Archive for December, 2011

To end the year, I thought I’d feature some of the most interesting names gathered Out There this year:

Unsurprisingly, given our shared outlook on things, Isadora Vega at Bewitching Baby Names has featured some absolute gems. But my favorites have to be:

  • Icie — sweet and simple, but very seasonal — and it has that a la mode “-ie”
  • Madrigal — I’m amazed this had passed me by until now, particularly as I sang in a madrigal group at school, and Abbey at Appellation Mountain featured it in 2008. Ah well. That’s the joy and pain of names! The word “madrigal” first entered the English language in the late sixteenth century as the name of a type of secular part-song for several voices, usually sung without accompaniment — and this remains its principal meaning today. The song had originated in Italy, where it was called a madrigale, and it derived ultimately from the post-classical Latin matricalis meaning “maternal,” “simple,” and “primitive,” deriving ultimately from mater “mother.” What a fabulous Pagan name, if there ever was one!
  • Ulalume — the title of an evocative poem by Edgar Allan Poe. Very otherworldy.
  • Virelai — a type of song or lyric poem originating in fourteenth century France. The usual British English form is Virelay, which is just as nameworthy. There’s also the Middle English Verelai and Verilay — although that is getting a bit close to Verily… not that that’s necessarily a bad thing…

Elea at British Baby Names and I also seem to share similar tastes. The wonderful names I’ve encountered there this year have been overflowing, but I warm to these most of all:

  • Argantel – Breton girl’s name meaning “generous silver.”
  • Argantlowen – Breton girl’s name meaning “joyful silver.”
  • Elestren – Cornish for “iris.”
  • Elowen – Cornish for “elm.”
  • Finlo – Manx name meaning “white/blessed Lugh,” or the Manx form of Finley “white/blessed champion.”
  • Gwenlowen – Breton name meaning “joyful white.”
  • Izambro – a wonderful Victorian rarity, which Elea found in the 1847 BMDs. It would seem to be a variant of Isambard.
  • Morgelyn – Cornish for “sea-holly”
  • Orixa – the name of a plant, Orixa japonica, native to China and Japan. It also happens to be an alternative spelling of the Yoruba Orisha, described by Wikipedia as “is a spirit or deity that reflects one of the manifestations of Olodumare (God) in the Yoruba spiritual or religious system.”
  • Zereth – another of Elea’s finds of 1847, Zereth is biblical and means “span.”

Abbey at Appellation Mountain‘s provided plenty food for thought as always, but these are the ones I think have the most Pagan hearts:

  • Katniss — a name from the Science Fiction teenage novel The Hunger Games; makes a fresh change from the usual sci-fi girls’ names.
  • Merrilees – a surname, borne by a British celebrity female chef called Merrilees Parker. Although it got a mixed reception at Appellation Mountain, I think it’s a great name, an interesting alternative to Anneliese.
  • Sequioia – the only Sequoias we get in the UK are in arboretums, but they are widespread and beloved in America, and best known as “redwoods.” They take their name from a Cherokee called Sequoyah, who invented a syllabary for writing Cherokee.

From Lou at Mer de Noms, I particularly warmed to:

  • Fortuné – the French form of Fortunatus.
  • Swansea – well, if Chelsea can be used as a name, why not Swansea?
  • Tellou — Lou’s French friend; in her case, it’s a pet-form of Estelle.

Zeffy at Baby Names from Yesteryear has also has many a gem. My favorites were:

  • Ardalion – a saint, particularly now revered, it seems in the Russian Orthodox Church; it is from the Greek ardalion “water-pot,” and “water-trough.”
  • Ozro – the marvelously named Bladen Ozro Capell (1897-1959) brought Ozro to my attention. Its a curious name, of uncertain derivation, and one I intend to investigate more thoroughly in the new year. Is it a form of the biblical Ozer, or Russian Ozero? Or does the fact it says Ozra on his gravestone offer a clue? We shall see!
  • Tiece — a medieval French woman’s name.

Dorcas at Names from the Dustbin likewise has many a gem; these are the ones which sparkled most for me:

  • Betzabel — I agree with Dorcas that this is probably a variant of Bathsheba, possibly Occitan or Provençal (since that’s where Elizabeth — the biblical Elisheba, which shares the same second element as Bathsheba turned into Isabel).
  • Creedence — apparently there’s a band of the name; and while I shy away from this spelling, I do think Puritan Credence has distinct possibilities.
  • Fenway – to what extenct Fenway is associated in America with the Red Sox outside Boston I honestly can’t say; but in the UK I doubt there are many that would make the connection.
  • Freelove – this Puritan museum piece didn’t have quite the same sentiments behind it as the 1960s take on it!

