Naming names

I’ve never been too crazy about my first name, Anita. Anita always felt ill-fitting and uncomfortable. I never met other girls named Anita until college. Someone in my dorm yelled “Anita! Phone call!” Seconds later, not one but two other Anitas almost collided with me at the dormitory’s pay phone. (This was during the Dark Ages – 1969 – before smart phones or even stupid portable phones.) We looked at one another in surprise. None of us had ever encountered another Anita of our own age before, let alone two Anitas.

Deep inside, I felt almost offended at meeting them. I had become so accustomed to going it alone through the crowds of Barbaras, Patricias, Donnas and Debbies in high school, that I felt Anita was my own personal cross to bear. Nobody else could have it! Unless I could trade it for Lynne or Linda. Linda was doubly acceptable to me because it was an Estonian name as well as an American name popular for female babies in the early 1950s. But my Estonian immigrant parents may have considered Linda a bit old-country. My mother explained once that they considered Anita a nice international name for me. Furthermore, it was a diminutive of Anna, my mother’s name. Anna was also the name of a great-aunt and one of my great-grandmothers. And my father’s middle name was Anton. Eventually I continued the tradition by giving my older daughter the middle name Ann. But I’ve never felt truly reconciled to the name Anita.

It could have been worse. I could have gotten a real old Estonian name like that of one of my great-grandmothers, who was evidently called Gröta. I discovered this recently while searching through online copies of old Estonian Lutheran Evangelical Church parish records and finally finding the recorded marriage of my great-grandfather Peter Laur, son of Jürri, to a Lisa Püsnik, daughter of Gröta, way back in 1878. I stared at that name for a long time. The records are written in old-fashioned German, and sometimes the handwriting is impossible to decipher. In this case the script was fairly readable, and it said Gröta. I had never come across such a name in all my searches.

Great-Grandmother Gröta

I have seen names like Krõõt, which looks and sounds gosh-awful, like the sound of someone vomiting heavily after a night of imbibing potent Estonian vodka. But Krõõt is merely an old-fashioned Estonianized spelling of Greta, sometimes short for Margareta or Margaret, but often enough just a sinple one-syllable first name of the kind 19th century country Estonians loved. I’ve also found Krööt, a slightly different spelling, in church records. And I’ve seen the name Kreet bestowed among contemporary Estonians.

I don’t know how reliable or up-to-date the website namerank.com is, but to my very great surprise, it states that Kreeta is the 7th most popular girls’ name in Estonia, with Kreet at 11th place and Kreete at 47th. For those of you who don’t speak Estonian, Kreet is pronounced something like crate.

However, the Estonian Interior Ministry states that the top girls’ names of 2014 are as follows:

Sofia (102), Eliise (74), Maria (73), Mia (71), Lisandra (60), Mirtel (59), Sandra (58), Emma (55), Laura (55), Darja (50), Arina (49), Milana (48), Alisa (47), Anastasia (47), Lenna (47), Liisa (47), Anna (45), Viktoria (4), Elisabeth (44), Polina (44), Marta (42), Aleksandra (39), Marleen (38), Hanna (37), Nora (37). Kreet, or Greta don’t even make th3 list.

Boys: Rasmus (91), Artjom (89), Robin (83), Martin (80), Oliver (74), Romet (71), Sebastian (70), Robert (68), Artur (64), and Maksim (63), Markus (60), Marten (60), Karl (58), Kristofer (58), Oskar (57), Daniel (56), Hugo (56), Henri (55), Mark (54), Nikita (53), Kirill (52), Sander (52), Kevin (51), Aleksandr (50), Daniil (50).

In June, 2014, the top 15 female names included Grete at 6th place. The others are 1. Sofia, 2. Liisa, 3. Darja, 4. Lisandra, 5. Mia, 6. Grete, 7. Maria, 8. Marie, 9. Aleksandra, 10. Anastassia, 11. Eliise, 12. Emma, 13. Lenna, 14. Marleen, and 15. Melissa.

