Posts Tagged ‘Euan’

From the cycle of the seasons, and the fruition of hope and perseverance of Jera, Eo takes us to the cycle of life and death itself.

For Eo — more formally Ēoh — is yew, a slow-growing, very long-lived tree which has long been symbolic of both eternal life and rebirth.

It is another rune which exists only in the Anglo-Frisian and Eldar Futharks; its Elder Futhark name is known by more than one form: *Iwaz, *Eiwaz, *Ihwaz and *Eihwaz.

The old rune poems emphasizes the solidness of the tree’s wood, its rootedness, and the fact it brings blessings to a person’s land.

And although the Ash is usually regarded as the “World Tree” (Yggdrasil) of Norse mythology, it is sometimes said to be the Yew.

Modern rune interpretations focus on the what is perceived as the yew’s steadfastness and patience; the yew takes a long time to grow, but its growth lasts eons.

It also points the way to spiritual growth, and the importance of experience in gaining wisdom.

As for names, the various forms of the rune name are certainly distinctive. Eo isn’t a million miles in appearance (and possibly not meaning either) from the Greek  Io and is probably the most usable.

But there are numerous other names meaning “yew,” many etymologically related to Eo — including Yew itself.

  • Bërshen — Albanian for yew
  • Cis — Polish for yew
  • Éber — from Irish mythology
  • Eibe, Eiben — German for yew
  • Eoghan — Irish form of OWEN
  • Euan, Ewan, Ewen — Scottish forms of OWEN
  • Hagina — Basque for yew
  • Ia — a Cornish female saint (another name for St Ive)
  • Idho — the Ogham name for the yew
  • Ifor — Welsh name, probably cognate with ÉBER and IOBHAR
  • Iobhar — also from Irish mythology
  • Ìomhar — Scots Gaelic form of IVAR
  • Íomhar — Irish form of IVAR
  • Iona — the Scottish island
  • Ivar — from the Old Norse Ívarr “yew-bow”
  • Ive — a Cornish saint, and a medival form of IVO
  • Ivo — Old German name
  • Jarri — Hittite deity
  • Jura — another Scottish island
  • MiloMilon — the Greek Milo comes from a Greek word for yew
  • Owain — Welsh form of OWEN
  • Owen
  • Serkhedar — Persian for yew
  • Tasso — Italian for yew
  • Taxus — Latin for yew
  • Teix — Catalan for yew
  • Teixo — Portuguese for yew
  • Tejo — Spanish for yew
  • Tis — Czech, Russian, Slovak and Ukrainian for yew
  • Tisa — Croatian and Slovenian for yew
  • Tisovina — Serbian for yew
  • Tiszafa — Hungarian for yew
  • Yolande — though traditionally linked with Violet, it is probably in fact from the Old German iv “yew” + landa “land”
  • York — use as a name is an adoption of the surname, from York, Yorkshire
  • Ywain, Ywein — medieval forms of OWEN
  • Ywen — Welsh “yew”

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Pagan Name of the Month features a name currently in the American or English top 100 which has what I like to call “Pagan umph.”

This month’s choice — Evan — features in both the American and English chart, ranked 36th in America, and 76th in England and Wales.

Superficially, it might seem an odd choice, for today it is generally regarded as the Welsh form of John.

Which it is. Sort of.

It is actually the now standard Anglicized form of Ifan, just one of the Welsh forms of John.

Others include Ieuan and Ioan, made familiar by the Welsh actor, Ioan Gruffudd. These were Anglicized in the early modern period as as Javan, Jevon and Jowan (now considered purely Cornish).

Evan itself evolved from the older form Yevan, from the Welsh Iefan, with Evan itself first appearing in around 1500.

Although its roots were in the Hebrew John, it became regarded, quite rightly, as thoroughly Welsh, and remained one of the few Welsh names to remain in popular and regular use until the Celtic Revival in the nineteenth century.

Hence why Evans is one of the commonest surnames, especially in Wales. It also lies behind Bevan (from ap Evan “son of Evan”), Avens and Heaven.

Another old variant was Even, which is also found as a variant of Euan in Scotland and parts of England. Indeed, it seems to have been the
most common form of EWAN still prevailing in “the Old North” in the early nineteenth century.

There are also (rarer) modern feminine forms: Evana, Evanna, Ifanna and Ifanwy. A well-known bearer being the Irish actress, Evanna Lynch, known for playing Luna Lovegood.

