Priapus and Polyxena

Warning: If phallic images in art (beyond regular artistic nudity) offend you, this post isn’t for you.

Priapus (Priapos) is a minor fertility god, and protects livestock, fruit, gardens, bees, merchant sailors, and male genitalia. He’s routinely depicted with a permanent, oversized erection. Indeed, his very name is the origin of the English word “priapism,” an erection lasting over four hours in the absence of sexual activities.

Priapus is variantly described as the son of Aphrodite and Dionysus or Dionysus and Chione, as well as the son of Zeus, Hermes, or Pan. Other sources list him as Hermes’s father. Hera cursed him with ugliness, impotence, and foul-mindedness while he was in utero, in revenge for Prince Paris of Troy having judged Aphrodite as more beautiful than Hera.

The other deities refused to let Priapus live on Mount Olympus, and threw him earthside. He landed on a hill, and was raised by the shepherds who found him. Later, he joined Pan and the satyrs.

Priapus once tried to rape the humble, modest goddess Hestia when she was asleep, but a donkey’s braying made Priapus lose his erection, woke Hestia up, and thwarted the assault. This gave him a burning hatred of donkeys, which became his sacrificial animal.

Another time, he tried to rape the nymph Lotis when she too was asleep, but a donkey’s braying thwarted him yet again. Lotis awoke and ran away, leaving the other deities to laugh at Priapus. In some accounts, the deities turned her into a lotus tree to escape Priapus.

Worship of Priapus was more a rural phenomenon outside of his home region of Lampsakos. People in the countryside saw him as a patron of sailors, agriculture, fishers, and others in need of good luck. His presence was believed to avert the evil eye. In Bithynia (now northwestern Asian Turkey), he was viewed as a tutor to the god Ares in infancy.

People in urban areas saw him as a joke, not a serious deity. In later antiquity, his worship was seen as a cult of sophisticated pornography. Into the Middle Ages, he was invoked as a symbol of fertility and health. In the 13th century, a lay Cistercian brother erected a statue of Priapus to stop an outbreak of cattle disease.

In the 1980s, in Montréal, D.F. Cassidy founded the St. Priapus Church, a predominantly gay male community focused on worship of the phallus. During services, everyone but the priest is naked. (Warning: Link NSFW or under 18!)

Priapus is of unknown etymology. It may be pre-Greek.

The Sacrifice of Polyxena, by Nicolas Prévost

Polyxena (Polyxene) was the youngest daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, and the Trojan version of Iphigenia. An oracle said Troy wouldn’t be defeated if Prince Troilos lived to age twenty. With that in mind, Athena encouraged Achilles to seek him out.

Troilos and Polyxena rode out to get water from a well in the town of Thymbra, and Achilles was overcome with lust for both of them. At this time, Achilles was still in mourning for his dear friend Patroklos, who may or may not have been his lover. Polyxena and Troilos ran away, but Achilles caught Troilos by the hair and dragged him off his horse.

Troilos escaped to a nearby temple of Apollo, but Achilles followed him and beheaded him by the altar, then mutilated Troilos’s body. Achilles continued pursuing Polyxena, and struck up a rapport with her. He found her words comforting in the wake of Patroklos’s death. Achilles trusted her so much, he told her of his only vulnerability, his heel.

Polyxena’s brothers Paris and Delphobos ambushed Achilles and shot him in his heel, with an arrow soaked in poison and guided by Apollo. In some versions, Polyxena kills herself from guilt, while in others, Achilles’s ghost demands the Greeks sacrifice her to appease the wind needed to take them home. Polyxena was eager to die as a sacrifice for such a great hero instead of as a slave. Neoptolemos, Achilles’s son, carried out the sacrifice.

Polyxena means “many foreigners,” “many guests,” or “very hospitable.” It’s derived from polys (many) and xenos (guest, foreigner), or xenia (hospitality to guests). Other forms of the name include Polyxène (French), Polyxeni (modern Greek), Poliksena (Russian and Polish), Polissena (Italian), Políxena (Spanish), Pulisena (Medieval Italian), Polikseni (Albanian), and Poleksija (Serbian). My character Alya (Aleksandra) Minina names her daughter Poliksena, Polya for short, since she’s not exactly the type to use an ordinary name like Natalya or Olga.

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.

Names with heart

To mark the upcoming Valentine’s Day, here are some names whose meanings relate to the word “heart.”

