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Archive for the ‘World Names’ Category

It was the full moon last night, which is the inspiration for today’s pick of the week, the little heard Argent.

Argent falls into the categories of both “surnames as first names” and “word names,” though they share the same source: the Old (and Modern) French argent “silver.”

Silver’s association with the moon goes back to ancient times. It has long been believed to enhance the power of the moon, capable of forging a strong link between the the physical and metaphysical worlds.

The surname probably arose as a nickname for someone with silver hair, while the word has been used in the past as a noun (for a silver coin) and an adjective.

Nowadays, it is mostly confined to heraldry, where it is used of both silver and white in coats of arms.

The Old French word came from the Latin for silver argentum, which gives us the chemical symbol for silver — Ag.

It is cognate with the Welsh arian “silver” — which is still used to mean “money” in Welsh — which is found in more than one Welsh name, such as Arianwen, which combines it with gwyn “white,” “pure,” and “blessed,” and Arianell, which combines it with gell “yellow,” and “shining.”

It may also feature in the name of the Goddess Arianrhod — which is popularly interpreted as meaning “silver wheel” and a reference to the moon.

Caer Arianrhod is the Welsh name for the Milky Way.

The Common Celtic word from which arian derived was *arganto-, and the “g” is preserved in the medieval name Argante — used by Layamon in the twelfth century epic poem Brut as the name of the Queen of Avalon.

She is usually identified with Morgan le Fay, and there are those who argue that the name derives from an older form of Arianrhod.

Another old form is Eraint, which features in the epithet of the mythical Welsh figure Lludd Llaw Eraint “Lludd of the Silver Hand.”

This form also happens to demonstrate well the etymological relation between arian and the Modern Welsh Eirian “shining.”

Meanwhile, its Sanskrit cognate is Arjuna, a name borne by a hero of the epic Mahabharata. The modern Hindi form of the name is Arjun.

Argent itself is first found as a given name as early as the sixteenth century, interestingly enough as a girl’s name. This probably represented a simpler form of Argentea, which was taken directly from the Latin argenteus meaning “silvery” and “of silver.”

By the nineteenth century, it is more commonly found as a boy’s name, often as a middle name, indicative that the surname was now the principal source.

Today, Argent is a rarity. It has never reached the top 1000 in America, and only even appears in the data at all on one occasion, in 1926, when five girls were given the name.

Bursting as it is with heritage and meaning, I think it makes for a great unusual and contemporary choice for a boy or a girl. What do you think?

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First of all, apologies to anyone who happened by yesterday when my blog was temporarily “suspended/archived.”  Thankfully it was a system error, and the nice people at WordPress sorted it out very quickly — though I did have a litter or two of kittens in panic in the meantime!

A couple of weeks ago, I included Agatha in my list of “Grannies” worthy of resurrection, and the eve of the feast day of the saint of the name seemed a good day to feature her properly.

For it was Saint Agatha whose popularity in Britain in the Middle Ages made Agatha a common name in medieval times.

Hers is a particularly gruesome tale, even by the usual standards of hagiography.

For refusing to succumb to the advances of the (naturally) Pagan Roman prefect of Sicily, Agatha was tortured — which included cutting off her breasts — and executed.

These scenes have been popular in art across the centuries, with Agatha usually portrayed carrying her breasts on a tray as though they were macaroons (inspiration, perhaps for the minni di virgini cakes, which are a speciality of St Agatha’s day in Sicily).

However, contemporary evidence for her existence is non-existent, and the first references to her date from the sixth century.

All the rest is pure legend and folklore.

So who really was Agatha?

Agatha is a straight-forward name to interpret. It is simply the feminine form of the Greek agathos “good.” Hence Agatha, at its most literal, means “the good (female) one,” in her case, it could be “good woman,” “good lady” — or  “good goddess.”

And, as fate has it, there was a Roman Goddess called exactly that, word for word in Latin — Bona Dea, “the Good Goddess.”

The Bona Dea is quite a mysterious deity. what we do know is that she was a goddess strongly linked with women, and her festival was celebrated only by women (and only well-born ones at that).

Ancient writers interpreted Bona Dea as a title or epithet, concealing her real identity, which was believed to be a closely guarded secret kept by those admitted to her mysteries.

