Posts Tagged ‘Odin’

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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For a letter with fewer names under its belt, O has surprisingly rich pickings when it comes to surnames of Old English, Old Norse and Anglo-French origins, little used as first names:

  • Oakden, Ogden — from Ogden in Lancashire. Old English ac “oak” + denu “valley.” Although Ogden is quite well-known from the poet (Frederic) Ogden Nash (1902-1971), it has only once made the top 1000, in 1907.
  • Oaker — from ac “oak,” meaning “dweller at the oak.”
  • Oakey, Okey — from ac “oak” + (ge)hæg “copse.”
  • Oakham — from Oakham, Rutland, and Oakham, Surrey. Old English ac “oak” + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor.”
  • Oakley  — from one of the places of the name, or simply ac “oak” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.” Only just qualifies for this list as it saw intermittent use in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, but it’s got great Pagan credentials, combinine the name of one of the most revered of trees with lēah — indicative, erhaps at a place where once a sacred oak grove was found.
  • Oakman — Old English: acmann “oakman.” A very curious and interesting word. Was it given to someone who played the Green Man in pageants, perhaps? Or simply someone who lived in an oakwood, or dealt in the wood of oaks?
  • Odam — Middle English: odam “son-in-law.”
  • Odart — from the Old German name Odhard; a combination of uod “riches” and hardu “hard,” “hardy.”
  • Odber, Odbert — from the Old German name Odberht; uod “riches” + berht “bright.”
  • Oden, Othen — from the Old Norse name Auðun (also a byname of Odin), which is actually found in the form Odin in medieval records. It is actually cognate with the Old English Edwin “rich-friend.”
  • Odger, Ogier — from the Old German name Odger “rich-spear.”
  • Odierne — from the medieval women’s name Hodierna, Odierna, from the Latin hodiernus “of today.”
  • Offord — from one of the places of the name. Old English upp(e) + “ford.”
  • Olney — from Olney, Buckinghamshire. Old English personal name *Olla + ēg “island.”
  • Olton — from Olton, Warwickshire. Old English ēald “old” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • OmondOman — from the Old Norse personal name Hámundr “high-protection” or Ámundi “protection of great-grandfather.”
  • Onslow — from Onslow in Shropshire. Uncertain personal name (the Domesday form of the place was Ondeslow)  +  hlāw “tumulus,” “mound” and “hill.” Although it is not unknown in the UK (where it is particularly associated with a character in the ’90s sitcom Keeping Up Appearances), it has never featured in the US top 1000.
  • Ordmer — from the Old English personal name Ordmær “famous-spear.”
  • Ordway — from the Old English personal name Ordwig “spear-warriorr.”
  • Orford — from one of the places of the name. Old English uferra “upper” + “ford.”
  • Orme — from the Old Norse name Orm “serpent.”
  • Ormesby — from one of the places of the name . Old Norse personal names Orm and Ormarr “famous serpent” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Orpen, Orpin — Old French orpin “stonecrap,” a little wildflower once used in herbal medicine.
  • Orrick — from the Old English personal name Ordric “spear-ruler.”
  • Orriss, Orys — from the Latin family name Horatius, whose best-known member was the poet usually called Horace. Only one example is known of it in Britain in the Middle Ages, when it is found as the name of a priest, probably not of English birth. Whether all bearers of the surname descend from him or a lost Horatius is unknown.
  • Orton — from one of the places called Orton or Overton. Old English uferra “upper” or ōfer “over” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Osmer — from the Old English personal name Osmær “fame of (a) God.”
  • Ossell — Old French oisel “bird.”
  • Ostler — Middle English (h)osteler “inn-keeper.”
  • Ottery — from one of the places of the name: Venn Ottery, Ottery St Mary, Ottery St Catchpole… Old English oter “otter” + ēa “river.” Actually the name of a river, after which the places take their name.
  • Oxley — from Oxley, Staffordshire. Old English oxa “oxen” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Oxney — from Oxney, Kent. Old English oxa “oxen” + ēg “island.”
  • Oxton — from Oxton, Nottinghamshire. Old English oxa “oxen” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Ozanne — from the medieval girl’s name Osanna, from Hebrew hosanna “save now.”
  • Ozin, Osen — Old French oisen “gosling.”

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Odin leading the Wild Hunt

Following on from yesterday’s article about using the names of Gods and Goddesses, I thought I’d look at one such name which is starting to see some use, especially in the US — although it did make the top 1000 for the first time in 1884…


Odin is the chief God of the Nordic Pantheon, and as such is revered by modern practitioners of Heathenism (also called Odinism and Asatrú) — a branch of ‘Neo’-Paganism which has revived the beliefs and practices of the Nordic people of Scandinavia, Iceland and the British Isles.

His name in Old Norse was Óðinn, cognate with the Anglo-Saxon Woden (who gives his name to Wednesday) and Old High German Wotan. The reconstructed proto-Germanic form is *Wōđanaz or *Wōđinaz from the Proto-Germanic *wōþuz ‘poetic fury’ – very appropriate for a God identified with poets and seers.

Interestingly enough, the word is also cognate with the Proto-Celtic *wƒtu- ‘poetic inspiration’ and *wƒti- ‘sooth-sayer’ and ‘prophet’.

Although not stated explicitly, it is believed that Odin was identified by the Romans not with Jupiter but Mercury. Tacitus stated that Mercury was the chief God of the Germanic people.

This is generally ascribed to the fact that both Gods are regarded as deities who led the souls of the dead to the afterlife. But there are other reasons.

Like Mercury, Odin is a God of magic.

And, like Mercury, Odin was identified with the Celtic Lugus, with whom Lugus also shares many attributes.

