Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Name Profile: Baudelaire

While reading A Series of Unfortunate Events, I became increasingly intrigued by Violet, Klaus, and Sunny's surname. Most of the character names in this series are literary references and Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) kept to his theme with this one. The Baudelaire children are named after a poet whose work most children would not be allowed to read.

But first things first, where did Baudelaire come from first? Baudelaire (pronounced "BOH-deh-lair") is a French word that refers to a type of small sword, more like a dagger. It derives from the Medieval Latin badelarius, meaning "short sword." This weapon appears in heraldry, and when you see it it resembles a small Turkish scimitar. Despite this Romantic name, the Baudelaire siblings are apparently supposed to be Jewish. Snicket once said, "I think there is something naturally Jewish about unending misery."

Lemony Snicket named his heroes after the French macabre poet Charles Baudelaire. Baudelaire's work was revolutionary in its day. A little bit too revolutionary. His most (in)famous work is a book of poems called Les Fleurs de Mal ("The Flowers of Evil"). The book's primary themes are sex and death, corruption and innocence, the sacred and the profane. The book had a small but enthusiastic following when it was first published. However, the majority found it obscene. Baudelaire, along with his printer and publisher, were sent to court and found guilty for creating an offense against public morals (he had to pay a fine). In a letter to his mother he wrote, "The proof of it's positive worth is in all the ill that they speak of it. The book enrages people. ...I don't care a rap about all these imbeciles, and I know that this book, with its virtues and it's faults, will make it's way in the memory of the lettered public, besides the best poems of V. Hugo, Th. Gautier and even Byron." Today he is considered to be one of the innovators of French literature.

Unfortunately Baudelaire's personal life was a mess, which is probably why some people have reservations on this name. He was a slow writer, often sidetracked by his own procrastination and emotional distress. He was living in poverty and had an addiction to dangerous drugs and prostitutes. He was also known for being a "dandy" and died from syphilis. But all in all, these things were not unusual for an artistic person living in Paris during the 1800s.

It is possible that someone will become inspired by the children's book series and name a child Baudelaire. But Charles Baudelaire, while the most famous real life namesake, is not a household name in America. Although his life and work will appeal to those with gothic sensibilities, I believe most people will associate the name with Lemony Snicket's work.

I really like Baudelaire a lot. It has a beautiful sound. And if there's anything that I have an affinity towards, it's misunderstood revolutionary artists who wrote about dark subject matter. It's a good choice for someone who wants something subtly gothic.

Some name combos:

Baudelaire Grace

Baudelaire Peter

Baudelaire Reve

River Baudelaire

John Baudelaire

Hero Baudelaire

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Festival of Wolves

"Three Women and Three Wolves" -- Eugene Grasset

Celebrating Lupercalia isn't really a thing that most modern Pagans do. It's not one of the eight Wiccan Sabbats. Some would argue that our festival of love is Beltane, so we don't necessarily need a Valentine's Day replacement. The question is, do we want one? If one chooses to have one, could Lupercalia be awesome? Of course! So how can we celebrate the spirit of this holiday in a new form?

First, let's look at some history. Lupercalia is a very ancient Roman festival (in fact, it was probably celebrated in Italy before Roman culture existed) taking place on February 13-15. People who want to celebrate it nowadays usually do so on the 15th. Lupercalia kind of took over Februa, an earlier holiday that also occurred on this date. The purpose of this festival was to purify the city of Rome and encourage virility/fertility. The name Lupercalia connects with wolves. Remember, in mythology Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus who were rescued and suckled by Juno-Lupa, the she-wolf (she is sometimes also known as Rumina). This holiday also pays tribute to Faunus, the patron god of the forest, plains, fields, and shepherds. He is the Roman form of Pan, is sometimes known as Lupercus.

