Voluptas, Vervactor, Viduus, Viriplaca, Verminus, Venilia, Vagitanus, Vitumnus, and Volutina

Since no one in Greek mythology has a name starting with V, either in the original Greek or in one of the Latinized forms historically used, I decided to use Roman mythology for the V day. My original plan had been to use Roman names for the letters missing from Greek, but there are also certain letters not used in Latin.

I also couldn’t find much substantial information on any of the Roman V deities I tracked down, so I decided to feature a bunch of stubs today. Because I’m very superstitious about lucky vs. unlucky numbers and dates, I had to make it nine instead of leaving it at eight. As irrational as I know this is, I always try to avoid the number eight!

Voluptas, etched by Daniel Hopfer

Voluptas, or Volupia, is the daughter of Cupid (Eros) and Psyche, and the goddess of sensual pleasures. Her Greek name is Hedone, which means “pleasure.” It’s the root of the English word “hedonism.” Likewise, Voluptas also means “pleasure” or “bliss,” and is the origin of the English word “voluptuous.”

Vervactor is one of the twelve helper gods of the goddess Ceres, overseeing each step of the grain cycle. He’s the first one up, the god who plows. A priest would invoke the help of these twelve gods, asking for Divine help and protection every step of the way. Vervactor derives from vervago, “to break up,” and vervactum, “fallow ground.”

Viduus is the god who separates the body and soul after Death. The name means “void, bereft,” and is the source of the English words “widow” and “widower.” Interestingly, “widower” is one of the few words whose masculine form is piggybacked off the original feminine form, not the other way around (e.g., actor vs. actress, usher vs. usherette). While I normally avoid using suffixes denoting sex, “widower” is one of those words which still seems to require it.

Viriplaca is the goddess who soothes men’s anger. This was used as one of Juno’s added names, when she was invoked as a goddess to restore peace between a married couple. There was a sanctuary to her on Palatine Hill in Rome, where women went to pour out their hearts when their husbands had wronged them. Viriplaca derives from vir, “man,” and placare, “to appease.”

Verminus is the god who protects cattle from disease, and is possibly taken from the Indigetes, a conquered Iberian people. There were several altars to him in the Roman Empire. His name either derives from vermine, “gripe,” or vermino, “to have worms.” Related words include vermis (worm) and verminosus (wormy). You can guess where the English word “worm” came from!

Venilia is a goddess of the winds and sea, though according to Ovid and Virgil, she was a nymph and the wife of Janus or Faunus. A mountain on Venus is named for her. The name might be related to ventosus, “windy.”

Vagitanus (or Vaticanus) is the goddess who presides over a baby’s first cry and opens their mouths for this purpose. The name derives from vagitus, “crying, wailing, squalling.”

Vitumnus is the god who enables the quickening (the first fetal movements in utero). Some sources believe this is an aspect of Jove (Jupiter) instead of a separate deity. The name derives from vita, “life.”

Volutina is the goddess who causes envelopes (i.e., leaf sheaves) to form. The name is derived from involumenta, “swaddling,” and voluto, “to roll.”

Quiritis and Quirinus

The Quirinus section of this post is edited from last year’s A to Z post, since it’s hard to find significant deities whose names start with Q. Quetzalcoatl was out of the question, since my intent was to focus on deities who aren’t super-well-known.

Juno, by Jacques Louis Dubois

Quiritis is a Sabine goddess of motherhood, often associated with protection. I can imagine many a woman praying to her in the throes of childbirth, or for help and guidance with learning how to be a mother.

Quiritis is believed to be derived from the Sabine word quiris (spear, lance). She’s often depicted holding that weapon, presumably to defend someone or something. Perhaps because of this, she came to be associated with Juno (Iuno), the Roman equivalent of Hera. Juno is also frequently depicted holding a spear or lance, something which came from the earlier Quiritis.

Roman marriages traditionally included a ritual wherein the bride’s hair was cut or parted by a spear. Some scholars believe this was the influence of Quiritis and Juno’s association with marriage.

Juno was frequently worshipped under the name Juno Quiritis or Juno Curitis, and Juno Quiritis is said to be the only deity worshipped by all thirty curiae (military and political divisions) established by Romulus. By Campus Martius, an area of great religious, political, and military training importance, there was a temple to Juno Quiritis.

The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, by Nicolas Mignard, 1654

Quirinus is an alternate name for Romulus. Together with his twin brother Remus, he founded Rome. Later on, Quirinus/Romulus was elevated to deity status. Sources differ on whether the Roman god Quirinus is or isn’t one and the same as Romulus.

There are many versions of the twins’ origins, ancestry, and childhood, but all versions have a servant who can’t bring himself to murder the babies, and instead puts them in a basket on the banks of the Tiber River. The river floods and carries the twins downstream, unhurt. Tiberinus, a river god, makes the basket catch on the roots of a fig tree, and a wolf named Lupa discovers them and serves as their wetnurse. Picus, a woodpecker, feeds them.

