Urania and Uranus

Note: The Urania section is edited and fleshed-out from last year’s A to Z post. It was really hard to find anyone from Greek mythology whose name starts with a U (either in the original Greek or Latinized forms), so it was a rather foregone conclusion.

The Muses Urania and Calliope, by Simon Vouet, ca. 1634

Urania (Ourania) is one of the nine Muses, conceived and born when Zeus and Mnemosyne slept together on nine consecutive nights. Some sources name her as the oldest of the Muses. From her mother, she inherited grace and beauty, and from her father, she inherited majesty and power.

She’s the Muse of astronomy, and foretells the future through the stars. Urania most loves those who love philosophy and the heavens. Those who’ve been taught by her are raised into the heavens, since the power of thoughts and imagination lift the human soul to heavenly heights.

Urania, by Giuseppe Fagnani, 1869

Urania wears a cloak embroidered with stars, and a crown of stars. She’s also usually depicted with a celestial globe, to which she points with a staff. Urania keeps her eyes focused on the stars, her realm.

Some sources name her as the mother of musician Linus (by Apollo), and the god Hymenaeus (by Dionysus). Hymenaeus is the winged god of marriage ceremonies, song, and inspiring feasts. He was supposed to attend every wedding, for if he didn’t, the marriage would be a disaster.

In the Renaissance, she became a popular Muse for poets.

Urania is derived from ouranios, “heavenly.”

Uranus (Ouranos) is one of the fifteen primordial deities. He represents the sky, and was asexually conceived by his mother Gaia. Other sources cite his father as Aether, the personification of upper air; still other sources name his parents as Aether and Hemera (personification of day), or cite his mother as Nyx (personification of night).

Since the Greek deities were one big dysfunctional family, Uranus later married Gaia and had many children with her—the Titans, the Giants, the Cyclopses, the Furies, the Meliae (ash tree nymphs), and the Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handed Ones).

Every night, Uranus coupled with Gaia, but he hated all his kids, and began hiding them deep in Tartarus, causing great pain to Gaia. Since she personified the Earth, these kids were in her physical body and unable to get out. Hoping to end this situation, Gaia made an adamantine sickle and told Kronos to lie in wait to ambush Uranus.

Detail of The Mutiliation of Uranus by Saturn, by Giorgio Vasari

Kronos leapt out and castrated Uranus next time he came to couple with Gaia. Aphrodite was born from the severed genitals falling into the sea, and the blood drops falling to the ground created the Giants, the Meliae, and the Furies. Some sources say the blood also birthed the Telchines, the original inhabitants of Rhodes.

After Uranus’s overthrow, Kronos re-imprisoned the Hecatoncheires and Cyclopses in Tartarus. Gaia and Uranus told him he’d be overthrown by his own children, so Kronos swallowed each at birth to prevent this. Only Zeus avoided this fate, due to his mother Rhea and grandmother Gaia’s clever thinking.

On 13 March 1781, the seventh planet was discovered and named after Uranus.

Uranus, like Urania, is derived from ouranios, “heavenly.”

Orithyia and Orestes

Orithyia (Oreithyia) is the daughter of King Erechtheus and Queen Praxithea of Athens. Boreas, the god of the north wind, lusted after her, but Orithyia rebuffed his advances. Since violence came naturally to Boreas, he decided to rape her.

One day, while Orithyia was playing by the river Ilisos, Boreas absconded with her and took her to Sarpedon’s Rock, near Thrace’s Erginos River. After her arrival, Boreas wrapped her in a cloud and raped her. This forced union produced four children, daughters Chione and Kleopatra, and sons Kalais and Zetes.

The girls became wind nymphs, and the boys were known as the Boreads, wind brothers. Her sons later grew wings like Boreas, and joined the Argonauts to look for the Golden Fleece.