Sorry, namesrank.com. Your rankings are not very close to reality.

Names and their popularity appear to be a passion of kodueestlased, the term among Estonian-Americans for those born and raised in Estonia. The Estonian Interior Ministry, undoubtedly due to popular demand, publishes annual and even monthly lists of the most popular baby names in the nation. It’s nice to know that my personal passion for names is in my genes.

At any rate, Krõõt and its variants are probably the same as Gröta, although the use of the first letter G in Estonian nomenclature isn’t that common. When I did an internet search for Gröta and similarly spelled names, I found it was used at one time in Sweden and Norway. Did some long-ago immigrant pass a parent’s name along to an Estonian-born daughter, thereby setting off a trend?

Lots of Grötas

For trend it was, at least in the area of Pangodi, a small community in Tartu county. It was called Spankau by the German barons who lorded it over the Estonian peasantry for many centuries, and Spankau was where my great-grandmother Lisa Püsnik was born. By the way, a good resource for looking up the Estonian version of an old German place-name is this: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_deutscher_Bezeichnungen_estnischer_Orte

When I started browsing through the parish records for the congregations (Nõo, Otepää and Suure-Kambja) serving residents of Pangodi in the mid-1800s, I was startled to find at least a half-dozen women bearing the name Gröth.

Unfortunately the interior ministry probably didn’t notice that trend, most likely because it didn’t exist at the time. Estonia was ruled by Russia, the Russians having ordered the German barons to free Estonians from serfdom in the early part of the century.

Be nice

I suspect that was just about the last nice thing they did for Estonians, who had to battle furiously for their all-too-brief first period of independence at the end of World War 1. Then, like a very bad case of the flu that simply will not go away, the Russians came back at the end of World War 2 and took Estonia over again, at least until 1991. And now, like a bloodthirsty vampire, it once again appears to be threatening the freedom of its tiny, ethnically distinct neighbors Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. What will it take for the Russians to grow up and get over their obsession with us? To learn to live and let live? To respect national boundaries?

 

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The Lumi mystery

I have a tiny old photograph of an old, old woman who wears a long peasant scarf on her head. It’s what my mother called a paabuska, what Russians call a babushka. My mother often wore a headscarf, which embarrassed me as a teenager because I thought she looked like a peasant. I used to beg her not to wear one for parent-teacher meetings.

The woman in this one inch by one inch black and white photograph is my great-grandmother, Leena Susi. When he gave me the photo shortly before he died, my father told me her maiden name was Leena Lumi. The word lumi means snow in Estonian, just as susi means wolf in some old Estonian dialects and in modern Finnish.

My Estonian cousin, the daughter of my father’s sister, drew up a family tree for me, and she too knew this ancestress as Leena Lumi before she married our great-grandfather Jaan Susi in 1878..

However when I began digging for more information as it became available online, I found that others had posted information on Geni.com saying that this particular Leena (or Lena) bore the maiden name Hammas (which means tooth). I found a copy of a church record posted online of the marriage of one Jaan Susi to one Lena Hammas on May 14, 1878, possibly in the town of Valga. But search as I might, I could never find any record of a marriage between a Jaan Susi and a Leena Lumi.

I put the matter aside for a couple of years. Then I went back to Geni recently and discovered links to parish records indicating that a brother of Lena called himself Jaan Hammas alias Lumi. This Jaan Hammas aka Lumi, and his wife Lotte Katarina Hammas-Lumi, as she was evidently called, gave all five of their children the surname Lumi.

And in another church record I found that Lena’s nephew Jaan Hammas, son of her brother Endrik, had officially changed his surname, and that of his wife , Elise Annette, to Lumi on november 3, 1938. Endrik’s other children Peeter, August and Minna all went by the last name Lumi.

The children of Lena’s brother Kusta Hammas, Adolf, Gustav and Albert, all  used the name Lumi.

