Archive for the ‘Herbs’ Category

As promised, here’s the second part of Welsh Flowers that have great name potential. Pronunciation at the end if you want to sound like you were born and bred in the Land of Song.

  • Gwaedlys — pink persicaria
  • Gwendon — bedstraw
  • Gwenith y gog — figwort
  • Gwenonwy — lily of the valley
  • Gwern — alder
  • Gwlithlys (g-LITH-lis) — sundew
  • Helogan — celery
  • Helygen — willow
  • Helyglys — lesser willowherb
  • Isop— hyssop
  • Lili Mai — lily of the valley
  • Ller — darnel
  • Llin — flax
  • Llwyfen (“LHOO-ee-ven”) – elm
  • Llyriad — broad-leaved plantain
  • Maglys — lucerne
  • Meillion — clover
  • Melenydd — hawkweed
  • Melyn euraidd — golden rod
  • Melyn Mair — marigold
  • Melenllys — greater celandine
  • Merllys — asparagus
  • Merywen — juniper
  • Mesen — acorn
  • Miaren — briar
  • Murlys — wall pellitory
  • Onnen — ash
  • Oren — orange
  • Pabi — poppy
  • Pansi — pansy
  • Pengaled -(pen-GA-led) – knapweed
  • Persli — parsley
  • Pren — tree
  • Pren Ceri — medlar tree
  • Pren Eirin — plum tree
  • Rhedyn — fern
  • Rhos Mair — Rosemary
  • Rhosmari (ros-MA-ree) — Rosemary
  • Rhosyn — rose
  • Saets — sage
  • Safri — savoury
  • Serenyn — squill
  • Siasmin — jasmine
  • Suran — common sorrel
  • Syfi — strawberries
  • Syfien — strawberry
  • Taglys — field bindweed
  • Tansi — tansy
  • Tegeirian (te-GAY-ree-an) — orchid
  • Teim — thyme
  • Tormaen — golden saxifrage
  • Tresi Aur — laburnum
  • Trilliw (TRI-lhee-oo) — pansy
  • Trydon — agrimony
  • Ywen — yew

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” ipronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

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The adoption of “word names” is much more widespread and accepted in Welsh, and are regularly heard within Wales.

Names of flowers and trees are, naturally, a popular choice too.

But there are still many that have been little used so far, names which are accessible to English-speakers too.

So if you have Welsh heritage you want to honor, or simply a love of Celtic lands, here’s a collection of Welsh flowers and trees for you:

(If you want to say ’em like a native, general pronunciation guidance given at end — unless something is particularly tricky)

  • Aethnen — aspen
  • Afal — apple
  • Afallen — apple-tree
  • Afan — raspberries
  • Afanen — raspberry
  • Alaw — water-lily (also means “melody”)
  • Arian Gwion — yellow rattle (literally Gwion’s silver)
  • Banadl — broom
  • Bedwen — birch
  • Blodyn — flower
  • Bronwerth — borage
  • Brwynen — rush
  • Brythlys — scarlet pimpernel
  • Calon Afal — devil’s bit scabious
  • Camri — camomile
  • Cawnen — reed
  • Ceian — carnation
  • Ceilys — pink
  • Ceirios — cherries
  • Celyn — holly
  • Celyn Mair — butcher’s broom
  • Cenawen — catkins
  • Clais yr hydd — dog’s mercury
  • Clais y moch — clary
  • Clefryn — sheep’s bit scabious
  • Collen — hazel
  • Corsen — reed
  • Crinllys — dog violet
  • Crys y brenin — henbane
  • Cyren — currants
  • Dail Arian — silverweed
  • Danadl — blind nettle
  • Delia — dahlia
  • Derwen — oak
  • Draen — briar
  • Draenen ddu — blackthorn
  • Draenen wen — hawthorn
  • Dringol — common sorrel
  • Drysïen (“DRUH-see-en) — briar
  • Dwyfog (“DOO-ee-vog”) — wood betony
  • Eglyn — golden saxifrage
  • Eirin — plums
  • Eirinen — plum
  • Eirlys — snowdrop
  • Eithen — gorse
  • Elinog — bittersweet
  • Erwain — meadowsweet
  • Eurlys — yellow vetch
  • Fandon — woodruff
  • Fioled — violet
  • Ffarwel haf — Michaelmas daisy
  • Ffion — foxgloves
  • Ffwsia — fuchsia
  • Gellygen — pear-tree
  • Glesyn — borage
  • Greulys — groundsel

Pronunciation notes:

  • “ae,” “ai,” “au,” and “eu” pronounced “eye”
  • “c” always hard, as in “cat”
  • “e” pronounced like “e” in “bet,” “set,” etc
  • “ei” pronounced “ay”
  • “f” pronounced “v”
  • “ff” pronounced “f”
  • “g” always hard, as in “get”
  • “ll” see Extreme Welsh Names
  • “s” always “s,” never “z”; often “sh” before an “i”
  • “th” pronounced like the “th” in “thistle”
  • “y” in the last syllable is pronounced “i” as in “in”, but in most other syllables, is pronounced “uh.”