Kristen’s Marginamia is aways a visual feast as well as a treasure trove of distinctive, off-beat names. Narrowing down to just a few is difficult!

  • Boheme — I didn’t know Girl’s Gone Child until the names of her twins were announced, and it was at Marginamia I read about it first!
  • Luumu –Finnish for “plum”
  • Rosegold — we have Marigold, why not Rosegold? Especially for those with Welsh connections, as rose gold is particularly associated with the land of song (and Russia).
  • Spindle — immediately conjures images of fairy tales and spindle trees. I hadn’t considered it before, but when I saw it at Marginimaia, I thought, yup, that could work.
  • Valo — the beautiful name of one of Kristen’s daughters, meaning “light” in Finnish (and “eight” in Malagasy).
  • Verabel — seems to be just a combination of Vera and -bel; Verabel is best known as an American artisan jeweler.
  • Vrai — “true” in French. Gorgeous.

Rowan at Eponymia has also provided me with lots of name inspiration — it’s been a particular joy browsing all those Olympic lists! Again, there’s been so many interesting discoveries, but these are my picks:

  • Badou — a Gambian name; I think I like names ending in “oo” even more than those in “o”!
  • Cadeau — French “gift”; very much a “why not?” kind of name…
  • Crake  — best-known as the corn-crake today, the word was once used — and can still be found — as a dialect word in parts of the North of England meaning “raven.”
  • Draško — a Slavic name, arising as a pet-form of names with the element dorgu meaning “precious.”
  • Siarhei — the Belorusian form of Sergei.

Sarah’s For Real Baby Names is always a source of inspiration and delight, where I get many a thrill from seeing unusual names actually being used out there — for real — as well as joy in adding new names to my collection! These are just some the gems I’ve added this year from For Real:

  • Geo — presumably inspired by the use of the prefix geo- forming words like geography and geophysics, it defiitely falls into the “why not?” category, especially for Nature lovers and Gaiaists. The prefix derives from the Greek “Earth.” Geo also works as a short-form of George…
  • Monet — the surname of the great French impressionist; soft, cultural and still quite unisex. Nice.
  • Renegade — I do like a good “word name,” and I love this one. Makes a great alternative to Maverick.
  • Tutu — whether its the ballet skirt or the South African bishop commemmorated here (or even the class of a degree), I warm to Tutu; it’s got that same chirpiness as names like Lilou and Lulu, and particularly makes a great, quirky middle name.

And last, but by no means least, Anna at Waltzing More than Matilda introduced me to some of Australia’s quirky innovations:

  • Alira, Alirah — almost certainly an Australian take on Aleera, a name which featured in the 2005 film Van Helsing, which, for some reason, has recently captured the Australian imagination.
  • Colebee — I love the “-bee” ending! A suburb of Sydney, named after a nineteenth century Aboriginal guide.
  • Kirrily — an Ozzie innovation, probably in essence a variant on Kerry-Lee, but there are some nice Maori and Aboriginal options which may have inspired the spelling.
  • Taiga — actually Japanese, I love this name’s meaning and sound — pronounced both the Japanese and English ways.

What delights will 2012 bring? I can hardly wait! Happy New Year!

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Yesterday, I featured my pick of girls’ names here at the Nook in 2011.

Now it’s the boys’ turn:

