Archive for the ‘Druid Names’ Category

We had a bit of a nasty surprise when we opened our box of Yule decorations at the weekend.

The mice had got in.

And as well as demonstrating a rather strange taste for fairy-light cables, they had also muched their way through all the cinnamon decorations and dried oranges, which we’d made in past years :(.

Off we duly trotted to the supermarket to stock up on industrial quantities of cinnamon and apple sauce to make some more.

But the incident put in mind the idea to feature Cinnamon as a seasonal choice for Pick of the Week.

In America, “cinnamon” is often used for the spice usually called “cassia” in the UK — namely Cinnamonum aromaticum, also known as Chinese cinnamon — as well as Indonesian and Vietnamese cinnamon, both of which are different to true Cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum), which grows in Sri Lanka.

Its a popular spice, probably familiar to most from edibles and quaffables such as Danish pastries and mulled wine.

Often sold in powdered form, cinnamon sticks — the preferred form for popping into a mulled wine — give a clue to its origin: the bark of a tree.

But there’s much more to Cinnamon.

It has been known in Europe since ancient times, although the type called kinnamomon by the Ancient Greeks was yet another variety, Cinnamonum iners, a native of the Middle East. The Greeks got the name from the Phoenicians, and a word cognate with the Hebrew qinnamon “cinnamon.”

This was the “cassia” spice of the Bible — from qetsi’āh, the Hebrew name of the tree from which cinnamon was taken — source of the biblical name Keziah. This derives from a root meaning “to strip off,” referring to the way in which the bark is removed to make cinnamon.

Cassia, of course, also makes a rather lovely name choice too.

Herbalists value true cinnamon for its effectiveness in treating colds and flu, as well as easing digestive complaints.

It is used in magic to enhance psychic powers, for protection, and in spells relating to love.

As a given name, Cinnamon is older than some might think, with the first examples dating to the early twentieth century. Mostly used for girls, there are some example of it in use for boys.

It also shortens to nicknames such as Cin, Cinna, Cinny or Cinnie, Mon, Mona, Mony, Monie — even Minnie.

Most use, however, post-dates the appearance of the character Cinnamon Carter in the original television series of Mission: Impossible (1966-73), but it remains highly unusual; seven little girls were called Cinnamon in America in 2010, and less than three, if any, in the UK.

So, if you’re looking for a name for a baby born at yuletide that’s a bit less obvious than Holly or Ivy, why not mull over (pardon the pun) the lovely, spicy Cinnamon?

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I feel like a new feature at the Nook.

And I also feel like something a bit witchy.

So (sound the fanfare) welcome to witch of the week, in which I’ll feature a name associated with a witch — historic, mythological or fictional!

There’ll be a few druids too ;)

My first witch is one of my favorites, and one of the most famous — Circe.

(Pronounced “SIR-see”), she is as much a Goddess as a witch.

So famous was she in the ancient world that the Romans even had an adjective Circaeus — feminine Circaea — meaning “of Circe” and “enchanted.”

The alluring and empowered Circe got many a mention in Greek literature, but she featured most prominently in Homer’s Odyssey, when Odysseus recounted his encounter with her at the court of Alcinous, King of the Phaeacians.

His tale, of how Circe sought to turn Odysseus and all his men into swine, is one of the more familiar of Greek mythology.

Circe is the daughter of Helius, God of the Sun, and the Oceanid Perse.

This makes her the sister of Aeetes, King of Colchis (owner of the Golden Fleece), and auntie of another of Greek mythology’s most famous witches, Medea.

She  lived on her magical island of Aeaea, a veritable paradise, and passed her time entrapping mortal men and turning them into animals  to pass the time.

But she met her match (well, almost) in Odysseus, because he had a couple of big-gun Gods aiding him. When foiling Circe’s plans, Hermes (who also happens to be a god of magic) turned up and gave him the mysterious magical plant moly to protect him from Circe’s enchantments.

Was Circe cheesed off that Odysseus beat her?

Not a bit of it. She took the enchantment  of his men and invited him to become her live-in lover.  Indeed, she wanted him to stay with her forever (well, for as long as he lived, anyway), but he wanted to get home to Ithaka.

He still dallied with her  for a whole year first, after which, with a sigh, Circe sent him on his way.

But the tale didn’t end there.

