Archive for the ‘Druid Names’ Category

In Pagan Name of the Month, I feature a name currently in the top 100 in the US or UK, which has a particularly rich Pagan flavor.

This month, it is the turn of the wonderful Welsh Owen.

In 2010, Owen was 47th in the US, and 59th in the UK (although in Wales, it was 49th).

Owen is actually an Anglicized form of the correct Welsh form, Owain — pronounced “ō-wīn” (i.e. like “oh wine”) — and is also used in Ireland to render the cognate Irish Eoghan, which is pronounced pretty much exactly the same as Owen.

Traditionally, both are derived from Eugene (Greek: Eugenios “well-born”); it is certainly true that Eugene was used to “translate” Owen and Eoghan in medieval times, but few contest today that they are actually native Celtic names in origin.

They may still, however, be cognate with the Greek, as a likely source is the Common Celtic *wesu- “excellent”  and “noble” + *geno- “born,” cognate with the Greek eu “well” and gignomai “to be born.”

Both Celtic elements were in use in names in the Romano-British period.

Another very tempting option for the first element is *yewo- “yew,” which was also used in names in ancient times. This is currently the most favored option.

The yew was an extremely important tree to the ancient Celts. Yews are exceptionally long-lived trees, symbolic of rebirth, immortality, and the Otherworld.

In the British Isles, many ancient yews — predating Christianity — are found in old churchyards, a sign that Christian priests built their churches on sites already regarded as sacred.

But there is yet another possibility for the first element of this ancient name –  the theonym Esus, which also featured in Brythonic personal names.

Esus is a Celtic God mentioned by Lucan by Roman writer, and linked with two other well-known Celtic deities — Teutates and Taranis.

One of Owen’s other British cognates is Ewan — commonly spelled Euan. This is now largely considered the Scottish form of Owen and Eoghan, but it is found across “the Old North,” particularly in Lancashire, from time to time until the name’s modern resurgence across the British Isles, and its use in those areas probably goes back to Celtic times too.

Owen itself has also been in use since the Middle Ages, not just in Wales but also in the English Marches — the counties which border Wales. It is one of the few Welsh names which remained in constant, common use from medieval times to the present day, and is as well-known now for the surname derived from it as the personal name.

There are many notable bearers, from history and legend.

Probably the earliest is the semi-legendary Owain Ddantgwyn “White-tooth”, a fifth-century king of the small early medieval kingdom of Rhos in North Wales (roughly the region of the modern county of Conwy). He is often cited as a likely candidate for the historic King Arthur.

Another very early Owain was Owain mab Urien, king of Rheged, often known as Ywain or Ywein in Arthurian Romance, who probably lived in the sixth century. In the Arthurian cycles, he features as the hero in the tales of the Lady of the Fountain, such as Chrétien de Troyes’ Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (1170s).

There was also more than one king of the Brythonic kingdom of Strathclyde called Owen between the seventh and eleventh centuries.

Owain was very common in the Middle Ages, giving rise to the surnames Owen and Owens.

There are numerous Owens (or rather Owains) of note, such as Owain ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd (c.1100-70), and Owain Glyndŵr (c.1354-c.1416) — known as Owen Glendower in English — who almost succeeded in wresting Wales from English control. He was the last native Welshman to bear the title “Prince of Wales.”

Meanwhile, Sir Owen Tudor (c.1400-61), founder of the Tudor dynasty, was the grandfather of King Henry VII.

Bearers of the surname include the Welsh novelist Daniel Owen (1836-95), the English First World War poet Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), British actor Clive Owen (b. 1964), and footballer Michael Owen (b.1979).

So if you’re looking for a boy’s name which is “mainstream” but with plenty of Pagan kudos, and a name with a long rich history of use as a first name, Owen might be the perfect one for you.

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We’ve reached the letters I and J in the series of little used surnames of English, Anglo-French and Old Norse origin.

