Long time no see

It’s been almost a year since I last posted on this blog. Sometimes I have episodes of depression that keep me from doing things, and sometimes life just gets hectic. Last winter, it was depression. Then it was the garden. At the moment, things are extraordinarily hectic because of an upcoming family wedding, but please allow me wish all of you a blessed Samhain and a happy Halloween. Once things simmer down again, I fully intend to continue researching and posting what I find out about Estonian name-days and bits of folklore that strike my fancy.

blessings,

Anita

Daaniel to Rahel, names for December 11-17

Let’s travel back in time to December 11, 2013.

I left off posting about Estonian name-days after the week of December 4 through 10, with the exception of Toomas on Dec. 21, in order to prepare for the holidays and celebrate them. Now let’s catch up on the names and dates that were missed.

Daaniel on December 11

December 11 is the day for the Estonian names Daaniel, Taaniel, Tanel, Tani, Taano and Tonno.  Raivo Seppo, in his book Elavad Nimed, adds Tanil, Tanjel, Tann, Tanni and Tannil. All are masculine names and are Estonian variants of the Hebrew-derived name Daniel, which means “God is my judge.”  The name-day honors St. Daniel the Stylite, born circa 409 CE in Syria.  In Finland, the names for the day are Taneli, Tatu and Daniel. In Sweden the names are Daniel and Daniela.

Aivar, Aiver and Aivo on December 12

The names on the Estonian name-day calendar for December 12 are  Aivar, Aiver and Aivo, all male. Seppo says they derive from Ivor, a Scandinavian name.  The website Behind the Name says Ivor comes from the Old Norse name Ívarr, which was derived from the elements yr “yew, bow” and arr “warrior.” The Scottish and British name Evander is also derived from Ivor. http://www.behindthename.com/name/ivor

But why was Aivar chosen for this particular day? It sounds a little bit like the female names Ivana and Giovanna. Looking at the names for the day in other countries, one sees Johanna F. v. C in Austria, Ivana Franciska in Croatia, Chantal in France, Johanna in Germany and St. Giovanna Francesca Frémyot di Chantal in Italy. These all derive from Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, who died Dec. 13, 1641 CE and was canonized in 1767. The saint’s feast day is now generally celebrated in August, but also December 12, which is closer to the anniversary of her death. Source:  http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=60

December 13: Lucia

Lucia is the name for December 13. It is no coincidence that this is also the feast-day for  St. Lucia (Lucy) of Syracuse, a martyr of the early 4th Century CE who is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Orthodox Churches. The name Lucia is based on the Latin word for light, lux.

Other Estonian names for this date are also feminine: Hele, Ele, Ere, Loviise, Luise, Viise and Lutsia. Seppo adds Heleri and replaces Ere with Eleri in his book, Elavad Nimed.  Hele and Ele  can mean bright, pale, or fair, so they also refer to light. Lutsia is an Estonianized spelling of Lucia.The names  Heleri and Eleri derive from Hele, according to Seppo.

Loviise and its shortened form Viise correspond to the English name Louise, the feminine of Louis. The name Louis comes from Latin Ludovicus, a form of the Germanic name Ludwig, which derives from the Germanic name Chlodovech, “famous warrior”  according to the website Behind the Name.  Obviously Loviise and Viise have nothing to do with light, but were probably chosen for this day because they sound a bit like Lutsia.

December 14: Eho, Hengo and Hingo

The names for December 14 are Eho, Hengo and Hingo, all masculine. I presume Eho is the male form of Eha, which means evening twilight. Hengo and Hingo derive from hing, soul or breath.

There is a St. Fingar whose feast-day is Dec. 14, so Hengo and Hingo could have been chosen for their resemblance to the saint’s name. Born in Ireland, St. Fingar was martyred in Cornwall, England in the 5th Century CE.

December 15: Kalli. Kelli, Kulla, Killu, and Halli

Kalli. Kelli, Kulla, Killu, and Halli are the names for December 15, all feminine. Darned if I know why they were chosen for this day. I can’t find any saints with names that resemble any of these.  In Poland, Celina is one of many names for this day, but it’s not used in other European countries.  Heimo is the name for the day in Finland.  Kalli means dear or precious, Kelli means bells, Kulla means gold and Halli means frost.