This didn’t stop the writers speculating that her real identity was the fertility Goddess Ops (“plenty”), Magna Mater (the “Great Mother”) and/or Ceres, and she was also identified with Juno and Isis.

Intriguingly, there are many vestiges of the worship of Isis in the festivals of St. Agatha on Sicily, where the cult of Isis was strong in ancient times. These include the greeting of the cult statue and its procession on a carriage and an enormous party.

A further interesting “coincidence” is that these festivities begin on February 2nd—with one of her areas of patronage being protection against fire, linking her to Brigid, who is also sometimes equated with Isis, and whose feast day is suspiciously close.

On Sicily, this connection with fire is particularly linked to Sicily’s volcano, Etna; Agatha’s veil has supposedly protected the island from the volcano on more than one occasion.

Agatha, like Isis, is also closely connected with cats; in France, Agatha is said to appear in the guise of an angry cat to women who work on her feast day, and in Languedoc she even used to be referred to as “Santo Gatto.”

In the Middle Ages, Agatha was very much the “Sunday best” form of the name, used in Latin documents. Like many — if not most — names, the vernacular forms were simpler.

In Agatha’s case, they were forms such as Agas, Agase and Agace, and Agacia was commonly found in Latin documents rather than Agatha.

Two significant medieval bearers were Agatha, the mother of Edgar Atheling, and Agatha of Normandy, a daughter of King William the Conqueror. The name is also ascribed to the mother of the famous fifteenth century “Mother Shipton” — Ursula Southill.

After the Reformation, Agatha plunged out of fashion, becoming unusual until the Victorians with their love of all things medieval plunked it from the history books.

Even then, however, it never became particularly common, while many an Agatha naturally became an Aggie.

The best-known real-life bearer of modern times is the British writer and archaeologist Agatha Christie (1890-1976). I’ve loved Agatha Christie’s books since childhood, and feel an additional bond because my Director of Studies at College, who excavated with Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan in the 1950s. It was rather thrilling to hear about her from someone who knew her personally.

In fiction, there’s more than one witch of the name, such as Agatha Harkness, a witch in the world of Marvel Comics, and Agatha Cackle, the villain of Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch.

But probably the most famous literary Agatha has to be the formidable Aunt Agatha of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories.

Until recently, this battleaxe image has rendered Agatha virtually unusable. But things are changing, and little Agathas are starting to make appearances.

In Britain, the name’s prospects may have improved due to the children’s TV show Guardians of the Museum, which is hosted by a pretty 1930’s ghost called Agatha. Certainly, my Small Child associates the name with this character, and thinks it’s a fabulous name.

So even if the current generation of parents can’t appreciate Agatha’s qualities, the next is distinctly hopeful!

Happy St. Agatha’s!

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The darker mood of Hægl and Nyd remains as we reach Is — Ice — in the runes.

The forms it takes in the various runic systems are:

In the runic poems, the focus is on ice’s appearance and nature — it is “the bark of a river,” and “a floor forged by the frost.”

But emphasis is also placed on the danger it brings, both tangible (such as slipping on it), and more metaphorical (for the perils that cold presents, both to the body and environement).

But ice also stands for winter, and as well as its dangers (so real and frightening in those days when famine was always a hair-bredth away), it is a time of rest and introspection.

Nature turns inwards, and so must we. After its sleep beneath the ice, new life will come in the spring.

Modern rune interpretations follow on from all this. Is is a distinct, virtually physical obstacle placed before us. It can represent sudden frustration in endeavours, something that stops us in our paths and threatens to prevent us from moving forward.

Indeed, to some extent it is actual tells us that we might need to stop and take time to think. Time to allow what will be to be. Just like Nature in wintertime. The spring will come.  We just need patience…

And so to the names…

Is is, of course, identical to “is”; I have encountered it as a nickname for Isabella and all her forms, and, after all Will’s resemblance to “will” hasn’t hindered him. Isaz is distinctly exotic, though not a thousand miles from Isis and Isaac.

His? Maybe, maybe not.