  • Iden — from Iden, Sussex. Old English *ig “yew” + denn “woodland pasture.”
  • Imber — from Imber, Wiltshire, a village famously taken over by the British Army during the 2nd World War. In Latin imber means “heavy rain.”
  • Ingall, Ingle, Ingles — from the Old Norse personal name Ingialdr “Ing’s tribute”, or its Anglo-Norse cognate Ingald.
  • Ingham — from places called Ingham. Old English personal name Inga or the ancient Germanic tribal name Inguione  + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor.”
  • Ingleby – from one of the places called Ingleby. Old Norse Englar “English” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Innes — from one of the places called Ince. From Old Welsh *inis “island.”
  • Ireton, Irton — from Ireton, Derbyshire or Irton, Cumbria. ON: Írar “Irishmen” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Isard — from the medieval name Isolda.
  • Isham — from Isham, Northamptonshire. Celtic River name Ise (meaning “water”) + OE hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor,” or hamm “land hemmed in by water/marsh,” “river-meadow.” Did manage to creep into the top 1000 a little in the late nineteenth century.
  • Jackman — servant of Jack.
  • Jagger – a Yorkshire surname from the dialectic word jagger “pedlar.” Only just qualifies, as has started to see use in the last few years, being ranked 762nd in the US in 2010.
  • Janson — son of Jan, a form of John.
  • Jardine — Old French jardin “garden”; used originally of someone who lived near — or worked in — a garden.
  • Jebb — from Jepp — a medieval pet form of Geoffrey.
  • Jebordy — from Middle English jupardi “risk,” “danger,” “jeopardy.”
  • Jekyll — from the Breton Judicael “lord of the grove” or “generous lord.” Traditionally pronounced “JEE-kil” it is now mostly pronounced “JEH-kil.” Is it too tarnished by Doctor Jekyll? And Gertrude?
  • Jenner — Old French engigneor “engineer,” “maker of military machines.”
  • Jerdan, Jerden, Jerdon — essentially Scottish variants of JARDINE.
  • Jernegan — from the Breton name Gernagon “iron-famous.”
  • Jessop – from Joseph, reflecting medieval pronounciation (comparable to the Italian Guiseppe).
  • Jex – a form of Jacks — “of Jack,” as well as from the Middle English geke “fool” (this is probably the same origin of modern geek!).
  • Jinks — from Jenkin, itself a medieval pet-form of John.
  • Jobar — from Middle English jube “woollen garment” or jobbe “large vessel,” referring to someone who made them.
  • Jolivet – pet-form of Old French jolif “jolly,” “lively.”
  • Jory — pet form of Jore, a medieval northern French form of George.
  • Judd — a medieval pet-form of Jordan. Almost didn’t make it, as it saw a bit of use in the 70s — just not very much.
  • Junifer — from Guinevere.
  • Juster — from Old French justeor “jouster.”
  • Justham — a form of Judson “son of JUDD.”

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It’s the Equinox today — one of the two days in the year when the hours of day and night are equal. Up in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the Autumnal Equinox, and we have to face the less than cheery fact that from now on, the nights will be drawing in as winter approaches.

Those fortunate enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, are celebrating spring and the fact that from now on, their days will be growing longer and warmer. Lucky blighters.

But fate has made me an Earthling of the Northern Hemisphere, so the Autumnal Equinox is the focus of today’s post.

What makes the Autumnal Equinox special? Well, because of their equal length of day and night, both Equinoxes are a time of balance — and among many Pagans and folk of alternative spiritualities, they are regarded as good times to focus on achieving balance in our lives.

It is an interesting co-incidence (or possibly not) that Libra — the astrological sign of the balance scales — begins on September 23.

The Autumnal Equinox also sits at the heart of the harvest-season — many a church and school are celebrating their harvest festivals around this time. It is therefore a good time to focus on the bounty of Nature and the Earth.

Autumn — from the Latin autumnus “autumn,”  “fall” and “autumnal” — is already seeing a lot of use as a girl’s name. In the US, it peaked (for the time being) in 2001 in 72nd place, but remains in the top 100. In the UK, where “autumn” is the usual name for the fall, it is still gradually climbing; it was ranked 238 in 2010.

Equinox itself — from the Latin aequus “equal” + nox “night” has seen only a very little use as a given name since the late twentieth century — not enough to register on the radar at all in the US or UK. But with the rise in Knox as a given name, however, perhaps it is time to consider Equinox?

Many Pagans, especially North American Wiccans, call the Autumnal Equinox Mabon, while to Druids across the Norther Hemisphere, it is Alban Elfed.

The festival of Mabon is named in honor of the Welsh deity Mabon ap Modron, and has been in use since the 1970s, its use promoted by Wiccan writer Aidan Kelly.

