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)

Friday, December 4, 2015

My Favorite Names (50-41)

A while ago, there was a theme going on amongst the name vloggers on youtube. They were each making a list of their top 50 favorite names for boys and girls. I immediately thought, "I want to try!"

I'm a name lover. I don't have one or two favorite names, I have hundreds. This was a good exercise in separating the wheat from the chaff and asking the question, "If I were having a child right now, which names would I be campaigning for?"

Have you ever tried ranking your favorites? It's really hard to do. I'm also a little nervous about sharing this list because I like odd names and those always seem to invite derision. But a lot of people like to see other's favorite name lists, and posts of my favorites were always popular back on the old blog. So hopefully, you can appreciate this journey into my thought process.

So let's start, shall we?

Girl #50. Anais. Let's start with a name that I keep going back and forth on. Anais is widely thought to be a variation of Anna, but it might be more likely to come from the name of the Persian goddess of love. But I love this name because of Anais Nin. If you don't know who that is, she was a famous author who was very forward thinking in terms of sexuality and was something of a feminist quotation generation machine. The only thing that I can't get over is the pronunciation. I've listened to recordings of people saying it over and over again and I still go, "What?"

Boy #50. Oleander. This is low on my list because it's a very new favorite. It's a flower name, which is interesting because there aren't very many of those that work for guys. The plant has a bit of a dark connotation because it is very poisonous (kind of like Belladonna and Hemlock). But if I wasn't comfortable with dark connotations, I wouldn't be Wiccan. Leander doesn't work for me for some reason, but Oleander I love.

Girl #49. Violante. This name belongs in the same family as Viola, Yolanda, and Iolanthe, so you could probably guess what it means. It's a very old Italian name used by royalty in the Medieval period. It is a little on the long side, so it probably would make a better middle name.

Boy #49. Rohan. Sanskrit for "ascending." Because I love to travel, I love a lot of names from other countries. This name is rated #633 in America currently. The reason why it's not more highly rated on my list is because of the Tolkien association. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against nerdy names (which will become apparent the more you read this list). It's just that I've never read The Lord of the Rings. If I'm going to pick a nerdy name, I would like to have a relationship with the source material.

Girl #48. Maeve. An Irish Gaelic name meaning "she who intoxicates." My favorite names are heavily influenced by my Spanish and Italian heritage, but not my Irish heritage so much. That's usually because of the pronunciation issues, but I don't have that problem with Maeve. I love this name because of Queen Maeve from Irish mythology, and Queen Mab of the faeries. The reason it's so low is because I've been noticing it being used a lot, which makes a name lose it's magic for me. It's currently ranked at #482 in the United States. It's not quite at my cut off point in terms of popularity but it's getting there.

Boy #48. Yule. Yule is obviously the name of the winter solstice celebration. I seem to remember loving this name for a very long time, but I'm not sure exactly what the catalyst was. Why is it so low on my list? Because I wouldn't name a son Yule unless he was born around Yuletide. I mean, I could, just like you could name a child Easter or Autumn regardless of their birthdays. But I don't love this name enough to use it just because.

Girl #47. Remedios. Spanish for "remedy." Remedios Varo is the name of one of my favorite painters. I first saw her work at a traveling exhibition in the National Museum of Women in the Arts and I instantly fell in love with her name and her work. Even in Spanish speaking countries, this name is pretty rare. One of the drawbacks of this name is that it's one of the names of the Virgin Mary. But Catholic overtones is really hard to get away from with Spanish names, so I forgive it somewhat. Another problem is that it's a lot of syllables. It's probably better middle name material.

Boy #47. Sirius. Latin for "burning," this is the name of the "dog star" in the constellation Canis Major. It's also the name of one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. This is kind of a hard name to pair with, it always looks like I'm talking about a serious *insert name here.* It would probably stay in the middle slot.