Lupercalia is probably most well known for the wild way it was celebrated. The goat-skin clad priests of Faunus, known as the Luperci, would begin the festival with an animal sacrifice of two male goats and a dog. After a sacrificial feast, the Luperci would cut thongs from the animal's skins, making sure they were nicely dripping with blood, and run around striking anyone who came near. According to accounts, women would line up to get lashed because they believed it prevented sterility, increased fertility, and eased the pain of childbirth.

So, does Valentine's Day come from Lupercalia? I used to think so, but now I'm not so certain. I mean, there's the suspicious timing at the Eros/Cupid iconography, but they really don't have much else in common. According to my own logic it would make more sense for Marti Gras to be the modern Lupercalia. They have the same spirit, anyway.

If we tried to celebrate Lupercalia it the way the ancients did we would probably get arrested. A considerable amount of creativity will be needed in order to create a modern holiday. So, here's a few ideas:

  • The wolf is a very popular icon in the modern Pagan world. A lot of Pagans like to think of themselves as wolves. This holiday is a great opportunity to give homage to this beloved animal. Make or buy some wolf masks to wear and decorate the house with pictures of wolves. Wolves are almost extinct today, so instead of making an animal sacrifice one could make a monetary sacrifice and give to conservation efforts.
  • While I'm not Roman, I do have Italian heritage. Maybe Lupercalia can be used as a celebration of Italian history and culture. Eating some ancient Roman foods could present a challenge (I can't imagine them selling dormice in the grocery store) but most of them are familiar. Try some old recipes. And if worse comes to worse, there's always pasta.
  • There was definitely a heavy masculine component to this holiday. Some people may chose to have brotherly bonding be the focus of this celebration.
  • This is a good time to perform spells associated with purification, cleansing, fertility, new life, and childbirth. The ancient ritual with the bloody animal skins screams to be reborn as a color fight. Just use red colored powder instead of blood.
  • When Romulus and Remus were deprived of their parents, the Gods stepped up and gave them Lupa. Reflect upon the ways in which the divine gave you alternatives when life threw you a curve ball.
  • We Wiccans have Imbolc and Ostara, so seeing this as another "coming of spring" holiday is a little redundant. But there's nothing wrong with another excuse to plant flowers.
  • Consensual kinky sex has become a hallmark of Lupercalia. As long as everyone stays safe and has a good time, there's nothing wrong with that!

So with that being said, here's some names inspired by Lupercalia:

Romulus

Remus

Roman

Roma

Romilly

Faunus

Faun

Pan

Wolf

Wolfe

Wolfgang

Wolfram

Juno

Lupa

Lupe

Lupita

Lupine

Lowell

Loup

Rumina

Beowulf ("bee wolf")

Conan ("little wolf" or "little hound")

Sandalio ("true wolf")

Zev ("wolf")

Februa

Italy

Italia

Howl

Grey

Grayson

Eros

Cupid

Providence

Palatine

Love

Amoret ("little love")

Carys ("love")

Priya ("beloved")

Noa ("love, affection")

Esme ("loved, esteemed")

Prem ("love, affection")

Caradoc ("love")

Kama ("love, desire")

Erasmus ("beloved")

Aziz ("powerful, respected, beloved")

David ("beloved")

Forest

Wilder

Wilde

Shepherd

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Name Profile: Rapunzel

Here's a very unique fairy tale name that's also an unexpected botanical name.

Rapunzel (pronounced "rah-PUN-zel") is a German fairy tale that was collected by the Brothers Grimm, and was first published in 1812. It's one of the Brothers Grimm's more popular tales, and the story has been retold and adapted by different storytellers ever since. The fairy tale has a striking similarity to an earlier folktale from Persia, in which Rudaba offers her hair as a rope so her lover Zal can climb up to her tower.

I assume that most people have heard this story, but I'll try to tell the original version at warp speed. A childless couple lives next door to a witch/enchantress. When the wife finally gets pregnant, she has an insatiable craving for the vegetables in the next-door-neighbor's garden. The Witch (sometimes named "Dame Gothel") catches the husband stealing food from her. He begs for mercy, and he and the Witch make a deal that in exchange for the vegetables, she gets their unborn child. Both parents stupidly agree. When the child is born, the Witch takes her as her own and names her Rapunzel.

