Saturday, January 17, 2015
Name Profile: Janus
Janus is the Roman god of doors, gateways, passageways, and (if we're thinking more metaphorically here) beginnings and transitions. His name means "covered passage" in Latin. He is usually portrayed with a face on the back of his head, which represents his ability to see both the future and the past. There is no Greek equivalent to Janus, although he might be related to an earlier Italian oak god named Dianus. Regardless, he is distinctly Roman.
Janus was a very important god in his day. There were rituals preformed in his honor at the beginning of each year, each month, and each day. The Romans believed that the way in which a person began a new project was critical to it's success, which seems like good common sense to me. Naturally, they wanted all of the divine help they could get.
Janus might seem like a very unusual name, but if you look through history you can see many instances of usage. The variant Januarius was a given name during the late Roman period and is the name of several saints. There is also an identical surname Janus which according to Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names comes from John. This is why there are many instances of Janus used as an alternative name for John (King John II of Cyprus was also known as Janus).
But as far as recent history goes Janus is definitely an uncommon name. I could see it having a chance. It fits in nicely with the Atticus' and the Atlas' and all the other lovely -us boys names from mythology that are becoming fashionable at the moment. There's just one practical problem with this name: it sounds like Janice. One could see how that could cause some confusion. Overall, it seems like January is getting more attention as a prospective name.
Some modern Pagans have a reluctance to using names of deities. But Janus could be a meaningful name given during a time of transition. A new year definitely qualifies.