Mabon ap Modron is often dubbed “the Divine Son of the Divine Mother”; he features in (and gives his name to) the Mabinogion, an important source of early Welsh mythology. He is considered by many to be one and the same with another important figure of Welsh myth — Pryderi ap Pwyll, the son of Rhiannon.

Mabon is almost certainly a survival of the Celtic deity Maponus, whose name derives from the Common Celtic *makwos “son” + the suffix -on- commonly found in theonyms. From the same source derives the Old Irish macc (source of the Mac- which features in so many Scottish and Irish surnames), Old Welsh map and Modern Welsh mab — all meaning “son.”

Five little boys were called Mabon in the UK in 2010.

Meanwhile, the Druid Alban Elfed combines two Old Welsh words — alban meaning “solstice” and “equinox” and elfed “the fall” and “autumn.”

As the Welsh name for the Brythonic Kingdom of Elmet, which had a short-lived existence in the region roughly inhabited now by West Yorkshire following the departure of the Roman legions, until it was absorbed by the neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia.

This derives from the same source as the Old Welsh elfydd “world,” “country” and “region.” This also happens to be related to both Albion and the Scottish Alba.

Elfed — pronounced “el-ved” — has been used as a boy’s name in Wales since the late nineteenth century. It is rare now, however, largely because it is used as the name of the patchwork elephant in the Welsh versions of David McKee’s Elmer the Patchwork Elephant series of children’s books.

While Equinox might be a bit bold for some tastes, Autumn, Mabon, Alban and Elfed certainly provide subtle but interesting options for an Autumnal Equinox baby.

Whatever your spiritual path in life, a bright, blessed and fruitful Equinox, one and all.

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In July, I celebrated the 100th anniversary of Hiram Bingham’s “discovery” of Machu Picchu with a look at some Quechuan versions of Spanish names, used in Peru today.

Today I’d like to share some Quechuan words and phrases which could be used as names — or other things!

Achka llamam kapuwan — I have many llamas

Allin — good, well, in good health

Allpa — land, earth, dust, soil

Amaláy – I hope that, if only

Añallaw — how wonderful, how beautiful, how sweet

Ancha — very, excessively

Anka – hawk

Anqas — blue

Anri — okay, alright

Asin — he/she smiles

Aswan — more

Ayni — help, loan

Aysan — he/she is sleepy

Chakra — cultivated field

Chanin — expensive, abundant

Chaska — very bright star

Chaski — messenger

Chay, churkusunña papa wayaqakunata llamakunaman, manachayqa punchawyarqusunmi — Well, let’s put the potato bags on the llamas, otherwise we will be late

Chaynalla — equal

Chilina — marrow

China — female (animal)

Chiqchi — speckled

Chirapa — rainbow

Chita — young animal attached to owner

Chiwanway — vermillion

Chiwchi — chick, child

Churan — he/she saves

Churi — daughter, son

Dusi — noon

Hatun — big, great, long,  tall

Hawka — peaceful

Hina — like, thus

Huk — one, another

Hukman — different, distinct, strange

Hukllawarqusun llamaykikunata llamaykunawan – Let’s join your llamas with my llamas

Iklli — bud

Illan — he/she travels

Illaspa — travelling

Imanay — what to do?

Imayna — how

Inka — Inca

Inti — sun, and former monetary unit of Peru

Kachi — salt

Kachi-Kachi -dragonfly

Kallma — branch

Kallpa — strength/vigor

Kanallan — right now

Kanan — now

Kapural — foreman (from the Spanish caporal)

Karu — distant, far-away

Kaspa — being, existing

Kaspi — stick

Kawsay — crops, fruit produced from the land, life

Kay — to be, to exist

Kichka — thorn

Kiki — oneself

Killa — moon, month

Killimsa — coal

Kimsa — three

Kiswar — white poplar

Kuchpa — large rolling stone

Kullu — wood (but kullu uya means ‘shameless person’)

Kuntur — condor

Kusa — good, very good

Kuska — together

Lamras — alder

Lasta — snow

Lastan — it is snowing

Llamakunapa rinrinta uchkuchkanku sintachinankupaq — they are piercing the llama’s ears to put ribbons in them

