Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Ancient Paganism’ Category

A rare little gem for this week’s pick of the week.

You may think it is Arabic, but it is not.

It comes from a related but much, much older language.

It’s actually Akkadian — the Semitic language of Ancient Mespotamia — one of the earliest ever written languages in the world.

Often separated into its two principal dialects — Babylonian and Assyrian — it flourished between the third and first millennia BCE.

Zaqar derives from the verb zakāru, meaning “to speak,” “to name,” and “to swear. ”

The Hebrew cognate is zakar, which crops up a few times in the Bible meaning “to remember,” “to call to mind,” “to remind” and “to invoke.” It is also found in the name Zachariah — often Anglicized as Zachary — “Yahweh remembers” or “memory of “Yahweh.” and all its related forms.

The Phoenician was identical, and featured in the name Zakar-Baal “Baal remembers” or “memory of Baal,” the name of a king of Byblos in the eleventh century BCE.

Meanwhile, the Arabic cognate gives the names Zakir (also transliterated as Zaakir), meaning “remembering,” and Zakoor “narrator” and “speaker.”

Zaqar was the name of the Mesopotamian God of dreams — also known as Zakar and Dzakar — who acts as the messenger of the moon God Sin.

Unsurprisingly, he delivers these messages in dreams.

As such, he represents one of the oldest examples of the belief that dreams contain messages and prophecies from supernatural or divine sources.

The peoples of Mesopotamia, like their neighbors the Hebrews, were particularly prone to reading a great deal into dreams.

They read a great deal into everything.

Divination featured very highly in Mesopotamian life, and strongly influenced people’s lives — including decisions taken by kings on matters of state.

In the Epic of Shulgi, for instance, Zaqar takes a message to the Sumerian King Shulgi telling him that the Gods will aid him in battle. Secure in this knowledge, Shulgi trots of to war and successfully annihilates his enemy.

Fast-forwarding a few millennia, and Zaqar is now one of a number of Egyptian and Mesopotamian deities commemmorated in the names given to craters on Jupiter’s largest moon (and the largest moon in the solar system), Ganymede.

So if you’re looking for a more unusual long form of Zac, Zack, Zak — or even Zaq — with history and excellent Pagan connections, why not consider the evocative and exotic Zaqar?

Read Full Post »

Happy St David’s Day — from a sunny (yes, it is!) Wales!

As a St David’s Day present, here are the entries from Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Names for David and Dewi.

David ♂ Biblical name of Hebrew origin. The meaning isn’t all that clear, but seems mostly likely to derive from a root meaning “beloved,” although, interestingly enough, the Hebrew letters which make up the name David are exactly the same ones used for “mandrake.” 12th C. St. David is the famous leek- and daffodil-wielding patron saint of Wales — but his real name was actually DEWI.

Diminutive forms: Dawe (historic); Dave, Davey, Davie, Davy.

David in other languages: Welsh: Dafydd; Dai (diminutive), Irish: Dáibhead, Daithí, Gaelic: Dàibheid, Dàibhidh, Cornish: Daveth, Czech, French, German, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish: David, Hungarian: Dávid, Lithuanian: Davidas, Italian: Davide, Latvian: Dāvids, Pol: Dawid, Arabic: Da’wud, Hawaiian: Kāwika, Maori: Rāwiri, Finish: Taavetti, Taavi (diminutive).

Bearers: two medieval Scottish kings (d. 1153 and 1371); David Copperfield, the eponymous hero of Dickens’s 1850 novel, and the stage-name of  American illusionist David Kotkin (b. 1956); David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George, (1863–1945) and David Cameron (b. 1966), both British Prime Ministers; David Eddings (1931–2009), the American novelist; David Bowie (b. 1947), the British singer-songwriter.

Dewi ♂ ♀ The boy’s name Dewi is a very old and very interesting name. Dewi Sant is the Welsh name for St. David, and many people believe it is simply the Welsh form of David. It isn’t. David is simply the name adopted to render Dewi in English, a long time ago. Almost certainly, his name actually derives from the Common Celtic *dOEwo- “(a) God,” cognate with Zeus, Latin deus, Sanskrit deva and the Irish Dagda, etc.