Adelheid on December 16

The December 16 names are Adelheid, Adeele. Ethel, Aade, Aale, Teele, Haide, Aliide and  Liide, all female. Adelheid is also the name for the day in Germany and Austria, with the nickname Heidi in Germany;  Albina and Adela in Croatia;  Albína in the Czech Republic; Alice in France; Aletta and Etelka in Hungary;  St. Albina in Italy; Alvine in Latvia; Albina and Alina among other names in Lithuania;  Adelajda, Ado, Albina, Alina and Ananiasz in Poland,  and Albina in the Slovak Republic. Finland’s day-names are Auli, Aulikki and Aada. Source: http://www.namedaycalendar.com/december

Catholic saints honored on December 16 include St. Adelaide of Burgundy (French, d. 999 CE), St. Ado of Vienne (male, French, d. 875 CE) and St. Albina of Caesarea (Palestinian, martyred c. 250 CE). You can see the connections between the saints’ names and the name-day names easily. The name Ethel in the Estonian list was probably added because it sounds a bit like the Adel in Adelheid. The names Adelaide and Adelheid come from the Germanic name Adalheidis, which means  adal “noble” and heid “kind, sort, type.” Source: http://www.behindthename.com/name/adelaide

Rahel and Raili on December 17

For December 17, the names are Rahel and Raili; in Finland it’s Raakel.  Rahel and Raakel are versions of the name Rachel, but I can’t find any connection to saints’ days or names in other European countries.  There was a male St. Briarch of Brittany (Welsh, abbot in France, d. 627 CE) honored on December 17, whose name has some similarity to Rachel.  Source:  http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=007PVC 

In Greece, Rachel is one of a number of Biblical names chosen for December 14. The name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “ewe.”

Jõulud, Joulu, Juhla, Jul, Yule and Yalda

Jõulud is — actually I should write are, because the word jõulud is plural — the most important holiday(s) in Estonia.  The holiday period lasts from St. Thomas’s Day, December 21, to January 6, Three Kings Day or even longer if the Yule beer lasts.

The word jõulud is the equivalent of Yule – it means Yules. Both the words jõulud and Yule harken back to the pagan festivals of feasting and honoring the return of the sun at midwinter that preceded Christianity and Christmas.

When we speak of midwinter and midsummer, it does not refer to  a day in the middle of the period from Dec. 21 and March 21, or a day in the middle of the period from June 21 and Sept. 21. In some  pagan concepts of time, winter, or the cessation of the growing season, is said to begin around the fall equinox and last until the spring equinox. Likewise, summer means the six months, more of less, when plants grow, flower and go to seed between the spring equinox on or about March 21, and the fall equinox, on or about September 21 in the Northern Hemisphere.

In other words, midwinter is the day halfway between the fall and spring equinoxes, the day of the winter solstice, which usually happens on or about December 21. Midsummer is the day of the summer solstice, on or around June 21.

Ukon juhla

Variations of the word Yule or Jul are used in place of the word Christmas in Scandinavian countries,  including Finland. I note here that before 1316 CE (Common Era), the Finns called the summer solstice Ukon juhla. Ukon refers to Ukko, one of their old pagan gods, (Uko or Uku in Estonia) and juhla means celebration. I presume juhla means the same thing as jõulu, which would lead to the conclusion that Yule originally meant nothing more than “celebration.”

According to Wikipedia:

“Yule is the modern English representation of the Old English words ġéol or ġéohol and ġéola or ġéoli, with the former indicating the 12-day festival of “Yule” (later: “Christmastime”) and the latter indicating the month of “Yule”, whereby ǽrra ġéola referred to the period before the Yule festival (December) and æftera ġéola referred to the period after Yule (January). Both words are thought to be derived from Common Germanic *jeχʷla-, and are cognate with Gothic (fruma) jiuleis and Old Norse (Icelandic and Faroese) jól (Danish and Swedish jul and Norwegian jul or jol) as well as ýlir, Estonian jõulud and Finnish joulu. The etymological pedigree of the word, however, remains uncertain, though numerous speculative attempts have been made to find Indo-European cognates outside the Germanic group, too.” Much more about Yule at this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule

Yalda

I’ve also run across speculation that the word Yule might be connected with Yalda, an Iranian holiday that takes place on the winter solstice, usually December 21. It celebrates the victory of light over darkness, and the renewal of the Sun. The word Yalda means birth, and at one time  it marked  the birth of the Zoroastrian god of light Mithras. More information: http://www.farsinet.com/norooz/yalda.html

Mithraism became popular among members of the ancient Roman military, and they celebrated the birth of Mithras on December 25. This holiday was called Natalis Solis Invicti (nativity of the unconquerable sun.) Eventually that date was adopted by the Christian church as the official date of the birth of Jesus.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the evening of December 24 is when Estonians celebrate Christmas. In many pagan traditions, as well as in Judaism, holidays start at sundown on the evening before the official day.

In Estonia, December 24 is called jõululaupäev, which literally means “bath day for Yule.” In the past, Estonians headed for the saun, steamed off the accumulated dirt of work and the big house cleaning that took place on December 21, and put on fresh clothes. Some still do this. Some attend an early church service at 3 or 4 pm, then head home for the traditional dinner of roast pork. sauerkraut and blood sausage.  The holiday officially starts when the first star is sighted in the sky.