  • Alban — most people associate Alban with St Alban of St Alban’s, Hertfordshire. However, Alban is also an old Welsh word meaning “equinox” and “solstice,” and it features in the Druid names of the Solstices and Equinoxes. As for the saint, there are actually three of them and two are British. The one who gave his name to St. Albans was supposedly a Roman soldier martyred in or around 283 CE. However, there is no evidence for his existence before the late fifth century, and the fact he was executed by beheading is a big give-away that a Celtic divinity lies behind him. If he truly was a real historical figure, his name may derive from the Latin cognomen Albanus “of Alba (Longa).” But this is unlikely, as even the legends say that he was a native Briton. Therefore, real or divine, his name probably derives from the Common Celtic *albiyo- “(upper) world” and “white” — the source of  the Old Welsh alban “solstice,” which brings us full circle.
  • Angus — A wonderful old Scottish name, which still sees plenty of use in Scotland but deserves more attention elsewhere, especially by those proud of their Scottish roots.
  • Ao — Love this short, snappy ‘”-o” ending discovery from France.
  • Faramond — With its splendid meaning of “journey-protection,” Faramond has cropped up more than once this year. Uncommon, but with a long, rich history, I think it’s an underused gem just waiting to be embraced.
  • Felix — Another name which has justly had a lot of mention at the Nook. A great meaning, a great “look,” I love it.
  • Iolo — A very accesible Welsh name with a wonderful past, and lots of great Pagan overtones.
  • Loxias — I’ve always thought this epithet of Apollo would make a glorious name…
  • Lucius — I’m an unashamed champion of this magnificent name from Ancient Rome!
  • Odin — the Norse God, Lord of the Wild Hunt; a great name, especially appropriate this time of year, when he rides his eight-legged Sleipnir in the Wild Hunt — seen by many as one of the sources of the modern myth of Father Christmas and the reindeer.
  • Orion — Another name from the ancient world with a very contemporary ring.
  • Rafferty — I have quite a crush on this fabulous Irish surname which is yet to reach the top 1000 in the US, but was 406th in the UK last year and continues to rise.
  • Rufus — Rufus is deservedly on the rise again on both sides of the Atlantic, but is still far from common.
  • Sol — If short and sweet with a big Pagan/Druid/Wiccan punch is what you’re after, Sol can barely be beaten. For those who have issues with short, snappy names in their own right which might be mistaken for a nickname, there are plenty of “long-form” options, from the biblical — but still distinctly witchy Solomon — to the Pagan-and-proud Solstice, not to mention the magical Latin Solifer.

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As 2011 draws to a close, I thought I’d take a look back at my top pick of names here at the Nook and elsewhere in Baby Name Blogland.

Today it’s the turn of  girls’ names at the Nook:

  • Amanita – I featured Amanita back in late August, and I still love it; it’s feminine, quirky, and very witchy. While some might be put off the thought of naming a child after a mushroom, Amanita muscaria is one of the most beautiful and evocative, and perhaps associated with fairies more than any other…
  • Betony – Betony was another of my August loves; it’s such a lovely herb, and as a name has a great contemporary ring to it.
  • CirceIjust love Circe, the mythological witch-Goddess and the name.
  • Elvy – Elvy only got a brief mention as a little used surname-as-first name, but I think it’s got a lot going for it. With the variants Elvey and Elvie, it slips in comfortably alongside all those lovely resurrected Victorian -ie names, many of which are already in favor in the UK (such as Evie, Millie, Maisie, etc) and others like Elsie and Edie on the rise. Unlike many of these, however, though it has the ring of a pet-form about it, and certainly can be used as a nickname for names such as Elvina and Elvira, Elvy is a bona fide name in her own right.
  • Fuchsia – Fuchsia’s such a stunning name, it has that same bright, slightly rebellious edge as names like Ruby and Scarlett
  • Guinevere – Queen Guinevere, Arthur’s May Queen is such a magnificent character with a name to match; why oh why isn’t it seen more?
  • Hermione – ah, Hermione, Hermione, Hermione! Probably my number one of the year; I can’t champion Hermione enough. I suggested her as a possible sibling for Peregrine in early December, and tipped her as the number one girl’s name in America in 2035. Grab her now, while she’s still such a rarity!
  • Hesper – another of my Harry Potter picks, but much less known, Hesper’s a step away from the familiar Hester, and only a couple of steps away from uber-voguish Harper. A discerning but contemporary choice.
  • Ishtar – Ishtar is another of those names which has had a number of mentions, but hasn’t really been properly featured in her own right yet. Ishtar is probably the most famous of the Goddesses of Mesopotamia—equated with Aphrodite and Ashtoreth, and it may be her name which lies behind Esther. In Egyptian texts, she appears as ‘Astar-Ḫūru. The etymology is unknown for certain; many theories abound, ranging from (rather far-fetched) connections with Eostre (see Easter) to a shared root with Aster, but evidence is too flimsy to say anything with absolute conviction. What can be said is that it is a most beautiful and evocative name.
  • Leveret – I love this unusual word-name, the little heard name for a baby hare. It oozes Pagan, witchy, Wiccan charm, and is one the source of the surname Leverett, which makes a nice variant.
  • Lilou – one of my Provençal finds, I think it gives a fetching, zingy twist on the ubiquitous Lily.
  • Merewen – A very soft, attractive Old English name.
  • Tigerlily – I just adore Tigerlily; it is a name bursting with life and color, and has considerable versatility. Would be a travesty for her not to make this baker’s dozen of mine!