So at some period of time in the early part of the 20th Century, or even earlier, various members of the Hammas family changed their name to Lumi.

It seems reasonable to conclude that Lena Susi decided to change her maiden name retroactively to Lumi as well, and that became the name handed down to her descendants.

Why?

I haven’t the slightest idea. Was there something bad associated with the Hammas name? In all probability, the name Hammas was originally bestowed on a family of newly freed Estonian serfs by their former German baronial masters between 1822 and 1835. Prior to the naming times, many of the peasants were called only by their first name and distinguished from one another by the name of the manor where they lived.  A serf named Jaan living on the Püsnikko manor might be called Püsnikko Jaan.

There was a second wave of name changing in the 1920s-30s when some Estonians with German surnames exchanged them for ones that were taken from the Estonian language, according to Professor Aado Must in his writing called Onomastika in the Estonian Folk Archives, at http://www.ra.ee/apps/onomastika/index.php/et

Onomastika unfortunately is in Estonian. But it has a neat little search tool whereby one can enter an Estonian name and quite often find the name(s) of the baronial manor(s) where it was first bestowed. The tool shows that the name Hammas was given to people in living on the Karste, Atla, Sääre and Roosna-Alliku manor estates. In my ancestors’ case, Karste was the most likely place, specifically Liivimaa kubermang (Livonian government) / Võru maakond (Võru county)/ Kanepi kihelkond (Kanepi village) / Karste mõis (Karste manor).

The change from Hammas to Lumi couldn’t have been related to the Estonianization of German surnames in the 1920s-30s because Hammas is not a German name as far as I know.

One nice thing about this research is that I have discovered a few relatives in the U.S., distant cousins with the surname Lumi. (Even if the name was originally Hammas.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.”

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.

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 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.

 ***

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.

What’s in an Estonian name?

Estonians tend to keep their first names short and simple.

Here are just a few examples, off the top of my head: Epp, Evi, Anu, Reet, Eha, Aime, Ilo, Elo, Airi, Mai, Aet, Tiiu and Juta  are female names.

Short male names include Ants, Arvo,  Laur,  Koit, Kaur, Siim, Aado, Arno, Laas, Peep. Tiit, Mats, Uko, Jaan, Jaak, Agu, Leho, Ain and Timo.

I’m sure most of these names look odd to Americans.  And yet some of them are derived from names that are familiar to most of us.

It’s possible that the use of such mini-names harkens back to the centuries when most Estonians were serfs, toiling under the rule of German barons. Presumably it was much easier to yell (in German, naturally) “Hey Ants! Catch that pig before it eats the cabbages!”  than to holler “Hey, Kandotõivo!” — or Metsikö, or Pitkänen or Lembisaadu, other Estonian names from the distant pagan past.  Those names are a mouthful, not to mention tricky to pronounce, and the pig would likely have finished off a couple of cabbages before the baron’s serf manager finished his sentence.

Nimepäevad means name days

I was curious about what the short names meant, and whether they were shortened versions of longer names.  One day several years ago I was looking around on the internet and came across a website, now no longer in existence, that listed nimepäevad – Estonian names that corresponded to days of the year. This was a treasure trove of information, since it often included  several variations of a given name.  I printed out a copy to study it.

As far as I know many Americans choose baby names from family traditions or baby name books or name websites, not from name-day calendars. Roman Catholics might sometimes use their Calendar of Saints in naming. I honestly don’t know how much Estonians use the name-day calendar for choosing names.

In the Estonian name-day calendar, January 6 is the name day for Aabel, Aabi, Aabo, Aapo and Aap, all variants, and all probably related to the name Abel, as we know it in English.  Puzzled as to how the name Abel was connected to January 6, I did some more digging and learned that January 2 is a Catholic feast-day for the biblical Abel, slain by his brother Cain.  And a Finnish name-day collection showed that January 2 was their name-day for the name Aapeli, undoubtedly another form of  Abel. (The Estonian and Finnish languages share a common origin and many vocabulary words.) Abel comes from the Hebrew name Havel or Hevel, and means breath.