The Yule Elder, jõuluvana, is Estonia’s version of Santa Claus, and brings presents while the family is at church. During the Soviet years, when religious observances such as Christmas were forbidden, a secular holiday took place on New Year’s Eve, and gifts were delivered by Father New Year.

(This was going to be posted on December 24, 2013, but the holidays got a bit hectic. I am just now recovering from jõulud and the subsequent Polar Vortex.)

Black Thomas and Yule Hay

The Winter Solstice, that still point in the turning year before the days begin once again to lengthen, is today.

My Old Farmer’s Almanac  for 2013 says winter begins 11 minutes past noon, which means the last minutes of fall are slipping away as I write. It doesn’t feel like fall or winter outdoors; the thermometer reads 62 degrees Fahrenheit, as though it were early May.  Tomorrow the forecast for Washington DC, just 15 miles from my home, is for a balmy 72 degrees.  Welcome, winter!

In Estonia, December 21 marks the start of Yuletide, which we call jõuluaeg,  jõulu being our word for yule. Alo Raun’s useful Eesti Keele  Etümoloogiline Teatmik, aka the Estonian  Etymological Handbook, says the word jõulud originated  from an Old Swedish word, iul.  Yule is also the pagan word for the Winter solstice.

It is also Toomapäev, the day of St. Thomas the Apostle, from the days when Estonians were Catholics, prior to the Protestant Reformation.

Toomapäev is considered the real start of the yuletide celebrations. In order to peacefully usher in the holidays, homes underwent a “seriously major cleaning,” (my translation) according to Lauri Vahtre’s book, Maarahva tähtraamat. The walls and ceilings were cleared of soot and grime; hence the phrase “Must-toomas välja!” (Black-Thomas out!)

Our friend Must-Toomas, undoubtedly named after the saint, was also known in some parts of Estonia as Tahma-Toomas, which also meant Black-Toomas;or as Tolmu-Toomas (Dust-Thomas) or Nõgi-Toomas (Soot Thomas), according to an article on the remarkable website http://www.folklore.ee. The article, “Clothed Straw Puppets in Estonian Folk Tradition” was written by Ergo-Hart Vastrik in 1991 and translated into English by Mati Limberg in 1997.  Link: http://www.folklore.ee/folklore/vol7/metsikx.htm

Sometimes the collected dust and soot was added to straw and old rags to fashion a kind of poppet figure.  In doing so, the female head of the household, the perenaine, symbolically tied into it all the bad luck, illness, grievances and dirt of the house. Then she secretly carried it to a neighbor’s house, under cover of darkness, and placed it next to a door or window. The neighbor, naturally, would not want Sooty-Toomas on her property either, so the figure was carried from house to house in the community over the course of the holiday season. Sometimes the poppet was called Christmas Toomas or New Year Toomas.

These straw poppets were still made as recently as 1987, according to Vastrik’s article, from which this excerpt is borrowed:

“Most accounts concerning the making of the figures at this time came from the parish of Juuru…  In Juuru, the custom was viable for a longer time than in the neighbouring parishes – the rite was carried out in Orguse and Härküla villages as late as 1987 … In 1929, the making of the New Year’s figure was described as follows:

“A figure of a man – Tahma-Toomas [Ash-Thomas] – is made of straw and old clothes and taken on New Year’s Eve to someone’s yard. The man has a letter in his pocket: my name is Tahma-Toomas. No one wants to have him in his yard by the morning, but takes the man to the neighbour’s yard. This is done to spite others. Once neighbours really started quarrelling and started throwing the figure over the fence until it was all tattered. The household in whose yard Tahma-Toomas is left by morning will not be able to work properly in the new year and their house will be dirty. When I was a child it was not done. Younger people started doing it. Tahma-Toomas or nääritaat [New Year father] or jõuluvana [Christmas elder]. “

Of utmost importance in the Estonian household, was the requirement that the Yuletide beer had to be ready before the 21st. If not, it was believed that Black-Toomas would get into the beer and ruin it.

Doing work other than cleaning was unlucky on the 21st of December.  Spinning was forbidden, as was grinding grain with a mortar and pestle (probably to honor the grain goddess, since much of the day’s ritual centered on grain and beer).

When all the household was clean, the Yule rye-hay was brought indoors and scattered on the floors. In the distant past, this was done to honor the grain fairy/goddess/spirit, who brought joy and well-being to the household, according to Kustas Põldmaa in his book Nurmed ja Niidud.

To symbolize the grain fairy (or goddess), the female head of the household wove an elaborate yule-crown from fir branches, straw, reeds and/or pine roots, decorated with colored egg shells and wood shavings, in which candles were lit. (A virtually perfect fire hazard, if ever there was one.)