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Hope everyone has enjoyed the festive season so far.

We’re in that strange limbo-lull now between the celebrations of the twenty-fifth and the New Year, and thoughts are naturally turning to ends and beginnings, looking back, and looking forward…

As we count-down to 2012, I’ll be doing my own share of looking back and forward here at the Nook, and, to set us off on the right foot, what better name to profile for this transitory time than the name of the God who epitomizes it like no other?

The Roman God, Janus.

Pronounced “JAY-nǝs” by some, “JAH-nǝs” by others, Janus is familiar to many as the God with two heads, one facing back over the Old Year, and the other looking ahead to the new.

Although many Pagans, particularly Wiccans and those who embrace Celtc Paganism consider Samhain to mark the transition point between years, the New Year has been celebrated at this time since the days of Pagan Rome — long before Christianity.

So significant was Janus that when the Roman year was extended to twelve months, the first of the newly created months, January, was named after Janus.

But his worship was not limited just to this time. As a God of the end and beginning of ventures, he was invoked not just at the start of a new year, or even the start of  every month, but at the start of every single day, and every and any new venture.

He also presided over points of transition, including doorways.

Although there is some question marks over the ultimate source of his name, it is connected with the Roman word for a door — ianua — and identical with ianus “covered passage”; and the most likely source, in my opinion, is a derivation with the same root which gives the verb eo, ire “to go.”

Also related to Janus is the name as well as the month of January, the Anglicized form of Januarius, a name used in the later Roman Empire and borne by more than one saint — most famously the patron saint of Naples.

January’s use as a girl’s name (such as the actress January Jones) represents a simple adoption of the name of the month.

There is also Jana, which, while in most modern usage represents an elaboration of plain Jane, was actually the name of a Roman Goddess, who was essentially the female counterpart of Janus. She particularly protected doors and passageways.

Pagan Romans celebrated January 1st by exchanging simple gifts called strenae “omens,” such as nuts, honey, figs and coins.  There was even another deity, the Goddess Strenia, who presided simply over these New Year gifts!

The thought behind them was that it was held important that a new begininng had an auspicious start, and giving gifts of this kind was a good omen. In the same spirit, it was customary — just as it is today — to wish people well for the coming year.

A rather nice Pagan Roman custom associated with the New Year involved the hammering in of a nail into the door of the temple of Nortia at Volsinii. Nortia was an Etruscan Goddess, who was absorbed into the Roman pantheon, and the nail symbolized that the events of the past year were now fixed and immutable.

As a given name, Janus is found from the eighteenth century, though in many cases, it probably represents an adoption of the identical-looking English surname, which actually derives from John, with Janus representing a medieval Latin form of the name; King John II of Cyprus (1375-1432) is also known as King Janus.

But most people will always identify the name Janus with the Roman God, and it’s a true rarity these days. Less than three boys in Britain, and five in America — if any in either nation at all — received the name in 2010.

What more perfect a name could there be for a baby boy born around the New Year?

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It’s the Winter Solstice tomorrow in the Northern Hemisphere (and the Summer Solstice in the Southern — I’m not jealous, really, I’m not).

That is to say, it’s the shortest day, or — as my mum used to say — the longest night.

And whatever your religious persuasion, or none, there’s something special about it.

It marks the very deepest, darkest moment of winter — that’s the bleak bit.

But it means from now on, the days gradually start to lengthen again. The ever turning wheel of the year has shifted, and we’re on our way back to the warmth and light. Yippee!

However, for a few days, each side of the Solstice, to the naked eye, the sun appears to rise and set in the same places — hence the name, from the Latin sol “sun” + sisto “to stand still.”

Of course, we know today that the reason why the sun grows weaker and the days shorten after the Summer Solstice is because the Earth goes round the sun, spinning on its axis, which is on an angle.