Girl #46. Ceres. A Roman goddess name meaning "to grow." It sounds like "series," which bothered me for a while, but I've come around. Something you're going to notice as I go through my list is that I'm definitely more into Katniss names than Hermione names. Seriously, almost all of these sound like they could be a character in The Hunger Games. I'm all about huntress names over princess names. And Ceres is definitely huntress-y.

Boy #46. Oberon. A name meaning "elf power." Most people know that this is a name from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a very strong sounding name that satisfies my Pagan-y and literary criteria.

Girl #45. Muse. In mythology, the muses are goddesses of creative inspiration. I assume that most name nerds would prefer that I just pick one of the muses, but I love this name because of it's meaning as a verb: "to ponder" or "to think." I consider this a virtue name because I would encourage my daughters to be curious and question things. It would probably stay as a middle name candidate, though.

Boy #45. Kit. This is another new name on my favorites. For a while my opinion on this name was, "That's really cool. What does it mean? Oh, it's a nickname for Christopher? Pass." So why did I change my mind? Because a kit is also the name for a baby fox. I happen to really like foxes, both in real life and in mythology. Yeah, that does mean that it would have the same vibe that Fawn would (which would be on this list if I was doing my top #60 favorite names for girls), but I don't really care.

Girl #44. Primevere. French for "primrose." It was used during the Middle Ages, or at least I think it was. I don't see it on DMNES. So I might be wrong. Anyway, primroses are commonly used for love spells, so it's a nice name to use for a child born near Lupercalia or Beltane. I've always been kind of "meh" about Primrose, but I love Primevere.

Boy #44. Onyx. This is a type of gemstone that symbolizes protection and emotional healing. And although it can come in a variety of colors, it's most widely known for being black. I see this more on girl's name lists, and it would be good for a girl too. But it feels like more of a boy's name to me.

Girl #43. Ocean. A great water element name that, to me, feels very peaceful. I consider this a travel name because you often have to cross oceans to get to new, exciting places.

Boy #43. Archer. Whether we're talking about Katniss, Robin Hood, or Artemis, there's just something cool about archers. When I bounced this name off my mother she wrinkled her nose and said it was too "old money." She pictured Draco Malfoy, basically. I don't see it that way at all. I picture the heroes of old. I'm even starting to warm up to it as a girl's option. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Archer is the new Hunter. At number #303 it's dangerously close to my cut-off point in terms of popularity, and I think it's just going to get even more popular.

Girl #42. Kestrel. This is the name of a type of falcon. This name is also on my boy's list, so I'll talk more about it when it pops back up again.

Boy #42. Sabin. It's a form of the Italian name Sabino. The Sabines were a tribe of people that played a big part in the founding of Rome. There's only one big problem: it was my grandpa's name. I would not necessarily mind naming a son after my grandpa. I loved my grandpa and he was a great guy. But honor names is a bit of an emotionally charged subject with my father and my other grandpa. And I hate the names from their side of the family (their naming style is "conservative Irish Catholic") so naming children after them will not be happening. If I were to name a son Sabin, I fear I would have a lot of passive aggressive guilt tripping on my hands. It's sad, but that's why I'm anti-family names.

Girl #41. Sitara. This is a Hindu name meaning "star," but I'm sure that there are other origins. When I first heard this name, I thought it was related to the sitar. You know, the musical instrument. If you think you don't know what a sitar is, listen to "Within You and Without You" by The Beatles. The nerd in me also likes that it sounds like Katara.

Boy #41. Gryphon. An English name meaning "lord" or "prince," and is also the name of a mythical creature. This is a name that I've loved for a long time. I read the Griffin and Sabine trilogy when I was way too young to be reading them and got hooked. Griffin now rates at #241, so it's technically out of my comfort zone. So I fell in love with a respelling because I'm not above being a hypocrite. Yes, I know that using a different spelling does not make it more unique. But it can make it feel fresher.

Hope you enjoyed that! Stay tuned for the rest of the countdown...