They lived happily until Rapunzel hits puberty, at which time the Witch moves her into a tall tower in the woods with no doors or stairs. The only method of entering and exiting is by using the child's extremely long hair as a rope out the window. One day, a Prince is riding through the woods and hears Rapunzel singing. He instantly falls in love, as princes in fairy tales are wont to do. After spying a few times on the tower, he figures out the method of entrance. The two meet face to face and the Price asks Rapunzel to marry him. Rapunzel, being a sheltered girl who knows nothing about real life, agrees.

Time passes, and the two devise a plan for Rapunzel to escape. While they're working, Rapunzel wonders out loud to her adoptive mother why all her clothes are getting tight around her middle (think about it). In a fit of rage, the Witch chops her hair off and throws her into the wilderness. She then waits for the Prince and confronts him. When she tells him that he'll never see Rapunzel again, he jumps from the tower in despair and lands in a patch of thorns that blind him. The two wonder in the wilderness for months, until the Prince hears Rapunzel singing and they're reunited. Her tears instantly restore his eyesight. While she was in the woods, Rapunzel gave birth to twins.

The witch in this story is a metaphor for over-protective parenting, and there's a lot of debate over whether or not she should be considered evil. Indeed, some mothers read the Witch as the protagonist. Rapunzel's birth parents practically abandon her for a few vegetables. It's kind of a relief when the Witch adopts her, she is clearly more worthy of doing the hard work of mothering. And that horny boy was sneaking into her house and taking advantage of her innocent daughter. She's not a perfect mother, but she does her best. And by the end of the story, she's unappreciated. Rapunzel means different things to different people. It's a more complicated story than some realize.

So what's the origin of the name Rapunzel? You might recall that at the beginning of the story, the Witch owns a garden. This is a detail in a lot of fairy tales that involve witches, and is one of the few that is pretty accurate. And rapunzel is a very old botanical term. That's right, Rapunzel is named after the plant that her birth-father was stealing. How sweet! But precisely what plant is a bit of a mystery. Some believe the name refers to rampion, which is named rapunzel-glockenblume in German. This plant has tasty roots, edible leaves, and blue bell-flowers. Others think it's a name for a plant now known as field salad, which has succulent leaves that are plucked and eaten with oil.

If you're considering this for a daughter, you're a bold parent indeed. But, in this instance, your child might not appreciate your boldness. This might just be a personal opinion, but it's kind of like naming a daughter Cinderella or Tinkerbelle. It's just a little too cute and precious. And no, while this is technically now a Disney princess name, I don't think that's going to help its chances. It's a cute name for a baby, but will be hard to grow into. If you absolutely have to name your daughter this, you could always use it as a middle name.

Some name combos:

Margaret Rapunzel

Lola Rapunzel

Noa Rapunzel

Ottilie Rapunzel

Related names:

Persinette (The French name for the Rapunzel character)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Name Magpie, and Some News About the Blog

So it is now a few weeks into the start of the new year and it's time that I think of some goals for this little ol' blog of mine.

At the start of this new blog, I said that I was going to move all of the posts from the old blog into this one. You're probably wondering why that hasn't really happened yet. Well, long story short, I have been major-league sidetracked by real life stuff. And while I have been side-tracked, I have occasionally thought about that early promise, usually like this: "Please tell me that there's a better way to do this than manually copying and editing each post individually? Why did I convert to Paganism if it does not allow me to simply will these posts into existence using the power of my mind?" But, of course, there is no better way to do this other than manually. Sigh.

Alright then. I'll try to do at least two name profiles each month. I think that's manageable for me. They might be old ones or new ones, but they will be name profiles. Okay? Okay.