In a much later version of the myth, recorded by “Pseudo-Apollodorus” in the 1st C BCE, Odysseus fathered a son with Circe, born after his departure. Circe called the boy Telegonus.

When Telegonus was grown, he went to Ithaka to find his father — where he accidentally killed him.


Telegonus took his father’s body back to Aeaea for burial, along with Odysseus’s wife Penelope and legitimate son Telemachus.

There, once Odysseus was laid to rest, Circe made Penelope and Telemachus immortal. She married Telemachus, and Telegonus married Penelope, and they all lived happily ever after.

As for her name, Circe is the Latinized spelling of the original Greek Kirkê (pronounced KER-kee), which derives from the verb kirkoô meaning  “to hoop around with rings” and  “to encircle,” no doubt in Circe’s case, with enchantments.

It comes from the same root which gives us the English “circle,” which carries a lot of magical symbolism.

Witches and Wiccans are well known for drawing a circle, marking out the sacred space  within which to perform rituals and magic.

Circles also symbolize infinity, eternity, the Divine, the sun, the moon, the Wheel of the Year… the list goes on and on.

In Ancient Greek, kirkê was also the name of a type of bird, probably a hawk, like the related kirkos. Another related word, kirkion meant “ring.”

Circe itself, I think, has a lot of name potential, and despite its great antiquity, it has a contemporary feel. There’s also that adjective Circaea — which can be simplified to Circea; it carried the additional, interesting, meaning in Roman times of a plant used as a charm.

Meanwhile, Circion (pronounced SIR-see-ǝn), the Latinized form of kirkion — would make rather a nice masculine form, as would Circaeus (and yes, that can be simplified to Circeus too).

Has Circe worked her charm on you yet?

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“P” is another letter with a lot of surnames, and a lot of surnames which have great first-name potential.

And so here’s the first batch of “p” surnames of Old English, Old Norse and Old/Anglo-French origin for your perusal:

  • Pacey, Pacy — from Pacy-sur-Eure in Normandy, which derives from the Roman name Paccius, possibly ultimately from pax “peace” or
  • Packard — a combination of “pack” with the suffix –ard, i.e. “a packer.”
  • Packer — Middle English packere “a packer,” probably referring to a wool-packer.
  • Padley — from one of the places of the name. Old English personal name Padda or *padde “toad” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture” and “meadow.”
  • Paget — diminutive of Old French page “a page.”
  • Pallis — Old French paille “straw” + Old English hūs “house”; used of someone who stacked hay into ricks. Sometimes, it is also from the Old French palis “palisade,” referring to someone who lived by a palisade or fence.
  • Palliser — Old French palis “palisade”; used of someone who made fences.
  • Palmer — a bit of an interloper, as was in modest use in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century. Definitely ripe for a revival though, so I’m sneaking it through. Old French palmer “pilgrim,” from Latin palma “palm” — so named because pilgrims returning from Jerusalem carried palms.
  • Panner — Old English panne “pan”; i.e. “one who makes pans.”
  • Panton — from Panton, Lincolnshire: Old English panne “pan” (here probably referring to the shape) + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Pardew — Old French par Dieu “by god” or de par Dieu, ultimately from Latin de parte Dei “in God’s name” — a medieval oath; the original bearers probably used it a lot.
  • Parfay — Old French par (ma) fei “by my faith” — another “oath name.” Parmafey is a medieval variant.
  • Parham — from one of the places of the name. Old English peru “pears” + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor,” or hamm “enclosure,” “river-meadow.” Other variants include Parram and Perram.
  • Parlby — Old French parle bien “speak well.” A nickname.
  • Parmeter — Old French parmetier “tailor.”
  • Parnell — from the medieval girl’s name Petronilla, a diminutive of the Roman family name Petronius. Hugely popular in medieval times, Parnell and other medieval variants did survive in genuine first-name use in some parts of the British Isles, especially Cornwall, as late as the nineteenth century.
  • Parrack, ParrickOld English pearroc “paddock” and “enclosure.”
  • Parrell, Parren — pet-forms of Perre, a medieval Anglo-French form of Peter.
  • Parsloe, Parslow — Old French passelewe “cross the water,” possibly used of someone who had to cross a stream or river to reach their home, thus lived “across the water,” or a sailor.
  • Pascall, Paskell — Anglo-French pascal “relating to Easter.” Pascal was a popular medieval name; it died out in Britain after the Reformation, but continued in use in France.
  • Pascoe — an old variant of PASCALL, which actually survived as a first-name in Cornwall, just about to modern times.
  • Pashen — from Passenham in Northamptonshire. Old English personal name Passa + hamm “enclosure,” “river-meadow.”
  • Pashler — variant of PARSLOE.
  • Pashley — another variant of PARSLOE.
  • Paston — from one of the places of the name, especially Paston, Norfolk, associated with the famous family of medieval letter writers. Old English personal name *Pæcci or *paes(c) “muddy pool” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Pasturel — Old French pastorel “little shepherd.”
  • Patchell, Petchell — from the early Middle English girl’s name Pæcchild “peace-child.”
  • Pate — Middle English pate “head” and “skull” — a nickname — or a pet-form of Patrick. Did make the US top 1000 once in 1901, when it was ranked 924th…
  • Patney — from Patney, Wiltshire. Old English personal name *Peatta + ēg “island.”
  • Paton, Patton — medieval pet-forms of Patrick.
  • Patten — either Middle English paten “dog” or from patoner “a pattern-maker.”
  • Paveley, Pawley — from Pavilly in Normandy. Probably from the Latin surname Pavillus “little peacock.”
  • Paver, Pavyer — Old French paveur “layer of pavements.”
  • Pavey — from the medieval girl’s name Pavia/Pavie, possibly from the Old French pavie “peach,” or Pavie “woman of Pavia” — the Italian city.
  • Payle — Middle English payle “pail”; used of someone who made pails.
  • Payler — from Middle English payle “pail”; i.e. a pail-maker.
  • Paynter — Anglo-French peintour “painter.”