I started cross-checking the Estonian names with name-day lists from Finland, Sweden and Germany, as well as the Catholic calendar of saints, because I suspected there was a relationship between the saint days and the name-days. Having once had a father-in-law who was born and raised in Italy, I learned that their custom is not to celebrate one’s actual birthday, but the feast day of one’s namesake saint.

A week of name-days

Here is a weeks’ worth of Estonian name-days from their name day calendar for your edification.

Today, November 13, happens to be the Estonian  name-day for Kristjan, Krister, Kristo. Risto, Rista and Riste. I’m unsure as to whether a couple of those names are feminine; most are masculine.  In Finland, November 13 is the name-day for Kristian; in Sweden Kristian and Krister. The Catholic saint for that day is St. John Chrysostom; one wonders if the Estonian, Finnish and Swedish names from the same day were picked to be similar to the saint’s. At any rate, the Greek name Christophoros, from which the above names derived, means Christ-bearer.

November 14 is the Estonian name-day for Alviine, Alvi and Alve, all female names. Raivo Seppo, in his book Elavad Nimed (Living Names), adds the shortened form Viine. In Germany,  Alberich is the name for the day. The saint of the day is St. Alberic, so Alviine may have been selected for that day because of a resemblance to the saint’s name.

November 15 is for the names Vaike, Vaige, Vaigi, Vaiki, all feminine and from the Estonian word vaike, quiet. I couldn’t find any connection to a saint or name-days in other countries.

November 16 is the Estonian name-day for Arnold, Arno, Arne and Aarne, all male names.  The Finns have Aarne, Aarno and Aarni  – they love to double up on vowels. There is a Saint Arnulph whose feast day is October 17, a month earlier, but I don’t know if there’s any connection.  Seppo says Arnold and its variants are from the German name Arnwald and mean powerful eagle.

November 17 is for the Estonian male names Heinar, Einar, Einari, Eino, Egon, Egil. The corresponding Finnish names for the day are Eino and Einari.  St. Arianus and St. Hugh are saints for this day, and you can probably see how close Arianus sounds to Einar.   Seppo said Einar comes from the Scandinavian name Aginhard or Eginhard, though most web sites say Einar comes from Norwegian Einarr (one warrior).

November 18 gives us the female Estonian names Ilo and Ilu, which mean beauty, but also joy. Seppo says the names come from Finnish, although the Finns have entirely different names assigned to Nov. 18. There is a St. Alphaeus linked to this day. Perhaps Ilo and Ilu were chosen for this day because they slightly resemble Alphaeus?

November 19 is the Estonian name-day for Eliisabet, Eliise, Elis, Els, Elsa, Else, Liis, Liisa, Liisu. Ilse and Betti, all akin to the name Elizabeth, which comes from the Hebrew Elisheba or Elisheva, meaning oath of God.  The Finns and Swedes also have variations of Elizabeth for this day, and it is the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary.

I will try to go through the entire Estonian name-day calendar in future posts, as time permits.

Confession: I’m a name freak

I love names, and not just Estonian ones. I like to collect them, study them, look for their meanings and origins. For example, I used to think my first name, Anita, was solely Spanish in origin, meaning little Ann, the way Juanita is a feminine form of  little Juan.  Ann derives from the Hebrew name Channah, and means grace. That’s what the name books say, but I’ve never met an Anita who is Hispanic. My parents picked it because it seemed an “international” name. It’s certainly not Estonian, though it might have been used there occasionally.