But lovely Isa has to be one of the best “rune names” of all. An old short form of Isabella, etc, particularly in Scotland, it has that “great-granny” charm going too, but has yet to be rediscovered in her own right (only 5 in 2010 in the UK), though it features in a lot of other names. In addition to all the variations on Isabella, there’s all these among the girls:

Aanisah, Alisa, Anisa, Anisah, Annalisa, Arisa, Beatrisa, Denisa, Elisa, Elisabeth, Elisabeta, Elisabetta, Ellisa, Eloisa, Elouisa, Erisa, Faisa, Ibtisaam, Ibtisam, Isadora, Isatou, Isatu, Larisa, Lisa, Louisa, Luisa, Khalisa, Khalisah, Maisa, Maisarah, Mandisa, Marisa, Melisa, Nafisa, Nafisah, Nisa, Nisanur, Parisa, Raisa, Ramisa, Romaisa, Risa, Rumaisa, Temisan, Tulisa, Unaisa, Unaisah.

Then there are all the great names beginning with Is-. As well as Isaac, the Isabellas and Isadora, there’s:

Isabèu, Isaiah, Isambard, Isamu, Isao, Isca, Iseult, Isfael, Isfandiyar, Ishaq, Ishara, Ishkur, Ishtar, Isidore, Isioma, Isis, Iska, Iskander, Iskra, Isla, Islay, Islwyn, Islyn, Isra, Issachar, Issoria, István.

Then there’s the meaning; and what leaps out first is Ice itself, along with Icie and Icy and “ice” or “icy” in other languages:

  • Ais — Malay: “ice”
  • Akull — Albanian: “ice”
  • Akulli — Albanian: “icy”
  • Bīng — Mandarin: “ice”
  • Buz — Turkish: “ice”
  • Duramen — Latin: “ice”
  • Eis — German: “ice”
  • Eisig — German: “icy”
  • Gelido, Gelida — Italian: “icy”
  • Gelu — Latin: “ice”
  • Glace — French: “ice”
  • Glacial — French: “icy”
  • Glacies — Latin: “ice”
  • Hielo — Spanish: “ice”
  • — Welsh: “ice”
  • Izotz — Basque: “ice”
  • Jää — Estonian, Finnish: “ice”
  • Jäine — Estonian: “icy”
  • Jäinen –Finnish: “icy”
  • Jaleed — Arabic: “ice”
  • Jég — Hungarian: “ice”
  • Jeges — Hungarian: “icy”
  • Kerakh — Hebrew: “ice”
  • Kori — Japanese: “ice”
  • KryerosKryera, Cryerus, Cryera — Greek: “icy”
  • KrymosKryma, Crymus, Cryma — Greek: “icy”
  • Krystallos, Crystallus — Greek: “ice”
  • KryosKrya, Cryus, Crya — Greek: “icy”
  • Led — Croatian, Czech: “ice”
  • Ledas — Lithuanian: “ice”
  • Ledovy — Czech: “icy”
  • Ledinis — Lithuanian: “icy”
  • Ledus — Latvian: “ice”
  • Lód — Polish: “ice”
  • Lyed — Russian: “ice”
  • Oighreata — Irish: “icy”
  • Oighir — Irish: “ice”
  • Pegylis — Greek: “icy-cold”
  • Rhew — Welsh: “ice”
  • Stiria — Latin: “icicle”
  • Thalj — Arabic: “ice”
  • Xeado — Galician: “icy”
  • Xeo — Galician: “ice”
  • Yax — Persian: “ice”
  • Yelo — Filipino: “ice”

It also inspires the following in English:

  • Berg
  • Cryo
  • Crystal
  • Diamond
  • Floe
  • Frazil
  • Frost
  • Frostflower
  • Frosty
  • Gelid
  • Glacier
  • Glacieret
  • Glaçon
  • Glaze
  • Glitter
  • Glittery
  • Hail 
  • Icicle
  • Kittly
  • Kulfi
  • Lollipop
  • Lolly
  • Nilas
  • Popsicle
  • Rime
  • Rone
  • Sparkle
  • Sleet
  • Star
  • Thaw
  • Varve
  • Winter

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That’s “Happy Saint Dwynwen’s Day!” in English.

Saint Who?

In Wales, Dwnywen (pronounce “doo-in-wen” — the “doo-in” bit pronounced so quickly that it almost sounds like “dwin”) is considered the “Welsh St. Valentine,” and people increasingly mark St Dwynwen’s as well as — sometimes instead of — Valentine’s day.

