gems and metals) are found underground, as are the seeds that give us food. Plouton was one of several names for the Greek god Hades, and there is a curious change of personality in the deity depending on which name is used. Hades is almost always portrayed unsympathetically, but Plouton/Pluto is a lot nicer. According to historical records many people preferred Pluto because he was less fear provoking. This is evidenced by the fact that there are a lot more temple's to Pluto than to Hades.

In Roman mythology, Pluto is the brother of Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, Ceres, and Vesta. Pluto's main job is to rule the Underworld and take care of all the dead people, but he was also associated with agricultural wealth and by extension fertility. The best known myth regarding Pluto/Hades involves his wife, Persephone. Hades was viewed as the violent abductor of Persephone, but Pluto treats her more as an equal. The other story that mentions him is the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Some retellings suggest that it was Pluto's love for his wife that made him especially sympathetic to the pain of parted lovers.

It's interesting to note that while most of the other gods sowed their wild oats with any living and nonliving entity, Pluto was a monogamist. He was completely devoted to Persephone. This is probably why there are not many mentions of him ever having children. If you look through ancient sources there are some scattered passages that vaguely suggest that the King and Queen of the Underworld procreated, but there are almost no names given.

I listed this as unisex because there is another mythical character with this name. She's a nymph who is sometimes listed as Plouto. She's one of the 3,000 Oceanids. She doesn't do much in mythology, but she had a child who does. Zeus had his way with her and she gave birth to Tantalus. Tantalus is interesting because he is known for being eternally punished in the Underworld for stealing the secrets of the gods.

Of course, I can't mention this name without also mentioning the not-a-planet-anymore Pluto. In 1930, this discovery was met with a lot of excitement. The Lowell Observatory received over 1,000 suggestions of names for the ninth planet from the sun. They picked Pluto, which was cooked up by an 11-year-old English child named Venetia Burney. This new planet was so popular that it had an element named after it (plutonium) and a Disney cartoon character. In 2006 it was determined that Pluto could not be a planet because it's too small. And most of it is ice. So it's a dwarf planet instead.

I think it's a shame that Pluto is not often used as a given name. I can reluctantly see why this is. It's current status notwithstanding, not many people name their children after planets. But I think most people are put off because of the cartoon dog, which is funny considering Sebastian is so popular nowadays. After reading all the history, I have to say that I've fallen in love with Pluto.


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Thursday, October 31, 2013


Happy Hallows Eve everyone (yes, Samhain is technically tomorrow)! To celebrate, I have a vampire-y name for you, and I'll have something a bit more Pagan-y tomorrow!

Marceline (pronounced either "MAHR-suh-leen" or "mahr-suh-LEEN") is the French form of the Latin name Marcella, which is the feminine form of Marcellus. It means "dedicated to Mars." Marcellus was originally a Roman surname and a diminutive of Marcus (some resources will say that Marceline means "little Marcus"). Saint Marcellus was an early Catholic pope.

A character named Marceline appears in the play and opera of The Marriage of Figaro (well, I assume she's in the opera too, I'm not sure exactly). She is a housekeeper and Figaro's mother, but she doesn't know that she's Figaro's mother. Marceline is in love with her son and is trying to marry him. Which is kind of weird.

But most people know this name because of Adventure Time. Adventure Time is technically a kid's show but there are a few jokes that children are just not going to fully understand. The humor is very weird (kind of like Ren & Stimpy) but that's why I'm a fan of it. Marceline the Vampire Queen is one of the main characters. If you've never seen the show and are concerned that this reference might be too scary, don't be. She only drinks the color red, not actual blood. Oh, and she also has a rock band.

Marceline actually spent a small amount of time on the American top 1,000 baby names. In the 1920s it ranked #785 and in the 1930s it lowered to #962. So the name is vaguely retro. The variant Marcheline has been getting some attention recently thanks to Angelina Jolie. She named her daughter Vivienne Marcheline after her mother Marcheline Bertrand. But there's still not enough interest for it to appear on the charts, though.

I'll admit that Marceline is one of my favorite names mostly because of Adventure Time. I don't see that as a problem. Sure, the show is very successful, but it's still not famous to the point that people outside the nerd-o-sphere will necessarily recognize the reference. Also, the name has a history beyond that. I've been seeing some Marcel's and Marcello's in America, so why not Marceline?