Now that I've got the official stuff out of the way, let's move on to the fun name-related stuff:

Zera. These first four names I found a new-ish blog that I've been eying for a while called Nothing Like a Name. It's Hebrew for "seeds" or "beginnings."

Frediano. An Italian name meaning "cold."

Cherith. It's Hebrew for "winter stream." I like that it sounds so similar to Cherish, which could also be used as a name.

Romet. A name from Estonia that might mean "joy."

Monami. I was looking for images of tattoos, and found a lovely tattooed mother goddess named Monami Frost. My thought process was, "Oh, is she part Japanese? Wait. No. It's French. Mon amie. Got it." After doing a little googling, I learned that it's actually both. In Japanese kanji it could mean a lot of things including "sprout," "billow," and "south." I am really digging this one. Maybe in a few years it'll be in my top 50.

Quilo. I found this one on Kate Lately, although I don't think it means what she think it means. My research indicates that it's a short form of Achilles. And you thought Mary to Polly was a bit of a stretch.

Rey. Hell, you all know where this name comes from. Obviously, I've heard the name Ray before, but it's the spelling that's new to me. This particular spelling is French for "king." Parents are naming their kids Rex these days, so why not?

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Best Books I Read in 2015


As you all could guess, I am a massive reader. Last year, I shared my favorite books that I read in 2014 and included a list of names from all of them. Now I'm back with this year's list.

So here were my favorite books of 2015:

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
City of Thieves by David Benioff
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Well I hated the ending, but that's another discussion.)
Wiccan Warrior by Kerr Cuhulain
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Ready Player One by Earnest Cline
Seconds by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Alice

Sally

Gillian

Owens

Antonia

Kylie

Jet

Fran

Ben

Gary

Patrick

Siobhan

Conor

David

Lev

Koyla

Vika

Shaun

Rudyard

Kipling

Mowgli

Akela

Raksha

Bagheera

Baloo

Hathi

Kaa

Shere Khan

Elizabeth

Gilbert

Alma

Prudence

Ambrose

Pike

Henry

Beatrix

Hanneke

Suzanne

Collins

Katniss

Peeta

Finnick

Kerr

Ransom

Jacob

Emma

Millard

Addison

Hugh

Deirdre

Althea

Enoch

Bronwyn

Olive

Claire

Fiona

Balenciaga

Wren

Sam

Esme

Caul

Erin

Celia

Marco

Isobel

Bailey

Penelope

Poppet

Winston

Widget

Tsukiko

Chandresh

Alexander

Prospero

Hector

Amanda

Palmer

Rachel

Seraphina

Orma

Lucian

Glisselda

Lars

Abdo

Okra

Earnest

Wade

Parzival

Samantha

Art3mis

Helen

Aech

Akihide

Toshiro

Daito

Shoto

Nolan

Ogden

Bryan

Katie

Lis

Arthur

Hazel

Max

Thursday, January 7, 2016

My Favorite Names (40-31)

I'm happy with the positive feedback with the first part of this list! You guys rock!

Here's the next twenty names in my list, and keep in mind this is all just my opinion:

Girls #40. Peridot. The name of a gemstone that's known for being a light green color (and that is the only color it comes in). The light color of the stone reminds me of the spring, so this name gives me a cheerful, hopeful vibe without being too perky (witch's daughters names should not be perky).

Boys #40. Nicabar. I have to admit, I'm slightly embarrassed about this one. But I felt the list wouldn't be complete without it. It's a Romany name meaning "to steal" or "stealthy." I fell in love with this as a child. Would I use it for a son? Probably not, unless I look and him and he absolutely felt like a Nicabar.

Girls #39. Cypress. The cypress tree is a classical symbol of mourning and life after death. As odd as it is, if someone close to me died around the time I have a child, I would sooner use this name than an honor name.

Boys #39. Courage. I also love Brave, but bravery is not the same thing as courage. Courage comes from the Latin word cor, meaning "heart." So courage is being true to your heart. Lying to yourself and others about who you are so that you can "fit in" is extremely common. I want to teach my children the importance of honoring themselves. However, I don't really see this as a first name, so it would probably stay in the middle name slot.