Unisex:

Dilshad means “happy heart, cheerful” in Persian.

Kamon means “heart, mind” in Thai.

Maeum means “heart, mind” in Korean. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

Manpaul means “protector of the heart” in Punjabi.

Manprit, or Manpreet, means “near to the heart” or “love of the heart” in Punjabi.

Muretu means “light-hearted” in Estonian.

Obioma means “good heart” in Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Paidamoyo means “what the heart desired was granted” in Shona, a Bantu language spoken in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Mozambique.

Xinjing can mean “heart of crystal” in Chinese.

Xinyi is a Chinese name composed of the elements xin, which can mean “heart, mind, soul,” and yi, which can mean “harmony, joy.” Many other meanings are also possible.

Yollotzin means “belovèd heart” in Nahuatl.

Male:

Akzhurek means “white heart” in Kazakh.

Ardil means “fire heart” in Kurdish.

Avtandil is a Georgian name meaning “sunshine heart,” drawn from Persian. This is the legendary hero of poet Shota Rustaveli’s 12th century epic The Knight in the Panther’s Skin.

Dilawar means “one who has heart” in Persian.

Dilesh means “king of hearts” in Sanskrit.

Fawad is Urdu.

Fuad is Arabic.

Hubert means “bright heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugh is an English name, derived from the Germanic element hug, “heart, spirit, mind.” Hugo is a common variant.

Hughard means “brave/hardy heart” in Ancient Germanic.

Hugleikr means “heart play” in Old Norse.

Kordian is a very rare Polish name, derived from the Latin word cordis/cor, “heart.”

Lev is Hebrew.

Obi is Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Obichukwu means “heart of God” in Igbo.

Obinna means “father’s heart” in Igbo.

Shinpei can mean “calm heart” in Japanese.

Shungudzemwoyo means “yearnings of the heart” in Shona.

Thaddeus is an English and Latin name of contested etymology, with one suggested etymology being that it’s derived from a word meaning “heart.”

Zhanbolat means “brave heart” in Kazakh.

Female:

Bihotz is Basque.

Chiiko can mean “thousand-heart child” in Japanese.

Corazón is Spanish.

Cordula is Latin and German.

Delara means “adorning the heart” in Persian.

Dila is Kurdish, Indonesian, and Turkish, derived from Persian.

Dilva means “from the heart” in Kurdish.

Gönül is Turkish.

Gulisa means “little heart” in Georgian.

Kamira can mean “good flower heart” in Japanese.

Kamonchat means “peaceful heart” in Thai.

Karnika means “heart of the lotus” in Sanskrit.

Koharu is a Japanese name composed of the elements ko, which can mean “heart,” and haru, which can mean “spring (the season).” There are also many other possible meanings.

Kokomi can mean “beautiful heart” in Japanese.

Kokone can mean “heart sound” in Japanese.

Kokoro can mean “heart, soul, mind” in Japanese.

Kokoru is a Japanese name composed of the elements koko, which can mean “heart, soul, mind,” and ru, which means “lapis lazuli.”

Konul is Azeri.

Libi means “my heart” in Hebrew.

Shinshin can mean “double heart” in Japanese. This meaning of the kanji shin is mostly feminine. When used as a masculine name, it has a different meaning.

Verticordia means “turner of hearts” in Latin. This was one of Venus’s epithets.

Yolotl is Nahuatl.

Yoloxochitl means “heart flower” in Nahuatl.

Yoltzin means “little heart” in Nahuatl.

Zamira means “heart, honor” in Bashkir.

The many forms of Beatrice

This is my third Beatrice post on this blog, since I love the name that much. It’s such a beautiful, timeless, versatile classic, and hasn’t gotten über-trendy like certain other names which were once considered too musty and geriatric (e.g., Ava, Max, Sophia, Emma, Henry, Oliver). I and many of my fellow name nerds were worried Beatrice might suddenly become trendy and shoot up the charts after Paul McCartney used it on his surprise fifth child, but that thankfully didn’t happen.

I also love this name because Beatrice was Dante’s great unrequited love, his muse, his inspiration, his guide through Paradise and the final leg of Purgatory. He wrote The Divine Comedy to immortalize her for all time.

