Pagan names

Let’s be honest. Pagan names are weird. They are the source of much mockery, from both within and without the pagan community. For some reason we feel the need to name ourselves BlazingRaven Night Hawk’s Daughter or Moonray Celestina Wolf, or maybe just Thorson, which is like Madonna, but less obvious, right? But now some of us are having kids and they need names. What’s a pagan to do?

First off, all names have meaning. Do we pick Jim, because it was our favorite uncle’s name? Do we pick Sarah as a middle name because that’s a tradition that’s been passed down for four generations? Do we name our child Alexus, in hope that our aspirations will come to fruition in our offspring’s life? Or do we pick Jack, because it’s fresh but also really safe? Perhaps, Mary to reflect our Catholic upbringing? What if we decide to honor our pagan tradition?

There are so many choices and so many reasons for those choices.

As of this writing I know only handful of kids born to pagans while they were practicing paganism. Some of the names are obviously pagan, when one knows the parents’ traditions, but almost all can function in the wider world without sounding that note. My own children’s names are not pagan at all.

When pregnant this past winter I got obsessed with baby names. There are several really good baby name blogs out there and I read them faithfully. I’m also a right snob about names (and most things generally, if I’m being honest); I have very strong opinions about names and spellings. I wanted to balance sound, aesthetic, and spelling with two other qualities: meaning and whether it would suit a child equally well as an adult. I like names that are uncommon but not weird, which is of course a matter of opinion.

If we had a boy I really wanted to name him Bran – it means raven in Welsh, and we’re living in Wales. I thought honoring this place would be nice. I love ravens. Bran was easy to spell and pronounce and uncommon. Bran is also a Welsh deity. My husband said no way.

If we had a girl I was debating whether to put some version of Mary in the name. I do a lot of academic work on the Virgin Mary and she’s been a very important figure in my life. Her icon has been the single most consistent item on my altar. Do I use Mary straight up? What about Mari, the Feri ‘version’? Mair, the Welsh version (pronounced My-ear, more or less) would reflect her birth place, but would be unpronounceable by most English speakers.

Other spiritual names I considered for a girl included:

Cora – a sweet name, reflecting one of the founders of the Feri tradition. I chose against this as I’d never met the woman, and felt that the name would be pretentious of me, seeing as how I’m not even an initiate of the tradition.

Sophia – Long a favorite name of mine; meaning ‘wisdom’ in Greek, also one of the names of the feminine divine. It seems like the perfect choice for our family. My husband really wanted this name, but I said no because it seems to be an incredibly popular name these days, and I know many Sophias, most of whom I’m not crazy about.

Awen – The Welsh word for the indwelling of inspiration of the Druids. A lovely concept, reflecting our place, not too hard to spell or pronounce. But husband said no.

So I thought some more about Mari/Mary. It didn’t yank at my heart. I didn’t get that tingle that said ‘yes, this is the name.’ In the end, I didn’t even sit before my altar and ask what She thought. I figure if a person is about to be named after a deity, that deity ought to be consulted. I wouldn’t dream of naming anything after Kali without her express consent!

In the end, we chose Astrid, which means ‘divine beauty’ in Old Norse. It’s pretty, uncommon but pronouncable, and most importantly, both my husband and I could agree on it.


This is my story. What’s yours? What did you name your children and why?

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About Niki Whiting
  • Wysp O’Wyll

    My first son’s name is Sebastian. The paintings of St. Sebastian are some of my favorites. Not sure why, they’ve just always sort of struck me, somehow. Almost all of them.

    My second son’s name is Aidan. Gaelic for “fire.” I confess that this one was sort of less than serious. I had horrible heartburn when I was pregnant with him. *grin*

    • Niki Whiting

      I had no idea Aiden meant fire! Lovely. I just love hearing why people are given the names they are. There’s always a story. Have you shown Sebastian paintings of his name sake? And if so, what does he think?

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  • Ashley

    I’m pagan but my husband is not, and I’ve never been one to go for a pagan name, so we stuck with pretty traditional names. I wanted something of Irish or English origin, pronounceable by English standards, and not biblical. We ultimately went with Evelyn Rose Leslie. Evelyn because it felt right, Leslie in honor of my aunt who died at 5 days old, and Rose because I didn’t like the sound of Evelyn Leslie.

    • Niki Whiting

      Finding a balance between honoring family and traditions, forging a new person’s identity, and spousal agreement is such a dance, isn’t it? Evelyn Rose is lovely, and offers many options if she chooses to shorten it.

  • Lily Shahar Kunning

    We had a boy name and a girl name picked out- both were sacred trees.

    Our girl name was Acacia Prudence. It was the name that came to me in dream and it just felt right. When thinking about a boy name, we also wanted a sacred tree and Rowan just came to us, also in dream.

    We had a boy, and he also has two middle names: Sebastian and Aleister. Sebastian was the name I had picked out for my first child (given up for adoption) and Aleister is for crazy Uncle Al, aka Aleister Crowley.