The twins grew up as shepherds following their discovery by Faustulus, who took them to his hut and raised them with his wife Acca Larentia. The rest is history.

Quirinus came to stand for the Divine personification of the Roman people.

Quirinus is possibly derived from the Sabine word quiris (spear, lance). Other forms include Quirino (Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), Quirin (German), Quirijn (Dutch), Corin (French), Kyrinos (Greek), Kvirinas (Lithuanian), Kvirinus (Faroese), Kvirin (Russian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Ukrainian, Croatian), and Kwiryn (Polish). A Dutch feminine form is Quirine.

Faunus and Frigg

Faunus is the horned Roman god of the forest, fields, and plains. He was called Inuus when he committed bestiality with cows. Though many people over the ages have considered him the Roman equivalent of Pan, many others have viewed them separately. The great poet Virgil, for instance, independently mentioned both Pan and Faunus in The Aeneid.

Faunus is the son of Picus, first King of Latium, and Canens, a nymph and the Divine personification of song. His paternal grandpap is Saturn (Kronos), and his maternal grandparents are Venilia (a goddess of the winds and sea) and Janus. Just like Pan was accompanied by many Paniskoi (little Pans), so too was Faunus accompanied by many Fauni. Hellenized Romans viewed these fauns as equivalent to the Greek satyrs, though the satyrs were followers of Dionysus, not Pan.

According to Virgil, Faunus came to Latium from Arcadia, bringing his people, and became a great king. His shade was called Fatuus, and consulted as a god of prophecy, complete with oracles, in the sacred grove of Tibur, on Aventine Hill in Rome, and around the well Albunea.

Scholar and writer Marcus Terentius Varro depicted these oracles in Saturnian verse when they were given orally. Other times, Faunus revealed the future in dreams and voices transmitted to those who came to sleep within his precincts, on the fleeces of sacrificial lambs.

Faunus comes from the Proto–Indo–European word dhau-no, “the strangler,” which refers to the wolf, and the Daunians, an Iapygian  tribe who lived in pre-Rome Italy. Daunos in turn traces its linguistic origins to dhau, “to strangle.” This was an epithet for the wolf.

Frigg is the Norse goddess of wisdom and foreknowledge, and the wife of Odin. One of her children is Baldr, frequently viewed as a god of love, peace, justice, forgiveness, light, and purity. Frigg’s dwelling-place is Fensalir, a wetland. Even after Scandinavia was Christianised, Frigg continued to show up in folklore.

Frigg’s name is alternately recorded as Frea, Frige, and Frija. Some scholars believe she’s either one and the same as, or an aspect of, Fulla, a goddess traditionally considered to be Frigg’s sister. Additionally, a number of scholars also feel Frigg and Freyja are the same goddess.

Frigg is mentioned or featured in a number of Old Norse and Germanic poems, myths, folktales, and incantations. Among them are Lokasenna, one of the poems in the Poetic Edda cycle, in which Frigg gets into quite a fight with Loki after he accuses almost every woman by the feast of slutting it up; and Gylfaginning, another of the Poetic Edda. In the latter, Frigg plays perhaps her most important role.

Odin and Frigga, by Harry George Theaker

Baldr began having terrible dreams about his life being in danger, and told the other Æsir (the Old Norse pantheon of deities). They held a meeting and decided to “request immunity for Baldr from all kinds of danger.” Frigg got the elements (diseases, animals, the environment, stones, et al) to leave Baldr alone, but the Æsir began making fun of Baldr on account of his newborn invincibility.

Loki was particularly pissed, and, being a master trickster, went to Frigg in the form of a woman. Upon learning the other Æsir were shooting at Baldr, and that Baldr’s one weakness was mistletoe, Loki set off to kill him. He tricked Baldr’s blind brother Höðr into shooting Baldr. Everyone is overcome with grief, and Frigg’s son Hermóðr accepts her plea to go to Hel and bring Baldr back to Asgard. Sadly, Loki sabotages this rescue mission.

Frigg means “belovèd” in Old Norse, derived from the Proto–Indo–European pri, “to love.” The name of Friday comes from her name, since it means “Frigg’s day.” Today, the name Frigg is extremely rare in Scandinavia. Though it appears on the approved names list for Iceland, it’s not currently very popular there either.

The many forms of Patrick and Patricia

Though I don’t have a pleasant association with St. Patrick’s Day, owing to that being my uncle’s Jahrzeit (death anniversary), it’s only appropriate to mark the holiday with a post about the names Patrick and Patricia.

Patrick is an English, Anglicized Irish, German, and French name. It comes from the Latin name Patricius, which means “nobleman.” In the 5th century, a Romanized Briton named Sucat adopted the name Patrick. In his youth, he was captured and enslaved by Irish raiders, and escaped after six years. He later became a bishop, and is traditionally considered to be the one who Christianized Ireland. He’s also Ireland’s patron saint.