But for most of human history (and prehistory) most humans thought it was the sun doing the moving, rising in the East, setting in the West.

As the Winter Solstice approached, they thought the sun was dying; the Sostice marked the point when the sun was reborn, to strengthen and grow until it reached the peak of its power at the Summer Soltice.

No wonder this period is marked with numerous festivals, frequently of light.

Chief among them in the pagan Roman Empire was Sol Invictus — “The Unconquered Sun” — whose birthday was celebrated on December 25.

It is no coincidence that it shares December 25 with Christmas, only celebrated on that date since the fifth century.

December 25 is the first date after the Solstice when the sun stops seeming to “stand still” and the day is discernibly a little longer.

The word “Christmas” actually dates only to the twelfth century. Prior to that, the festivities which took over Sol Invictus were called Yule (the earliest Old English form known is geohol), almost certainly the name of the Germanic pagan festival celebrated at this time.

The ultimate source of the word “yule” is uncertain, but it is either cognate with, or derived from the Norse jól and is, most likely, connected with “jolly,” though there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation about which came first.

The original Norse festival of Jól was celebrated between the 20th and 31st December.

Yule and Yuletide are still used generally as an alternative name for Christmas, as they have for centuries, but it is the preferred name for the season by most Pagans of all persuasions, who usually use it now for the Solstice, rather than December 25.

Druids, however, will often call the Solstice Alban Arthan, which was first recorded by Iolo Morganwg.

So, what names for a Winter Solstice baby?