The male head of the family traditionally carried hay into the reha or grain drying room, flinging it up to the rafters. If a lot of the hay got caught up in the rafters, tradition held that there would be a good crop of grain the following summer .

Of course today’s Estonian name for the day is Toomas (Thomas) and it’s variations. Toom, Tom and Tommi.  Raivo Seppo’s book Elavad Nimed adds the names Maas, Toomes and Toomus.

Wishing you a blessed Yule, a clean home, beer without soot in it, and an abundant crop of rye in the coming year!

From Varja to Juta: Name-day calendar for Dec. 4 through 10

So many names!

As I go over the Estonian name-day calendar, I find so many unfamiliar names. Some of them are out of date and were seldom used during my lifetime. There are trends in name-giving in Estonia, just like there are in the United States and other countries.

Remember back in the late 1970s, when it seemed as though every baby girl was named Jennifer, and every baby boy, Scott?  In the 1980s names like Tiffany, Ashley, Courtney and Jason became popular.

My 1969 high school classmates mostly had names like Barbara, Patricia, Susan, Linda  or Donna. You never see anyone naming their daughter Barbara or Susan now. The boys in my class were called William or John or Robert or Mark. Male names tend not to vary over the years as much as female names.

Last year, in 2012, the top five girls’ names in the U.S. were Sophia, Emma, Isabella, Olivia and Ava. The top five boys’ names were Jacob, Mason, Ethan, Noah, and guess what? Good old William is still up there at number 5.  http://www.behindthename.com/top/

Looking over the top 50 girls’ names for last year, I found only one – Elizabeth – that appeared among my classmates. By contrast, there were 10 boys’ names in the top 50 that I recall from high school.

No Estonian names?

Now here is a curious thing. The Estonian website nimi.ee shows the top names for boys and girls for the month of October, 2013, and not a single one of the most popular names was of Estonian origin; the closest anyone came was with the name Kristjan.

The top 10 boys’ names in Estonia two months ago (in order of popularity) were Martin, Kaspar, Marten, Daniel, Gregor, Robin, Kevin, Mark, Aleksandr and Artur.  For girls, they list Maria, Sofia, Elina, Karolina, Laura, Melissa, Adele, Alisa, Elizabeth and Mia. A few of the top  names, notably Gregor, Aleksandr, Sofia and Elina, indicate the significant number of Russians living in Estonia. http://www.nimi.ee/?m1=3

Barbara on December 4

On the Estonian name day calendar, we begin with Dec. 4 and variations of the name Barbara, this being the feast day of St. Barbara.

Estonian names for the day are Barbara and its Estonianized variants Barbo, Parba, Varve, Varja and Varju. In his book Elavad Nimed, author Raivo Seppo adds the male names Paabu, Paap and Paapu and female names Parba, Parbara, Parbu and Varbu as additional Estonian adaptations of Barbara. Varja and Varju have an additional meaning in Estonian: shade.

The website Behind the Name says Barbara originated from the Greek word βαρβαρος (barbaros), meaning “foreign”.  St. Barbara is believed to have lived in either Turkey or Egypt during the 3rd Century CE.

December 5: Selma

The Dec. 5 names are Selma and Selme, both female. Seppo’s book adds Selmar, which I presume is masculine.  In Finland, the name for the day is also Selma; in Latvia it’s Sabine. 

There is a St. Sabbas or Sabas, a 5th Century abbot who founded monasteries in Palestine, who is honored by both the Catholic and Orthodox traditions this day.  However I doubt Selma and Selma were chosen for this day because of the saint.

Behind the Name says Selma comes from the male name Anselm which contains the Germanic elements god and helmet.

St. Nicholas on December 6

Who else but Jolly St. Nicholas would be the namesake for Dec. 6?

Estonian names for the day are Nigulas, Nigul, Nikola, Niilas, Nils, Klaus, Laas, Laus and Niilo, all masculine names derived from Nikolaos, the original Greek version of the name.

But wait,  there’s more! Seppo’s book includes the following derivatives:  Klass, Klaes, Klais, Klaos, Kleis,  Laes, Lais, Laos, Lass, Lauks,  Miglas, Migu, Migul, Migulas, Miilas, Miklas, Nigis, Niglas, Nigles, Nigol, Nigolas, Nigu, Niil, Niiles, Niiku, Niklas, Nikles, Niklus and Niss.  Estonians certainly know how to get the most out of a name, don’t they?