  • Kate

    My daughters names are Freya and Astrid. We get so many comments from all sorts of people about how lovely their names are. They have spiritual meanings, connect to my husband’s Scandinavian heritage and are strong feminine names. These were the important factors in choosing them and they both love learning about the origin and meanings of their names.

    • Niki Whiting

      My daughter’s name is Astrid too! It’s very feminine, but not in a typical American way. I love it.

  • Deb

    My daughter’s name is Winter. It’s so simple and beautiful – she was born in Winter so it just fit. I’ve never met another Winter and love that everyone she meets remembers her. Even SHE loves her name! Thats the bit that makes me smile the most!

  • Trisha

    I have one boy and one girl. My son is name Alexander, cause my husband love that name. And I got to choose are daughters name. And I looked everywhere for a good name. Didn’t find one that sounded good. Sonabout a month before she was born I had a dream that I yelled my children “Alex, Rya, get in the house,” so that’s how I got her name. Rya Rose.

  • Ser

    I love nature names, old names, and virtue names. (I am not religious) My first girl is called Rose Harmony. When I was little I knew some sisters named Harmony and Serene and I just thought they were the prettiest names. My second girl is named Briar Grace, I had originally chosen Esther for her (which I still love), but a week before she was born I read a book to my daughter and the characters name was Briar. I gasped when I read it, such an unusual nature name, and it goes so well with Rose! So Briar it became.( On emotional day 3 post birth, I rememebr sobbing beacuse I was so confused, was swinging back and forth between Briar and Esther, and I felt like a terrible mother because I did not even know what to name my own daughter. CRAZY hormones!!!!) Grace is her great grandmothers name. Daughter three was named Cinnamon Mabel, a gorgeous nature name and an old name. I will never have enough girls to use up all of my fave girls names. I also love Pearl, Rachel, Delilah, Serene, Autumn, and of course Esther. For boys, I had chosen Sage and Cedar, but I only give birth to girls, it seems!

  •, pagan dale

    my names pagan and i hate it coz its bare weird and people always pronounce it wrong, so give your child a normal name i beg you,

    • claire

      You sound like a right chav. Would you rather be Keshia or Kie?.

      • Niki Whiting

        Would you please explain what you’re talking about?

  • jennifer myers

    Im one that likes classic names. My three are named Greg dean harmon myers, luke christopher harmon myers, and pearl marie harmon myers. Greg is my fathers name, and luke was my husbands choise, and christopher is his name, pearl was my great grandmothers name, and marie is after all of the woman named mary in our family. All of my kids have a family name, a middle name, and Harmon is my maiden name. My husband and i named our children with a strong family connection in mind.

  • Stephanie Travis

    i went with following tradition so to husband is a Druid and i wanted that reflected in our child’s name. so i started looking for what Devon meant (yes as in Devonshire) after looking through I’ve forgotten (15 years later) how many books i looked through I finally found the meaning in a book on Celtic names..and then i saw the origin..Dewin (we pronounce it Day win, but it is still technically Devon) and it means magical..what better name to give a pagan i have regrets..not a one..does she hate me and need life long therapy? NOPE!! she is an amazing artist, writer, random in most things, silly, incredible 15 year old Aquarian and the name suits her today as much as it did all those years ago..

  • JezabelleDisreali

    We discussed names during a recent false alarm, and we could only agree on a girls name: Anaxandra Nefertari. Anaxandra is the Latin, feminine form of Anaxandros which means “leader of men”; and Nefertari after Ramses the Great’s wife. We figure there are at least five ways to shorten the name to suit her personality when she gets here: Ana, Xandra, Andra, Tari, and Tara.

  • Nici Roberts

    Your article completely rang a bell with me. I’m currently pregnant with our third and final daughter. I feel just the same as you do about names. Completely. My first daughter is named Zoë Athena Patrice (Zoë after the Greek Goddess of life and Athena after the Greek Goddess of war and wisdom- Patrice is my Mother’s name). So her names means Full of life, wisdom, and nobility. My second daughter is named Audrey Astraea Noel (Audrey after her recently passed Great Grandmother- an amazing and strong woman, and Astraea after the Greek Goddess of justice, innocence and purity, and Noel after my sister, who is childless- it means Christmas/Yule). So *her* name means Strong, noble, star maiden, and Christmas/Yule spirit. This August will see the birth of our third daughter, who we have decided is a Natalie (which means birth or born or beginnings), and her second name isn’t yet decided, but would need to be a 2 syllable Goddess/feminine meaning name and her third name is Marie (which works out nicely pagan -wise too, eh?)after her other Grandmother. Thank you very much, because after the long lists of A- Goddess names that my husband has vetoed, I think that Astrid, will win. It reflects some of both sides of our heritage, is beautiful and flowing and has a good meaning. So thank you! =D

  • Athene Numphe

    We named our son Damien Joseph. Damien comes from Greek and means “to tame or subdue.” I love Greek names, almost all of my favorite names are Greek. It also happens to be the son of Satan in both South Park and the Omen. That may have been slightly intentional ;). His middle name is my paternal grandfather’s name and also a name that runs in my husband’s family.