Llipya — lightning

Lliwa — grass, pasture

Lluqlla — torrent

Machu — old

Mallqu — baby bird

Maray, Maran — millstone

Masi — companion, fellow

Michka — early sowing

Mincha — day after tomorrow

Miriku — doctor (from Spanish medico ‘doctor’)

Misi — Cat

Miski — sweet

Mita — time, season

Mulli — big tree

Muña — Herb

Munaspa — loving

Munasqa — beloved, desired, precious

Munayki — I love you

Munani — I love

Nina — fire

Pacha — time, epoch, world

Pachak llamam kapuwan — I have a hundred llamas

Pani — sister of a moan

Paqarin — tomorrow, he/she is born, it dawns

Para — rain

Paran — it is raining

Parwa — flower of the maize plant

Pasña — country girl

Paya — old, old woman, crone

Piwi — first-born

Puchka — spindle

Qamya — pale, of a pale color

Qara — bark

Qarawi — a type of song

Qari — brave/ male (person)

Qasa — frost

Qasi — quiet

Qawan — he/she sees

Qayna – time before

Qispi – glass

Qumir — green

Qura — weed, pasture, vegetable

Quyllur — star

Riki — without doubt/certainly

Riti — ice

Rumi — stone

Runa — man, adult, mankind

Ruru — fruit

Ruyda — wheel

Sacha — tree

Samani — I breathe

Sansa — red hot coal

Sara — corn, maize

Saywa — boundary stone

Siwara — barley

Taksa — small

Taruka — type of small deer

Tayta llamata tapukurqusunchik sasachakuyninchikmanta — Let’s ask my llama about our problem

Tinda — store (from Spanish tienda)

Tuku — owl

Tullpa — hearth, fireplace

Tumpa — little

Tunrururu — thunder

Turi — brother of a woman

Tuta — night

Uma — head

Uña — baby animal

Urpay, Urpi — dove

Uya — face, aspect

Waqaya — Look!

Wawa — child of a woman

Wayna — youth, lover

Wayta — flower

Yaku — water

Yana — black

Yanaymi — my beloved

Yanta — firewood

Yawar — blood, blood lineage

Yupachkaniku llamakuna – we are counting llamas

Source: Quechua-Spanish-English Functional Dictionary

Thanks to Helen Sheard for the lovely llamas!

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O Tiger-lily... I wish you could talk!

I have to say up front, I love the name Tigerlily. It’s bold, quirky and zesty. It has sparkle. It dances in the dewy grass in the bright new light of the Age of Aquarius.

And, unlike many names, it offers plenty of scope to be tailored to suit the bearer.

Thus a child who grows up to be ultra-conservative can quietly drop the Tiger and go by plain Lily.

The cooky one can become a Tiggy.

The cutsey one in pig-tails will be a Tilly.

The feisty spitfire can embrace Tiger.

And the tomboy can plum for gender-neutral Ty.

And the one ready to embrace the world and take all it throws, the one who will laugh in the rain, sleep under the stars, climb mountains, sing by the camp-fire till dawn, kayak down rapids, and find the cure for cancer is Tigerlily!

It’s not a name, however, you will find many people sitting on the fence over. It’s one that people will immediately love — or immediately hate.

In genuine given name use only since the late twentieth century, it is still very rare. In the US, there were only 14 little girls called Tigerlily in 2010, and 5 called Tigerlilly.

In the UK, there were 9 babies called Tigerlily in the UK 2010, and 3 each of Tiger-Lily and Tigerlilly. There were also eight little girls called Tiger — who are probably Tiger Lilies (only first names and hyphenated names appear in the statistics).

As Tiger Lily, it features famously as the name of the Native American princess in J.M.Barrie’s Peter Pan (1904).

It has featured in numerous other fictional and cultural settings, from a little girl in the gentle world of Rupert Bear, to Bubbles “Tiger Lily” White in the 1940 film Dance, Girl, Dance — not to mention several songs of the name over the years.

Probably the best known (perhaps infamous) example of it as a real name is that of (Heavenly Hiraani) Tiger Lily, daughter of the tragic Paula Yates and Michael Hutchance, both dead before their daughter was five.

Tiger lily is the popular name of more than one lily with orange blooms marked with black spots, though the classic is Lilium lancifolium, a native of North-East Asia and Japan.

