Last month I did my first ‘Pagan Name of the Month’ feature, starting the ball rolling with Blake. The premise for Pagan Names of the Month is to feature a name from the top 100 names in the UK or US, and show just how good a ‘Pagan name’ it is.
This month, I have opted for the seasonal Summer.
In 2009, Summer was the 24th most popular girl’s name in the UK, and it’s popular Down Under too, ranking 39th in New South Wales,and 34th in New Zealand.
On the other side of the pond, though, it was only 164th in 2010.
In former times, when life wasn’t made so easy and comfortable by electricity, double glazing, central heating, fresh produce shipped across the globe, etc, etc, the blessings of summer were valued far more highly than today.
Summer in the past was synonymous with the prime of life and plenty. It was the season when fields were full of ripening grain, orchards and hedgrows with ripening fruit. The season of long, warm days, genial, short nights, forgiving winds, soft rain, rustic scenes of shepherds and their lasses out making hay…
But, as the Greeks were fond of pointing out, in Arcadia ego — death and decay lurk even in the heart of paradise, and the wheel of the year is ever-turning.
It is the sting in the tail, which makes each summer’s day so poignant.
The word summer derives directly from its Old English counterpart — sumor. This is exactly cognate with the Welsh haf and Old Irish sam. The name of the Celtic feast of Samhain derives from the latter — the feast of ‘summer’s end’ (and winter’s beginning).
The use of summer as a name, or a part of a name, is not new.
The Scottish Sorley is the Anglicized form of Gaelic Somhairle, itself from the Old Norse Somerled from sumar ‘summer’ + líðr ‘to pass by’, hence ‘summer passer-by’ or ‘summer wayfarer’.
Another summery name of Old Norse origin is Somerilda ‘summer-battle’.
Somerset is also not unheard of as a given name (a well-known bearer was the writer Somerset Maughan). This comes from the Old English cognate sumor ‘summer’ + sǣte ‘dwellers’ and ‘settlers’. It became the surname of a powerful aristocratic family, who are still Dukes of Beaufort today.
Names meaning ‘summer’ can be found in other languages too.
The Welsh Haf (pronounced ‘harv’) is not uncommon as a girl’s name in Wales, especially as a middle name. It also features in the girls’ names Hafwen and Wenhaf ‘blessed summer’, Hafren, and Hafgan — ‘summer song’ — the name of a King of the Otherworld in Welsh mythology. There’s also Hefin ‘of summer’ — specifically, ‘of midsummer’.
Meanwhile, Samhradán is an Irish boy’s name meaning ‘little summer’.
Belisama is a Gaulish Goddess of light, whose name means ‘powerful summer’.
Therina is rare name first encountered in the late 18th Century from the Greek therinos ‘of summer’. Another is Therea, first used in the 19th Century. Rarer still is Euthera — ‘pleasant in summer’. All are from theros ‘summer’. Some argue this is the ultimate source of the better known Theresa.
Others include the Chinese Xia (夏), the Indian girl’s names Grishma and Ushma, the Finnish girl’s name Suvi, and boy’s name Kesä, the Kurdish girl’s name Hawin, and the Albanian boy’s name Behar. Also in Albania, the girl’s name Vera can be interpreted as deriving from verë, another Albanian word for summer.
Meanwhile, the Basque girl’s name Udane derives from uda ‘summer’, and the rare French boy’s name Veran may be an adoption of the Galician verán.
A number of Japanese girls’ names include Japanese word for summer. Natsuko and Natsumi are just two which feature natsu, while Shizuka can be interpreted as meaning ‘quiet summer’.
Hebrew Kayitz and Swahili Majira (strictly, ‘season’) are also attested, and Latvian/Lithuanain Vasara is not unknown.
Summer stands out as an ideal Pagan choice, free of all and any association with any other religion, but not too ‘way out there’, if ‘way out there’ isn’t your thing.