Naturally, she has also become the Welsh patron saint of lovers.

Like Valentine, she’s a saint of very shadowy roots.

The legend says she lived in the fifth century, one of the many daughters of the legendary Brychan Brycheiniog — a man who, according to the myths, has more saintly children under his belt than most of us have hot dinners.

There are many versions of her tale, but in essence, she fell in love with a young man called Maelon, but would not marry him, either because her father forbade it or because she had sworn herself to a life of saintly celibacy.

She prayed for a solution — and an angel appeared with a magic potion to give to Maelon.

She gave it to him — and it turned him into a block of ice, thus saving him the sorrow of pining away for her, and to remove him from her temptation.

In some versions, she then asks for three requests — that Maelon be released, that she never marry, and that she could become the patron of true loves.

Not exactly happy-ever-after, but at least there’s no beheading!

The centre of Dwynwen’s cult was originally on a small island off the coast of Anglesey called Llanddwyn Island, which preserves another form of her name within its — Dwyn.

She is also known as Donwen, and Donwenna — all of which hint strongly at what may well be her true origin, the ancient Cymric Goddess Dôn.

Her name is almost certainly a combination of Dôn with gwyn. This is a familiar ending in Welsh names — featuring as Gwyn and Gwen at the start of names, and –wyn and –wen at the end (in Welsh, –wyn is always masculine, and –wen is feminine).

It’s basic meaning is “white,” but it also carries the sense of “pure” and “blessed.”

Dôn is the Welsh equivalent of the Irish Goddess Danu. In Welsh myth, she is the mother of the Plant Dôn—the “Children of Dôn”— a number of major Welsh deities, including Gwydion and Arianrhod.

As a very ancient Goddess, unraveling her name is difficult, and there are a number of options. One is the Common Celtic *dƒnu– “gift.”

However, she is associated with a number of rivers. There are four called Don in the British Isles, plus others that are related: the Dane in Cheshire,
two Devons (one English, one Scottish), and possibly the Teign, Tone, and Tyne too. Then there are the great European rivers deriving from the same root: the Danube, the Dneiper, and the Donetz.

Moreover, in the early medieval period, Dôn may also have been known as Donwy. An old name for the River Dee, which flows through Chester, is the Dwfrdonwy (dwfr is a Middle Welsh word meaning “water” + Donwy), while the Welsh name for the Danube is Afon Donwy—i.e. “River Donwy.” Donwy is also found in the name of yet another Welsh river, the Trydonwy, known in English as the Roden.

All this makes it quite likely that the name’s roots lie far, far back with the Proto-Indo-European *dānus “river.”

But there’s a further twist to this tale. What if this Goddess’s associations with rivers is so ancient that instead of her gaining the name “river,” the word *dānus derived from her name?

This would explain why there does not seem to be any vestige of *dānus with the meaning “river” in any of the living Celtic languages, despite the large number of rivers in the British isles which seem to derive from it.

But there is a further option for its etymology.

A clue lies with Deva, a Celtic name by which the Romans knew the River Dee. It points firmly towards the Proto-Indo-European *deyw-o– “a divine being,” combined with the suffix –ono– (often indicative of the name of a Deity).

Originally, *deyw-o-, seems to have carried connotations of relating to a sky God; it litters the Indo-European languages in words meaning “a god”, as well as names of individual Gods and Goddesses themselves, such as Zeus and Diana.

Despite her popularity in modern Wales, Dwynwen is a rarity. But it’s a pretty name, and whatever the truth that lies at its roots, no-one can dispute that it has history and positive associations in abundance.

Dydd Santes Dwynwen Hapus!

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On our holiday last week we stayed at historic Gurney Manor — sometimes called Gurney Street Manor — in Cannington, Somerset.

It is a very special place.

Rescued by the Landmark Trust in the 1980s, much of the fabric dates to before 1400, with substantial additions in the mid-to-late fifteenth century.

Because it largely came down in the world after the seventeenth century, many of its ancient features, including the fifteenth century covered passage across the inner courtyard linking the old kitchen to the hall, have survived.