Girls #38. Eponine. An invented French name given to us via Victor Hugo. It's based off of Epona, the name of the Gallo-Roman goddess of horses. I come from a big Broadway musical household and Les Miserables is one of those Broadway shows that I grew up with and always loved. I know a lot of name enthusiasts are all aflutter over Cosette's name, but it's too frilly for me and she's a really boring character. All she does is wait around for Marius! Eponine might be a tragic figure, but at least she stands up to her father and fights on the baricade.

Boys #38. Leveret. French for "young hare." This name was first introduced to me through a Nook of Names post about the Stonewylde series (which I still haven't read, but they are on my tbr pile). It would be a great name for a son born on Ostara.

Girls #37. Lavender. A botanical name that is also a color name. Lavender is commonly used in spells associated with healing and purification. I fell in love with it as a child after reading Matilda by Roald Dahl. It's also a Harry Potter name, but that character is not as great. Purple is my favorite color, so there's that too.

Boys #37.  March. The only month name I really love (although July and November are also very nice). I like the subtle reference to the god Mars, without actually naming a child Mars. Another great Ostara name.

Girls #36. River. A lovely water name that's more popular and familiar than some of the other names on this list. This name also has a lot of nerdy references attached to it, so there's that. This name is rated #453 for girls and #287 for boys, so I feel like it's much fresher for girls.

Boys #36. Llew. A Welsh name with a very complicated etymology. If you live in the modern Pagan world, the name Llewellyn is everywhere. Llewellyn Worldwide is probably the biggest publisher of Pagan 101 related literature. I jumped back and forth a lot, but I've decided that I like Llew (it sounds like Lou) better. It just feels cleaner.

Girls #35. Demeter. Greek for "earth mother." She's the Greek version of Ceres, who's name was already mentioned in this countdown. Demeter has a very serious, queenly energy to it that I love.

Boys #35. Revere. Back when we were all gushing over the names of Rebecca Wolfe's twin girls, she shared that if they had been boys they would have been named Vox and Revere. I latched on to both of them (if this list was going up to #60, Vox would be on it). It's a quite dashing virtue name.

Girls #34. Clove. What was that I said before about all of my favorite names sounding like Hunger Games characters? This is also a botanical name. The plant is commonly used in spells meant to attract good luck and prosperity. There are other great associations I have with this name: the tropical lands on which it grows, delicious chai, and the fact that it's one letter off from "love."

Boys #34. Falco. Latin for "falcon." You might notice a theme with the falcon/hawk names on this list. My last name, Vega, is connected to eagles (there's one on the family crest). My first name is Isadora, "gift of Isis," and hawks are one of the patron animals of the goddess Isis. So it makes sense that I feel like my future family would be very connected to falcons.

Girls #33. Augusta. Latin for "to increase," "great," or "venerable." I love a great Roman ruler name, and that's certainly what this is. I'm actually shocked that this is not in the top 1,000. I mean, August, Augustus, and Augustin all are, so what's holding this one back? Not that I'm complaining.

Boys #33. Caspian. I notice this one shows up on a lot of favorite lists. It's a very cool name. But this name is low on my list because, again, I don't really have a relationship with the literary source material it's best known from. I haven't read Prince Caspian. I guess it could also be a travel name because of the Caspian Sea, and that's kind of how I justify it. But I've never actually been to the Caspian Sea either. So while I do love it, it feels like an empty choice.

Girls #32. Phoenix. Greek for "dark red" and the name of a famous mythical bird. This one is rated #494 for girls and #355 for boys and, again, I think it just feels fresher for girls. There's a rock-and-roll-goddess vibe to it that I really like.

Boys #32. Romulus. Latin for "of Rome." Romulus is the mythical founder of Rome along with his brother Remus, and they're well known for having been raised by a wolf early in life. So it's another great Roman ruler name. This used to be my number one boys name, but it's taken quite a hit since then.