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No, that’s not a particularly fine Old Welsh name!

It’s the Welsh for “inspiration everywhere.”

You see, this week, Small Child and I ran away to Pembrokeshire in South Wales.

And while enjoying the fresh sea air, and exploring the pituresque little towns and magnificent ruins, I encountered plenty of interesting names and name inspiration. These are just some of my favorites:

Arawn — We passed one very pleasant day of our holiday painting pottery in a café in magical Narberth, the Arberth of the First Branch of the Mabinogion, and home to Pwyll, from where he rode forth hunting one day and encountered Arawn, Lord of Annwfn — the Celtic Otherworld. There’s rather an inspiring and spine-tingling view of the surrounding countryside from the not-so inspiring and spine-tinging car-park in the centre of Narberth; it’s easy to imagine the hounds and horses of Pwyll and Arawn hurtling across the fields… Some postulate that Arawn derives from biblical Aaron. I say that’s utter nonsense. It is far more likely to derive from the Common Celtic *ar-yo– “to plough” or the same ancient root which gives Modern Welsh: aran “mound.”

Carew — One of the most romantic castles I know, a mixture of medieval and Elizabethan. It’s name derives from the Welsh, and is equally romantic: caer “castle” and “fort” + rhiw “ice.”

Cawdor — Although in most people’s minds, Cawdor is firmly associated with Scotland (and, indeed, Macbeth, erstwhile Earl of Cawdor), more recent Earls of Cawdor had their seat at Stackpole in Pembrokeshire. It was a late eighteenth century Baron Cawdor, indeed, who repelled the last invasion of Britain, by the French in 1797 at Fishguard. The Gaelic form of Cawdor is Caladar, deriving from coille “wood” and dur “water” or “oak.” An old form was Calder.

Elidor — We stayed in the marvelously named Stackpole Elidor (a name which would have been right at home in Harry Potter!). Elidor is actually an Old Welsh name, and Stackpole is named in honor of a very shadowy saint of the name. As Elidurus, it occurs as the name of a legendary king of Britain in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136). Its meaning isn’t all that clear; while the second element is almost certainly the Welsh dur “steel,” the first is fuzzier. It died out as a name in the Middle Ages, but was revived in the 19th. Other medieval variants include Elidyr and Elidir, as borne by the medieval Welsh poet Elidir Sais (c. 1190–c. 1240). It’s probably best known today, however, from Alan Garner’s 1965 fantasy novel of the name.

Gwri — Gwri Wallt Euryn “Gwri of the Golden Hair” is the name Lord Teyrnon gives to Pwyll and Rhiannon’s son Pryderi when he finds the child in his stables and adopts him as his own. It probably derives from the same source as Welsh gŵr “man.”