Unsurprisingly, it proved quite a good hunting ground for names, which are almost text-book examples of the typical names through the centuries, demonstrating fluctuations in fashion both generally, and across the social spectrum.

The original owners — and the family who gave their name to the manor — were a branch of the baronial family of Gurney, the founder of which came to England with William the Conqueror. Only a few names are known from this earliest period, emerging from the fog of remote history; a RICHARD de Gurney, flourished in 1243, when he put in a claim on the mill, then in possession of his “kinsman” WILLIAM, son of PHILIP.

Richard had a son called ROBERT.

By the end of the thirteenth century, the property appears to have been owned by JOHN de Gurney, who was alive in 1327.

The last of the line at Gurney Manor, and probably the one responsible for much of the parts of the hall dating to the late fourteenth and early fifteenth century, was HUGH, who succeeded to the estate in 1358. Either he, or a son of the same name, was there in 1401, with a wife called BEATRICE.

He had no son, and so the manor passed to his daughter JANE — an unusual name at the time, when the usually feminine form of John was Joan. She married ROGER Dodesham.

Responsible for most of the fifteenth century additions was their son, another WILLIAM, who was a lawyer as well as a landowner.

William had sisters called JOAN and ELEANOR, and on his death in 1480, the Gurney Street Manor passed in trust to Joan’s daughter, AGNES, wife of WALTER Michell, who died in 1487. Agnes and Walter had three sons, who each succeeded in turn, WILLIAM, JOHN, and THOMAS.

Thomas, whose wife was called MARGARET, died in 1503, when the manor passed to his son, another THOMAS. He also had a daughter called ISABEL.

Thomas made a number of improvements and refinements to the house, adding fine windows and new chimneys — but it all came to an abrupt end on December 13, 1539, when he murdered his wife JOAN and sister-in-law ELEANOR, seemingly at Gurney Manor, before killing himself.

He had two known children, another JANE, and another RICHARD.

Richard, who married an ELIZABETH, died in 1563, leaving the manor to his son, TRISTRAM.

Tristram, meanwhile, died in 1574, when the manor passed to his brother, Sir BARTHOLOMEW.

On Bartholomew’s death in 1616, his lands were split between his daughters, JANE and FRANCES. Gurney passed to Jane, wife of WILLIAM Hockmore.

William had considerable property elsewhere, and Gurney’s owners no longer lived there; the house and its acres was let to tenants, so that by the late nineteenth century, it was regarded as just a (large) farmhouse.

The names of most of these tenants is lost, but we still know the names of the house’s owners, and their families.

Jane and William Hockmore, for instance, had six children, SUSANNAH, GREGORY, CHARLES, WILLIAM, FRANCES and RICHARD, not all of whom lived to adulthood.

Gregory, married to MARY, inherited in 1626, dying in 1653, when the estate passed to his son, also called GREGORY (he also had a daughter called JANE).

Gregory II, married to HONOR, also had two children, a son WILLIAM, and, quelle surprise, yet another JANE.

William, who inherted sometime between 1676 and 1680, married another MARY, and had three daughters, MARY, JANE and HONORA; only Honora survived to adulthood, becoming William’s heiress on his death in 1707-08.

She married DAVIDGE Gould (his mother’s maiden name was Davidge) around 1713, and had five children who survived to adulthood: Sir HENRY (d.1794), RICHARD (d.1793), HONORA (d.1802), WILLIAM (d.1799) and THOMAS (d.1808).

Henry, married ELIZABETH, and had two daughters, another ELIZABETH, and HONORA MARGARETTA. Elizabeth married TEMPLE Luttrell; Honora Margaretta, who died in 1813, married General RICHARD Lambart, 7th Earl of Cavan.

And Gurney passed through her to the Earls of Cavan.

(Temple Luttrell was an interesting character; an MP, he was reputedly also a smuggler, and built a folly, called Luttrell’s Tower, at Eaglehurst near Southampton. On his death in Paris in 1803, Luttrell’s Tower passed to the Earl of Cavan too. By pure coincidence, Luttrell’s Tower is also now owned by the Landmark Trust.)