Beatrice is used in English, Italian, and Swedish. Other forms include:

1. Beatrix is Dutch, German, Hungarian, and English. Trixie is the Dutch and English nickname, while Trixi is Hungarian.

2. Beatrisa (my favorite alternate form) is Russian and Georgian.

3. Beatriz is Spanish and Portuguese.

4. Beatrise is Latvian.

5. Béatrice is French.

6. Beatriu is Catalan.

7. Viatrix is the original Latin form.

8. Beatrycze is Polish, and quite odd for a Polish feminine name. It’s the only one that doesn’t end in A.

9. Betrys is Welsh.

10. Beitris is Scottish.

11. Batirtze is Basque. This is a modern, not traditional, name.

12. Beatrica is Serbian and Croatian.

13. Béatris is Gascon. The alternate form Beatris is Medieval Occitan, Spanish, and Flemish.

14. Beatricia is Middle English.

15. Beatrijs is Flemish and an alternate Dutch form.

16. Beatrisia is Medieval Italian, Occitan, French, and German.

17. Beatritz is Provençal.

18. Beatrys is Medieval and West Flemish.

19. Bétry is a local variant used in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region of France until the 18th century.

The many forms of Jerome

In honor of the 65th Jahrzeit (death anniversary) of the legendary comedian Curly Howard (Jerome Lester Horwitz; Hebrew name Yehudah Leib ben Shlomo Natan HaLevi), I decided to present the name Jerome in all its forms today. I really, really love this name, both because of Curly and the awesome Saint Jerome.

saint-jerome

Saint Jerome (né Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius) was a man of letters, and a very popular patron saint of writers. He’s also the patron saint of librarians, Biblical scholars, archaeologists, archivists, translators, libraries, schoolchildren, and students. Many writers choose him as their patron saint because they feel he understands them at a deeper level, with that common bond. (You can read more about him at his Find A Grave memorial, which I wrote the bio for.)

One of my characters, a radical priest from Kassel, Germany, Father Rudi, names his church after Saint Jerome, since he relates so strongly to his love of learning, knowledge, and the written word.

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Most Stooges fans name Curly as their favorite, and it’s really easy to see his appeal. He was one of the greatest physical comedians of all time, and seemed like a really kind, sweet person in private life. He didn’t deserve to die so young, and to be forced to work through deteriorating health until he finally had a major stroke during the filming of Half-Wits Holiday. When I found out Curly had a real-life limp, I no longer felt ashamed and upset about my own limp. He’s my limping hero.

After his major stroke, frequent director Jules White was visiting him at home, and Curly got really pensive and sad for a moment. He broke the silence by asking, “I’ll never be able to make children laugh again, will I, Jules?” He must be happy, in the other world, to know he’ll make children laugh for eternity.

Jerome is the English form of the original Greek Hieronymos, which means “sacred name.” It derives from hieros (sacred) and onoma (name). The name really came into prominence during the Middle Ages, particularly France and Italy, in honor of Saint Jerome. It appeared in England in the 12th century.

Other forms of the name:

1. Jérôme is French.

2. Jeroen is Dutch.

3. Hieronymus is a longer Dutch form.

4. Jeronymus is yet a third Dutch form.

5. Girolamo is Italian.

6. Gerolamo is an alternate Italian form.

7. Jerónimo is Spanish and Portuguese.

8. Gerónimo is an alternate Spanish form.

9. Jerônimo is Brazilian–Portuguese.

10. Geròni is Gascon.

11. Ġlormu is Maltese.

12. Hieronim is Polish and Slovak.

13. Ieróim is Irish.

14. Iyeronim is Russian and Ukrainian.

15. Ieronim is Romanian.

16. Ieronymos is modern Greek.

17. Jarolím is Slovenian.

18. Jaronas is Romansh, a Romance language primarily spoken in southeastern Switzerland.

19. Jeromos is Hungarian.

20. Jeronim is Croatian and Albanian. The Croatian nickname form is Jerko.

21. Jeroni is Catalan.

22. Jeronimas is Lithuanian.

22. Jeroným is Czech.

23. Jeroom is a rare, outdated Dutch and Flemish form.

24. Jiròni is Occitan.

25. Sierôm is Welsh.

26. Xerome is Galician.

27. Yeronim is Bulgarian.

28. Zirominu is Sardinian.

29. Giròlamu is Sicilian.

30. Jerom is Breton.

31. Hieronīms is Latvian.

32. Hieronimo is Esperanto.