So far, so good. But you might be wondering what it is about Evan that gives it a Pagan edge, apart from a fairly flimsy connection to a fictional witch?

The answer lies in a more unexpected source — Classical Latin.

For Evan also happens to be one of the alternative names of the Roman God Bacchus — identified with the Greek Dionysus.

I bet you weren’t expecting that!

Of course, the Romans didn’t pronounce it the same as we do; they said it “eh-wan,” and it is also written Euan. Other forms include Euhan, Euius and Evius.

It probably arose from the ritual cry used at his festival by worshippers — euoe!  or euhoe! — which even had a special adjective derived from it, which was used of worshippers, particularly Bacchantes: euans, meaning  “shouting ‘Evan.'”

So if you’d like a mainstream name with a nice little Pagan twist, Evan might be just the one for you.

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In Pagan Name of the Month, I feature a name currently in the top 100 in the US or UK, which has a particularly rich Pagan flavor.

This month, it is the turn of the wonderful Welsh Owen.

In 2010, Owen was 47th in the US, and 59th in the UK (although in Wales, it was 49th).

Owen is actually an Anglicized form of the correct Welsh form, Owain — pronounced “ō-wīn” (i.e. like “oh wine”) — and is also used in Ireland to render the cognate Irish Eoghan, which is pronounced pretty much exactly the same as Owen.

Traditionally, both are derived from Eugene (Greek: Eugenios “well-born”); it is certainly true that Eugene was used to “translate” Owen and Eoghan in medieval times, but few contest today that they are actually native Celtic names in origin.

They may still, however, be cognate with the Greek, as a likely source is the Common Celtic *wesu- “excellent”  and “noble” + *geno- “born,” cognate with the Greek eu “well” and gignomai “to be born.”

Both Celtic elements were in use in names in the Romano-British period.

Another very tempting option for the first element is *yewo- “yew,” which was also used in names in ancient times. This is currently the most favored option.

The yew was an extremely important tree to the ancient Celts. Yews are exceptionally long-lived trees, symbolic of rebirth, immortality, and the Otherworld.

In the British Isles, many ancient yews — predating Christianity — are found in old churchyards, a sign that Christian priests built their churches on sites already regarded as sacred.

But there is yet another possibility for the first element of this ancient name —  the theonym Esus, which also featured in Brythonic personal names.

Esus is a Celtic God mentioned by Lucan by Roman writer, and linked with two other well-known Celtic deities — Teutates and Taranis.

One of Owen’s other British cognates is Ewan — commonly spelled Euan. This is now largely considered the Scottish form of Owen and Eoghan, but it is found across “the Old North,” particularly in Lancashire, from time to time until the name’s modern resurgence across the British Isles, and its use in those areas probably goes back to Celtic times too.

Owen itself has also been in use since the Middle Ages, not just in Wales but also in the English Marches — the counties which border Wales. It is one of the few Welsh names which remained in constant, common use from medieval times to the present day, and is as well-known now for the surname derived from it as the personal name.

There are many notable bearers, from history and legend.

Probably the earliest is the semi-legendary Owain Ddantgwyn “White-tooth”, a fifth-century king of the small early medieval kingdom of Rhos in North Wales (roughly the region of the modern county of Conwy). He is often cited as a likely candidate for the historic King Arthur.

Another very early Owain was Owain mab Urien, king of Rheged, often known as Ywain or Ywein in Arthurian Romance, who probably lived in the sixth century. In the Arthurian cycles, he features as the hero in the tales of the Lady of the Fountain, such as Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (1170s).

There was also more than one king of the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde called Owen between the seventh and eleventh centuries.

Owain was very common in the Middle Ages, giving rise to the surnames Owen and Owens.

There are numerous Owens (or rather Owains) of note, such as Owain ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd (c.1100-70), and Owain Glyndŵr (c.1354-c.1416) — known as Owen Glendower in English — who almost succeeded in wresting Wales from English control. He was the last native Welshman to bear the title “Prince of Wales.”

Meanwhile, Sir Owen Tudor (c.1400-61), founder of the Tudor dynasty, was the grandfather of King Henry VII.

Bearers of the surname include the Welsh novelist Daniel Owen (1836-95), the English First World War poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), British actor Clive Owen (b. 1964), and footballer Michael Owen (b.1979).

So if you’re looking for a boy’s name which is “mainstream” but with plenty of Pagan kudos, and a name with a long rich history of use as a first name, Owen might be the perfect one for you.

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