The element is well attested in given names in the Roman period — examples include Deomiorix, Deiana, and Deieda. Some have attempted to derive the name from Dewydd, an alleged “old form” of Dafydd—the Welsh form of David — but the argument works just as well the other way — Dewydd may well represent an attempt to synthesize Dewi and Dafydd. The simple fact is, biblical names were not used in sub-Roman Britain, and thus the likelihood of someone genuinely being called “David” in sixth-century Wales is, quite frankly, about as likely as someone in the period being called Jayden.

Dewi was used as a given name in the Middle Ages, probably in honor of the saint, but then disappeared until its revival in Wales in the nineteenth century.

By coincidence, the Malaysian girl’s name Dewi means “Goddess.”

I love coincidences! ;)

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi hapus!

Read Full Post »

It’s really quite surprisingly how many names in the UK and US top 100 have Pagan roots when you start to dig below the surface.

Take Genesis, currently ranked 89th in America.

Most of its use is no doubt Christian, an adoption of the name of the first book of the Bible, a name which was first applied to the Vulgate — the Latin translation of the Hebrew Bible commissioned in the fourth century when Christianity was adopted as the state religion of the Roman Empire.

In Hebrew, it was known as Bere’šyt meaning “in (the) beginning” — the opening words of the book.

The Greek genesis was chosen for the translation.

It’s a noun which comes from the verb gignomai  meaning “to come into a being,” and thus “to be born,” “to begin” and “to become.”

Thus in its most basic sense, genesis means “origin” and “source” as well as “beginning.”

It carried a number of other senses such as “race,” “descent,” “generation,” and “age.”

It also meant “birth,” and was used in astrological language to mean “(birth-calculated) horoscope” and, by extension “lot” and “fortune” too.

Later, it passed into Latin with similar meanings, and also came to be used of a person’s natal-star.

Genesis also features as an element in a number of compound words.

One of my favorites has to be parthenogenesis, which combines it with the Greek parthenos “maiden.” This is a biological term used of reproduction from a gamete without fertilization, a process which occurs mostly in invertibrates and some plants.

Even the Oxford English Dictionary makes reference to one of this word’s most famous outings — in the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man.

It gets its mention when Edward Woodward is paying Lord Sumerisle a visit at his stately pile and witnesses the village girls conducting a Pagan ritual at the stone circle in the hope of experiencing parthenogenesis for themselves.

Needless to say, Edward isn’t impressed.

Genesis is also a close relation through the Greek and its Latin cognates of many other words relating to birth, beginnings and descent, such as “genes,” “genetics,” “generation,” “generate,” “genus,” “genuine,” “general,” “generous,” “generic,” “genial,” “genius,” “gender” … the list goes on and on.

Not to mention quite a cool rock band.

It has also featured in the title of many a book or comic, film or TV show.

My favorite has to be Doctor Who’s Genesis of the Daleks.

Related elements can be found in other names too, such as Eugene.

So you see, there’s a great deal more to Genesis than just the title of a book of the Bible — with plenty to please a Pagan. :)

Read Full Post »

It was the full moon last night, which is the inspiration for today’s pick of the week, the little heard Argent.

Argent falls into the categories of both “surnames as first names” and “word names,” though they share the same source: the Old (and Modern) French argent “silver.”

Silver’s association with the moon goes back to ancient times. It has long been believed to enhance the power of the moon, capable of forging a strong link between the the physical and metaphysical worlds.

The surname probably arose as a nickname for someone with silver hair, while the word has been used in the past as a noun (for a silver coin) and an adjective.

Nowadays, it is mostly confined to heraldry, where it is used of both silver and white in coats of arms.

The Old French word came from the Latin for silver argentum, which gives us the chemical symbol for silver — Ag.