Lyd, Lud  — The intriguingly named Lydstep was just down the coast from our cottage.  An earlier form was Ludsopp, meaning “Lud’s refuge.”

Merrion — A  tiny hamlet near Stackpole, with a very pretty name. It may derive from the same source as the Welsh boy’s name Meirion, i.e. the Latin Marianus “belonging to Marius” or Marinus “of the sea.” Given its location, it’s tempting to lean towards the latter, and it is perfectly possible that actually, at its heart, is Welsh môr “sea.”

Middleton — I can’t help wondering if the National Botanic Garden of Wales is rather kicking itself now for changing its name from Middleton, now that the name has been made so famous by the new Duchess of Cambridge. Its original name was in honor of the Middleton family of Oswestry, who built the first mansion on the site that was to become the gardens. It’s meaning is straightforward;  “middle” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.” We had a rather wet day at the gardens, on this occasion, sadly, though Small Child thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition on mushrooms :).

Myrddin — The Welsh name for Merlin, and the name behind the town of Carmarthen and its Welsh form, Caerfyrddin. We didn’t do much there this time, except pop into Morrison’s on the way to the Botanic Gardens. I’m going to feature Merlin as a pick of the week in the not too dim and distant, so I’ll say no more for now.

Oriel — Orielton is another little Pembrokeshire village near Stackpole Elidor. I don’t know its etymology, but the “Oriel” part lept out. Oriel was found as a girl’s name in medieval times, a vernacular form of the Germanic Aurildis, meaning “fire battle.” It was unrelated to the word “oriel” used of a large, projecting recess with window, often found in a lord of the manor’s solar (private sitting room). It was this type of Oriel that gave it’s name to the Oxford College.

Pryderi — The birth name of Pwyll and Rhiannon’s son, born at Narberth (see Arawn above). He is generally considered to be one and the same as the Mabon — the “divine son” of Welsh mythology, who gives his name to the Mabinogion. It is generally derived from the Welsh pryderu “to take pains” and “to be anxious.”

Pwyll — Another Narberth inspiration; the name of the noble Lord of Dyfed, who had his palace at Narberth. Not the easiest of names to say, sadly, but it does have such rich association and meaning; in Middle Welsh, this was “spirit” and “reason,” while in Modern Welsh it now carries the meanings of “discretion” and “steadiness.”

Rhiannon — Pwyll’s wife (and later the wife of Manawydan). She is perhaps the most significant of the figures associated with Narberth; in the Mabinogion, she is an otherworldly maid, who rides a white horse… many equate her with the Gaulish Goddess Epona, and her Brythonic name has been reconstructed as Rigantona from Common Celtic: *r-gan- “queen.” Like Merlin, she’s on the cards for a post of her own…

Tudor — One of the highlights of our trip was a revisit to Pembroke Castle, birthplace of the founder of the Tudor dynasty, Henry VII. His surname is the Anglicized form of the Welsh Anglicized form Tudur, an ancient name, deriving from the Common Celtic *towtƒ “people” and “tribe” (this became tut in Middle Welsh and also acquired the meaning “country”) + *r-g- “king.” It was found in Gaul in the Roman period as Teutorix, and is cognate with the Germanic Theodoric.

Twynnell — St Twynnell was another local village, named after its shadowy saint.  At the heart of this beauty almost certainly lies the Great Welsh Goddess Dôn, with Twynnell a combination of Dwyn (a variant of Dôn) and gell, literally “yellow,” but also “bright” and “shining.”

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Branwen is one of a small and select group of Welsh names which featured in Welsh mythology and was also used widely as a genuinue given name in medieval times.

It is also one of the Welsh names richest in significance.

Superficially, it breaks down to bran “raven” and gwyn “white.”

But there’s a great deal more to these two words than meets the eye.

For a start, Bran is also the name of perhaps the most significant figure in all Welsh myth, called Bran the Blessed in English, and Bendigeidfran in Welsh.

In the important Welsh collection of tales dubbed the Mabinogion by a scholar of Welsh in the nineteenth century, Bran is called a king — but he is also a giant, whose head, after he himself has been killed, continued to live on, laughing and joking with his companions for seven years… until one of them accidentally opened a forbidden door.