(In words of two syllables, stress is divided equally. In words of three, stress usually falls on the first syllable, unless otherwise stated.)

Part 2 next week!

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I have been browsing one of my favorite raw-food recipe books today, and doing a little online shopping to replenish my cupboards. It struck me as I read how many of the wonderful, magical super foods which feature so highly in the raw-food world would make really delicious names…

So, without further ado, here’s my pick of scrumptious, magical super-food names:

Agave — a syrup made from the Agave plant, a native of Central America. An excellent sugar/honey substitute, as it has a much lower glycemic index than refined sugar, and because it is sweeter, less is needed. Its name is Greek: agauos “illustrious” and

Arame — a Japanese seaweed, full of calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin A, and, of course, iodine.  The kanji used to write it — 荒布 — mean “wild” and “linen.”

Avocado — one of nature’s finest; yes it contains a lot of fat, but it’s GOOD fat. Avocado was actually an old form of Spanish abogado “advocate”; representing a Spanish attempt to render the fruit’s original Aztec name: ahuacatl “testicle.”

Barleygrass — essentially a variant of Wheatgrass; I just think Barleygrass has more name potential. Much celebrated for their health-giving properties.

Cacao — raw cocoa powder, cacao butter and cacao nibs are two of the most wonderful things in the world: chocolate that’s good for you! :D. It is rich in anti-oxidants and phenylethylamine — the chemical responsible for making us feel happy (which is why so many of us love chocolate!) — not to mention all its minerals and other goodies.

Camu — alright, so the super food is camu camu, but one camu is probably enough for a name… A type of berry found in Brazil, it is rich in vitamin C, as well as numerous amino acids, iron, calcium, potassium and iron. I’ve only found it as a powder in Britain.

Chlorella — a highly nutritious algae. Its name comes from the Greek chlorus “green.”

Coconut — like avocadoes, coconuts are a source of good fat, and it is a “false economy” to cut from the diet if dieting. They are a rich source of protein and minerals, as well as essential fats. It is particularly good for veggies and vegans because it contains some important fats otherwise difficult to incorporate in the diet, such as Lauric acid. Its name derives from the Spanish and Portuguese coco “grinning face”  from cocar “to grin”– a reference to the appearance of a face on a coconut’s base.

Dulse — lovely seaweed. It has been a staple food of those living on parts of the coasts of Britain and the East coast of America for thousands of years. The word comes from the Irish and Gaelic duilseag and Welsh cognate delysg.

Flax — flax seeds (also called linseed) is highly nutritious and their oil, like hemp, is a good source of essential fatty acids.

Goji — gojis are quite familiar now, having been promoted on the health food scene for some years. Its name comes from its Chinese name — gǒuqǐ “goji plant.” They were first brought to Britain in the eighteenth century, and can actually be found growing wild in some parts — these wild, naturalized gojis tend to go by the vernacular name of wolfberry. Very nutritious, they are full of vitamin C and anti-oxidants. Apparently, the Chinese say that the only side-effect of eating too many gojis is laughing too much.

Hemp — hemp seeds contain the full spectrum of amino-acids and is a rich vegan source of Omega 3 and 6. (The seeds used for eating come from a different variety to the one used for marijuana, in case you were wondering!).

Kelp — a familiar seaweed. As good as the rest!

Lucuma — a Peruvian fruit. I would so love to eat one of these fresh! Lucumas have been valued in Peru for at least 2000 years, and are highly nutritious, as well as having a distinct but delicious taste.

Maca — I swear by maca; I’d say it was the best thing since sliced bread, but I think it is far, far, far better than sliced bread! It is a powder made from the root of the maca plant, once a staple of the Incas and now being grown in large quantities by native farmers in Peru once more. It is renowned for its ability to rebalance and detoxify the system. I just wish we could get the roots whole; apparently they use maca root in Peru like potatoes. I dream of trying the maca chips with chili sauce at a roadside stall there.

Mesquite — eaten as a food for thousands of years in Central America, it is now banned for human consumption in the EU because it has been labelled an “untested novel food.” Stupid, invasive law. If you live in America, treasure it.

Mulberry — one of our favoritest favorite berries. My Small Child and I love the late summer and autumn when the old mulberry trees start groaning with their lovely, juicy berries, so dark red, they are almost black. Yum, yum, yum. They are full of vitamin C, antioxidants, and iron, as well as being a great source of cancer and diabetes fighting anthocyanins.