None of these Estonian  names is female, though in other languages there are feminine variants of Nicholas such as Nicole, Nikki, Nicolette, Colette, Coline, Nicoline, Lina, Nika and Nikolasa. http://www.behindthename.com/name/nicola-2

According to Behind the Name,  Nicholas and its variants come “from the Greek name Νικολαος (Nikolaos) which meant “victory of the people” from Greek νικη (nike) “victory” and λαος (laos) “people”. Saint Nicholas was a 4th Century CE bishop from Anatolia who, according to legend, saved the daughters of a poor man from lives of prostitution. He is the patron saint of children, sailors and merchants, as well as of Greece and Russia. He formed the basis for the figure known as Santa Claus (created in the 19th century from Dutch Sinterklaas), the bringer of Christmas presents. http://www.behindthename.com/name/nicholas

Sabiine on December 7

It’s tough to follow a popular act like St. Nick. The Estonian names for Dec. 7 are Sabiine, Piine and Sabrina, all feminine and based on the name of an ancient Italic tribe called the Sabini. 

The names were probably assigned to this day because they somewhat resemble  the above-mentioned  St. Sabas as well as St. Savin, honored Dec. 7, and St. Sabinus, who is honored Dec. 11. Seppo includes the nicknames Piina, Sabi and Ine as well. Piina has an additional meaning in Estonian: to torture.

Külli on December 8

Külli, Küllike, Külliki, Külve and Külvi are the Estonian names for Dec. 8. All are feminine. In Finland, the corresponding names for the day are Kyllikki and Kylli. Finns use the letter Y in place of the Estonian  letter Ü, but the pronunciation is approximately the same.  These names are based on a character in the Finnish national  epic called the Kalevala. Kyllikki was the wife of Lemminkäinen, one of the major characters in the tale. The names stem from the word küll, which means enough or plenty.   I don’t know why those names are assigned to Dec. 8.

Raido on December 9

Dec. 9 is for the male names Raido, Raidu, Raigo, Raiko, Raid, Rail and Rait. Seppo adds the name Raidur.

I tried looking up saints’ names to see if any of them bore a resemblance to today’s names, but didn’t find any.  I have absolutely no idea why these particular names were assigned for Dec. 9. If someone reads this and knows the answer, please post a comment about it.

It’s likely that this set of names originated from Raido, one the alphabet runes used by various northern European peoples including the Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Danes and other Germanic tribes. Estonians used these runes as well. This image of Raido is pasted from http://www.runes.info/images/16raido.jpg

Raidō, which means ride or journey, “is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the r-rune of the Elder Futhark, the oldest form of runic writing. Other names for this rune include rad, reið and raidho,” according to Wikipedia.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raido

December 10: Juudit, Juta

The Dec. 10  names are Juudit and Juta, while the Finns have the similar name Jutta for that date.  The German name-day calendar has Jutta on December 22, presumably in honor of  St. Jutta of Diessenburg, whose feast day it is.

Juudit of course is from the biblical Judith. The Coptic Church honors her  on Sept. 17.  According to Wikipedia, the name Judith  is from Hebrew: יְהוּדִית, Modern Yehudit Tiberian Yəhûḏîṯ; meaning praised or female Jew, and is the feminine form of Judah, according to Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Judith

Next week I’ll write about Daniel, Aivar, Lucia, Eho, Kalli, Adelheid, Rahel and their Estonian variants.

Estonian name-days for Nov. 27 through Dec. 3

How quickly the days grow shorter, darker, colder. And yet until a couple of days ago, there were still a few trees blazing with color, Bradford pears and their close relatives. Their shiny, leathery leaves are among the last to change hue and fall.

One of the loveliest things I look forward to seeing at this time of year is the blooming of cherry trees in Redland Park near my home, accompanied by the yellow flowers on an old forsythia bush across Redland Road from the park. There is only a sprinkling of pink cherry blossoms, nothing like the massive clouds of bloom they put forth in the spring. The forsythia, too, only gives a partial performance before going to sleep for winter.

But these blossoms lift my heart and fill it with hope at a time of year when everything else seems to be withering and turning brown.

***

 The November 27 Estonian names for the day are Asta, Astra and Astrid. While there is a St. Astrid or Asteria, a martyr from Bergamo, Italy who died in the early 4th Century, her feast day is August 10 in the Catholic Calendar of Saints. There is also a male St. Astrik with a Nov. 12 feast day.

In Old Scandinavian, Astrid and Estrid both mean beloved of God. Prior to 1901, Nov.27 was the Swedish name day for Agricola, Gudrund and Vitalis; it was subsequently changed to Estrid. Historically there was an Estrid Svendsdatter, sister of Cnut the Great.