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Saturday, October 19, 2013


Samhain is coming up so I should probably have some fun with some darker names. Bathory is one such offering.

Bathory (pronounced "BATH-ohr-ee," at least America) is the name of a Hungarian noble family (side note: usually there is a little accent mark over the "a" in this name, but I still can't seem to figure out how to type stuff like that). They are very important to the history of that region, particularly during the late Middle Ages. Several Princes of Hungary and one King of Poland were Bathorys.

The family first emerged during the 1200s. King Ladislaus IV gave several men (who happened to be all related) an estate called Bator in order to honor them for military service. Eventually one man, Briccius, became the soul owner of the property and all of his decedents were given the name Bathory, meaning "of Bator."

The Bathorys are apparently so important that they have their own legend describing how they got their name. The story goes that there was once a warrior named Vitus who slayed a dragon that was terrorizing the local townspeople. The grateful citizens honored him by giving him the name Bathory, which supposedly means "good hero." It doesn't in real life. But the word the name came from, Bator, is Hungarian for "brave" or "valiant" so that's kind of true if you squint hard enough.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get to the Bathory family's most infamous member: Countess Erzsebet "Elizabeth" Bathory de Ecsed. One of her nicknames is "Countess Dracula" and she is labeled to be the most prolific female serial killer in history. The legend states that she tortured and killed 650 adolescent girls (a number which, as far as I can tell, was plucked from the ether since estimations vary greatly) in the belief that bathing in their blood would reverse aging. She also took pleasure in beating them, biting off chunks of their flesh, freezing them to death, and mutilating their hands. Bathory was never tried or convicted, supposedly because of her rank. But she was punished. She was locked in a tower until she died.

The story is so unbelievably horrific. It is so unbelievably horrific that some historians that you shouldn't believe it. There was no fair trial or hard evidence that any of this happened. There weren't even any bodies examined. She was a highly educated widow with a very valuable estate. It was rumored that she was a lesbian. To top it all off, the local king owed her a fortune of money that he could not repay. Is it so hard to believe that the whole story's a product of mass hysteria and greed? And the whole bathing in blood thing? Never actually mentioned in any of the witness testimonies at the time. That was tacked on to the story afterwards. Being a Wiccan means that I read a lot of stories about unfairly demonized women, so naturally I'm very skeptical of the Bathory folklore.

Yet many historians still push the "Countess Dracula" image (I guess because it makes a good story) and as a result Bathory has never been a common given name in the United States. In a vacuum, Bathory is a fashionable sounding choice. Kind of like Romilly or Bellamy. This is a name that I can see appealing to very gothic types. It is also worth mentioning in passing that Bathory is the name of a rock band.

I can't imagine this name being attractive to many people, but I've seen dark names used on little ones before. So if you run a little bit on the dark side and you don't care what anyone else thinks, Bathory might be for you.


Image Credit:
"Horned Witch" French School, unknown artist

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Thanks to AWdM for requesting Lyra.

Lyra is a Greek name meaning "harp." It seems like there is some debate over the pronunciation, but all official sources I've found say "LIY-rah." Lyre is the masculine version and that sounds like "liar," so there you go.

Lyre is the name of arguably the most famous ancient musical instrument, the predecessor of the harp. In Greek mythology it is strongly associated with the myth of Orpheus. This is the same guy that botched his attempt at getting his wife Eurydice back from the dead. After Orpheus was killed, his lyre was thrown into the river. Zeus sent his pet eagle to retrieve it. The eagle and the harp were both turned into a constellation.

Different cultures interpreted Lyra differently. In Wales, the constellation is known as King Arthur's Harp or King David's Harp. The Persian poet Hafiz referred to it as the Lyre of Zurah. Vega is Lyra's most notable star, so it's not surprising that this constellation is also associated with eagles and vultures. The Incas called this constellation Urcuchillay, who is a multicolored llama deity who watched over animals. For you Christians, this constellation has been called Praesepe Salvatoris, or the Manger of the Infant Savior.

But most people love this name because of His Dark Materials. Lyra Belacqua is the protagonist of the celebrated trilogy written Phillip Pullman. I've never read it, but I've heard that the trilogy could be read as Pagan friendly and/or Atheist (which is why it's gotten some controversy). It includes witches, different dimensions, polar bears in suits of armor, and spirit animal-like beings called daemons.

