Archive for the ‘Sneak Peeks’ Category

I end this second week of sneak peeks with something a bit different. My Small Child saw the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London (yes, I know it’s really meant to be Anteros, but everyone calls him Eros!), which is the reason for today’s final choice — along with his mom… or is she?


The Greek God of (sexual) love. He is usually regarded now as the son of Aphrodite by Ares, and familiar to all as a cuddly little cherub with wings and a bow and arrow — but the ancients perceived him very differently. In some early sources, such as Hesiod, he was considered to be one of the three original deities to emerge from Chaos, along with Gaia and Tartarus. The Greeks and Romans recognized and embraced — in a way the Abrahamic religions like to brush pink-cheeked under the carpet — the cardinal importance of sex in the perpetuation of human life and as a generative force. Thus Eros to the Greeks was a handsome, virile, dimple-free young man. It is quite probable that an obscure 4th Century saint, Erotis, is an outright adoption into the saintly fold of a God whom the Church struggled to suppress from the start. Since a major part of its doctrine rests upon sex being classed as a ‘sin’, containing the God of sexual love was always going to be a sticky problem – and slapping a ‘St’ in front may have been one way they dealt with this troublesome Pagan deity that wouldn’t just vanish into a puff of air. Encountered as a genuine given name since the 19th Century.


The Greek Goddess of love needs little introduction. Known to the Romans as Venus, she was identified by the ancients with native Goddesses across the known world, including the Mesopotamian Ishtar, Phoenician Astarte and Egyptian Hathor. Her association with the Evening and Morning Star is likewise very ancient. The traditional etymology of her name is Greek: aphros ‘foam’, considered a reference to her birth from the foam of the sea. However, this is likely to be Greek wishful thinking again when the name was Hellenized. Its true origin is likely to be pre-Greek or to lie in Asia Minor or Mesopotamia. A possible candidate is the Assyrian Bariritu, a Goddess whose name derives from the Akkadian: barārītu ‘dusk’ and ‘twilight’. She is a known manifestation of Ishtar. 19th Century.

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Iolo Morganwg

For the penultimate day of Sneak Peek Week, I’m coming home to Wales, to bring you a name little known outside the Principality — except perhaps, by Druids: Iolo (pronounced ‘yol-oh’) — and friends.


A Welsh name with a somewhat disputed history. It is mostly regarded today as a pet-form of IORWETH, but it is argued by some that it is actually the Welsh form of JULIUS. Bearers: Iolo Morgannwg, the Bardic name of Edward Williams (1747-1826), often called the father of Modern Druidry, whose work the Barddas was highly influential in the Druid revival.


Welsh: iôr ‘lord’ + gwerth ‘worth’. A name borne by numerous figures in Welsh history, it is one of a handful of genuinely Welsh names which have remained in constant use since at least medieval times. Anglicized as Yorath. Variant: Iorath.


The gens Julia is probably the most famous of all the Roman families. It claimed descent from the Trojan Hero Aeneas, son of Venus through his son Ascanius, who was also called Iulus. The legend has it that he was originally called Ilus – from Ilia, another name for Troy — but his name was corrupted. In fact, it is more likely that the name is a diminutive form of Iovis, the genitive of Jupiter (and from which we get Jove), and that the family was originally dedicated to him. Used since the 16th Century – often as Julius Caesar. Bearers: Julius Henry ‘Groucho’ Marx (1890-1977), the US comic actor; Julius Rosenberg (1918-53), whose execution as a communist spy during the McCarthy era remains controversial. Italian: Giulio, Hungarian: Gyula, French: JULES, Portuguese, Spanish: Julio, Polish: Juliusz, Russian: Yuliy.

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Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I

Sneek Peek Week II Day 3! The peek picked for today is Max.


Max was originally a short form of MAXIMILIAN; now it may also be encountered as short for MAXWELL: or even MAXIMUS. 19th Century. Bearers: Max Weber (1881-1961), the Russian-born US artist; Max Mallowan (1904-78) – born Edgar – the British archaeologist; Max Rockatansky, the hero of the 1979 film Mad Max and its sequels; Max Dennison, a character in the film Hocus Pocus (1993).