Richard and Honora Margaretta had five children:

  • RICHARD HENRY ROBERT GILBERT (1783-85)
  • HONORA ELIZABETH HESTER (1784-1856)
  • ALICIA MARGARETTA HOCKMORE (1785-1818)
  • SOPHIA AUGUSTA (1787-98)
  • RICHARD HENRY (b. and d. 1788)
  • GEORGE FREDERICK AUGUSTUS (1789-1828)
  • EDWARD HENRY WENTWORTH VILLIERS (1791-1812)

George, who died before his father, married the simply named SARAH, and had five children:

  • HENRIETTA AUGUSTA (d. 1874)
  • ALICIA (d.1913)
  • JULIA (d.1897)
  • FREDERICK JOHN WILLIAM (1815-87)
  • OLIVER GEORGE (1822-98)

Frederick John William’s wife was CAROLINE AUGUSTA, and they also had five children:

  • MARY HYACINTHE (d.1933)
  • SARAH SOPHIA (d.1914)
  • FREDERICK EDWARD GOULD (1839-1900)
  • OCTAVIUS HENRY (1855-1919)
  • ARTHUR (1858-1937)

Frederick Edward Gould’s wife was MARY SNEADE (Sneade was her middle name — her surname was Olive), and their children:

  • FREDERICK RUDOLPH (1865-1946)
  • ELLEN OLIVE (1867-1945)
  • MAUD EDITH GUNDREDA (1869-1940)
  • LIONEL JOHN OLIVE (1873-1940)
  • HORACE EDWARD SAMUEL SNEADE (1878-1950).

Frederick Rudolph had no children by his first wife CAROLINE INEZ; by his second wife, HESTER JOAN, he had two daughters; the first, ELIZABETH MARY was born in 1924.

The following year, Gurney was sold to its tenants of more than thirty years, the Bucknells, and with it an unbroken line of descent, if not of inhabitation, of at least eight hundred years, was finally severed.

The Bucknells were a thoroughly English Victorian middle class family; the father, a classic “gentleman farmer” was a solid and respectable JAMES, his wife an equally establishment MARY ANN. One daughter was ELIZA HARRIS, the other, OLIVE MARY (possibly named in honor of the Countess of Cavan), and they also had a son, BENJAMIN JOHN.

In 1901, there were also three servants living with them at the manor: FRANK, EMILY and MABEL.

Gurney’s time once more owned by its inhabitants was short-lived; the Bucknells sold in 1934, and by the 1940s it had been subdivided into flats. By the 1980s, it was in a sorry, neglected state, with most of the flats empty, but then the Landmark Trust bought it, and the rest is (more!) history…

No-one lives there for more than three weeks at a time anymore, but it has been fully restored to its medieval glory and I think the place rather likes the variety of ever changing faces coming and going, and basks in their rapt admiration.

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With Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names at last completed and gone forth into the big bad world, this week’s pick of the week — the lovely and evocative Elysia — is a thank you to Llewellyn’s Elysia Gallo, who, throughout the whole process of writing and editing, was so supportive, helpful and encouraging.

I have to say, I am very jealous of Elysia’s name — and I absolutely love it. As a girl’s name, it is found in the records from the seventeenth century, though it is clear that, especially in many early cases, it was mixed up with Alicia —  sometimes also Eliza.

But it is also clear that for others, the association intended was clearly Elysium…

Elysium itself is the Latin form of the Greek Êlusion.

This is the name the Ancient Greeks gave to the part of the Underworld reserved for heroes, righteous individuals selected by the Gods, and initiates of the mystery cults, particularly the Mysteries of Eleusis.

It is probable, but not certain, that Elysium and Eleusis share the same origin. And, if not, they have certainly been blurred together since ancient times.

The Eleusinian Mysteries are probably the best-known of the ancient Mystery cults; they are, indeed, the Mysteries. Centred on the small town of Eleusis in Attica, and within walking distance of Athens, the focus of the Mysteries were Demeter and Persephone, in her maiden aspect, Kore.

Unfortunately, the exact rites, rituals and beliefs of the initiated are, quite literally, a mystery. Absolute secrecy regarding practices and beliefs among initiates was a major component, and they those ancient initiates took their secrets with them to Elysium.

However, enough clues do survive, in the form of oblique references, and archaeological remains, including wall-paintings and mosaics, for scholars across the ages to have pieced together some of it.