This name has been getting some attention from name enthusiasts but has never been a common name in the United States (although I hear it's fairly well used in England and Wales). The pronunciation of the boy's name Lyre is problematic, but Lyra doesn't have that same issue. It's one of those "why not?" names. Why isn't this as popular as Luna? I don't know.

I like Lyra a lot. It's very wearable for a little witchlet. Or any girl for that matter.


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Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Have you read or seen Cloud Atlas? There's a lot of great names there. Meronym, Jocasta, Autua, Somni, and Catkin caught my eye. The last one in particular. Let's take a deeper look at this unusual botanical name.

A catkin (pronounced "KAHT-ken") is a type of flower cluster that is meant to be air pollinated. Willows, hickories, birches, sweet chestnuts, oaks, hazels, alders, and mulberry bushes all have catkins. The name is derived from the Dutch katteken, meaning "kitten," because they resemble tails.

This name has appeared in some works of fiction. There is a children's book called Catkin by Antonia Barber. It's about a tiny cat that is adopted by a farming family and protects their baby from the "little people." And then there's Cloud Atlas.

Cloud Atlas is a book/movie that jumps between time periods and places. The character of Catkin lives in a post-apocalyptic future in which most of mankind has died off (what happened is never fully explained and not really important). Small pockets of the world still have technology, but much of human society has regressed into Pagan-like tribal behavior. Catkin is a minor character, she's the young niece of one of the main characters played by Tom Hanks in the movie version.

It's hard to write about this name and not think about the other, more well known futuristic botanical name that reminds me of felines. But I find Catkin more usable than Katniss. Katniss is stuck with the fictional association that invented it in the first place. Catkin doesn't have that problem.

Catkin has never been a common name in the United States, but I really like it. The nickname "Cat" or "Kat" isn't so unusual, so it feels familiar while being completely quirky. I think that it's one of my new favorites.


Image Credit:
Found via http://www.pinterest.com

Friday, August 30, 2013


Reader xxdiediedie requested this an eternity ago, so I guess I better get off my comfy procrastination couch and profile it.

Abraxax is actually the more "official" spelling, but I've seen this version more often in baby name resources. This name doesn't have a meaning in the traditional sense. It has more of a mystical meaning. The seven letters that make up the name are meant to represent the seven planets known in antiquity: the sun, the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Historians have proposed other etymologies but none of them had any proof to back up their claims.

Abraxas (pronounced "ah-BRAKS-us") is a Gnostic name that appears in many ancient texts. I should probably explain what "Gnostic" means, otherwise the rest of this profile will not make much sense. Gnosticism is an ancient belief system that states that in order to be fully embraced by God's world, you must reject the material world. Gnostics were dedicated to the search for wisdom and philanthropy. And they were most certainly spellcasters. I'll be honest, I'm having a hard time understanding Gnosticism, so please bear with my broad, sweeping generalizations.

Abraxas is a complicated figure whose image has changed with the passing of time. A lot of what we know about him was recorded through the filter of Christian heresy hunters who, as we all know, were not always right. But as far as we can tell, originally he is the head of 365 other spiritual beings worshipped in Gnosticism. He was oftentimes depicted as a half-man/half-basilisk creature, which we know because of all the ancient amulets with his image engraved on them.

In more recent years, Abraxas has been interpreted as a deity that mixes both God and the Devil into one being. That was the opinion of psychologist Carl Jung, which he recorded in his book Seven Sermons to the Dead. In other texts Abraxas is an Aeon, meaning that he's an emanation of the superior God. In medieval demonology he is a demon. Sadly, this is probably how a lot of people are introduced to this name.

Interestingly, some believe that this name is the origin of the famous magic word Abracadabra. Abraxas is also mentioned in several works of fiction like Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and Demian by Herman Hesse. It's the name of Draco Malfoy's grandfather in the Harry Potter series.

Abraxas has never been a common name in the United States. I can't decide if that's because of the "devil" tag or because of unfamiliarity. It's probably the later. I don't think it's well known enough to be considered a controversial name. I'm not certain how many modern Pagans will be familiar with all of this. Demonology is not really a facet of the Wiccan religion, I don't care how many crappy paranormal television shows state otherwise. And Gnosticism remains mysterious to most people.