Folklore says that Maximilian was created by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III for his son by combining the names of two ancient Romans he admired – namely Quintus Fabius Maximus Cunctator (d.203 BCE) and Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (185-129 BCE). There was also a Quintus Fabius Maximus Aemilianus, consul in 145 BCE, and it is possible the name was intended to be a telescoping of his cognomina – Maximus Aemilianus. The baby so named went on to rule as Maximilian I (1459-1519), and there is no doubt that the spread of Maximilian as a given name — first in Germany and then elsewhere — is down to the Hapsburgs. However, there was an obscure 3rd Century saint called Maximilianus, although he doesn’t appear in the records till the 9th Century. His name meant ‘belonging to Maximillus’. Maximillus is a diminutive form of MAXIMUS. Diminutive: MAX. French: Maximilien, Italian: Massimiliano, Russian: Maksimilian. Bearers: Maximilien Robespierre (1758-94), the French revolutionary.


Latin: maximus ‘greatest’. Maximus was used as a cognomen in Roman times – most notably by members of the aristocratic Fabius clan. Magnus Maximus (c.335-88) – whose full name is not known – was one of a number of rival Roman Emperors between 383 and 385 CE, who is remembered in Welsh legend as Macsen Wledig. Maximus Tiranus (fl.409-411) was another pretender to the imperial throne. There was never, however, any with the garbled name Maximus Decimus Meridius – the name of the hero of the US film Gladiator (2000), who is responsible for raising the name’s profile since the Millennium. 16th Century. Feminine: Maxima. Italian: Massimo, Russian: Maxim, Maksim, Romanian: Maxim, French: Maxime, Spanish: Maximo, Welsh: MACSEN. Bearers: Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), the Russian writer.

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Today’s sneak peek is Jack — which was the most popular boy’s name in the UK for over fifteen years, until yesterday’s Oliver knocked it off the top spot in 2009.


Pet-form of JOHN, used since the Middle Ages. It developed from the earlier medieval pet-form Jankin (which gave rise to the surnames Jenkin, Jenkins, Jenkinson, Jenks and Jinks, etc). It was very common in the late medieval period, and came into use as a generic name for a man or male creature, such as Jack Tar. Some uses have become so engrained the fact that the name Jack is involved almost goes unnoticed, such as steeplejack, jackass and JACKDAW. The name features particularly highly in folklore. Jack Frost is frost personified; a spirit of Winter who draws fern-patterns on icy glass-panes. Jack-in-the-green is a name of the Green Man, and jack-olantern is another name for the will-o’-the-wisp. Several surnames derive from it, including Jack, Jacks, Jaggs, Jakes, Jeeks, Jacket, Jacklin, Jackman and JACKSON. Before the 20th Century, most Jacks were baptized John, even if they only ever used Jack all of their lives. Dim: Jackie, Jacky. Bearers: Jack Parsons (1914-52) – whose birth name was Marvel – was a notable American Thelemite, who is also known for the work he did at Caltech in rocket propulsion.