In 1907, Sweden changed the Nov. 27 name to Astrid to honor its young Princess Astrid, born on Nov. 17, 1905. Finland and Estonia followed suit, with Astrid and its variations as the names for Nov. 27.  Slovakia’s Astrid name day is Nov. 12, probably for the aforementioned male St. Astrik. In Norway, Astrid is the name for April 13; Germany’s is August 10 in keeping with the Catholic saint’s day, and in Spain, Astrid’s day is January 2.

In the Estonian language, astrid is also the plural for the autumn flower aster. The flower’s name in both Estonian and English comes from the Greek word for star.

November 28 names in the Estonian name day calendar are Laima, Raima and Niina, all feminine.  Laima is the goddess of luck and fate in Latvia and Lithuania, the two small Baltic nations south of Estonia. Latvia’s name for the preceding day, Nov. 27, is Laimdots. I don’t know whether this is a male or female name, but it probably came from Laimis, the Latvian name for the goddess. Laimdots is also one of the Latvian names for June 22, the same day Lithuanians use for Laima.

The name Raima may have roots in Sanskrit and means pleasing in Urdu, one of the languages of India. Both the Latvian and Lithuanian languages are descended from ancient Sanskrit. In Lithuania, the male name Rimgaudas, which resembles Raima, is one of several names of the day for November 28.  April 1 is another Rimgaudas name day there.

However Raivo Seppo’s book on Estonian names, Elavad Nimed, gives Raima a German or Saxon origin, associating it with the male names Raimo, Raimond and Raimund, noting that Raimund and its feminine, Raimunda, derive from Frankish Reginmunde. The web site Behind the Name links these names to Raymond, which it says means wise protector.  Seppo adds the female name Raidi to the names for Nov. 28.

Now for Niina.  There is a St. Saturninus whose feast day is Nov. 29 and I imagine that’s the reason for Niina’s name day on the 28th.  In Finnish, Niina is considered a short form of Anniina.  Seppo writes that Niina originates from the Sumerian goddess Nin and places Niina’s name-day as August 15. He also associates Niina with the niinepuu, linden tree, a sacred tree that is also called a pärn in Estonia.

There is a St. Nina honored by the Orthodox Church on Jan. 14.

November 29 has the male names Edgar and Egert on the Estonian name-day calendar.  I can’t find any other European countries where these names are associated with this date.

Wikipedia says “Edgar is a common name from Old English words ead (meaning “rich, happy, prosperous”) + gar (meaning “spear”). ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar

It may be that those names were selected for the day because there is a St. Egelwine of Athelney, a West Saxon prince who lived in the 7th Century, who is honored on November 26 in the Catholic Church. St. Egelwine’s day is November 29 in the Orthodox Church. Edgar, which was my father’s first name, comes from Old English Odgar  (blessed spear).

Egert is said to come either from derived from Eginhard or Eckhard, a Germanic name meaning brave edge or strong through the sword. Also there is “Egert(er), Egart(er), distorted form Ehgartner, Ege(n)ter (all in Bavaria and Austria) containing Middle High German egerte ‘fallow land”according to the web site http://docs.exdat.com/docs/index-73268.html?page=10

On November 30 , many European countries use name-day variations of Andrew to honor St. Andrew, the first apostle. Estonia is no exception, with the names Andreas, Andres, Andrus, Andre, Andro, Ando, Andu, Andi and Anti for Nov. 30. I would also add the common nickname Ants, which, for non-Estonians, is pronounced Untz.  The Finnish names for the day are Antti, Antero and Alle.

The name Andrew comes from Greek  and means manly, brave.  (from ἀνδρεία, Andreia, “manhood, valor”, according to Wikipedia).

On December 1, the names Oskar, Osmar and Oss have their day.  In Finland, Oskari is the name for the day, and in Sweden the names are Oskar and Ossian.

According to Wikipedia, Oscar  is a masculine given name in English and Irish. Its cognates include the Scottish Gaelic Osgar, the German and Scandinavian Oskar, and Finnish Oskari. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_(given_name)

Osmar means “divinely glorious” in old Saxon.

As for why those names were chosen for December 1, the following are just guesses on my part.

The Orthodox Church celebrates a St. Onesimus on Dec. 1. This saint is called Onesimus of Byzantium and The Holy Apostle Onesimus in some Eastern Orthodox  traditions. There is also a St. Osmund of Salisbury honored by the Catholic church on Dec. 4. He was a bishop of Norman heritage who helped compile the Domesday Book.

The December 2 names are Aira, Aire and Airi, similar to the Finnish Airi and Aira names for Dec. 4. In Poland, one of several names for Dec. 2 is Aurelia; in Lithuania it’s Aurelija. The  name may commemorate St. Aurelia, a Roman martyr who died circa 256 CE. There is also Saint Aurelia of Strasbourg, a 4th-century saint. Wikipedia says the name Aurelia comes from the Latin family name Aurelius, which was derived from aureus meaning “golden”.