  • Aglaia — Greek aglaios “splendor”; one of the Graces
  • Alban — Welsh “solstice”; identical to the name of the saint, and quite probably sharing the same roots in the Common Celtic *albiyo- “upper world” and “white.”
  • Amaterasu — Japanese 天  “heaven,” “sky” and 照 “shine”; the name of the Japanese Goddess of the sun
  • Amber — one ancient belief was that amber was the solidified light of the setting sun on the sea.
  • Anwu — Igbo “sun”
  • Apollo — God of the sun
  • Arevik — Armenian name meaning “sun-like”
  • Arthan — An Old Welsh word meaning “winter”, connected by Iolo Morganwg with arth “bear.”
  • Arthur — Druids see Arthur as symbolic of the sun and equate him with the winter solstice.
  • Arun, Aruna — In Hindu mythology, Aruna is the charioteer of the sun.
  • Aster
  • Aten — Egyptian “disc of the sun”; the name of an Egyptian God, considered an aspect of Ra.
  • Aurinko — Finnish “sun”
  • Bay — one of the herbs traditionally added to a seasonal mulled wine
  • Cam — the Romani word for “sun” (and “to love”)
  • Cardamon — a spice added to mulled wines in the Middle Ages
  • Cerah — Malaysian “sunny” and “bright”
  • Chrysogon — Greek khrusogonos “gold-born”; Grisegond is an old variant
  • Cinnamon
  • Citrine — used since the eighteenth century as the name of a type of yellow topaz; it is believed to radiate the energy of the sun
  • Clove — one of the most important ingredients of a mulled wine
  • Cressida — derives ultimately from the Greek mythological Chryseis, meaning “(daughter) of Chryses” — a male Greek name from khrusos “gold.”
  • Day
  • Diell — Albanian “sun”
  • Eguzki — Basque “sun”
  • Enya — in the Native American language of Papai, enya means “sun.” The Irish Enya originated as the Anglicized form of Eithne used by the Irish singer-songwriter Enya; Eithne is an old form of Áine, the name of an Irish Goddess, whose name means “heat” and “light”.
  • Frankincense — an ancient resin, used as an incense since ancient times, and used for purification in Pagan temples. It is considered to be ruled by the Sun even today, and the Ancient Egyptians used it particularly in the worship of the sun God Ra.
  • Geola — Old English form of YULE
  • Gold — associated with the sun since ancient times
  • Grian — an Irish Goddess of the sun, whose name means “sun”
  • Günay — Turkish girl’s name combining güneş “sun” + ay “moon”; Aygün is a variant
  • Haru — Japanese boy’s name: 陽 “sun,” “sunlight”; Haruki, another boy’s name, combines it with 輝 “radiance, shine” or 生 “life,” while the girl’s name Haruko combines it with 子 “child.”
  • Heliodorus, Heliodora — Greek “gift of the sun”
  • Heliostásio — Modern Greek “solstice”
  • Helius — Greek God of the sun; his name means “sun”
  • Heuldro — Welsh “solstice”
  • Heulwen — Welsh haul “sun” + (g)wen “white,” “blessed” and “pure”; used since the late nineteenth century
  • Hina — Japanese girl’s name: 陽 “sun,” “sunlight” or 日 “sun,” “day” + 菜 “vegetables”
  • Honey — associated with the sun since ancient times
  • Iolo — although unrelated, Iolo (with its feminine form Iola) has a very similar ring to YULE…
  • Jólnir — a byname of Odin. Old Norse: jól “YULE”
  • Jolie — French jolie, feminie of joli “pretty,” derives from, or shares the same origin, as the Old Norse jól “YULE”
  • Jolly — sharing the same origin as JOLIE, if you find this too light, why not consider the “long-form” Jolyon, a form of Julian, deriving ultimately from Julius? Although, like Iolo, not related to Yule, the similarities are there…
  • Jua — Swahili “sun”
  • Kem — Romani “sun”; a variant of CAM
  • Khurshid — Old Persian “shining sun”; the name of an angel in Zoroastrianism associated with the sun
  • Light
  • Lucius
  • Lucy — English form of Lucia, the feminine of LUCIUS. St Lucy’s day was celebrated in many parts of Europe last week on the thirteenth; until the switch over from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar, St Lucy’s used to fall on or around the Solstice.
  • Lux — Latin “light”
  • Maeve — Usual modern form of the Irish name Medb, which derives from the Common Celtic for MEAD (cognate with mead itself)
  • Matahari — Indonesian “sun” (from mata “eye” + hari “day”)
  • Mead — a beverage made from HONEY, dating back to ancient times; probably the unofficial official Pagan drink, especially for the Solstices; it shares honey’s associations with the sun.
  • Midwinter — a word used of the Solstice since Angl0-Saxon times
  • Mithras — the Greco-Roman God of the mystery religion of Mithraism, popular with Roman soldiers. His worship arrived from the East in the first century; he is identified with Sol Invictus, and his birthday was also celebrated on December 25.
  • Mull — “mulled wine,” from the verb “to mull” meaning “to warm.” The Island of Mull gets its name from a Gaelic word meaning “bare,” also quite appropriate for the season, since all is bare (the cognate Welsh word is used of bare, “bald” hills).
  • Myrene — an Amazon in Greek myth; Greek: murinês “sweet wine.”
  • Myristica — botanical name for NUTMEG, meaning “fragrant”
  • Naran — Mongolian name meaning “sun”
  • Natalia — from the Latin natale “bitth”; these days, associated with the birth of Jesus, but is just as appropriately applied to the rebirth of the Sun, as celebrated at Sol Invictus; Natalie and Nathalie are the popular French forms, and Natasha, the Russian pet-form.
  • Noel — Anglo-Norman noel “Christmas” from Latin natale —  see NATALIA
  • Nutmeg — another spice often added to a mulled wine
  • Oenone
  • Orange — oranges, being round and, well, orange, are often associated with the sun
  • Oriana — coined by Elizabethan poets in honor of Queen Elizabeth I, from Latin orior “to rise,” used specifically of the rising sun.
  • Orinda — another poetic invention coinage from orior (see Oriana above), this time of the seventeenth century.
  • Orun — Yoruba: òrùn “sun”
  • Phaëthon — Greek “shining”; the name of a son of Helius, famous for almost crashing the chariot of the sun
  • Phanes — a primeval Greek God, associated with MITHRAS; his name derives from the Greek phainô “to bring light.”
  • Phoebe
  • Phoebus — Greek: phoibos “bright” and “radiant”; epithet of Apollo
  • Ra — the Egyptian God of the Sun, whose name means “sun”
  • Ramesses — The name of a famous Pharaoh, meaning “RA/the sun bore him.”
  • Ravi — Sanskrit “sun”
  • Renaissance  — French “rebirth”; generally used since the nineteenth century of the cultural “rebirth” at the end of the Middle Ages, its basic meaning is simply “rebirth” and could be used as a name with reference to the rebirth of the sun at the Winter Solstice
  • René, Renée — French forms of RENATUS
  • Renatus, Renata — Latin “reborn”; used of the rebirth of the sun
  • — Chinese 日 “sun,” “day”
  • Samson — Hebrew: “child/man of SHAMASH”; Sampson is a common variant
  • Saulė — Lithuanian Goddess of the sun, whose name means “sun”; Saulenė is a variant
  • Shamash — major Assyrian God; his name means “sun” in Akkadian
  • Shams — Arabic “sun”
  • Shemshi — Swahili “sun”
  • Sherry — rolled out across the land at this time of year, particularly to leave out for Santa…
  • Soare — Romanian “sun”
  • Sol — Latin “sun”; Norse Sól meaing “sun” is the name of the Norse Goddess of the Sun
  • Solar
  • Solaris — Latin “of the sun”
  • Soleil — French “sun”
  • Solifer, Solifera — Latin “sun-bearing”
  • Soligena — Latin “sun-born”
  • Solstice
  • Solveig — Old Norse sól “sun” + veig “strength”
  • Sonne — German “sun”
  • Sorin — Romanian name, usually derived from SOARE
  • Sorina — feminine of SORIN
  • Sounia — epithet of Athena, from Sounion in Attica, which may, possibly, derive from the Proto-Indo-European root *su(w)en- “sun”; Latinized as Sunia
  • Stella
  • Sulien — Old Welsh name, probably meaning “sun-born”
  • Sun
  • Sunčana — Croatian name from sunče “sun”
  • Sunday — could be interpreted as referring to the Solstices as well as the day of the week
  • Sunlight
  • Sunna — Goddesss of the sun in Germanic tradition.
  • Sunniva — Old English: Sunngifu “sun-given”
  • Sunny
  • Sunrise
  • Sunset
  • Sunshine
  • Surya — Sanskrit “sun”; the Hindu God of the sun
  • Svarog — Slavic God of the sun; Slavic: svar “bright”
  • Tesni — Welsh name deriving from tes “sunshine” and “warmth”
  • Wassail — originally a salutation used when passing a cup to a guest; from the Old English wes hāl “be in good health”; in time it came to be used of the drink too, especially the spiced ale drunk during the twelve days of Christmas
  • Wine — another popular beverage of the season, especially mulled
  • Winter
  • Yáng — Chinese  陽 “sun,” “positive”
  • Youko — Japenese girl’s name: 陽 “sun” + 子 “child”
  • Yule — of course. Also the fab variant Yul. Yule was actually used as a given name in medieval times (with a feminine form Yula), surviving for some time on the Isle of Man in the form Jole.