Still, Abraxas does have an appealing sound. And some people will pick this name because of the dark associations. I just can't imagine many Pagans using it.


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Found via http://www.pinterest.com

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Blessed Lughnasadh to all in the Northern Hemisphere! As this holiday is all about the harvest of grain, it's the perfect time to profile a goddess of grain.

Ceres (pronounced "SEER-ez") is derived from the Proto-Indo-European ker, meaning "to grow." This is also the root of many other English words like cereal, kernel, create, grow, corn, and increase. Throughout the Ancient Roman era, Ceres' name was synonymous with grain and bread.

Ceres is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess Demeter, and all of her mythology is the same. She is the daughter of Saturn and Ops and sister to Jupiter, Juno, Vesta, Neptune, and Pluto. She is the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and motherly relationships, and is considered to be the protector of laws. She is still the mother of Persephone, but she is also the mother of Liber, Libera, and Proserpina (who is sometimes, but not always, thought to be the same person as Persephone).

Ceres was a very popular goddess in Ancient Rome. It was believed that before she gave agriculture to mankind humans lived off of acorns and had no laws. She was commonly honored during marriages (which took place at night) with a torch as that is one of her symbols. Her holiday was Cerealia which occurred from mid to late April. It was celebrated by, amongst other activities, setting foxes tails on fire and letting them loose in the chariot stadium called Circus Maximus. Not all Pagan traditions should make a comeback. Much of Rome's grain was imported from Sicily, and for that reason the island was considered Ceres' "earthly home."

Ceres' legacy lives on. In the United States you can still find her image in many state buildings, particularly if that state is known for it's agriculture. This goddess appears as a character in William Shakespeare's The Tempest. Ceres is also the name of the first asteroid/dwarf planet ever discovered. It is the only dwarf planet in the Inner Solar System (Pluto is too far away). It was discovered on January 1st, 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi. It possibly harbors life as there is evidence to suggest that it has an ocean.

Ceres has never been a common name in the United States. It's pronunciation might be slightly unappealing, it sounds like "series." I've heard it said other ways, but this is what the dictionary says and is therefore the most official. I prefer the sound of Demeter better, but Ceres is still a great name.


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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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Friday, June 21, 2013


Blessed Solstice, everyone! It's the perfect time to profile the name of one of the few sun goddesses!

In most cultures the sun is associated with masculine energy and the moon with feminine energy. Japan is a notable exception. Japanese mythology has one of the few sun goddesses: Amaterasu (pronounced "ah-mah-the-rah-suh"). Her name is derived from Amateru meaning "shining in heaven." Her full name, Amaterasu-omikami means "the great divinity who shines in heaven."

Amaterasu's father is Izanagi, who was the father of most gods in Japanese mythology. After his failed attempt at trying to rescue his wife from the Underworld, Izanagi performed a cleansing rite. During this ritual he "begat" Amaterasu from his left eye. Sorry, that's as specific as it gets. They're gods, their conceptions don't have to make sense. Anyways, she was so bright and beautiful that she was sent up the celestial ladder to rule over heaven. Aside from being the sun goddess she is also the goddess of the whole universe, invented rice fields and the loom, and taught humans how to cultivate silk worms and wheat. She keeps herself busy.

Amaterasu also has two brothers: Susanoo or Susanowa (the god of storms and the sea) and Tsukuyomi (the god of the moon). There was quite a lot of drama between the three of them. Originally, Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi shared the skies together. But then Tsukuyomi murdered Uke Mochi, the goddess of food, for being too gross (she "pulled food from her rectum, nose, and mouth"). Amaterasu was so horrified by her brother's actions that she declared him evil and cut all ties with him, separating day from night.

She's not on the best of terms with her other brother either. Depending on who's telling the story either Susanoo was causing such a racket that he scared his sister or he was a sore looser when Amaterasu won a contest and vandalized her property and killed one of her attendants. In any case, Amaterasu ran to hide in a cave and refused to come out, taking the sun with her. The other gods tried to lure her out to no avail. Finally the goddess Uzume succeeded. The other gods found her obscene dances hysterical, and Amaterasu wanted to know what everyone was laughing about.