But there are also the American Lilium catesbaei (also known as the leopard lily, Catesby’s lily, the southern red lily and the pine lily), Lilium columbianum (which also goes by the name Columbia lily), and Lilium superbum (Turk’s cap lily, turban lily and swamp lily). There’s also the wild tiger lily Lilium philadelphicum (chalice-cup lily, wood lily etc).

In the language of flowers, the bright, bold tiger lily represents wealth and pride. But it is still a lily, and shares the lily’s strongly feminine associations, which go back to ancient times.

Lilies are associated with more than one Goddess. Principally, it is the flower of Juno — Queen of Heaven — and most symbolic of purity. Brides have been carrying lilies in their wedding bouquets since the days of the Romans.

Tiger lilies have medical uses too; a tincture is used in various problems arising in pregnancy, while the flower essence is used to help control aggression and chanel it more positively. In China, meanwhile, tiger lily buds are eaten — both fresh and dried.

So, you see, there’s a great deal more to Tigerlily than a Disney princess. If you like something different, something daring, perhaps Tigerlily is the name for you.

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Following on from my article on the Runes a couple of weeks ago, today sees the first article in a new series on the Runes and the possibilities they present when seeking a name, especially a Pagan name.

Let us start at the very beginning — a very good place to start!

The first letter of the runic alphabets is F:

*Fehu meant ‘wealth’ and ‘cattle’, and is the ultimate source of modern English fee, which still carried the sense of ‘cattle’ as late as the 16th Century. Wild fee was an old term meaning ‘deer’.

This connection between cattle and wealth runs very deep in the Indo-European consciousness — the parallel can also be found in Latin with pecu ‘cattle’ and pecunia ‘money’, while the association of wealth and cattle in pre-Christian Ireland is behind one of the most famous of all Old Irish literature, the Táin Bó Cúailnge ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’.

Interestingly, in the runic poems about Feoh, emphasis is laid on wealth as a source of strife, and how there are always those waiting for an opportunity to steal it — as well as the need to be generous.

Naturally then, when reading Runes today, Feoh is associated with material good fortune — but doesn’t loose sight of the sting in the tail — material wealth can be lost, as well as gained.

It also carries other meanings through association — good luck, success — even happiness. Some consider it too to signify fertility, creativity, and the need for perseverance and to exert oneself to achieve your potential.

As a name, Feoh, Fehc and Fehu are probably so ‘way out there’ that they would be in orbit (true of a lot of the names of the Runes were they to be used as they are!). But and Fee have very interesting possibilities…

In Portuguese, means ‘faith’. While fée is the French for ‘fairy’, the source of English Fay.

Fee itself is commonly found as a short form of Fiona and Felicity.

There are also plenty of names which reflect Feoh’s extended meanings relating to wealth, good fortune, success and happiness. My picks from around the world are:

  • AdeolaYoruba meaning “crown of  wealth.”
  • Aston — English surname of various origins, including the Old English personal name Eadstan < ēad “rich” + stan “stone.”
  • Chance — surname and word of obvious meaning! 
  • Ede – From Old English ēad “rich” and “happy”; used as a personal name in its own right in medieval times, as well as featuring in many compound names, such as Edith, Edmund, Edward, Edwin, etc.
  • Felicity — from Latin felicitas “happiness.” Felicitas is the Roman personification of happiness and good fortune.
  • Felix — Latin meaning, among many other things, “fortunate” and “happy.”
  • Fortuna — Latin: fortuna “fortune,” “fate,” “chance,” and “luck” — personified as a Goddess.
  • Fortuné — See Mer de Nom’s great critique here!
  • Gad Hebrew: gad “fortune.” There is also a Mesopotamian God called Gad, whose name is from the same Semitic root.
  • Otto — from the Old German: uod “wealth” and “riches” (cognate with the Old English ēad).
  • Plutarch — Greek: ploutos “wealth” + arkhos “leader.” The name of a famous Pagan Greek historian.
  • Siddharth — Sanskrit: siddhārtha “one whose goal has been achieved” — the birth name of the Buddha.
  • Soraya — Persian name from Arabic thuriyyah “rich” and thuriyya “wealthy” (also Persian name for the Pleiades).
  • Tomiko — Japanese tomi “riches,” “wealth,” and “fortune” + ko “child.”

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Henley (well, almost)

My guest-blog at Nameberry today is on the use of surnames as first names. It follows on from a post I did here at the Nook –  What to Say to a surnames-as-first-names skeptic.