With Yule and Sol Invictus to celebrate, I’ll be back at the Nook when the mead’s worn off…

A bright and blessed Solstice, Yule, Alban Arthan and Christmas one and all. 🙂

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Yesterday’s Pagan Name of the Month Stella inspired todays Pick of the Week choice — Aster.

Aster is a direct adoption of the Greek astêr “star.”

Not only is it cognate with the Latin stella but also the word for star in most European languages, some of which are, of have been, used as given names, including the Welsh Seren, English Star — and Old English Steorra (which was also used as a name) — German Stern and Russian Zvezda.

In the early seventeenth century, “aster” was adopted into English as an alternative word for star, though this usage has since become obsolete.

The word is best-known now, however, as a flower name. It was first used as such in the early eighteenth century, as an alternative name for starworts, becoming the formal botanical name later for a genus of the daisy family, because of the star-like nature of the flowers. It includes the Michaelmas daisy.

As a given name, there are a couple of examples of Aster known from Antiquity, but it certainly wasn’t common.

In the English-speaking world, Aster is found in the records as early as the seventeenth century, although in many cases this may represent variant spellings of Esther, Hester and Easter (which also got thoroughly muddled), or of the surname Astor.

This surname itself is a variant of Easter — but mostly a different Easter to the festival. It derives from the Old English ēowestere “sheepfold,”  or Good and High Easter in Essex, which share the same source. Occasionally, however, it may be from Easter as a medieval girl’s name, which is the adoption of the name of the festival.

There are also a number of rather nice related names:

Asteria — feminine form of the Greek adjective asterios “starry.” Borne by more than one character in Greek mythology, and used for the name of a precious stone by the Romans, possibly an asteriated sapphire

Asterial — an English adjective meaning “star-like” derived from the Greek

Asterias — scientific name of a genus of star-fish

Asteridas — a rare Ancient Greek personal name. The –idas ending was originally used with the sense of “son of,” so Asteridas can be interpreted with the meaning of “son of a star/the stars.”