His head is said to be buried beneath the White Tower at the Tower of London, as a talisman against Britain ever being invaded.

And to this day, his totem animals, ravens, can be found at the Tower.

As such, the raven is considered a bird whose presence invokes protection.

In Norse mythology, the ravens Huginn and Muninn are associated with Odin, and were depicted on Viking banners. Their names derive from the Old Norse hugr “thought” and munr “memory.”

To many Christians, however, the bird, with its strong associations of death, is sinister — but to Pagans, the raven’s associations with death serve only to remind us of the ever-turning wheel of life, death, and rebirth, a motif which is found in myth.

In Beowulf, it is the raven who heralds the new day after Beowulf ’s victory, while in some versions of the Arthurian cycles, King Arthur is said to be reincarnated as the raven.

Which brings us back to Bran and Branwen.

Branwen’s name carries all the same potency of Bran’s, and all the same symbolism. But hers is coupled with that ever significant Welsh gwyn. It doesn’t just mean “white,” but also “pure” and “sacred.” Many of the shadowy early Welsh “saints”, whose names are only known to us through the existance of a “llan” (a word now used of the land upon which an ancient church stands, but which almost certainly goes back to Pagan times) contain gwyn as an element.

If most of them aren’t in reality Gods, Goddesses or genii loci (“spirits of the place”), I’ll eat all my hats.

Sadly, Branwen’s own tale is tremendously sad. Her marriage to Matholwch, King of Ireland was doomed from the start, when her brother, Efnisien, chose to insult Matholwch by attacking his horses. Bran compensated Matholowch by giving him the fabled Cauldron of Rebirth, and, after that all seemed at first well — for a time.

In Ireland, Branwen gave Matholowch an heir — a son called Gwern (this means “alder” in Welsh; a significant choice, as the alder is Bran’s sacred tree). But malicious gossip at court turned Matholwch against his wife, and he began to mistreat her badly. Branwen sent the birds to tell her brother, who came to Ireland with a great army.

At first the two sides attempted to negotiate, but when Efnisien once again wreked havoc (this time by throwing Gwern on the fire), full-scale war ensued, leading to Bran’s death. Only seven of his warriors survived to take his head back to Britain.

As for Branwen, she died of grief.

Despite this sad tale, Branwen was used in the medieval period in forms such as Brangwain, Brangwayna and Brangwyne, giving rise to the surnames Brangwyn and Brangwin. As Brangain (and many variations therein), it features in the medieval lays of Tristan and Isolde. The latest variation of this character’s name to emerge is Bragnae, which occurs in the 2006 film Tristan and Isolde.

Branwen fell out of use in Wales by the end of the medieval period, but returned again in the nineteenth century and became quite popular. It doesn’t see much use in Wales now — or anywhere else — but it’s a beautiful and evocative name ripe for use once more.

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Rad is the fifth letter of the Runic Alphabet. As with others, its name varies depending on which Runic Alphabet is being used:

Rad is quite unusual in the Runic alphabet, in that they all agree that it means “ride” and “journey.”

Similarly, the emphasis in the poems is all pretty much in agreement, focusing  on the hard work of horses, which makes traveling for their riders so much easier.

Modern rune-users interpret Rad as signifying journeys, both physical and spiritual, and either such journey with a specific goal — a quest, or a pilgrammage. And as journeys inevitably take us from one place or state of being to another, it also stands for change and growth.

A journey also involves a certain level of control over one’s destiny; it is a pro-active, not a passive state of being.

As a name Rad could work — although it has a distinct “short-for-something” air about it which some dislike. There are some interesting long form options though:

For boys, there’s Caradoc, Conrad, Nostradamus, Radagast, Radamisto, Radomil, Radoslav, Radulf and Rhadamanthus.

For girls, how about Angharad, Aradia, Paradise, Rada, Radegund, Radiance, Radiant, Radmila, Radoslava, and Sharada.

None of these names are related etymologically to Rad, but they all shorten nicely to it.

Meanwhile, I think Raido and Reith make great names on their own, both have very contemporary vibes.