In recent years I’ve met a couple of Indian women named Anita, and was surprised to discover that it is  a well-known female name in India, said to be Persian in origin and meaning myrtle, the plant. The Namepedia says Anita means myrtle in Zand, an Old Persian language.  http://namepedia.org/en/firstname/Anita_%28208719%29/

The Dekhone Persian Dictionary online says Anita means kindly and glad. Wikipedia says Anita is the short form of Anahita, an Iranian water goddess in the Avestan cosmology, and means kindness and being personable.  Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anita_%28given_name%29.  The goddess Anahita is called “the immaculate one”, and is linked to the planet Venus and the goddess Ishtar, whose sacred plant happens to be the myrtle.

Nahid, a present-day Persian girls’ name according to ourbabynames.com, means star or planet Venus, and likely stems from Anahita. And now I wonder whether the Hebrew name Channah (source of the names Ann, Anita) has any kind of connection to the Persian Anahita.  The website http://www.meaning-of-names.com/israeli-names/channah.asp says Channah means “goddess of life” in Israeli, and Anahita is the “goddess of the waters”, so maybe there is one.

Mardipäev and soul time in Estonia

When I was a kid,  I asked my mother whether she dressed up in costumes and went trick-or-treating as a girl in Estonia. She told me – to my horror – that there was no such thing as Halloween when she was growing up.

Instead Estonian kids rubbed soot on their faces or put on a bedsheet and went knocking on a few neighbors’ doors on mardipäev (Martin’s day), though it was not widely celebrated like American Halloween.

Today, November 10, is mardipäev in Estonia.

Originally  celebrated on November 11, it honors St. Martin of Tours and is celebrated in many parts of Europe. In Estonia it was a relic from the time when Estonians were reluctant Catholics, forcibly Christianized in the 13th Century. Some time after the Protestant Reformation, however, the Estonians cleverly got back at the Roman Church by switching the date to November 10, Martin Luther’s birthday, and honoring Luther instead.

Mother didn’t get into the saints and Martin Luther business, and I didn’t care about it anyway. What I wanted to know was the burning question: did they get candy?

The horror: no candy

Of course they didn’t get candy. The poor deprived Estonian kids of the 1920s and 1930s might have gotten an apple or a few nuts from a homeowner, but certainly nothing like the Tootsie Rolls, candy corn, sticky homemade popcorn balls, candy apples, Snickers bars, lollipops, Hershey bars and other goodies that my brother and I hauled home in pillowcases after a hard evening ringing doorbells.

On trick-or-treat nights we usually brought along decorated school milk cartons to collect coins for UNICEF, and turned those in to our grade school teachers the next day. Our costumes were improvised, simple and homemade. Boys often wore  cowboy hats and carried their toy six-shooters. Girls frequently dressed as nurses or princesses. Some moms (almost nobody’s mother worked outside the home in the early 1960s) sewed or helped make their kids’ outfits.

I felt great pity for my mother and her school friends, deprived of the opportunity to devour vast quantities of candy once a year. They also missed out on the joys of Goosey Night, October 30, which is when kids in our part of North Jersey put on dark clothing and ran around ringing people’s doorbells to annoy them, or writing on car windows with soap. I presume this was intended as a warning for homeowners to stock up on candy or risk additional tricks the following night.

What on earth did they do for fun back in my mother’s childhood? I couldn’t begin to imagine.

Souls’ time – the time of the ancestors

According to various students of Estonian folklore, Martin’s day was part of a longer interval known as hingedeaeg, soul’s time, when the spirits of our ancestors and departed loved ones are near us. Some say this period began with mihklipäev, St. Michael’s Day, September 29,and concluded with kadripäev, St. Catherine’s day, November 25, or even on Christmas Eve.  Others believe the time of souls started at hingedepäev, All Souls’ Day, November 2, and ended on mardipäev, November 10.  (Let me note here that Estonians don’t capitalize the first letters of many words that we would capitalize in English. They also don’t use the word saint in mentioning a saint or saint’s day. Instead, it’s mihkel’s day, kadri’s day, martin’s day and so on.)