Amaterasu is still very important to the Shino religion in Japan. Her chief place of worship is Grand Shrine of Ise on the island of Honshu, and this is the holiest shrine in the Shinto religion. Inside, the goddess is represented by a mirror called Yata no Kagami. This is considered to be one of the Three Imperial Treasures. The Three Imperial Treasures are all object that supposedly belonged to Amaterasu, aside from the mirror there is also the jewel and the sword. The Grand Shrine of Ise is unique in that the main buildings are destroyed and rebuild every twenty years in honor of the goddess who is rejuvenated after each rebuilding. After this rite, it is traditional to give Amaterasu gifts of rice and clothing. Supposedly, the next rite is supposed to take place this year, I'm not sure if it's underway or if it already past. The Japanese imperial family claims to be descendants of her (or at least they did before 1945, I guess it's no longer PC for royalty to claim divine ancestry). Her sacred days are July 17th and the Winter Solstice, so you guys below the equator have her covered today.

As for us Western Neo-Pagans and Wiccans, Amaterasu is the most well-liked of all the Japanese deities. I've seen some people describe her as a "dark" goddess like Kali and Hecate, but I don't think that that category suites her. If that's how the Neo-Pagan community feels about her then that's going to effect it's chances of being used as a baby name.

Amaterasu has never been a common name in the United States. It's pronounced the way it looks (which is not always the case with Japanese names) but there's still going to be people who don't know how to say it. Still, it has a great history. It feels strong. There aren't a heck of a lot of sun names for girls in mythology. So it's got a lot going for it.

Encyclopedia of Spirits by Judika Illes

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Sunday, June 16, 2013


It seems like I'm always suggesting eccentric animal names.

Turtle is derived from the French word torue, and it means the same thing. This is not the same etymology as the "turtle" in turtledove. That comes from the Latin turtur, which supposedly replicates the bird's call.

Turtles are the world's most ancient reptile species. The earliest known turtles date back to 220 million years ago. They are unique because of their shells which is attached to their ribs and backbone. The largest turtles are aquatic like the leatherback sea turtle.

In many cultures around the world, turtles represent longevity and wisdom. They are associated with water, the moon, time, immortality, and Mother Earth. In Ancient Egyptian mythology the turtle is connected to Set, and so they were the enemies of the sun god Ra. In Ancient Greek/Roman mythology they were connected to, oddly enough, Aphrodite/Venus. Several myths state that the earth rests on the back of a turtle. In alchemy, the turtle symbolizes chaos.

Turtle has never been a common name in the United States. The only instance that I can recall in which Turtle was used as a name was in the novel Wicked by Gregory Maguire. There is a small but key character called Turtle Heart. The Native Americans also used it in their names, but of course it would have been in their own languages.

The other unusual animal name I profiled recently was Otter. Otter has the benefit of there currently being a lot of popular "-er" names. There's nothing that sounds like Turtle except for Myrtle, which isn't fashionable at the moment. Some names for animals can become names for people if they're charismatic enough. But this isn't a cute and cuddly animal (like Bunny or Kitty), nor is it a big and strong animal (like Tiger). Therefore Turtle might be a little daffy. Then again, few years ago I said the same thing about Bear.

Perhaps it might be more reasonable to find turtle-related names. I guess I know what my next Spirit Animal name round up will be.


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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Spirit Animal Round Up: Butterfly

I think my recent post put me in a butterfly type of mood.

People generally love butterflies. They are admired worldwide for their beauty. One of the more obvious associations with the butterfly is the coming of spring. They also represent freedom, lightness, and rebirth. Many cultures link butterflies (and also moths) to the dead, believing that they embody the souls of the departed. This is why butterflies are shown on tombstones in many countries. But with the exception of only a few times butterflies aren't usually seen as ominous. Some cultures believed that witches transformed into butterflies in order to steal milk and butter.

All this makes butterfly names appealing. Here are just a few that I collected:

1. Chrysalis. I posted about this one recently. This is the stage between caterpillar and butterfly.

2. Mazarine. A deep blue color. Also the name of a famous French cardinal. The beautiful Mazarine Blue's numbers have been declining for reasons that are unclear.

3. Monarch. One of the few names on this list that works for boys, this references the most iconic of North American butterflies. They are known for their orange and black coloring.

4. Flutura. Albanian for "butterfly."

5. Parvaneh. "Butterfly" in Persian. Can also be spelled Parvana.

6. Fritillary. A species of butterfly. From the Latin fritinnire meaning "to twitter." This name could also refer to flowers.