The rites included fasting, consumption of ritual drink, the showing of special objects, the re-enactment of the myth of Demeter and Persephone, and revelation of secrets.

To reveal those secrets to a non-initiate, the penalty was death.

It is thought that the Eleusinian Mysteries date back to Mycenaean times (i.e. the second millennium BCE); in decline from the second century, they were banned by the new Christian elite in 396 CE.

The etymology of Eleusis and Elysium are as shrouded as the practices — though by passage of immense time, rather than by design.

The most obvious derivation of Eleusis is from the Greek erkhomai “to come.” Eleusis “coming,” is also a variant of the noun êlusis, which carries the prosaic meaning of “step.”

But a credible and alluring alternative explanation is that its actual origins lie with another Greek word — enêlusios “struck by lightning”; ta enêlusia was a name given to places set apart from worldly uses because they had been struck by lightning.

A further intriguing option is that the roots of Elysium actually lie with the Egyptian: jArw “rush,” a reference to sxt-jArw the “fields of rushes,” which was a similar concept to Elysium in Egyptian religion, ruled over by Osiris.

Given the long history of trade between Greece and Egypt, it is perfectly plausible that this notion would find its way into the Greek belief system.

Both Greek and Latin have adjectival forms of Elysium — Greek êlusios, Latin Elysius. They were used of Elysium and its queen, Persephone, and are often translated as “Elysian,” most famously in the expression Elysian Fields, a translation of the Latin campi Elysii.

In English today, “Elysia” is frequently used interchangeably with “Elysium.” Although its original use was quite specific, it has come into general use to mean “paradise,” passing, largely without hint of irony, into Christian language and iconography too.

As well as Elysia herself, Elysian makes a noteworthy name choice — and could also be used for a boy, as could Elysion, the usual Anglicized form of the original Greek Êlusion, which is sometimes found (mostly in poetry) as a variant spelling of Elysium.

As a name, there are a number of variant spellings, such as Elisia, Elizia and Elyzia. Elyse also wanders into the category, demonstrating the distinct blurring at the edges between Elysia with Alicia, Alice, Elise, Eliza and Lisa.

Certainly, Elysia presents an unusual, meaningful but also very contemporary alternative to those names, especially for a Pagan parent looking for a name with deep and strong Pagan roots.

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Era

Here are some more tempting delights from Latin, just waiting to be adopted as names…

And their dark side; those with lovely sounds but loathly meanings.

The Lovelies:

  • Ebenus — “ebony tree”
  • Ebur — “ivory”
  • Efferus, Effera — “very wild”
  • Effigia — “likeness”
  • Egregius, Egregia — “excellent,” “extraordinary”
  • Eia — an expression of joy and surprise
  • Elegantia — “refinement,” “grace”
  • Elegia — “elegy”
  • Eminentia — “prominence”
  • Eno — “I swim out,” “I fly away”
  • Ensifer — “sword-bearing”
  • Ensiger — “sword-bearing”
  • Ensis — “sword”
  • Enthymema — “thought,” “line of thought”
  • Ephemeris — “journal,” “diary”
  • Ephorus — a type of Spartan magistrate; used as a given name in Ancient Greece
  • Epicus, Epica — “epic”
  • Epitheca — “an addition”
  • Epulo — “feaster”
  • Equa — “mare”
  • Eques — “knight”
  • Equester — “equestrian”
  • Equinus, Equina — “relating to horses”
  • Era — “lady,” “mistress (of a house)”
  • Ericius — “hedghog”
  • Erilis — “of a master/mistress”
  • Erus — “master”
  • Euax — “good!” (exclamation)
  • Excelsus, Excelsa — “lofty,” “distinguished”
  • Exter — “foreign,” “from abroad,” “strange,” “different”

The Loathlies:

  • Ebriosa — “drink-loving”
  • Ebrius, Ebria — “drunk”
  • Edax — “greedy,” “glutonous”
  • Egenus, Egena — “needy,” “destitute”
  • Egestas — “poverty”
  • Elixus, Elixa — “boiled,” “sodden”
  • Emax — “shopoholic”
  • Eneco “I kill off,” “I torture”
  • Esca — “food,” “bait,” “titbits”
  • Exta — “entrails”

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