Witchy names, Part I

Since the wonderful month of October has begun, I’m featuring Halloween-themed names for the next four weeks. I’ve showcased quite a few Halloweeny names in years past, with meanings related to words like “dust,” “skeleton,” “ghost,” “spider,” and “bat,” but there are some name meanings I didn’t yet spotlight.

Let’s get started with the names of witches from literature and mythology. As always, these names can also be used for pets, dolls, stuffed animals, or fictional characters. Unless otherwise noted, all these names are female.

Acanthis is the Latinized form of the Greek Akanthis (prickly). It’s the name of the thistle finch bird, after a character in Greek mythology. She and her family were turned into animals by Zeus after her brother was eaten by a horse. This name was also used for an old witch by first century BCE Roman poet Propertius.

Aradia may be a Tuscan form of Erodiade, the Italian feminine form of Greek name Heroides (i.e., Herod), which probably means “song of the hero.” In American folklorist Charles Leland’s 1899 book Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches, she’s a regional Italian goddess who gives women the gift of witchcraft.

Brisen is an Arthurian witch. The name may be derived from Old Norse brisinga (glowing, twinkling), which in turn relates to goddess Freya’s famous brísingamen necklace.

Carline means “witch, old woman” in Lowland Scots.

Duessa was created by English poet Edmund Spenser for his 1590 epic poem The Faerie Queene. It may mean “disunity,” “second,” or “duplicitous,” from Latin duo (two) and a feminine suffix. Duessa is an ugly, evil witch allegorically representing Mary, Queen of Scots and the Roman Catholic Church. Not exactly the most positive of these names!

Eidyia means “to know” or “to see” in Greek, from eidos. She’s the mother of sorceress Medea, and may personify the eye’s magical power. In Greek superstition, the eye was the source of a witch’s supernatural powers, and strengthened by the sun’s beams.

Elphaba is the protagonist of Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s derived from LFB, the initials of L. Frank Baum (author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz).

Endora probably derives from the Witch of Endor, whom King Saul consults in the First Book of Samuel. It was used for a character on popular U.S. TV show Bewitched (1964-1972).

Errafaila is a Medieval Basque witch.

Glinda is the Good Witch in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It may be based on modern Welsh name Glenda, composed of elements glân (pure, clean) and da (good).

Heiðr is a unisex name in Norse mythology. Its uses include that of an epithet for good witches.

Jadis is the White Witch in CS. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series. It may be based on Persian jadu (witch) or French jadis (of old, long ago).

Meroë is a witch in Roman poet Lucius Apuleius’s second century novel The Golden Ass. It’s probably based on the name of an ancient city along the Nile.

Morgause is an Arthurian witch, Queen of the Orkneys, and King Arthur’s halfsister. The earliest form of her name is Orcades, which probably derives from Celtic *forko– (piglet). It may have mutated into Morcades and Morgause through confusion with Morgan.

Nessarose is the Wicked Witch of the East in Wicked.

Pamphile is the feminine form of Greek name Pamphilos (friend of all). Bearers include a legendary woman who invented silk weaving, a respected first century historian, and a witch in The Golden Ass.

Pieta means “witch of the moon” in Old Karelian Finnish.

Proselenos is an elderly witch in Roman writer Petronius’s first century novel The Satyricon. It means “before the Moon” or “older than the Moon” in Greek.

Spīdola is a witch in Latvian national epic Lāčplēsis. She’s enslaved by the Devil, but eventually rescued by hero Koknesis, who becomes her husband.

Sycorax is a powerful witch in Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Tempest. There are several theories about its etymology, including “Scythian raven,” “heartbreaker,” and “pig crow.”

Rokapi (M) is the leader of the kudiani, a mythological Georgian group of witches. Supreme god Ghmerti punished him by chaining him to an underground column, where he ate human hearts brought to him by other kudiani. Rokapi tried to escape every year, but always failed.

Zinta means “witchcraft, magic, charms” in Latvian.

One thought on “Witchy names, Part I

  1. Hello!

    Knew a few Carlines in my time – especially one who travelled a lot between Scotland and France through the early 2000s [2002-04].

    Loving these witchy investigations.

    Thought Lewis was leaning more heavily on the French than the Persian – on the other hand, Jadis; Edmund and Turkish Delight as temptation.

    And I have read the Magician’s Nephew after all.

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