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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Saturday, March 23, 2013


Amber C has requested her own name. Coming right up!

Amber is derived from the Middle Persian word ambar. It was originally used to describe what is now known as ambergris, which is the hardened secretions from the intestines of sperm whales. In the olden days, ambergris was used as a fixative in perfumery, which explains why anyone on earth would want to collect such a thing. Despite the fact that these are not even remotely similar in appearance, the two substances were confused because they often washed up on beaches together. Nowadays, people would say that it's a color name used to describe a pale, brownish yellow.

Amber is one of the few gemstones that is not actually a gemstone. Gemstones come from the earth, but amber comes from fossilized tree resin. People were able to figure this out due to the occasional insect trapped inside. However, amber is treated like a gemstone and used frequently in jewelry. The color of amber varies from pale yellow to dark brown. Occasionally you can find red specimens. Blue and green amber are extremely rare and highly prized (I didn't think that such a thing existed until I looked it up). Amber is most plentiful in the Baltic region, although the ancient trees where they came from grew in Sweden. Until fairly recently, that was the only place to find amber. During the 1800s specimens were found in North America as well.

Amber has always been associated with magick and remains a favorite of Wiccans and Shamans. Ancient people believed that amber contained the essence of life due to the insects and other small animals trapped inside. If amber is rubbed with a piece of silk it will collect dust and ashes. This led the Ancient Greeks to believe that amber had electrical properties. The Greeks name for amber was elektron (meaning "formed by the sun") and was considered sacred to Helios, the sun god. Amber can be burned as incense, and in the ancient days it was burned to purify and area in which childbirth would take place. It was also thought that gazing into it would improve eyesight. Because amber is warm to the touch, there's a sensual aspect to the gemstone as well. It is believed that this stone attracts love and sooths the nerves.

Amber is a bit of a dated name. In fact, I associate it with my generation. It first appeared on the American top 1,000 during the 1950s and peaked during the 1980s at #12. It's still well used: it now sits at #260. The name is most recognized as a girl's name, I've never heard it suggested for a boy. Although back in the round-up of Romani names I found a boy named Amberline. Perhaps that's related, perhaps not.

I wouldn't use Amber personally. I knew too many Ambers growing up. That being said, it does have "Witchy" value and if you were looking for a Wicca-lite name this would be a good choice.


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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Blessed Ostara to people in the northern hemisphere and Blessed Mabon to those in the south! Or I can just simplify it and say Blessed Equinox!

Equinox (pronounced "EE-kwa-noks") is derived from the Latin aequus, meaning "equal," and nox, meaning "night." True to it's name, the equinox is a astronomical event in which nighttime and daytime are of equal lengths. The tilt of the earth's axis is not tilted away nor towards the sun. There are two of them a year. As stated before, one takes place on Ostara and the other takes place on Mabon.

It is very clear that this time of year was of vital importance to the Ancient Pagans. We know this because there are quite a lot of monuments designed with the sun's placement in mind. In Ireland there are many Neolithic mounds that have the openings lined up so that the light pours into the building only during the equinox. The famous Angkor Wat Temple of Cambodia faces the rising Vernal Equinox sun. The Mayans built many of their temples so that the light would shine on them a certain way during the equinox. The spiritual significance of the Vernal Equinox can also be found in mythology all over the world, and trying to retell it all will take forever.

There are a number of spring festivals celebrated today. Aside from Ostara there's Nowruz (the Iranian New Year's celebration), Sham El Nessim (an Ancient Egyptian holiday still celebrated in that country), Vernal Equinox Day (a Japanese holiday), and Disablot (a holiday from Norse Paganism). Many cultures celebrate the New Year on the Vernal Equinox. Today is also World Storytelling Day, a global celebration in the art of oral storytelling.

Equinox has never been a common name in the United States. It probably has less of a chance of being used than Solstice. For one, it's the name of a rather successful gym chain here in the United States. Secondly, when I hear the name Solstice I immediately think "girl," and people tend to be slightly more adventurous with girls names. Equinox makes me think "boy" and people are usually not so daring for their sons.

Personally I'm more likely to use Nox, but I still like the idea of using Equinox. It interests me, and I like names that interest me.


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Sunday, March 17, 2013


To those who celebrate it, Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Although the holiday doesn't mean much to me anymore, it's an appropriate time to profile this Irish beauty.