Opportune, therefore, I think to continue with the exploration of lesser used surnames of Old English, Anglo-Norman and Old Norse origin. Today’s letter is ‘H’ and features surnames which have never featured in the US top 1000, or, if they did, fell out of it a long, long time ago and weren’t there very long…

  • Hacker — from Middle English hacken ‘to hack’ and ‘to cut’. Still mostly associated by Brits with the character of Jim Hacker from the classic 80s sitcoms Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.
  • Haddesley — from Chapel Haddlesey and West Haddlesey, Yorkshire. Old English *hathal ‘hollow’ + , ‘sea’, ‘lake’, ‘inland sea’ and ‘marsh’.
  • Hadden, Haddon — from one of the places of the name. Old English hǣth ‘heath’ + dūn ‘hill’.
  • Haig, Haigh –from Haigh, Lancashire, or directly from Old English haga ‘(hedged) enclosure’. In the UK, probably too closely associated with politician William Haigh, but elsewhere fairly connotation free.
  • Halden, Haldon — from High Halden in Kent. Old English personal name Heathuwald ‘war-power’ + denn ‘woodland pasture’. Can also be from the medieval personal name Haldane ‘half-Dane’.
  • Haler, Haylor — from Middle English halien ‘to hale’, ‘to haul’ – i.e. a porter or carrier of some kind.
  • Hallam — from one of the places of the name. Old Norse hallr ‘slope’, ‘hill’, Old English hall ‘hall’ or halh ‘nook’. All in dative plural, given the sense of ‘at the slopes/halls/nooks’. Hallam Tennyson was the oldest son of the English poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson; he was named after the poet’s friend Arthur Hallam, who died young.
  • Hanley — from one of the places called Hanley or Handley. Old English hēah ‘high’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Harby — from one of the places called Harby. Old Norse personal name Herrøthr ‘furious man’, or hjörð ‘herd’ and ‘flock’ + ‘farmstead’, ‘village’ and ‘settlement’.
  • Harker — from Middle English herkien ‘to listen’.
  • Harpley — from Harpley, from one of the places of the name. Old English hearpe ‘harp’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Harrow — from one of the places called Harrow. Old English hearg ‘pagan temple or shrine’. Harrow in Greater London is famous for its historic public (i.e. private and very expensive) school. A cricket match between Harrow and Eton used to be one of the fixtures of the English social ‘Season’.
  • Hartley — from one of the places of the name. Old English heorot ‘harts’ and ‘stags’ +  lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’. Made a couple of minor appearances in the name ranks around the turn of the last century.
  • Hawker — Old English hafocere ‘hawker’ and ‘falconer’.
  • Hawkley, Hawksley — essentially the same, coming from one of the places of the name. Old English hafoc ‘hawk’ +  lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Haworth — from Haworth in Yorkshire, famous for being the home of the Brontë sisters. Old English haga ‘(hedged) enclosure’ + worth ‘enclosure’.
  • Haydon, Heydon –from one of the places called Haydon or Heydon. Old English hēg ‘hay’ + dūn ‘hill’.
  • Hayer — from Old English haga ‘(hedged) enclosure’.
  • Hayland — from Old English  hēah ‘high’ + land ‘land’.
  • Hayne – from more than one source. 1) the Old Norse personal name Haghni, from hagi ‘enclosure’ or hag ‘comfortable’ and ‘capable’; 2) Old English haga ‘(hedged) enclosure’, here meaning ‘(dweller) at the enclosures’; 3) Middle English heyne ‘mean wretch’.
  • Heddon — from one of the places of the name, a variant of HADDON.
  • Helmsley — from Helmsley, Yorkshire. Old English personal name Helm ‘helmet’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Hendon — from Hendon, London. Old English  hēah ‘high’ + dūn ‘hill’.
  • Henley — from one of the places called Henley, a variant of HANLEY. Henley-on-Thames is famous for its annual regatta, while Georgie Henley is an English actress best known for playing Lucy in The Chronicles of Narnia.
  • Henlow — from Henlow, Bedfordshire. Old English henn ‘hen’ + hlāw ‘tumulus’, ‘mound’, ‘hill’.
  • Herne — the surname is plain Old English hyrne ‘corner’ and ‘nook’, but Herne is also the name of the figure from English folk-lore, probably a survival of Odin as Lord of the Wild Hunt. His name may be cognate with his Celtic counterpart, Cernunnos.
  • Hesketh — from Hesketh, Cumbria. Old Norse hestr ‘horse’ + skeið ‘race-course’.
  • Heston — from Heston, Greater London. Old English *hǣs ‘brushwood’ + tūn ‘enclosure’, ‘farmstead’, ‘village’, ‘manor’ and ‘estate’. Heston Blumenthal is an English celebrity chef.
  • Heyer — a variant of Ayre. Georgette Heyer (1902-74) was a well-known English historical novelist.
  • Hildith — from the Old English girl’s name Hildgyð ‘battle-strife’.
  • Hindon — from Hindon, Wiltshire. Old English hīgna ‘religious community’ + dūn ‘hill’.
  • Huckerby — from Uckerby, Yorkshire. Old Norse personal name Úkyrri (perhaps ‘unquiet’/’disturbance’) + ‘farmstead’, ‘village’ and ‘settlement’.
  • Hudd – medieval pet-form of Richard and Hugh.
  • Huntley — from Huntley, Gloucestershire. Old English hunta‘ huntsman’ + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’.
  • Huntlow — from Old English huntian ‘to hunt’ + Old French louve ‘wolf’.
  • Huxley — from Huxley, Cheshire. Old English personal name Hucc + lēah ‘wood’, ‘woodland clearing’, ‘glade’, ‘pasture’ and ‘meadow’. Best known as the surname of English writer Aldous Huxley.
  • Huxter — from Middle English huckestere ‘(female) hawker.’