The English form of Hebrew Johanan ‘Yahweh has favored’; John developed from the Latin form Iohannes, later Johannes, from the Greek Iôannês. Johanan was an extremely common name amongst Jews in the 1st Century CE, and, as the name of the John the Baptist and the Evangelist responsible for one of the Gospels and the Book of Revelation, it was always going to become a popular name among the Christians. St John the Baptist was regarded as second only to Jesus — so it should come as no surprise that when Jesus got the festival of the Winter Solstice for his feast day, John was apportioned the summer one. The name wasn’t used much in Western Europe until the 1st Crusade (1095-99), after which hundreds of churches were dedicated to St John, and the name was bestowed upon countless baby boys. Variants: Jon (modern). Diminutives: JACK, JAKE, JOCK, Johnny, Johnnie, Jonny, HANK; Hankin, Hancock, Jankin, Jenkin (historical). Manx: Ean, Irish Gaelic: EOIN, SEÁN, Italian: Giovanni, Gianni, Gino (diminutive), Albanian: Gjon, German: Hans, Johann, Johannes, Finnish: Hannu, Jani, Joni, Jukka, Maori: Hoani, Armenian: Hovhannes, Scots Gaelic: IAIN, Seon; Seonaidh (diminutive), Bulgarian, Welsh: IOAN, Greek: Ioannis, Giannis, Yannis, YANIS, Welsh: IEUAN, IFAN,  Iwan, SÎON, Basque, Romanian: Ion Russian, Czech, Serbian, Croatian: Ivan, Dutch, Polish: JAN, Estonian: Jaan, Slovenian: Janez, Latvian: JANIS, Hungarian: János, French: JEAN, Danish: Jens, Portuguese: João, Catalan: Joan, Dutch, Danish, German, Swedish: JOHAN, Macedonian: JOVAN, Cornish: Jowan, Icelandic: Jón, Dutch: Joop (diminutive), Spanish: Juan, Hawaian: Keoni, Galician: Xoán, Arabic, Turkish: Yahya, Breton: Yann; YANNICK (diminutive). Bearers: King John of England (1167-1216); John Dee (1527-1608), the astrologer and ceremonial magician – among many other things; John Aubrey (1629-97), the English antiquarian, was one of the first people to study Stonehenge; John Toland (1670-1722), the Irish philosopher, founded the Ancient Druid Order in 1717; John Keats (1795-1821), the English poet; John Galsworthy (1867-1933), the English novelist; John Adams (1735-1826) and John F. Kennedy (1917-63), US Presidents Numerous men tried and executed for Witchcraft have borne the name John, including John Proctor (c.1632-92) and John Willard (bef. 1672-92) at Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and John Lindsay (c.1688-97), who was one of those convicted and executed at Paisley, Scotland, in 1697, aged just 11 years old.

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Last month, I ran a series of articles called “Sneak Peek Week” in which I previewed entries taken directly from my book, Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names: For Pagans, Witches, Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Mages, Shamans & Independent Thinkers of All Sorts Who Are Curious About Names from Every Place and Every Time.

If you missed it the first time around, you can find out more about it here!

The last selection all happened to be girls’ names — although I did include a couple of boys’ names along the way.

To balance it out, however, this Sneak Peek Week, the focus will be on boys’ names — and this time, the choice was given to my Small Child, so it’s quite an eclectic mix!

Watch this space…

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Another name, another voyage. Today’s sneak peek — and the last for now — is Christina. Some might find it a bit controversial, but what’s life without a bit of controversy? It also demonstrates pretty clearly the alternative perspective of Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names.


Latin: ‘belonging to CHRIST’ – an alternative form of CHRISTIANA, though rarer in the Middle Ages. An early – possibly the first – example in England is the sister of Edgar Atheling, who was proclaimed King of England in 1066, but never crowned. Both Edgar and his sister were born in Hungary in the mid 11th Century, where their father was in exile. Their mother’s identity has long been a matter of debate, but currently one of the most popular theories is that she was the daughter of Yaroslav I the wise of Kiev and his Swedish wife. This would make sense, as Christina – one of the most popular Swedish names – was already in use there at the time. In the 19th Century, Christina largely supplanted Christiana – in the same way Georgina usurped Georgiana. In the 20th Century, this process continued, with the even simpler French Christine coming into use towards the end of the 19th Century. Diminutives: CHRIS, Chrissie, Chrissy, CHRISTIE, Christy. Variants: Christene, Chrystine, Cristine, Crystine, Krystyna. Italian: Cristina, Irish Gaelic: Crístíona, Scandinavian: Kerstin, Danish, Norwegian: KIRSTEN, Kristine, Scots: Kirstin; Kirsty, Kirstie (diminutive), Swedish: Kristina, Hungarian: Krisztina. Bearers: Christine Daaé, heroine of Gaston Leroux’s novel Phantom of the Opera (1911).