Maeve (pronounced "MAYV," but I've also heard "MAY-vee") is derived from the Irish Gaelic name Medbh, meaning "she who intoxicates." And yes, this is where the word "mead" comes from. This moniker is very important to Irish legend. This name is well known for being worn by a powerful Pagan warrior queen.

Queen Maeve, or Queen Medb, is one of the main protagonists in the Irish epic Tain Bo Cuailnge ("The Cattle Raid of Cooley"). Her status as the ruler of Connacht was achieved through various marriages, love affairs, assassinations, and battles. Her most prominent husband was Aillil mac Mata, but her enemy was her ex, Conchobar mac Nessa. Maeve had one daughter named Findabair and seven sons named Maine. The sons originally had different names, but when she asked a Druid which one of her sons would slay her enemy he replied "Maine." So she renamed all her sons, shoving their first names into the middle slot. The prophecy came true, kind of. One of her sons killed a different guy named Conchobar. Maeve's personality is described as "stubborn and scornful."

That's all her back story, now let's get to what the epic is actually about. Maeve insisted that she should have the same amount of wealth as her husband the King. When she found out that her husband had one more bull than she did, this was a problem. She sought to rectify this and found a bull that was to her liking. There was just one problem: the bull was already owned by a vassal of her ex's. She sends messengers to negotiate the sale of the bull and it worked at first. But then the messengers drunkenly admit that if they hadn't come to an agreement they would have taken the bull by force anyway, and the vassal cools on the deal immediately. No bull for Maeve. So she starts a war. She fights against the hero Cuchulainn several times and even offers marrying her daughter off to any man who defeats him. This is a lot of trouble over a cow. Stubborn and scornful, indeed.

Occasionally, Queen Maeve is described as a goddess. This has never been proven, but some historians seem to believe this to be the case. One theory states that she is connected to the sovereignty goddess Medb Lethderg, with whom kings would ritually marry as part of their inauguration ceremony. This character is also closely associated with Queen Mab, the ruler of the faeries mentioned in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Maeve is something of a new favorite in America. It peaked in 2010 ranking at #536. In 2008 it ranked #89 in Ireland and #329 in Scotland. I suppose the sizable percentage of Americans with Irish heritage are looking for names that honor that past without using the endless Marys, Ellens, and Noras that our family trees are actually filled with. However, the more superstitious amongst us will say that a daughter named Maeve will be a tough teenager to handle.

I think that Maeve's a great choice. As it is currently outside of the top 500, it's just within my comfort zone in terms of uniqueness. It's relatively easy to say, as far as Irish names go. And it's got a badass Pagan queen attached to it. So I think it's perfect for those in the Witchy subculture.


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Thursday, March 14, 2013


Taking a break from my mountain of requests to profile this Japanese gem.

Ito (pronounced "ee-too-oh," I think) is the sixth most common family name in Japan, which makes finding real-life namesakes fairly easy. And, as far as I can tell, it is also occasionally used as a given name. Like all Japanese names, the meaning of Ito varies depending on the characters used to write it.

First, it could mean "this wisteria," and if that is the case then there's some back story. The fact that it references that flower indicates a connection to the Fujiwara clan. I believe that I've mentioned this family before on this blog. Historically, they were very influential. This family was well known for dominating Japanese politics from the 700s to the 1100s, which they achieved by marrying off their daughters to emperors.

Ito could also mean "thread," "yarn," or "string." This also needs some explanation. There is a very old tradition in Japanese culture that originated in Chinese culture called the "red string of fate." According to legend, the gods tie a red thread around the little finger of two (not biologically related) people who are destined to meet each other. Depending on who you ask, these two people become lovers. This is very similar to the western concept of soulmates.

Ito has never been a common name in the United States. I like this name because of it's second meaning. Even though I'm not so certain that I believe in the concept of "the one" I still find it romantic. However, one should expect this name to be mispronounced constantly in America. Looking at this name I thought it would be easy to figure out how to say, but apparently not. Variations on the English spelling include Itou and Itoh.

I know that the name appears in some manga (graphic novels), so it might be of interest to Japanese enthusiasts. I don't find it very likely that this name will be used with any regularity in my country, but I still find it beautiful.


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I don't remember where I got this.