Soul time  is that bleak part of year when the growing season’s done,  the leaves have fallen, the nights have grown long and dark and winter is on the doorstep. Contemporary wiccans and pagans in America call this the time when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead grows thin, and the beloved dead walk among us.

In many cultures around the world, this is a special time to remember the departed. In Mexico, November 2 is known as Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, when families create altars and deck them with colorful flowers, candles and skull shapes made from sugar.  They picnic in cemeteries, bringing the favorite foods of those they honor and love.

In Estonia, the departed are remembered throughout souls’ time rather than concentrated in a single day, according to historian Lauri Vahtre’s “Maarahva Tähtraamat”, published in 1991.  This little pamphlet describes the important days of the calendar year as observed by the maarahvas — the people of the land. Once maarahvas was what Estonians called themselves, but now it seems to include an element of paganism. Tähtraamat literally means importance-book and is a sort of calendar/almanac. The first such calendar book written in the Estonian language was called “Eesti-Ma Rahwa Kalender”, published in Tallinn in 1720. The title means Estonia-Land Folk  Calendar. It was an almanac noting feast days, the length of day and night, moon phases,  eclipses, and best days for planting, harvesting and undertaking other farm work.  Here’s a link (in Estonian) to more information about tähtraamats from the Saaremaa Museum. http://www.saartehaal.ee/2013/02/25/tahtraamat-labi-kahe-sajandi/

Ancestor worship

Vahtre  explains that the traditions of mardipäev and souls’ time developed from ancient pagan traditions of ancestor worship. All Souls’ Day, she writes, originated in 998 C.E. at the Benedictine monastery in Cluny, France and was initially only celebrated by the Benedictines. But because the annual autumnal remembrance of ancestors was widely practiced in much of Europe, the Catholic church turned that tradition into a Christian holiday.

All Saints’ Day, the church holiday preceding All Souls’ Day, is virtually unknown in Estonia. But the Tallinn city archives  show that All Souls’ was observed as far back as the 14th and 15th centuries, when it was regarded as an observance strictly for city-dwellers. The country folk, who marked the longer period called souls’ time, held specific rituals either on souls’ day or Thursdays during souls’ time. Thursday was regarded as the holy day of the week by pagan Estonians, but whether this tradition stemmed from the Taara religious cult, analogous to Scandinavian Thor worship, I do not know. Thursday is, naturally, Thor’s Day.

Fire up the saun, the ancestors are coming

The most important way to honor the ancestors was to fire up the saun (the Estonian word for sauna) and set out special foods for them, either in the saun or the house, sometimes beneath a sacred tree. The head man and woman of the household named their forebears one at a time and invited them to the feast. In return, the ancestors were asked to protect the fields and herds. At the end of souls’ time, the ancestors were thanked and wished well on their journey back.

The foods most often served to the ancestors were barley porridge, boiled meat and broth, beans and peas,  writes Kristi Salve  in an article for the Estonian website Folklore.  Link: http://www.folklore.ee/rl/pubte/ee/sator/sator2/Moningaid.html

Beans and peas were also traditionally served at wakes and funerals.

Interestingly, the ancient Romans and Etruscans believed that beans contained the souls of the dead. The Romans used beans and peas to invoke the manes, benevolent spirits of the dead, during Parentalia, a festival honoring ancestors held February 13-21. One wonders whether there is some connection between this tradition and the Estonian custom of offering legumes to the ancestors at souls’ time.

Traditionally, joking, laughing, shouting, noise and noisy work like tree-cutting were banned during souls’ time, as was spinning, according to an article edited by Mariann Joonas in last week’s Telegram online newspaper.  Link: http://www.telegram.ee/vaimsus/hingedepaevast-ja-hingedeajast

In the Middle Ages, children went from house to house, singing and begging for soul-cakes. A prayer was said for the benefit of the ancestors in exchange for each small cake. This soul-cake custom still exists in the British isles and other places, Joonas writes. In the 19th and 20th centuries, children in the Mulgi region of Estonia dressed in white  and went from door to door, though not specifically begging. Nevertheless, they were given cakes, nuts, beans and peas in memory of departed ancestors.