Feminine of CHRISTIAN. Introduced in the 12th Century, it rapidly became very popular, usually used in the vernacular form Christian, which was far more common as a girl’s name than a boy’s until the 18th Century, when Christiana itself was revived. Variants: Kristyan, Kirstyan (hist). Diminutives: CHRIS, Chrissie, Chrissy, CHRISTIE, Christy (modern).

Christian ♂ ♀

The meaning of the boy’s name Christian is not quite as transparent as it looks. It derives from Latin Christianus ‘belonging to CHRIST’, when in the Middle Ages the usual English word for ‘a Christian’ was Christen. Admittedly, this is splitting hairs. 12th Century. German: Carsten, Karsten, Danish, Swedish: Kristen, Danish, Finnish: Kristian, Czech: Kristián, Hungarian: Krisztián. The girl’s name arose as a vernacular form of CHRISTIANA.


Usual English form of Latin: Christus < Greek: Khristos ‘anointed’ < khriô ‘to rub with scented unguents’. It was used by Christian writers to translate the Hebrew messiah as ‘anointed one’. The basic meaning of the adjective khristos is simply ‘to be rubbed on’, ‘used as an ointment/salve’ and ‘anointing’. While the name Christ itself carries a considerable amount of baggage – perhaps too much for most – this way of interpreting the name also allows any Pagan to feel entirely justified in using any of the Christ- names, should they choose. Also, there’s no reason why Pagans shouldn’t reclaim the word khristos, which was Pagan long before it was appropriated by Christianity. Although most Christians consider the name Christ to be too sacred to use as a given name, why should non-Christians regard it as more sacred than the name of any other deity? Despite the fact most other books on names choose to ignore it, Christ has been used as a genuine given name since at least the 18th Century.

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Today’s entry is the sweet – but not so simple – Lydia. As it’s quite a shortie, I’m throwing in a couple of freebies too: the probably related Ilia, Lyd — Lydia’s unrelated ‘next door neighbor’ in the book — and Lyd’s probable parent, Lludd… ooooo!

A character called Lydia featured in four Odes by the Pagan Roman poet Horace in the 1st Century BCE


Greek: Ludios ‘of Lydia’ – an ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, and later a Roman province. The name was ancient – the Akkadians called it Luddu – but the meaning is uncertain; it has tentatively been linked to Proto-Indo-European: *h₁lewdʰo- ‘people’, from which Old German: liut ‘people’, Latin: liber ‘free’ and Greek: eleutheros ‘free’ all developed. The name features in poems by the Roman poet Horace, and was also borne by a character in The New Testament. 16th Century. Bearers: Lydia Becker (1827-90), a British pioneer of the suffragette movement; Lydia Maria Child (1802-80), a US abolitionist and activist for the rights of both women and Native Americans; Lydia Bennett, a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813). French: Lydie.


Another name for Rhea Silvia, mother of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. It probably derives from Ilium, a poetic name for Troy, as Rhea Silvia descended from Aeneas the Trojan. Ilium itself is almost certainly a corruption of Luwiya, the Hittite name of the region of Asia Minor where Troy lay, which is probably an older form of LYDIA. 20th Century.


A river in Devon, England. It is usually derived from Old English hlӯde ‘noisy stream’, but it is possible that its medieval forms imply this because this is how the Saxons interpreted it and that in reality its roots are Celtic, perhaps with LLUDD at the source. It has more than one interesting feature which may well have once been sites of Pagan worship, such as the ‘White Lady’ waterfall and a series of whirlpools called ‘the Devil’s Cauldron’.


According to the Mabinogion, Lludd was a son of Beli Mawr and brother of Llefelys. He appears as Lud in Geoffrey of Monmouth – and is still remembered in London today in the name Ludgate. His epithet was Llaw Eraint ‘silver hand’, and he is the Welsh parallel of the Irish Nuada Airgetlám – another form of Lludd was NUDD, and ultimately it derives from NODENS. Late 20th Century.

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