The Abduction of Orithyia, in the style of Francesco Solimena, 1730

Aeschylos wrote a satyr play (akin to burlesque) about Orithyia’s rape, which is now lost. Plato also mentioned her, claiming a potential realistic explanation for her story. A gust of northern wind on the rocks of Ilisos may have killed her, and the people believed she was taken away by Boreas. In another account, Plato suggests she were taken from the Areopagus, a prominent rock outcropping by the Acropolis, where murderers were tried.

Orithyia later became the goddess of cold mountain winds. The Athenians prayed and made sacrifices to Orithyia and Boreas during the Greco–Persian Wars.

Oreithyia (Orithyia) is derived from the elements oreios (of the mountains) and thyias (possessed, inspired woman).

The Remorse of Orestes, a.k.a. Orestes Pursued by the Furies, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1862

Orestes is one of the four children of King Agamemnon and Queen Klytemnestra of Mycenae. According to Homer, he was in Athens when his famous father returned from the Trojan War, and thus absent when his mother murdered his father. Seven years later, Orestes came home to avenge his father’s death, and killed both his mother and her lover Aegisthus.

According to the awesome poet Pindar, Orestes was shuttled out of Mycenae by either his sister Elektra or his nurse Laodamia (Arsinoe) when Klytemnestra wanted to kill him. He found refuge in the village of Phanote (now Raveni), on the right bank of the river Thyamis and on Mount Parnassos. King Strophios of Phokis took care of him, and Orestes became bosom buddies with Prince Pylades. Orestes and Pylades are also cousins.

The Return of Orestes, by Anton von Maron, 1786

When Orestes was twenty, his sister Elektra urged him to come home to avenge their father’s murder. Apollo also urged him to do the deed. Orestes came home with Pylades. After committing matricide, Orestes went mad, and the Furies began pursuing him. It was the Furies’ job to punish anyone who’d violated familial ties.

Orestes sought shelter in the temple of Delphi, but to no avail. Finally, Athena admitted him to the Acropolis in Athens and arranged a trial before twelve judges, herself included. The Furies wouldn’t relent, but Orestes maintained he did the right thing, and that Apollo ordered it.

Athena was the last judge to vote, and chose acquittal. The votes were tied, thus resulting in acquittal. To show his gratitude, Orestes dedicated an altar to Athena. According to Euripides, Orestes’s punishment continued even after his acquittal, as Apollo ordered him to go to Tauris, take Artemis’s fallen statue, and bring it to Athens. This quest was meant to provide escape from the Furies.

Pylades and Orestes Brought as Victims before Iphigenia, by Benjamin West, 1766

In Tauris, both Orestes and Pylades were imprisoned, since the Tauris custom was to sacrifice all Greek strangers to Artemis. The priestess entrusted with the sacrifice was none other than Iphigenia, Orestes’s sister. She offered to release him if he brought a letter home. Orestes refused, but begged Pylades to do it for him. In the end, all three of them escaped together with the statue.

Back in Mycenae, Orestes took the throne and killed Aegisthus’s son Aletes. Argos and Lakonia were added to the kingdom. He died of a snakebite in Arkadia.

Orestes means “mountaineer,” and is derived from orestias, “from the mountains,” and oros, “mountain.”

Busiris and Bremusa

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Busiris, also called Bousiris, is an Egyptian king who features in several Greek myths and legends. He took his name from a city called ḏdw in its native language (pronounced Djedu), a major necropolis and center of Osiris worship. The name thus derives from Osiris, whose etymology is unknown. The original Egyptian form of the name is Asar.

Busiris was one of Aegyptus’s 50 sons, all but one of whom were killed on their wedding night by the Danaides. The myth about the Danaides, the 50 daughters of King Danaus (Aegyptus’s brother), is pretty refreshing! Too many myths feature only huge amounts of sons, as though it’s impossible for anyone to ever have a girl, or like it’s realistic for everyone to only have boy after boy after boy.