Not least — as I discussed in Lughnasadh! in August — the fact that it is a distinct possibility that Lugus and the Norse Loki are linked at a deep level — and the same goes for Loki and Odin. There are many who believe that Loki is an aspect of Odin.

Odin has two other very fascinating attributes.

The first is as Lord of the Wild Hunt. The Wild Hunt is the usual name given in English to the legendary spectral hunt, usually riding in the late autumn and winter. Witnessing it is said to be a terrible omen of impending doom, but more often than not, mortals who happen to see it pass by are caught up and spirited away, rarely to be seen again.

Unsurprisingly, in the Christian period, the Wild Hunt was associated with the Devil, and those who chanced upon it were believed to be whisked straight off to hell.

But as well as these later diabolic associations, Odin and his Wild Hunt also lie behind much of the legend and beliefs surrounding ‘Father Christmas’. Riding on his eight-legged horse Sleipnir, he leaves gifts for those who put out food for Sleipnir.

One of his bynames is even Jólnir ‘Yule-man’.

And he (or rather, his Saxon counterpart Woden) is also probably the figure behind the Anglo-Saxon ‘King Winter’ or ‘King Frost’, a fur-hat wearing Winter spirit who, if welcomed at the hearth, would ensure that family made it safely through the dark winter months.

Echoes of the Wild Hunt survive across Europe, and various names are attributed to the leader — but all hark back to Odin or his Celtic counterparts.

This famous image of Odin the Wanderer by Georg von Rosen shows Odin with one eye. As well as sacrificing himself on the World Tree, Odin also gave an eye in order to drink from Mímir's well and thereby gain knowledge of past, present and future.

The second very intriguing thing about Odin is the fact he is a God of sacrifice and resurrection. He sacrificed himself, in the quest for wisdom, upon the World Tree, pierced by his own spear — rising again nine days later.

As a result, Odin is also a God of Wisdom.

Another thing that sets Odin apart is his interest in human affairs. He is ‘the Wanderer’, envisaged as an old man with a grey beard who wanders the land. His ravens of wisdom — Huginn (‘thought’) and Muninn (‘memory’) — keep their beady eyes on all goings-on.

He was also the inspiration for the character of Gandalf in Tolkien’s Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and other works — and when you see 19th Century depictions of Odin, it is easy to see why.

There is no doubt that Odin is about as powerful and rich a name as they get.

It is up to you to decide, based on your beliefs, whether it is right or not to give his name to your child!

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Today is the Celtic feast of Lughnasadh, and if you are celebrating, a bright, blessed and fruitful Lughnasadh to you!

Let’s hope the rain holds off!

Although Lughnasadh is specifically Irish, the cross-quarter day August 1 is marked across the British Isles, where it is now mostly known as Lammas, from the Old English hlāfmæsse from hlāf ‘loaf’ and ‘bread’ and mæsse ‘mass’, and it celebrates the first harvest and first fruits of the season.

What the original name of the feast in what is now England and Wales was is unknown, but it was quite possibly cognate with the Irish. For Lugh is the Irish form of Lugus — the name of one of the most important of the Celtic Pagan Gods, whose name is recorded across the Celtic world.

This also survives in the Welsh form Lleu — and it may be cognate with the Norse Loki. Loki and Lugh certainly share a lot in common. They are both tricksters. Moreover, Lugus is often considered the Celtic version of Odin, and it has been suggested that Loki is in fact an aspect of Odin too.

Some depictions of Lugus hint him being a triple God; he is sometimes presented with three faces — and other times with three phalluses. This is also supported by some Irish myths in which Lugh is said to have been one of triplets, and it has been suggested he is the triple God composed of of the deities Esus, Toutatis and Taranis, recorded by Roman historians.

Today, Lugh is often perceived as a sacrificial God of rebirth, representing the cycle of agriculture — a John Barleycorn-like figure who is sown, grows and harvested; some of the grain is prepared as bread, some stored, to begin the cycle all over again.

But what is the source of the name?

Traditionally, Lugus was said to be from the Proto-Indo-European *lewko- ‘to shine’ – the same source as the Latin lux, from which last week’s Pick of the Week Lucius derives.

However, there are linguistical problems with this, and it may be that it actually comes from the opposite Proto-Indo-European *leug- ‘blackness’ (raising the same interesting parallels regarding duality of meaning as I discussed with Blake), or Common Celtic: *lug- ‘oath’.

However, *lewko- ‘to shine’ is still possible and plausible, perhaps developing from a parallel root *lewg- instead of directly from the traditional *lewko-.

How the festival was celebrated in England and Wales in pre-Christian times is lost, along with the accompanying myths. But Irish Lughnasadh is different.

According to Irish myth, Lughnasadh was instituted by Lugh in honor of his foster-mother Taillte, who died after preparing Ireland for its first sowing.

It passed into the Christian calendar, preserving its Pagan name (in the same way Easter does).

Like the other cross-quarter celebrations (i.e. the festivals which fall mid-way between the solar feasts of the solstices and equinoxes) — Lughnasadh is a fire festival, marked with bonfires.

To this day in Ireland, Lughnasadh is a time of celebration and family reunions, when the priests bless the fields.

Brian Friel’s 1990 play Dancing at Lughnasa captures its essence well.

Unlike some of the other festivals, Lughnasadh has yet to be adopted as a given name in its own right, though with the meaning ‘feast of Lugh’ in Irish, it — or the modern Irish Lúnasa — would make an excellent name. As, indeed, does the English Lammas.

And Lugh, Lugus, Lleu and Loki are all very worthy of consideration, especially at this time of year!

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