But there are also plenty of other names to choose from inspired by Rad. Here are just a few:

  • Christopher — Greek: khristophoros “bearing Christ.” The famous patron saint of travelers.
  • Eachann — Old Irish: each “horse” + donn “brown.”
  • Éowyn — Old English: eoh “horse” + wynn “joy.” The name of a princess of Rohan in Lord of the Rings; the Rohirrim (“Riders of Rohan”) are famed horsemen.
  • Epona — Common Celtic: *ekwo- “horse.” The name of a Gaulish Goddess of horses, and probably also of sovereignty.
  • Euodia — Greek: euodia “good journey.” Ancient name (crops up in the New Testament).
  • Faramond — Old German: fara “journey” + munda “protection.”
  • Farilda — Old German: fara “journey” + hildi “battle.”Ferdinand — Germanic: fart “journey” + nanþ- “courage.”
  • Garnet — a stone long used as a protective talisman for travelers.
  • Geoffrey — one source of this name is the Old German valha “traveler” + frithu “peace.”
  • Hermes — one of Hermes’s roles was to protect travelers.
  • Hippolyta — Greek: hippos “horse” + luô “to set free.” Hippolyta was an Amazon queen, and the mother of Hippolytus.
  • Ingrid — Old Norse; one interpretation of the name is Ing (the God) + rida “ride,” referring to the symbolic first ploughing of the year by Ing on a golden boar.
  • Isra — Arabic: “night journey.”
  • Journey — self-explanatory!
  • Llywarch — Welsh: llyw “leader” + march “horse.”
  • Marcán — Old Irish: marc “horse” + diminutive suffix –án.
  • Marshall — Old French: mareschal; used originally of someone who looked after horses.
  • Peregrine — Latin: peregrinus “traveler,” “stranger.” Often shortened to Perry, or, in the case of Tolkien’s character, Peregrin Took, to Pippin.
  • Philip — Greek: philos “friend” + hippos “horse.” Not forgetting its feminine form Philippa, popularly shortened to Pippa.
  • Pilgrim — the word “pilgrim” derives from the same source as Peregrine.
  • Pushan — Sanskrit: “cause to thrive.” The name of a Hindu God of journeys, who protects travelers from bandits and wild animals.
  • Rhiannon — Common Celtic: *r-gan- “queen.” In mythology, Rhiannon is an otherworldy woman closely associated with horses. It is quite likely she represents the survival of the Goddess Epona.
  • Rider — English surname meaning simply “a rider.” Also spelled Ryder.
  • Rosalind — Old German: (h)ros “horse” + linde “serpent” or lindi “gentle” and “soft.”
  • Rosamund — Old German: (h)ros “horse” + mund “protection.”
  • Rose — Old German: (h)ros “horse.”
  • Séadna — Old Irish séadna “traveler.”
  • Steed — Old English stēda “stud-horse.”
  • Xanthippe — Greek: xanthos “yellow” + hippos “horse.”

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This weekend, people of all faiths and none across the world will be celebrating Halloween.

For most, it is just an excuse to dress up and have a party, the start of the midwinter party season which culminates in Christmas and the New Year.

From an anthropological perspective, the scary, spooky theme which most embrace belongs to a time honored tradition of facing our deepest fears in a controlled, safe environment.

We embrace all the monsters from the wardrobe, including the scariest of them all (as far as most folk are concerned) — death — but live to party another day.

It is a form of catharsis.

No one can doubt that the roots of Halloween lie deep in the past. Probably the ancient, Pagan past. “Halloween” — more often “Hallowe’en” in the UK — means simply “All Hallows’ Eve” — a reference to the fact that November 1st is the Christian feast of All Hallows — generally called “All Saints” today.

In Mexico, November 1st is “The Day of the Dead,” a feast of commemmoration of loved ones who have died. This often continues on November 2nd (the Catholic feast of All Souls). Although it shares many characteristics with Halloween, its origins are indiginous, and was originally a festival in honor of the Aztec Goddess of the Underworld.

While most Pagans participate in all the fun aspects of Halloween just like most people, Pagans often mark it with more sober observation too. Like the Mexicans, it is considered a time to honor and remember those who have died.

Many regard it as the end of the old year and start of a new, as seems to have been the case in Ireland into the medieval period.

And to distance it from the vernacular celebrations, the Irish name Samhain is often prefered.

It derives from the Old Irish sam “summer” and fuin “end.”

In Wales, Pagans and non-Pagans call it Calan Gaeaf “the first day of Winter.”

Whichever way you look at it, it is clear that the Celts regarded it as a time of transition.