Busiris was described by Isocrates as a villainous king and the founder of Ancient Egyptian civilisation. He was the son of Poseidon and Anippe, and maternal grandson of river god Nilus. He had a model constitution which Isocrates used as a parodied contrast to Plato’s Republic. He sacrificed all his visitors, until Hercules showed up during his Eleventh Labor, the quest for golden apples. Hercules escaped his shackles at the last minute and killed Busiris.

Busiris is also claimed as the founder of the line of kings of Thebes (i.e., the Eleventh Dynasty). He also appears as the leader of a revolt in Roman satirist Lucian’s True History, parodies of travel stories.

© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5

Bremusa was born in 1204 BCE in Themiskyra, and was one of the twelve Amazonian warriors who fought with Queen Penthesilea during the Trojan War. The Amazons were on the Trojans’ side, and came to rescue them from the Greeks. Before reaching Troy itself, however, Queen Penthesilea needed to purify herself for the accidental killing of her sister Hippolyta.

Troy was in mourning for Hector, who’d been slain by Achilles. Thus, the sight of the Amazons came as a most welcome relief, particularly to King Priam, who promised to reward Queen Penthesilea richly. King Priam put the Amazons up in his palace for the night.

Next morning, the Amazons went into battle and fought as well as any male army, but all but one of them perished. Queen Penthesilea herself was beaten to death by Achilles, and Bremusa was killed by Cretan commander Idomeneus. She uttered a last gasp of life as the spear entered her right breast.

Epic poet Kointos Smyrnaios (Quintus Smyrnaeus) compared Bremusa’s perishing to an ash tree felled by a woodcutter’s axe, with a dry roar.

The name Bremusa means “raging female.”

The many forms of Joseph

Once considered “too Jewish” for most Christians to use, the name Joseph has been a popular mainstay since the late Middle Ages, when Saint Joseph’s star rose. It first caught on among a wider audience in Spain and Italy, and it became more popular in England after the Protestant Reformation. In the Jewish world, it calls to mind the Biblical Yosef, favourite son of Jakob, and in the Christian world, it calls to mind the father of Jesus.

Joseph was on the Top 10 in the U.S. from 1880–1934, and then dropped into the Top 20. It rose and fell slightly over the ensuing decades, with its lowest rank being #22 in 2011. In 2015, it was #21. The name has also enjoyed much popularity in Great Britain, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Northern Ireland, and New Zealand. The spelling Josef was once quite popular in Switzerland, and is currently enjoying a #26 rank in the Czech Republic and #48 in Sweden.

The spelling Joseph is English and French. Other versions include:

1. Josef is German, Czech, and Scandinavian. German nicknames include Sepp and Seppel, and Czech nicknames include Pepa, Pepík, Pepíček, Jožka, Joska, and Jožánek.

2. Józef is Polish. The nickname is Józek. The alternate version Jožef is Slovenian, with the nickname Jože. Another alternate version, Jozef without any diacritical marks, is Slovak and Dutch. The Dutch nicknames include Sjef, Zef, Jos, Jef, Joep, Joop, Joos, and Joost.

3. József is Hungarian. Nicknames include Jóska and Józsi.

4. Josif is Serbian and Macedonian.

5. Joosep is Estonian.

6. Juozapas is Lithuanian. The nickname is Juozas.

7. Jāzeps is Latvian.

8. Jozefo is Esperanto. The nickname is Joĉjo.

9. Josèp is Occitan. Josep, without any diacritical marks, is Catalan.

10. Josip is Slovenian and Croatian. The Croatian nicknames are Joško, Joso, and Jozo, and the Slovenian nickname is once again Jože.

11. Jooseppi is Finnish. The nickname is Juuso.

12. Iosif is Russian, Romanian, and Greek. One of the Russian nicknames is Osya.

13. Ioseb is Georgian, with the nickname Soso. This was Stalin’s real name.

14. José is Spanish and Portuguese. Spanish nicknames are Pepe, Pepo, and Pepito, and Portuguese nicknames are  and Zezé.