7. Vanessa. Invented by author Jonathan Swift, it was later used for a genus of butterfly.

8. Mariposa. Spanish for "butterfly."

9. Psyche. Some depictions show this mythical character with butterfly wings. In Greek/Roman mythology, she famously loved Eros/Cupid.

10. Skipper. Some species get this name due to their swift, darting flight patterns. Reminds me a bit of Barbie dolls, but there's still some appeal here.

11. Copper. Another one that works great for boys. They are also called gossamer-winged butterflies. Come to think of it...

12. Gossamer. A word used to describe something very fine or sheer.

13. Leafwing. Something about this smoosh-name is very charming. There is also Cloudywing, Daggerwing, Bluewing, Clearwing, Duskywing, and Glassywing.


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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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Monday, April 22, 2013

Name Round-Up: Natural Wonders of the World

Happy Earth Day, everybody! Let's celebrate by cataloguing some names inspired by our earth's many treasures.

There technically isn't an official "Seven Wonders of the Natural World" list that everyone agrees on. There's just so many beautiful places. But I managed to pick a few interesting names:

1. Paria. America has the famous Grand Canyon, but it's little sister the Paria Canyon has equally beautiful rock formations.

2. Verdon. Verdon Gorge in France is considered to be the most beautiful river canyon in Europe. The formation of this gorge can be traced to the Jurassic era, when it was covered by a warm shallow sea and covered in coral. Because it is so close to the French Riviera it is a popular destination for tourists.

3. Nakuru. If you watch a lot of wildlife documentaries you've probably seen Lake Nakuru, Kenya. It's the one with all the flamingos, amongst many other animals. Nakuru is Maasai for "dusty place."

4. Siwa. The Siwa Oasis in Egypt's main claim to fame is that it was the home of an oracle temple to the Ancient Egyptian god Amun.  Alexander the Great once reached that temple and the oracles confirmed that he was divine and a rightful Pharaoh of Egypt. The Oasis is a vast and extremely isolated settlement. The name Siwa is of unknown origin.

5. Reef. The Great Barrier Reef located off the coast of Queensland, Australia. It is the world's largest structure made out of living organisms and supports many endangered species.

6. Shilin. The Shilin Stone Forest of China is very striking, with tall rock formations that stand straight up as if they were trees themselves. There is a local legend saying that the forest was created when a young lady was forbidden to marry her love and turned into stone.

7. Everest. Thought I would never get to this one, did you? Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain and it's located in the Himalayas. Named after Sir George Everest by the English, the Tibetans have called it Chomolungma ("Holy Mother") for centuries.

8. Victoria. Victoria Falls, named after Queen Victoria, is at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. While it's not the tallest or the longest waterfall, it does have the largest sheet of falling water. It's known in Africa by the name Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning "the smoke that thunders."

9. Aurora. An Aurora is a featureless, colorful glow in the skies of the Artic and Antarctic regions. They are caused by a collision of charged particles. The Cree Native Americans called this the "Dance of the Spirits" and Medieval Europeans thought it to be a sign of god. The ones in the northern hemisphere are called aurora borealis, and in the south they're called aurora australis. Aurora is the Roman goddess of the dawn.

10. Komodo. Komodo Island is unique for it's beaches with pink sand and the unusual animals that roam it. And yes, this is the same island with the komodo dragons.

11. Amazon. As in the Amazon Rainforest which contains more than half of the remaining rainforest in the world. It was named after the mythical female warriors due to a war that a conquistador fought with the Native tribes. He noticed that the women fought alongside the men, which was common practice amongst the tribe but unusual for an invading Spaniard.

12. Baikal. Thought to be the world's oldest lake, Lake Baikal in Siberia contains roughly 20% of the world's unfrozen fresh water. There are even reports of a "Baikal Monster" much like the Lock Ness Monster, but it is more likely that it is a large sturgeon. It's name is derived from the Mongolian baygal nuur, meaning "nature lake."

13. Jieta. Jieta Grotto in Lebanon has vivid painterly colors, an underground river, and chambers stretching for miles. It's other claim to fame is that it has the largest stalactite in the world. This underground cave was inhabited by prehistoric humans. Jieta means "roaring water" in Aramaic.


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Sunday, April 21, 2013


Sophia is currently the most popular girl's name in America, and it's easy to see why.