It is cognate with the Welsh arian “silver” — which is still used to mean “money” in Welsh — which is found in more than one Welsh name, such as Arianwen, which combines it with gwyn “white,” “pure,” and “blessed,” and Arianell, which combines it with gell “yellow,” and “shining.”

It may also feature in the name of the Goddess Arianrhod — which is popularly interpreted as meaning “silver wheel” and a reference to the moon.

Caer Arianrhod is the Welsh name for the Milky Way.

The Common Celtic word from which arian derived was *arganto-, and the “g” is preserved in the medieval name Argante — used by Layamon in the twelfth century epic poem Brut as the name of the Queen of Avalon.

She is usually identified with Morgan le Fay, and there are those who argue that the name derives from an older form of Arianrhod.

Another old form is Eraint, which features in the epithet of the mythical Welsh figure Lludd Llaw Eraint “Lludd of the Silver Hand.”

This form also happens to demonstrate well the etymological relation between arian and the Modern Welsh Eirian “shining.”

Meanwhile, its Sanskrit cognate is Arjuna, a name borne by a hero of the epic Mahabharata. The modern Hindi form of the name is Arjun.

Argent itself is first found as a given name as early as the sixteenth century, interestingly enough as a girl’s name. This probably represented a simpler form of Argentea, which was taken directly from the Latin argenteus meaning “silvery” and “of silver.”

By the nineteenth century, it is more commonly found as a boy’s name, often as a middle name, indicative that the surname was now the principal source.

Today, Argent is a rarity. It has never reached the top 1000 in America, and only even appears in the data at all on one occasion, in 1926, when five girls were given the name.

Bursting as it is with heritage and meaning, I think it makes for a great unusual and contemporary choice for a boy or a girl. What do you think?

Read Full Post »

First of all, apologies to anyone who happened by yesterday when my blog was temporarily “suspended/archived.”  Thankfully it was a system error, and the nice people at WordPress sorted it out very quickly — though I did have a litter or two of kittens in panic in the meantime!

A couple of weeks ago, I included Agatha in my list of “Grannies” worthy of resurrection, and the eve of the feast day of the saint of the name seemed a good day to feature her properly.

For it was Saint Agatha whose popularity in Britain in the Middle Ages made Agatha a common name in medieval times.

Hers is a particularly gruesome tale, even by the usual standards of hagiography.

For refusing to succumb to the advances of the (naturally) Pagan Roman prefect of Sicily, Agatha was tortured — which included cutting off her breasts — and executed.

These scenes have been popular in art across the centuries, with Agatha usually portrayed carrying her breasts on a tray as though they were macaroons (inspiration, perhaps for the minni di virgini cakes, which are a speciality of St Agatha’s day in Sicily).

However, contemporary evidence for her existence is non-existent, and the first references to her date from the sixth century.

All the rest is pure legend and folklore.

So who really was Agatha?

Agatha is a straight-forward name to interpret. It is simply the feminine form of the Greek agathos “good.” Hence Agatha, at its most literal, means “the good (female) one,” in her case, it could be “good woman,” “good lady” — or  “good goddess.”

And, as fate has it, there was a Roman Goddess called exactly that, word for word in Latin — Bona Dea, “the Good Goddess.”

The Bona Dea is quite a mysterious deity. what we do know is that she was a goddess strongly linked with women, and her festival was celebrated only by women (and only well-born ones at that).

Ancient writers interpreted Bona Dea as a title or epithet, concealing her real identity, which was believed to be a closely guarded secret kept by those admitted to her mysteries.

This didn’t stop the writers speculating that her real identity was the fertility Goddess Ops (“plenty”), Magna Mater (the “Great Mother”) and/or Ceres, and she was also identified with Juno and Isis.

Intriguingly, there are many vestiges of the worship of Isis in the festivals of St. Agatha on Sicily, where the cult of Isis was strong in ancient times. These include the greeting of the cult statue and its procession on a carriage and an enormous party.

A further interesting “coincidence” is that these festivities begin on February 2nd—with one of her areas of patronage being protection against fire, linking her to Brigid, who is also sometimes equated with Isis, and whose feast day is suspiciously close.