Today, it is regarded as not just a time of transition between seasons, but between worlds. Between the planes of existence.

This ethereal, otherworldliness pervades all four of the year’s “quarter-days”, which fall midway between the solstices and equinoxes.

They are often called the “fire festivals” as there is evidence to suggest that fire — symbolic of purification and light — featured in the celebration of all the quarterdays.

But the sense that the “veil between worlds is thin” is felt particularly strongly at Samhain, and the festival which faces it on the other side of the wheel of the year — Beltane.

The focus of Samhain is very much on reflection — looking back, and looking inward. It is a time of remembrance and contemplation at the start of the season when the earth itself retreats within itself, to sleep.

Everywhere, there are signs of dying, death and decay — but we know it is only a semblance. An illusion.

For come the spring, it all springs up anew. Rejuvinated. Regenerated. Reborn.

The wheel always turns. There is no beginning. And no end.

And when it comes to names? Here are just a few to mark this special season:

Apple — apple bobbing is an old Halloween tradition, probably bound up in an ancient fertility rite to Pomona, Goddess of fruit, whose name derives from the Latin pomum “fruit,” source of the French pomme “apple” — a hint that of all fruit, apples are the fruit. English “apple” is cognate with the Welsh afal, with which Avalon, is also connected, a hint at the apple’s Otherworldly and mystical connections. She’s on my list to feature as a Pick of the Week, so I’ll say no more for now.

Aradia  — an Italian Witch-Goddess, introduced to the world by the American folklorist Charles Leyland in 1899 in the influential Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Probably a form of Herodias,  which derives ultimately from the Greek hêrôs “hero.”

Autumn — appropriate for this festival as much as for the Equinox.

Calan — deriving ultimately from the Latin kalends a word used to mean “first of the month.” Calan Mai is used as the Welsh equivalent of Beltane, though it is used by all Welsh speakers to mean simply “May Day.”

Circe — one of the most famous mythological Witches. A daughter of the Sun, her name derives from the Greek for “to encircle” — no doubt with enchantments. Other legendary Witches with wonderful names include  Ceridwen, (the Witch of) Endor, Lilith, Medea, Morgan/Morgana, all who deserve posts (and will get them) all to themselves.

Edric — an Old English name meaning “rich ruler.” Wild Edric is a figure of English folklore, associated with the Wild Hunt — and Halloween marks the start of the Wild Hunt season. Of course, chief among those associated with the Hunt is Odin.

Eve — Instead of Halloween, think All Hallow’s Eve. Eve as an established name is the English form of the Hebrew Ḥawwāh. But there is also the English “eve” a poetic form of “evening,” redolent of twilight, and thus perfect for the season.

Hallow — an Old English world meaning “saint.”

Halloween, Hallowe’en — not without precedent, such as a little girl called Hallowe’en Lucy Trodden in Durham, England, in 1899, but it certainly makes for a very bold choice.

Hecate — the famous Witch-Goddess of the Greeks. Although not specifically associated with Halloween (although she may have a festival at the end of the November), she is a Goddess of the earth and boundaries. Many Wiccans and Witches regard her as the Goddess in her Crone aspect, making it an appropriate — if distinctive — name for a girl born at this time of year.

Nicevenn — a Scottish Goddess, equated with Hecate, Diana and others, whose name means either “daughter of heaven” or “daughter of frenzy.” She is particularly associated with Samhuinn.

November — a neglected month name, but why not? It comes to us direct and unchanged (except in pronunciation) straight from ancient Pagan Rome too, with the literal meaning of “ninth month.”

Nox — the Latin for “night”. Nights are drawing in quickly now, and we have more night than day. With Halloween’s association with death, and darkness, Nox resonates well.

October — same comment as November, except it means “eighth month.”

Pumpkin — the vegetable which has come to symbolize Halloween more than any other. Its etymology provides more suble options, such as the original Pompion, from Pepon, a type of melon or gourd, deriving ultimately from the Greek pepôn “ripe,” “mellow.”

Samhain — As already said, this is the name which many Pagans, especially Wiccans, use for Halloween. Others, especially Druids, often use a slightly different version, the Scots Gaelic cognate Samhuinn. With the meaning “summer’s end” it would make a good name generally for those born at this time of year.

And with that, I wish you a bright and blessed Halloween!

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