Sophia (pronounced "soh-FEE-ah," although some say that prior to the 1800s it was pronounced "soh-FIY-ah") is a Greek name meaning "wisdom," but there is a lot more to the story than that. In Ancient Greece, Sophia was a central virtue in Hellenistic religion. You can see this in the word "philosophy." Philosophy is derived from the Greek word philosophia, meaning "love of wisdom."

Ironically, it was the Christians that turned Sophia into a goddess. Some Eastern Orthodox religious thinkers champion something called Sophiology. They believe that the Sophia is the wise, feminine aspect of God coexisting with the masculine Holy Trinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the Roman Catholic Church, Sophia is the wisdom of God and is therefore eternal. Roman Catholic mysticism has a famous celebrant of Sophiology named Saint Hildegard of Bingen, who is so interesting she deserves her own post here. Within the Protestant tradition there was a mystic named Jane Leade who had visions of the "Virgin Sophia," who revealed the spiritual workings of the universe. Some Christians might be horrified that I referred to her as a goddess. I apologize, but I'm not sure what else you would call a "female aspect of God."

Even if you don't know any of that you've probably heard of the Hagia Sophia, a former church which was dedicated to this concept. It was turned into a mosque but is now a museum and a landmark of architectural achievement. There is also a Saint Sophia who was said to be martyred during the reign of Hadrian. Some Neo-Pagans have adopted Sophia as a goddess. Outside of religion, Sophia is a name tied to lots of people and things from popular culture from Sophia Loren to Sophie's Choice.

All of that makes Sophia a sound choice. But I would suggest that you didn't use it unless you really like the sound of your last initial. The name has always been on the American charts but use has risen dramatically in the past few years. It's now the #1 girl's name in America. So that's a lot of Sophias. Variations are also very popular: Sofia is #19, and Sophie is #51. Most people don't think of Sonia as another form of Sophia, but it is. It rests at #770. Variants Soficita and Sofka are almost unheard of.

I admit that Sophia would be amongst my contenders if it weren't for the popularity factor. If you don't mind that, this is a beautiful name. Sometimes names are used a lot for good reasons.


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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Spirit Animal Round Up: Horse

Maybe it's because I saw Warhorse recently (the play, not the movie), but I'm in the mood for some horse names.

Unlike snakes and owls, horses have always been universally well liked. Originally only indigenous to Europe and Asia, horse worship has been around since the Bronze Age. White horses were particularly prized due to how rare they were and they were used for divination. In Asian culture, the horse is one of the animals represented in the Chinese zodiac. When White men brought this animal into the America's they were almost instantly embraced by Native American culture. The horse has long been associated with stamina, power, and freedom.

I tried to stay away from unicorns and winged horses for this one because that's a whole other post. I'm sure there's a lot more options than what is listed here:

1. Philip/Phillipa/Felipe/etc. Probably the most classic option on this list. It comes from the Greek name Phillippos meaning "friend of horses."

2. Rosalind. People think that this one has something to do with roses. No, no, no. It comes from the Germanic elements hros ("horse") and linde ("soft" or "tender").

3. Epona/Eponine/Eponina. The name of the Roman/Gaulish goddess of horses, ponies, mules, and donkeys. There is also a Les Miserable connection.

4. Lorimer. An Old French word that used to refer to someone who made stirrups and other metal tools used for harnesses. Hey, it's horse related.

5. Vanner. A breed also known as the Gypsy horse because the Romanichal people of the British Isles developed it. They have a very distinctive look and they were meant to pull vardos (the wagons that Gypsies traditionally live in).

6. Arion. An immortal, talking horse from Greek mythology.

7. Colt. It took me an embarrassingly long time for me to remember this one, but Colt is a popular option nowadays. It's the term used for a young, male horse. There's also a gun connection.

8. Balius. Possibly means "dappled." An immortal horse from Greek mythology who's parents were Zephyr and a harpy named Podarge.

9. Xanthus. Balius' twin brother. His name means "blond." The feminine form Xanthe has been getting more attention.

10. Canter. A type of gait faster than a trot but slower than a gallop.

11. Stallion. The term used for a male horse that has not been castrated. Brings Sylvester Stallone to mind.

12. Rhiannon. A mythic figure very much associated with horses.

13. Demeter. The Greek goddess of the harvest originally took the form of a mare, along with Poseidon.


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