Asterion asterios plus the name suffix –ion. The name of two sacred kings of Crete, one of whom was the father of King Minos. The other is often identified with the Minotaur himself, and is used as such in Jorge Luis Borges in his short story “The House of Asterion” (1949). In Antiquity, it was the name of the white campion, which the Greeks used to weave garlands for Hera. It is also an alternative name for the star Chara.

Asterope (“as-TEH-roe-pee”) — one of the Pleiades; her name combines astêr with ôps “face.”

Astoria — an elaboration of the surname Astor (see above), originally used of the famous New York Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria.

Astra — the plural of the Latin astrum, a Latin cognate of the Greek.

Astraea — feminine form of the Greek adjective astraios “starry.” This is the name of Virgo — the “starry maiden.” Astrea is a variant.

Astral — another English adjective meaning “starry” or “relating to the stars,” perhaps best known through mystic and esoteric beliefs such as “astral spirits,”astral body,” “astral plane” and “astral projection.”

Astrantia — the botanical name for the masterwort, coined from astêr or the related Latin astrum.

Astrion — an obsolete English name of a type of precious stone, probably an asteriated sapphire

Astro — generally a prefix, as found in words such as “Astrophysics”; it was used of two investigative missions to Mars in the ’90s.

Astromancer — rare old English word meaning “diviner by the stars.”

Astron — Greek astron “star” — a variant of astêr.

Astronoe (“as-TROH-no-ee”) — Greek form of the name of a Phoenician Goddess — probably Astarte — remodelled to give it meaning in Greek, i.e. astêr plus nous “mind.”


Astrophorafeminine form of the Greek adjective astrophoros “bearing-stars.” Astropher would make an enticing alternative to Christopher…

In 2010, 16 girls were called Aster in the US; and 4 in the UK. It didn’t make it into the official records as a boy’s name at all. But it has been used for boys, and given how little used it still is, there’s no reason not to.

Aster is a rarity — but it’s definitely a magnificent little star…

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Pagan Name of the Month here at the Nook explores a name in the US or UK top 100 which has plenty of Pagan umph.

This month, it’s the turn of the sparkling, seasonal Stella.

As most people know, Stella means “star” in Latin.

“Stella Maris,” meaning “star of the sea” in Latin, is a well-known title of the Virgin Mary — and widely believed to have originally been an epithet of the Goddess Isis.

Although, there is actually no document from Antiquity explicitly linking Stella Maris with Isis — we do know that the ancients used “Stella Maris” of the star Polaris, and it is likely as a title to have originally belonged to Isis.

It was Eusebius, writing in the fourth century, was the first to say that Mary was “Stella Maris” (although it is not actually recorded as a title until the ninth), and it is well-established that Mary acquited many of Isis’s attributes and associations after Christianty became the official religion of Rome.

Stella was first used as a given name in the seventeenth century, possibly inspired by Sir Philip Sidney’s use of it in his Astrophel and Stella (1591). The Stella of the sonnets is often identified with Lady Penelope Rich, first cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth I (and possibly even the Queen’s great-great niece — a question mark hangs over the paternity of Penelope’s grandmother, Catherine Carey, daughter of “the other Boleyn Girl,” Mary).

Sidney himself is virtually universally identified with the Astrophel of the poems, a coinage of Sidney’s own from the Greek astêr “star” and philos “lover.”

Stella was 85th in the USA in 2010, having risen rapidly since 1998 when it re-entered the top 1000.

It left it slighty over ten years earlier, having been dwindling slowly with the passing decades since its previous peak almost 100 years exactly; it was 55th in 1889.

In the UK, it was a much lowlier 372nd, with its use possibly influenced negatively at the present time by the popularity of the Belgian lager, Stella Artois.

Stella did, however, enjoy a fair amount of popularity in the UK in the late ninteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was at its most popular in the 1920s, reaching 81st place in 1924.

Amongst real and fictional bearers are Stella Mayfair, a witch in Anne Rice’s Mayfair Witches series (1990–94) and Paul McCartney’s daughter, designer Stella McCartney (born 1971).

Stella also lies behind Estrella, Estelle and Estella, as well as the more unusual French Étoile.

So, as you can see, if you want a Pagan Witch or Wiccan name that doesn’t scream Pagan, Stella makes a stellar name!

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