On Sicily, this connection with fire is particularly linked to Sicily’s volcano, Etna; Agatha’s veil has supposedly protected the island from the volcano on more than one occasion.

Agatha, like Isis, is also closely connected with cats; in France, Agatha is said to appear in the guise of an angry cat to women who work on her feast day, and in Languedoc she even used to be referred to as “Santo Gatto.”

In the Middle Ages, Agatha was very much the “Sunday best” form of the name, used in Latin documents. Like many — if not most — names, the vernacular forms were simpler.

In Agatha’s case, they were forms such as Agas, Agase and Agace, and Agacia was commonly found in Latin documents rather than Agatha.

Two significant medieval bearers were Agatha, the mother of Edgar Atheling, and Agatha of Normandy, a daughter of King William the Conqueror. The name is also ascribed to the mother of the famous fifteenth century “Mother Shipton” — Ursula Southill.

After the Reformation, Agatha plunged out of fashion, becoming unusual until the Victorians with their love of all things medieval plunked it from the history books.

Even then, however, it never became particularly common, while many an Agatha naturally became an Aggie.

The best-known real-life bearer of modern times is the British writer and archaeologist Agatha Christie (1890-1976). I’ve loved Agatha Christie’s books since childhood, and feel an additional bond because my Director of Studies at College, who excavated with Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan in the 1950s. It was rather thrilling to hear about her from someone who knew her personally.

In fiction, there’s more than one witch of the name, such as Agatha Harkness, a witch in the world of Marvel Comics, and Agatha Cackle, the villain of Jill Murphy’s Worst Witch.

But probably the most famous literary Agatha has to be the formidable Aunt Agatha of P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories.

Until recently, this battleaxe image has rendered Agatha virtually unusable. But things are changing, and little Agathas are starting to make appearances.

In Britain, the name’s prospects may have improved due to the children’s TV show Guardians of the Museum, which is hosted by a pretty 1930’s ghost called Agatha. Certainly, my Small Child associates the name with this character, and thinks it’s a fabulous name.

So even if the current generation of parents can’t appreciate Agatha’s qualities, the next is distinctly hopeful!

Happy St. Agatha’s!

Read Full Post »

Over the course of today and or/tomorrow, most Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere will be celebrated Imbolc (down under, it’s time for Lughnasadh).

Both Imbolc and Lughnasadh are what are often dubbed “Celtic fire festivals.”

Both names are Irish, and are the names by which the festivals were known in the early medieval period, but it is thought that the fire festivals were celibrated across the Celtic world.

The other two are Samhain and Beltane, and they all fall midway between a Solstice and an Equinox — hence their other generic name “cross-quarter days.”

Imbolc — also called Imbolg, and correctly pronounced “i-molk” — marks the transition between the deepest, darkest days of winter and the Spring Equinox.

It seems to derive from the Old Irish for “in the belly,” although a medieval glossary said it meant “ewe’s milk.” Either way, its association with the burgeoning new life of spring is clear.

It’s still cold. It’s still dark, but signs of spring are increasingly everywhere, from the trembling, delicate snowdrops, to the shivering catkins on the hazel and the buds on the blossom trees.

It is the time of the Maiden.

Not surprising that the saints most strongly associated with early February are Bridget and Agatha, Bridget — often now called by the Irish form of her name, Brigid — on the first, Agatha on the fifth.

It is Brigid who has become most associated now with Imbolc — though not the saint. The Goddess who lies behind her. The great Irish Brigid, so beloved in Ireland in pre-Christian times that instead of trying to eradicate her worship, the Christians turned her into a sixth-century saint.

She is equally revered among many modern Pagans, especially Wiccans and Druids.

Many Christians — particularly Catholics — still contend  that the saint just happened to share the same name as Pagan Ireland’s favorite Goddess, that she just happened to found her monastery on the site of Bridget’s cult center in Kildare, and just happened to have a thing for fire, etc.