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Many Pagans like to practise some form of divination. There are numerous methods, but a popular one is to use the ancient runes.

The association of the runes and divination is almost certainly as old as the runes themselves. The word rune comes from an ancient root meaning ‘mystery’ and ‘secret’.

It is easy to understand how such an association arose, when you remember that at the time the runes developed, the skill or reading and writing was known only to a few.

An ability to read and write meant access to texts — and texts contained knowledge which was entirely hidden from those who did not possess the skill to read them.

There are many parallels throughout history and around the globe, which demonstrate this connection of literacy with knowledge, magic and power.

Even today, in countries which have highly literate and well-educated populations, this deep-seated — and passionate — belief in the power and sanctity of the written word, especially in the sphere of religion and magic, is still very commonly encountered.

But let us return to the Runes…

There is actually more than Runic system:

  • the evocatively named Eldar Futhark — of the 2nd to 8th Centuries. This is so old that the actual names of the letters have had to be reconstructed. It takes its name from the first seven letters of the Eldar and Younger Futhark alphabet — namely f, u, þ, a, r, k
  • the Anglo-Frisian (essentially Anglo-Saxon), used beteween the 5th and 11th Centuries
  • the 8th-9th Century ‘Marcomannic Runes’
  • the Younger Futhark. 8th-12th Centuries.

I prefer the Anglo-Frisian:

  • Feoh (F) ‘wealth’
  • Ur (U) — ‘cattle’
  • Þorn (Þ) — ‘thorn’ (Thorn)
  • Os (O) — ‘mouth’ (or Ós — ‘God’)
  • Rad (R) — ‘ride’
  • Cen (C) — ‘torch’
  • Ʒiefu (Ʒ) — ‘gift’ (Giefu)
  • Ƿynn (Ƿ)– ‘joy’ (Wynn)
  • Hæʒl (H) — ‘hail’
  • Nyd (N) — ‘need’
  • Is (I) –  ‘ice’
  • Jear/Ior (J) — ‘year’
  • Ēoh (Eo) — ‘yew’
  • Peorð (P) — uncertain — possibly a type of woodwind instrument (Peorth)
  • Eolh/Eolxecʒ (X) — ‘elk’, ‘elksedge’
  • Siʒel (S) –  ‘sun’ (Sigel)
  • Tir (T) — ‘(the God) Tyr’
  • Beorc (B) — ‘birch’
  • Eoh (E) — ‘horse’
  • Man (M) — ‘man’
  • Lagu (L) — ‘ocean’
  • Ing (Ng) — ‘(the God) Ing’
  • Œðel (Œ) — ‘estate’ (Oethel)
  • Dæʒ (D) — ‘day’ (Daeg)
  • Ac (A) — ‘oak’
  • Æsc (Æ) –  ‘ash’
  • Yr (Y) — ‘bow’ (but see Eolh)
  • Ear (Ea) — ‘earth’
  • Iar (Ia) — ‘serpent’
  • Kalc (K/KK) — ‘chalice’
  • Gar (G) — ‘spear’
  • Cƿeorð (Cƿ) — ‘fire’ (Cweorth)
  • Stan (St) — ‘stone’