Seppo’s book says Aire and Aira come from Finnish and mean käskjalg, courier or messenger of the gods.

December 3 names are Leiger and Leino. Seppo writes that Leiger means pillimees, mängia, which mean musician or instrument player. Leino means protected from mourning according to Seppo.

Again, I don’t know why those names were chosen for this date, but the names have a small  resemblance to a Catholic St. Leontius, a 5th Century French bishop honored on Dec. 1. There is also a St. Eligius, a 7th Century French bishop, honored Dec. 1.

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Wishing you all a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude for our many blessings.

Note: there are many different calendars of saints online, some of which differ a great deal from one another.

Kadripäev and Hekate

Before I get into this week’s name days, let’s look at traditions associated with one of the old agrarian festivals of the Estonian year, kadripäev, known in some countries as St. Catherine’s Day. Kadripäev and its male counterpart mardipäev (Nov. 10) are two of Estonia’s most popular holidays after jaanipäev (June 23-24) and jõulud (Dec. 24-25, Christmas).

In Catholic countries, November 25 is the feast day of St. Catherine  of Alexandria. Estonians, who were Catholic until the Protestant Reformation, use variants of the name Catherine for this day on their name-day calendars.  The day’s names are Katariina, Katrin, Katre, Katri, Kadrin, Kadri, Kadi, Kati, Kaarin, Karn, Triin, Triina and Triinu. Finnish names for this day are Katri, Kaisa, Kaija, Katja, Kaarina, Katariina, Katriina, Kati, Kaisu and Riina.

Interestingly, there is no agreement on the origin of the name Catherine or its alternative spelling Katherine, but it could have derived from the name Hekate, an ancient goddess in the northeastern Mediterranean region. Hekate is also spelled Hecate.

The goddess Hekate

Behind the Name, a web site  that explores the etymology and history of first names, describes Catherine/Katherine as having originated “from the Greek name Αικατερινη (Aikaterine). The etymology is debated: it could derive from the earlier Greek name ‘Εκατερινη (Hekaterine), which came from ‘εκατερος (hekateros) “each of the two”; it could derive from the name of the goddess Hecate; it could be related to Greek αικια (aikia) “torture”; or it could be from a Coptic name meaning “my consecration of your name”. In the early Christian era it became associated with Greek καθαρος (katharos) “pure”, and the Latin spelling was changed from Katerina to Katharina to reflect this.” http://www.behindthename.com/name/katherine

The website Wiki.name states that “the etymology of Catherine is debated, but the earliest derivative of the name is the Greek ‘Hekaterine,’ stemming from ‘hekateros’, meaning ‘each of the two.’ It is possible Catherine shares its roots with the name Hecate, Greek goddess of the wilderness, childbirth, and crossroads”. http://wiki.name.com/en/Catherine

And like Katherine, Hekate’s name gave rise to variations used as personal names.  Robert Von Rudloff’s article, “Hekate in Early Greek Religion” notes “the popularity of personal names such as Hekataia and Hekataios based on the stem Hekat- in certain regions such as Ionia and Karia”. http://zer0dmx.tripod.com/gods/hekate.html

I would add that the Russian version of Katherine, Yekaterina, and the Bulgarian version, Ekaterina, strongly resemble the name Hekate.

Old kadripäev traditions in Estonia

Kadripäev customs in Estonia were similar to those of mardipäev, Martin’s day, Nov. 10, although the mardisandi (Martin-saints) beggars used to be predominantly male and dressed in dark clothing. The kadrisandid (Catherine-saints) beggars used to be mainly female and robed in white, although contemporary Estonian youngsters who go door to door can be either gender and wear any kind of color, costume or mask. As always, Estonians celebrate on the eve of a holiday, so the kadri beggars have their fun on the evening of November 24.

Kustas Põldmaa describes Estonian kadripäev traditions in his lovely 1976 book, published in Tallinn, Nurmelt ja Niidult (From the Fields and Meadows). He wrote that the kadrisandid raced from door to door, singing, dancing, sometimes playing instruments and wishing the farm folk good fortune for their herds. Sometimes boys accompanied them. One of the beggars, designated the kadriema, (Catherine-mother) carried a doll made of cloth, to which tooth-money was offered. The kadriisa, (Catherine-father) carried a goose-shaped figure made of straw to frighten children. To bribe the “goose” from harming the children, householders offered the kadrisandid gifts such as linens, woolens, apples, peas, honey, woven belts, gloves, stockings or kerchiefs.

Catherine’s Day was altogether a women’s holiday and linked to the protection of sheep. Herding was considered women’s work, and working was prohibited on this day. In some places sheep were honored with a ban on spinning, sewing, knitting, and shearing. Hunting wild animals and killing sheep were also prohibited. Sheep, of course, were fed especially well on this day.