Similarly, the widespread nature of St. Bridget’s cult in England and Wales is often ascribed to the spread of the cult from Ireland when — although the form “Bridget” is Irish — her worship in the British Isles is probably much older; Bridget and the famous Brythonic Goddess Brigantia are almost
certainly the same deity.

The form Bridget developed from Brigitta, a Latinized form of the Medieval Irish Brigit and Brigid. It derives ultimately from the Common Celtic *brig-/brigant- “high,” or *briga- “might” and “power” combined with the Irish fem. suffix –ait. This has become Brighid in Modern Irish Gaelic. The variants Bríd and Bríde are also used.

In England and Wales, Bride and Bryde  were also commonly used in the Middle Ages, surviving in place names such as Bridewell.

Bridie — an Anglicized form of Bríde — is not uncommonly heard in Pagan circles too.

Bridget is found as a given name in England from the fourteenth century. In Ireland it wasn’t actually used until the seventeenth; it was considered
too sacred for everyday use in previous centuries (so much for the saint just happening to share the Goddess’s name!).

In the nineteenth century, the pet-form Biddy was so common in Ireland that it became a nickname for an Irishwoman (in the same way Paddy was used for an Irishman). It has lost this meaning now, but “old biddy” is still used in Britain as a mild slang term for an old woman.

Many wonderful old traditions surround Imbolc and St Bridget’s. One of it’s other names — Candlemas — comes from the tradition of making and blessing candles at St Bridget’s; the connection between candles and Brigid’s fires is obvious.

In Ireland, the tradition of making a Brigid’s Bed has survived until modern time in some parts; women and girls make a corn dolly, and a bed for her to lie on beside the fire. They then keep a vigil on the the eve of St Bridget’s, and the men visit to pay Bridget their respect.

In the morning, the dolly is sometimes taken round the village from door-to-door, a bit like a guy on Bonfire Night in England.

Due to the believe that Brigid goes abroad on Imbolc eve, clothes are sometimes placed outdoors for her to bless as she passes.

Candles are often placed in all the windows to welcome her.

But probably best-known is the Brigid Cross, with it’s four spokes, it almost certainly is a vestige of the Pagan Celtic sun-wheel. Generally woven from straw or rushes, they are placed in the chimney as a protection against fire. Although the general tradition was that they were renewed each year, with the old burnt on Imbolc fire, old ones are not uncommonly found forgotten up the chimneys of old Irish houses.

A bright and blessed Imbolc, one and all!

Read Full Post »

The darker mood of Hægl and Nyd remains as we reach Is — Ice — in the runes.

The forms it takes in the various runic systems are:

In the runic poems, the focus is on ice’s appearance and nature — it is “the bark of a river,” and “a floor forged by the frost.”

But emphasis is also placed on the danger it brings, both tangible (such as slipping on it), and more metaphorical (for the perils that cold presents, both to the body and environement).

But ice also stands for winter, and as well as its dangers (so real and frightening in those days when famine was always a hair-bredth away), it is a time of rest and introspection.

Nature turns inwards, and so must we. After its sleep beneath the ice, new life will come in the spring.

Modern rune interpretations follow on from all this. Is is a distinct, virtually physical obstacle placed before us. It can represent sudden frustration in endeavours, something that stops us in our paths and threatens to prevent us from moving forward.

Indeed, to some extent it is actual tells us that we might need to stop and take time to think. Time to allow what will be to be. Just like Nature in wintertime. The spring will come.  We just need patience…

And so to the names…

Is is, of course, identical to “is”; I have encountered it as a nickname for Isabella and all her forms, and, after all Will’s resemblance to “will” hasn’t hindered him. Isaz is distinctly exotic, though not a thousand miles from Isis and Isaac.

His? Maybe, maybe not.