Nori — another Japanese seaweed, often found in sheets, which make a fantastic alternative to tortillas/pittas etc for really nutritious, healthy wraps. Most people are probably most familiar with it from sushi. The kanji for it — 海苔 — combines “sea” + “moss.”

Pollen — bee pollen (also called bee bread) is definitely the bee’s kees. It is amazingly nutritious, highly regarded for its rejuvenative and healing properties. It’s also very yummy. The bees make it by packing pollen collected from plants together, mixing it with enzymes secreted by the bees themselves and nectar. The word “pollen” orginally meant “fine flour” and “fine powder,” deriving ultimately from Latin pulvis “dust.”

Spirulina — derived from a very nutritious algae, grown in Hawaii, called Arthrospira. This is from Greek arthron “joint” + speira “anything twisted” — the latter also, obviously, the source of Spirulina.

Suma — its alternative name of Brazilian ginseng hints at how fabulous this amazing food is. Most of us sadly only have access to the powdered root of what is a vine found in the rain-forests. Highly nutritious, many of those that eat it also do so because they believe it has as nourishing and healing an effect on the soul as it does on the body. Brazilians call it para todo “for all,” referring to the fact it is used as a cure-all.

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O Tiger-lily... I wish you could talk!

I have to say up front, I love the name Tigerlily. It’s bold, quirky and zesty. It has sparkle. It dances in the dewy grass in the bright new light of the Age of Aquarius.

And, unlike many names, it offers plenty of scope to be tailored to suit the bearer.

Thus a child who grows up to be ultra-conservative can quietly drop the Tiger and go by plain Lily.

The cooky one can become a Tiggy.

The cutsey one in pig-tails will be a Tilly.

The feisty spitfire can embrace Tiger.

And the tomboy can plum for gender-neutral Ty.

And the one ready to embrace the world and take all it throws, the one who will laugh in the rain, sleep under the stars, climb mountains, sing by the camp-fire till dawn, kayak down rapids, and find the cure for cancer is Tigerlily!

It’s not a name, however, you will find many people sitting on the fence over. It’s one that people will immediately love — or immediately hate.

In genuine given name use only since the late twentieth century, it is still very rare. In the US, there were only 14 little girls called Tigerlily in 2010, and 5 called Tigerlilly.

In the UK, there were 9 babies called Tigerlily in the UK 2010, and 3 each of Tiger-Lily and Tigerlilly. There were also eight little girls called Tiger — who are probably Tiger Lilies (only first names and hyphenated names appear in the statistics).

As Tiger Lily, it features famously as the name of the Native American princess in J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904).

It has featured in numerous other fictional and cultural settings, from a little girl in the gentle world of Rupert Bear, to Bubbles “Tiger Lily” White in the 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance — not to mention several songs of the name over the years.

Probably the best known (perhaps infamous) example of it as a real name is that of (Heavenly Hiraani) Tiger Lily, daughter of the tragic Paula Yates and Michael Hutchance, both dead before their daughter was five.

Tiger lily is the popular name of more than one lily with orange blooms marked with black spots, though the classic is Lilium lancifolium, a native of North-East Asia and Japan.

But there are also the American Lilium catesbaei (also known as the leopard lily, Catesby’s lily, the southern red lily and the pine lily), Lilium columbianum (which also goes by the name Columbia lily), and Lilium superbum (Turk’s cap lily, turban lily and swamp lily). There’s also the wild tiger lily Lilium philadelphicum (chalice-cup lily, wood lily etc).

In the language of flowers, the bright, bold tiger lily represents wealth and pride. But it is still a lily, and shares the lily’s strongly feminine associations, which go back to ancient times.

Lilies are associated with more than one Goddess. Principally, it is the flower of Juno — Queen of Heaven — and most symbolic of purity. Brides have been carrying lilies in their wedding bouquets since the days of the Romans.

Tiger lilies have medical uses too; a tincture is used in various problems arising in pregnancy, while the flower essence is used to help control aggression and chanel it more positively. In China, meanwhile, tiger lily buds are eaten — both fresh and dried.

So, you see, there’s a great deal more to Tigerlily than a Disney princess. If you like something different, something daring, perhaps Tigerlily is the name for you.

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In a walk in the woods today, we came across our first spotted toadstools of the season — those wonderful bright red and white fungi so deeply associated with fairies and elves that one of its common names is “pixie’s seat mushroom.”

Its proper common name is, of course, the fly agaric — and its botanical moniker Amanita muscaria.

And although using the name of a fungus might not leap out immediately as a great name, the fly agaric is no ordinary fungus.

Even without its long-standing fairy associations, the fly agaric is a fascinating — and beautiful — thing.