No cabbage soup for you!

For some odd reason it was taboo for people to eat cabbage soup on kadripäev. Supposedly this prevented geese from eating the farm’s cabbages. http://www.slideshare.net/ylletamm/kadripev

Another custom was ritually eating porridge in the byre or shed where sheep were housed, to promote the health and fertility of the herd, writes Lauri Vahtre in Maarahva Tähtraamat, (1991) (The Earth-folks’ Almanac) which lists and explains the special days of the Estonian calendar.

The kadrisandid, as they left a farmhouse, called thank-you blessings such as the following:

Õnne talule ja talledele
Õnne karjale ja kassidele
Õnnistage teie õued täis loomasida
Laudad täis lambasida

From http://www.slideshare.net/ylletamm/kadripev

Which means:

Good luck to the farm and your lambs
Good luck to the herd and the cats
Bless your yard full of animals,
Byres full of sheep.

Along similar lines, the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, who lived somewhere between 750-650 BCE, wrote of Hekate: “She is good in the byre with Hermes to increase the stock. The droves of kine and wide herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if she will, she increases from a few, or makes many to be less.” From http://www.hellenicaworld.com/Greece/Mythology/en/Hecate.html

Hekate, patroness of herders

It’s interesting that Hekate, known as a patroness of herders among her many attributes, brought fertility to sheep and goats, while the kardrisandid in Estonia, celebrating a St. Catherine whose name may have originated as Hekate, wish fertility to farmers’ sheep.

Hekate is “the world’s key-bearer, never doomed to fail; in stags rejoicing, huntress, nightly seen, and drawn by bulls, unconquerable queen; Leader, Nymphe, nurse, on mountains wandering, hear the suppliants who with holy rites thy power revere, and to the herdsman with a favouring mind draw near.” – Orphic Hymn 1 to Hecate (Translated by Thomas Taylor in 1792).

http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/HekateGoddess.html

An Orthodox troparion or short hymn to St. Catherine begins with the line

“Thy lamb Catherine, O Jesus,
Calls out to thee in a loud voice”

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Catherine_of_Alexandria

Another possible link between Hekate and Katherine is their feast days. Two of Hekate’s primary feast days fall on November 16 and November 30, with St. Catherine’s feast-day falling between them on the 25th.

Could an old rural celebration like kadripäev have descended from the sheep blessing festival of an ancient Greek goddess who was the patroness of herders?  I wonder.

More name days

November 20 is the Estonian  name day for Helmar, Helmer, Helomo, Helmu, Helmur, Helmut, Helmurer and Helmust. Our close relatives the Finns mark the day’s name as Jalmari and Jari, essentially derived from the original German name, Helmar, which means famous helmet. Variants of the name Helmar are also used in Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

November 21 is the name day of Pilvi and Pilve, both female names. They were  probably placed on this day because it is the feast day of St. Philemon in the Catholic Calendar of Saints. Pilvi and Pilve mean cloud, but the names certainly resemble Philemon. Estonians don’t use diphthongs such as ph and would likely pronounce the saint’s name as Pilemon. The Finnish name for the day is Hilma, which sounds somewhat like their preceding day’s name Jalmar.

November 22  is the Estonian name day for Cecilia and variations of it: Säsil, Silja, Silje and Sille, all feminine. This is the feast day of St. Cecilia, and the Finnish names for the day are Silja and Selja, also derived from Cecilia. Behind the Name writes that this is the Latin feminine form of a Roman family name, Caecilius, “which was derived from Latin caecus “blind.”  http://www.behindthename.com/name/cecilia

November 23 is the Estonian name day for the male names Clement, Leemet and Leemo, probably due to this being the feast day of St. Clement I. Behind the Name says this was the name of 14 popes and derives from the Latin name Clemens which meant “merciful, gentle.” http://www.behindthename.com/name/clement The Finns use names that sound somewhat like Clement: Lempi and Lemmikki, on the following day, Nov. 24.  Lempi means love in Finnish, and Lemmikki means little favorite one. The Estonian word lemmik also means favorite. The Finnish name for Nov. 23 is Ismo.

November 24‘s Estonian names are Ustav and Ustus, which are masculine and mean believer and faith. I don’t know why those names were selected for this day, unless there is a very slight resemblance to the martyr St. Chrysogonus.  There is a martyr, St. Justus, on Nov. 26 who seems a more likely candidate.

November 26 is the Estonian name day for Dagmar, Tamaara, Maara and Maare, all feminine names.  Again, I don’t know why those names were associated with this day, unless because of a St. Amator or St. Marcellus listed for Nov. 26 in the Catholic Calendar of Saints. But that may be stretching it a bit.