But lovely Isa has to be one of the best “rune names” of all. An old short form of Isabella, etc, particularly in Scotland, it has that “great-granny” charm going too, but has yet to be rediscovered in her own right (only 5 in 2010 in the UK), though it features in a lot of other names. In addition to all the variations on Isabella, there’s all these among the girls:

Aanisah, Alisa, Anisa, Anisah, Annalisa, Arisa, Beatrisa, Denisa, Elisa, Elisabeth, Elisabeta, Elisabetta, Ellisa, Eloisa, Elouisa, Erisa, Faisa, Ibtisaam, Ibtisam, Isadora, Isatou, Isatu, Larisa, Lisa, Louisa, Luisa, Khalisa, Khalisah, Maisa, Maisarah, Mandisa, Marisa, Melisa, Nafisa, Nafisah, Nisa, Nisanur, Parisa, Raisa, Ramisa, Romaisa, Risa, Rumaisa, Temisan, Tulisa, Unaisa, Unaisah.

Then there are all the great names beginning with Is-. As well as Isaac, the Isabellas and Isadora, there’s:

Isabèu, Isaiah, Isambard, Isamu, Isao, Isca, Iseult, Isfael, Isfandiyar, Ishaq, Ishara, Ishkur, Ishtar, Isidore, Isioma, Isis, Iska, Iskander, Iskra, Isla, Islay, Islwyn, Islyn, Isra, Issachar, Issoria, István.

Then there’s the meaning; and what leaps out first is Ice itself, along with Icie and Icy and “ice” or “icy” in other languages:

  • Ais — Malay: “ice”
  • Akull — Albanian: “ice”
  • Akulli — Albanian: “icy”
  • Bīng — Mandarin: “ice”
  • Buz — Turkish: “ice”
  • Duramen — Latin: “ice”
  • Eis — German: “ice”
  • Eisig — German: “icy”
  • Gelido, Gelida — Italian: “icy”
  • Gelu — Latin: “ice”
  • Glace — French: “ice”
  • Glacial — French: “icy”
  • Glacies — Latin: “ice”
  • Hielo — Spanish: “ice”
  • — Welsh: “ice”
  • Izotz — Basque: “ice”
  • Jää — Estonian, Finnish: “ice”
  • Jäine — Estonian: “icy”
  • Jäinen –Finnish: “icy”
  • Jaleed — Arabic: “ice”
  • Jég — Hungarian: “ice”
  • Jeges — Hungarian: “icy”
  • Kerakh — Hebrew: “ice”
  • Kori — Japanese: “ice”
  • KryerosKryera, Cryerus, Cryera — Greek: “icy”
  • KrymosKryma, Crymus, Cryma — Greek: “icy”
  • Krystallos, Crystallus — Greek: “ice”
  • KryosKrya, Cryus, Crya — Greek: “icy”
  • Led — Croatian, Czech: “ice”
  • Ledas — Lithuanian: “ice”
  • Ledovy — Czech: “icy”
  • Ledinis — Lithuanian: “icy”
  • Ledus — Latvian: “ice”
  • Lód — Polish: “ice”
  • Lyed — Russian: “ice”
  • Oighreata — Irish: “icy”
  • Oighir — Irish: “ice”
  • Pegylis — Greek: “icy-cold”
  • Rhew — Welsh: “ice”
  • Stiria — Latin: “icicle”
  • Thalj — Arabic: “ice”
  • Xeado — Galician: “icy”
  • Xeo — Galician: “ice”
  • Yax — Persian: “ice”
  • Yelo — Filipino: “ice”

It also inspires the following in English:

  • Berg
  • Cryo
  • Crystal
  • Diamond
  • Floe
  • Frazil
  • Frost
  • Frostflower
  • Frosty
  • Gelid
  • Glacier
  • Glacieret
  • Glaçon
  • Glaze
  • Glitter
  • Glittery
  • Hail 
  • Icicle
  • Kittly
  • Kulfi
  • Lollipop
  • Lolly
  • Nilas
  • Popsicle
  • Rime
  • Rone
  • Sparkle
  • Sleet
  • Star
  • Thaw
  • Varve
  • Winter

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 171 other followers

- shop7 - shop7 - price5 - shop7 - price5 - shop7 - price5 - price5