It acquired its common name — fly agaric — because of its old use as a fly catcher. A head of fly agaric placed in a saucer of milk is irresistible to flies. They feast on the agaric, become thoroughly narcotized, and tumble into the milk and drown.

Quite a good way to go, all things considered.

It aquired the second part of its botanical name — muscaria — for the same reason; muscaria means “fly-hunting” in Latin, from musca “a fly.”

Agaric comes ultimately from its ancient Greek name agarikon — which the Greeks thought meant “of Agaria” — the name of a town in Sarmatia.

The melodious Amanita, meanwhile, derives from the ancient Greek amanitai — a (masculine plural) name of a fungus, though what, exactly is unknown. It may or may not have been the fly agaric. Its ultimate meaning is likewise unknown.

What is known — well-known — is the fact that fly agaric is a potent hallucinogenic. Its use among the Sami people of Scandinavia to achieve vivid visions is well attested. It is thought that the Sami learnt of its affects by observing what happens to animals that eat the fungus — reindeer in particular, are said to be thoroughly addicted!

Many think that fly agaric was also used by Viking berserkers, and, although it cannot be conclusively proved, it is also thought it have been one of the ingredient in Soma — a ritual drink mentioned in the Rig-Veda.

Perhaps most famously of all, it may also have been one of the ingredients of the “flying ointment” said to have been used by European Witches in the Middle Ages to promote visions and out-of-body experiences.

But no two people — or fly agaric — are the same; the compounds within it are notoriously unpredicable in their concentration and stability, and it is known to kill.

Most, sensibly, regard it as deadly poisonous, and appreciate its beauty and folklore from a safe distance.

Other Amanitas are more lethal still — Amanita virosa has the common name “destroying angel” because it is pure white, but absolutely lethal.

Amanita phalloides goes by the common name “deathcap,” and there is no known antidote; it leads to death from kidney and liver failure within days.

It was the deathcap which did for the Emperor Claudius; it was added to his favorite mushroom dish which, ironically, was another member of the Amanita family —

Not all Amanitas are bad!

As names, Agaric and Amanita are rare — many won’t be able to see past their mushroomy and (sometimes) deadly poisonous persona. And yet there’s all its witchy, fairy, magic-woodland associations too, which, I think compensate and forgive.

If you’re after something really different, really magical, Amanita or Agaric might be the name for you!

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I have been blessed this year with a magnificent patch of white betony in my herb garden. Its malachite green leaves and spikes of creamy-white flowers have taken over a whole bed!

Several years ago, I encountered a girl called Betony, and it struck me immediately what a marvelous girl’s name it made.

Her sister had the equally beautiful name of Aster — but that’s another story.

Betony comes from Late Latin betonica, itself from the classical vetonnica. Pliny recorded that this was the name given to the plant by the Gauls, who were said to have named it after the Vettones — a Celtiberian tribe — whom they claimed were the first to discover its properties.

Whatever the truth of the origins of its name, it is known that betony has been one of the most prized of all herbs since ancient times; its reknown was so great that it was believed that even animals knew of its powers, and a stag injured by an arrow — but not killed — would seek out betony, eat it, and be healed.

The Anglo-Saxons, in particular, valued it above all other herbs.

By the Middle Ages, it was regarded as a panacea, and used to treat almost anything, from dog-bites to toothache, jaundice to gout.

An old saying, originating in Sussex, was, ‘sell your coat and buy betony’, testimony to the high esteem in which it was held.

No physic garden was ever without it, and even today, it can still be found growing around the ruins of monasteries.

By the 20th century, it had become neglected, but modern herbalists are using it once more, and incorporating it in treatments for some headaches and neuralgia, as well as anxiety — always among its foremost uses.

A weak betony tea (not all that dissimilar in taste to normal tea) taken three times a day is still reckoned a good treatment for tension-related headaches and to soothe period pain.

It is also still considered useful for treating diarrhoea and indigestion.

Be warned though, fresh leaves are said to cause intoxication, and it is not a herb to be used in pregnancy.

But in the days of yore, betony wasn’t just rated for its medicinal qualities. It was considered to be a powerful herb of magic, offering protection against ‘the dark arts’ and ‘evil spirits’.

As a result, it was often planted in churchyards, and by houses. People would wear it to guard against ‘fearful visions’ and to drive away ‘devils and despair’.

Even today, many witches and druids still use betony to protect the soul and the body against harm.

A further interesting ancient folk belief regarding betony was that snakes would fight and kill each other wherever betony had been planted in a ring.

As a girl’s name, Betony is very rare, and what use it has seen has largely been since the 1970s.

But with poor old Betty now seemingly thoroughly out to pasture, and Betsy only just starting to rise again in the UK, Betony — with all its rich and evocative layers of meaning — could be seen as providing a distinctly contemporary alternative.

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