Hing, the Estonian word for soul, also means breath. The ancestors of the Estonian and Finnish people believed that souls existed not just in humans, but in animals and in all the rest of creation.  They believed that the soul, or a portion of it, could leave the body during sleep, sickness or unconsciousness, visibly or invisibly, sometimes as a soul-creature such as a bee or butterfly. At the time of death, the hing might enter a new person, animal or bird, go somewhere else, or remain close to its former home, according to Joonas’s article.

And so I conclude by wishing blessings to you and your ancestors at this souls’ time.

What’s a lau, anyway?

Here are the days of the week, in Estonian, the way I learned them as a small child. Note that there is no capitalization. Esmaspäev (first day), teisipäev (second day), kolmapäev (third day),  neljapäev (fourth day), reede, laupäev, and pühapäev (holy day).

Like residents of other Baltic countries, Estonians start their weeks on Mondays, so using the term first day for Monday makes sense.  So does numbering the next three days, and calling Sunday holy day.

But what does reede (pronounced RAY-deh) mean? And what’s a lau, as in laupäev? Nobody explained stuff like this back in Estonian Saturday school.

Reede’s meaning

The meaning of reede wasn’t that difficult to track down once I started looking into it. The wonderful “Eesti Keele Etümoloogiline Teatmik”  (Estonian Language Etymological Dictionary) by Alo Raun, purchased on my last trip to Estonia in 2010, indicates that the word reede has German and Swedish origins, and was derived from the word fredag, which is the Danish and Norwegian word for Friday. My three years of tortured high school German tells me that fredag sounds very much like Freitag, the modern German word for Friday.

That, too, makes sense because the Germans and their language, though utterly unrelated to the Estonian native tongue, heavily influenced modern Estonian. Indeed, German was the lingua franca of Estonia for 700 years. *See note below.

For example, the 19th century Lutheran parish records I’ve been examining  online in my search for ancestors are mainly written in German.

But back to reede and its origins. In Latin-based languages, the word for Friday is based on the Latin dies Veneris or “day of Venus”. In Italian it’s venerdi, vendredi in French, and it originally honored the Roman love goddess Venus.

The word Friday too honors a goddess, the Germanic goddess of married love  known as Freya,  Freja or Frigg.  Wikipedia states that the English word Friday  comes from the Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frigg”, the result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frigg with the Roman goddess Venus. So Estonian reede is actually borrowed from the Germanic word for Freya’s Day in honor of this goddess.

English days of the week

Incidentally, the sources for naming our other weekdays in English are the moon (Monday), the Norse god Tiw (Tuesday), the Norse god Woden (Wednesday), and the Norse god Thor (Thursday). Saturday derives from the Roman god Saturn.

Wikipedia gives us this explanation for Tuesday:

“The English name is derived from Old English Tiwesdæg and Middle English Tewesday, meaning “Tīw’s Day”, the day of Tiw or Týr, the god of single combat, victory and heroic glory in Norse mythology. Tiw was equated with Mars” the Roman god of war whose name is the source of the French word for Tuesday,  Mardi  (think Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuesday

Estonian teisipäev, Tuesday, means second day, as I wrote earlier, but one wonders whether there is a possible connection between teisi and Tiw’s day because of the similar letters. However my etymological dictionary says the Estonian word teine, which means second, originates from the  läänemeresoome (Baltic Sea Finnic) root language  and then from the soome (Finnish) word toinen (second), and thus is not of Germanic origin.  Note that Estonian and Finnish are not members of the Indo-European language family, to which English, German and most other European languages belong.