Though the name Patrick was used in England and continental Europe during the Middle Ages, it wasn’t typically used in Ireland itself until the 17th century. The Irish had considered it too sacred for everyday usage. In the centuries since, Patrick has become very common in Ireland. It was #16 there in 2015.

Other forms of the name:

1. Patrik is Swedish and Hungarian, as well as used in the various Slavic languages.

2. Pádraig is the original Irish form. The alternate form Pàdraig is Scottish.

3. Pádraic is an alternate Irish form.

4. Padrig is Breton and Welsh.

5. Patrice is French.

6. Patrizio is Italian.

7. Pherick is Manx.

8. Patrício is Portuguese. The alternate form Patricio is Spanish.

9. Patryk is Polish.

10. Patariki is Maori.

11. Patrek is Icelandic.

12. Patrici is Occitan and Catalan.

13. Patrekr is Old Norse.

14. Patriciu is Romanian.

15. Patrikas is Lithuanian.

16. Patriko is Esperanto.

17. Pátrikur is Faroese.

18. Patrizju is Maltese.

19. Patrycjiusz is Polish.

20. Patrikki is Finnish. This name is very rare.

21. Patriks is Latvian.

22. Poric is Welsh.

23. Patrekur is Icelandic.

24. Pàtric is Catalan.

25. Patrikios is Greek.

26. Patrycjusz is an alternate Polish form.

Feminine forms:

1. Patricia is English, Spanish, Latin, and German. This name was super-popular in the U.S. from the 1920s to the early 1970s, spending 1929–1966 in the Top 10. By 2015, it had dropped to #805. The alternate form Patrícia is Portuguese and Slovak.

2. Patrizia is Italian.

3. Patricie is Czech. The last two letters are pronounced separately, not as one.

4. Patrycja is Polish. The most common nickname form is Patka.

5. Pádraigín is Irish.

6. Patrice is an alternate English form. As a French name, this is exclusively masculine.

7. Patricija is Slovenian and Croatian. The alternate form Patrīcija is Latvian.

8. Patricea is Romanian.

9. Patrike is Basque. This is a modern, not traditional, name, and is very rare.

10. Patrisía is Icelandic. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

11. Patritsiya is Russian.

The many forms of Esther

Since Purim begins on Saturday night, 11 March, it’s only right to do a post about the name Esther. Queen Esther is the shero of the Purim story, and risked her life to save her people. I chose Esther as one of my Hebrew names in her honor.

Though Esther is a very common, popular Hebrew name, it’s actually of Persian origin, possibly meaning “star.” It may also be derived from Ishtar, the Babylonian and Assyrian mother goddess. The Hebrew form of the name is Hadassah, which means “myrtle.”

Esther is used in English, French, German, Dutch, the Scandinavian languages, Spanish, and Hebrew. Other forms are:

1. Ester is Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Scandinavian, Icelandic, Czech, Catalan, Persian, and Finnish. The alternate form Estèr is Jèrriais, a form of Norman (a Romance language) spoken on the islands of Jersey and Sark, part of the Channel Islands between France and England.

2. Eszter is Hungarian. The base nickname form is Eszti.

3. Yesfir is Russian. Though I’ve been a passionate Russophile for over 24 years now, this is one of those names I’m not exactly wild about!

4. Esteri is Finnish. The nickname form is Essi.

5. Estera is Polish, Slovak, Romanian, and Lithuanian. One of the Polish nicknames is Estusia (Eh-STUH-shah). This name is particularly precious to me because it was the name of one of the sheroes who enabled the Sonderkommando revolt in Auschwitz on 7 October 1944. For over a year, these brave women smuggled gunpowder to the men. Sadly, four of them (Estera Wajcblum, Róża Robota, Regina Safirsztajn, and Ala Gertner) were eventually implicated, but they bravely refused to name names under torture. They were publicly hanged on 5 January 1945.

6. Hester is Latin and English.

7. Aster is Ladino (Judeo–Spanish), Judeo–Catalan, and Judeo–Latin.

8. Eistir is Medieval Irish. It was traditionally given to girls born around Easter.

9. Esiteri is Fijian.

10. Êrsta is Greenlandic.

11. Estè is Haitian Creole. This is a rare name.

12. Estere is Latvian.

13. Esthir is Greek.

14. Estir is Macedonian, Bulgarian, and a rare Greek form.

15. Etke is Yiddish.

16. Ezter is Ladino.

17. Esthera is a rare, elaborated form of Esther.

18. Esterina is an Italian and Portuguese elaboration of Ester.

19. Esfir is an alternate Russian form. I’m not wild about this one either.

20. Îsta is another Greenlandic form.

21. Eseza is Lugandan, a Bantu language spoken in Uganda.

22. Jestira is Serbian.