The Runes offer an interesting source of names, not just the names of the Runes themselves — some of which have potential from one system or other — but for the inspiration. Those who first used the Runes also wrote poems about them, capturing their essence, and each rune possess certain qualities and meanings, just like the cards of a tarot.

All this make the Runes a great starting place for someone on the search for a perfect name!

Indeed, a number of names may have arisen from the word rune itself and its cognates.

The Vikings had Rúni ♂ and Rúna ♀, which were either from the Old Norse rúnar ‘secret’, ‘hidden lore’ and ‘wisdom’, or runi/rúna ‘intimate friend’.

These have become the modern Scandinavian Rune and Runa.

There is also the traditional Welsh name Rhun, from the Proto-Celtic *r³nƒ ‘secret’ and ‘magic’, as well as the modern Welsh girl’s name Rhinedd, from Welsh rhin ‘secret’.

Over the coming weeks, I shall be taking a closer look at each Rune, and some of the naming potential they present.

And then I shall move onto the Ogham :D!

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In a walk in the woods today, we came across our first spotted toadstools of the season — those wonderful bright red and white fungi so deeply associated with fairies and elves that one of its common names is “pixie’s seat mushroom.”

Its proper common name is, of course, the fly agaric — and its botanical moniker Amanita muscaria.

And although using the name of a fungus might not leap out immediately as a great name, the fly agaric is no ordinary fungus.

Even without its long-standing fairy associations, the fly agaric is a fascinating — and beautiful — thing.

It acquired its common name — fly agaric — because of its old use as a fly catcher. A head of fly agaric placed in a saucer of milk is irresistible to flies. They feast on the agaric, become thoroughly narcotized, and tumble into the milk and drown.

Quite a good way to go, all things considered.

It aquired the second part of its botanical name — muscaria — for the same reason; muscaria means “fly-hunting” in Latin, from musca “a fly.”

Agaric comes ultimately from its ancient Greek name agarikon — which the Greeks thought meant “of Agaria” — the name of a town in Sarmatia.

The melodious Amanita, meanwhile, derives from the ancient Greek amanitai — a (masculine plural) name of a fungus, though what, exactly is unknown. It may or may not have been the fly agaric. Its ultimate meaning is likewise unknown.

What is known — well-known — is the fact that fly agaric is a potent hallucinogenic. Its use among the Sami people of Scandinavia to achieve vivid visions is well attested. It is thought that the Sami learnt of its affects by observing what happens to animals that eat the fungus — reindeer in particular, are said to be thoroughly addicted!

Many think that fly agaric was also used by Viking berserkers, and, although it cannot be conclusively proved, it is also thought it have been one of the ingredient in Soma — a ritual drink mentioned in the Rig-Veda.

Perhaps most famously of all, it may also have been one of the ingredients of the “flying ointment” said to have been used by European Witches in the Middle Ages to promote visions and out-of-body experiences.

But no two people — or fly agaric — are the same; the compounds within it are notoriously unpredicable in their concentration and stability, and it is known to kill.

Most, sensibly, regard it as deadly poisonous, and appreciate its beauty and folklore from a safe distance.

Other Amanitas are more lethal still — Amanita virosa has the common name “destroying angel” because it is pure white, but absolutely lethal.

Amanita phalloides goes by the common name “deathcap,” and there is no known antidote; it leads to death from kidney and liver failure within days.

It was the deathcap which did for the Emperor Claudius; it was added to his favorite mushroom dish which, ironically, was another member of the Amanita family –

Not all Amanitas are bad!

As names, Agaric and Amanita are rare — many won’t be able to see past their mushroomy and (sometimes) deadly poisonous persona. And yet there’s all its witchy, fairy, magic-woodland associations too, which, I think compensate and forgive.

If you’re after something really different, really magical, Amanita or Agaric might be the name for you!

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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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