Girls #31. Rumi. Japanese for "water," "beauty," or "lapis lazuli." Like a lot of nerds, I have an affection for the Japanese culture. There aren't a lot of Japanese names on my favorites list (not all of them translate well into the Western world), but this is one that I could definitely see using for a daughter.

Boys #31. Sylvan. Latin for "woods" or "forest." This name is in the same family as Sylvester and Sylvia, but is a lot less known. "Sylvan glen" is my favorite phrase in the English language, and the connection between my witchy-ness and the forest should be obvious.

Onward to the next twenty names...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Name Profile: Ivy

Along with Holly and Mistletoe, Ivy has long been a traditional symbol of the Winter Solstice. There is even a popular Christmas carol meaning it, "The Holly and the Ivy." But the plant's significance predates the story of Mary and Jesus.

Ivy (pronounced "EYE-vee") comes from the Old English language and it means...well, "ivy." It's hard to believe, but the Christian church once tried to ban ivy due to it's Pagan associations. Ivy is an evergreen vine that was the symbol of eternal life and rebirth among early Northern pagans, due to it's resilience and it's ability to produce berries during the time of year when no other plant is bearing fruit. It's a plant that needs to be closely monitored, because it will pretty much grow anywhere, taking over the sides of buildings and smothering plants. It was also the symbol of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and wine-related debauchery. Ivy used to be placed outside the door of vintner's shops because of this.

The ivy plays a big role in at least two Roman myths. One involves Zeus and his illicit lover Semele. When Hera found out that the two were fooling around she was furious, but she decided to be clever. She suggested to Zeus that he should reveal his true form to Semele. When he did so, his divine flames consumed her and almost killed her unborn child, the god Dionysus. The only thing that saved them was a sudden growth of ivy. In another story, a nymph named Kissos dances for Dionysus. But she does so with such energy that she collapses and dies from exhaustion. In his grief, Dionysus transforms her into ivy.

The Celtic Tree Month of Ivy takes place from September 30th to October 27th. It's Celtic name is Gort. The month of ivy is considered a good time to practice magick that has to do with rebirth, but also for controlling emotion, healing, protection, exorcism, and fertility. Ivy is also equated with fidelity, and is used in binding charms for love.

There are many other beliefs surrounding this plant. There is an old tradition of brides wearing crowns of ivy. This was done for protection, but also think about how ivy grows. It twines and clings hard to buildings and trees. So the ivy was meant to symbolize a strong union. There are also some superstitions surrounding ivy and death. Should ivy not grow on a grave, it is a sign that the burried's soul is restless. But if a woman's grave is covered in ivy, it means that she died of a broken heart. This plant was used to make crowns worn by poets because it was believed that it would give them divine inspiration. The leaves of ivy are in the shape of a five-pointed star, very similar to the Wiccan Pentagram.

Despite all of that, this name's "witchiness" is not super apparent. In America, Ivy is a common girl's name that has never left the girl's top 1000 and is currently at it's most popular at #146. So this name doesn't stand out in a crowd of non-Pagans, but the person who has it will know of it's deeper significance. There was also a time that Ivy was a well used boy's name. It fell out of the top 1000 for boys in 1936. To be fair, the ivy plant has always been associated with femininity. But to be honest, I think this could sound charming on a boy.

A thoughtful, name-loving modern Pagan would use the name of a plant in the hopes that either a child or his/herself would gain the virtues associated with it. So, what qualities does the ivy plant represent? Resilience, fidelity, the protective powers of love, divine inspiration...all good things. Despite it's ever growing popularity, there is really no good reason not to consider it.

Some Name Combos:

Ivy Winter

Ivy Evelyn

Ivy Hathor

Ivy Cosmina

James Ivy

Related Names:

Iva

Ivo

Ivie

Ivey

Ivalyn

Kissos (Greek for "ivy")

Hedera (the plant's scientific name)