15. Xosé is Galician.

16. Joseba is Basque.

17. Josepe is an alternate Basque form.

18. Giuseppe is Italian, with the nicknames Beppe, Peppe, Peppi, Pino, and Peppino.

19. Yosef is Hebrew.

20. Osip is an alternate Russian form, also with the nickname Osya.

21. Yusuf is Arabic and Turkish.

22. Yusef is another Arabic form.

23. Yousef is another way to transliterate the Arabic form of Joseph.

24. Hovsep is Armenian.

25. Yusif is Azeri.

26. Yosif is Bulgarian.

27. Hohepa is Maori.

28. Yusup is Uyghur, a Turkic language spoken in China.

29. Yosyp is Ukrainian.

30. Yussel is Yiddish.

31. Seòsaidh is Scottish.

32. Seosamh is Irish.

33. Ghjaseppu is Corsican.

34. Ġużeppi is Maltese.

35. Iokepa is Hawaiian.

36. Iosefo is Samoan.

37. Ipe is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

38. Jisepu is Sardinian.

39. Jósepr is Old Norse.

40. Joskin is a Medieval English nickname.

41. Juza is Vilamovian, a Germanic language spoken in Poland.

42. Osi is Nenets, a native Siberian language.

43. Outha is an alternate Malayalam form.

44. Ouseph is also Malayalam.

45. Seppi is Alsatian.

46. Sifa is Tongan.

47. Sifis is a variation found on Crete.

48. Simprofié is Romani.

49. Yisap is Chuvash, a native Siberian language.

50. Yosip is Assyrian.

51. Yosop is Bashkir, a Turkic language spoken in Russia.

52. Yosyf is Tatar.

53. Yusup is Turkmeni.

54. Yusupha is Sanskrit and Hindi.

55. Yuusuf is Somali.

56. Jâosé is Jèrriais. The nickname is Jâoséphin.

57. Yazep is Belarusian.

October names

Names whose meanings relate to the month of October are a natural fit for Halloween-themed names. This is such a wonderful time of year, because of the Halloween season, the full swing of Autumn, and the wonderful month of back-to-back Jewish holidays which often fall out at least partly during October. This year, they all fell during October, and the closing holiday, Simchat Torah, came very “late” in relation to when it usually does on the Gregorian calendar.

Unisex:

Beryl is the historical birthstone of October. I was very surprised to discover this is widely considered a woman’s name in the modern era, since I’d been introduced to it as a male name in several Sholom Aleichem stories. I later discovered it’s a diminutive of the Yiddish name Ber, “bear.”

Brumarel is the Old Romanian word for October, and means “little white frost” in Latin. I could see this working on either sex.

October is very uncommon when it comes to months used as personal names, but it could work on the right person. Toby is a good unisex nickname.

Yorah may mean “autumn showers” or “sprinkling” in Hebrew. It refers to the seasonal rain which falls in Eretz Yisrael from the last day of October to the first of December.

Female:

Calendula is the birth flower of October.

Coral is the Hindu birthstone for October. I’ve always really liked this name.

Garnet is the planetary stone of Scorpio, which begins 22 October.

Hedra is the Cornish word for October. This is a contemporary, not traditional, name.

Oktyabrina is a feminized Russian form of October. This is one of the newly-coined Soviet names most popular in the first few decades of the USSR.

Opal is the modern, and Ayurvedic, October birthstone. Some people may think this name sounds old-fashioned, though sister gemstone name Ruby has recently gone from old-fashioned to trendy. Perhaps Opal will soon follow in Ruby’s footsteps.

Sapphire is the planetary stone of Libra, the sign which takes up most of October. I personally feel this works better as a middle name, though the right person could pull it off as a forename.

Tola is the Khmer word for October.

Tourmaline is the alternative modern birthstone for October.

Urria is the Basque word for October.

Male:

Aban is the angel of October in Persian folklore. In particular, he governs the tenth day of the month.

Ekim is the Turkish word for October.

Jasper is the mystical birthstone of October.

Oktyabr is the Russian word for October, and also was adopted and made popular during the early decades of the USSR.