And now to lau

So where does lau come from? Not only is it used for laupäev, Saturday, but also for the evening preceding Christmas. Christmas Eve is called jõululaupäev. That’s another thing that really stumped me as a kid: why did Estonians call this night Christmas Saturday, when it didn’t always fall on a Saturday?

I knew that laud means table or a wooden board.  Lause means a phrase. Laul is song.  But none of these words is a root for lau.

Turning to my handy reference tool, the etymological dictionary, I discover that  laupäev is an Estonian and Votyak (another Finnic language) word but derives from a Scandinavian language, Norwegian. It’s based on the Norwegian word lau(gar)dag.  Incidentally the Estonian word päev, which means day, comes from Baltic Sea Finnic and is based on an earlier Saami word, päiwe. My dictionary says it originated from the Saami people of northern Sweden, who are sometimes called Laplanders.

Beiwe, which I imagine is pronounced much like päiwe,  is the Saami goddess of the sun, spring, fertility and sanity. So I guess you could say that the Estonian word for day comes from another goddess-name.  When the sun once again appears in polar regions after winter’s long darkness, the Saami smear butter on their doorposts to encourage Beiwe’s return.  Beiwe’s daughter, Beiwe-neida, whose name means sun or day maiden, often traveled with her mother across the sky riding in an enclosure made of reindeer antlers. The Saami word neida is the source of neiu, the Estonian word for maiden.  To the ancient Finns, Päivätär was the goddess of spinning and weaving, and was likely the equivalent of Beiwe-neida. It seems like we Estonians owe a number of words to the reindeer-herding Saami.

I keep drifting off the topic of lau. I looked up its Norwegian source-word on Wiktionary, and this is what it says:

Laugardagr = From laug (“pool”) +‎ dagr (“day”), literally “bathing day”.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/laugardagr

In other words the Estonian name for Saturday literally means Bath Day.  Lau = bath. And our name for Christmas Eve literally means Yule Bath Day.

It’s nice to know the ancestors bathed at least once a week, often twice on the week before Christmas.

To the saun

However, Estonians usually  didn’t just hop in a tub with their rubber duckies and lather up. They generally lit a wood fire in the saun (sauna is a Finnish word)  to heat the saun stones, tossed water on the stones to generate steam, and remained in the steam to perspire, thereby removing dirt, germs and other impurities.  Often they livened things up by whipping one another lightly with switches of birch twigs to bring the blood (and its impurities) closer to the skin surface. Estonians still go to saun on Saturday evenings if they have the opportunity, and they still employ those birch twigs. Many still follow up a nice steamy saun session with a plunge into a cold pond or even snow, although you couldn’t pay me enough  to try that. It’s supposed to be great for health, but I’d prefer not to catch pneumonia.

I made up a chart showing the origins of the days of the week  in English, Latin-based Italian, and Estonian.  Note that in all three languages, Friday is a day honoring a goddess of love.

 

English Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
origin Sun Moon Tiw Woden Thor Freya Saturn
Italian Domenica Lunedi Martedi Mercoledi Giovedi Venerdi Sabato
origin Lord’s Day Moon Mars Mercury Jupiter Venus Saturn
Estonian pühapäev esmaspäev teisipäev kolmapäev neljapäev reede laupäev
origin holy day first day second day third day fourth day Freya bath day

 

*Note: Before 1200 the Estonians and their neighbors the Latvians were free pagan people,  but early in the 13th Century they were attacked by German crusaders seeking to forcibly Christianize them by order of the Pope. The Estonians and Latvians successfully resisted for about 20 years, until the Danes moved in from the north and captured the principal city, Tallinn, while the Germans took the rest of the country.

On April 23, 1343 the Estonians rose up, renounced Christianity  and fought for their freedom, burning manors and killing every German they could find. This was called the St. George’s Night (Jüriöö) uprising and lasted nearly three years, until the rebellion was crushed by the invasion of the Teutonic Order. The indigenous Estonians were forced into serfdom under the German ruling class, which remained in power during subsequent Swedish and Russian conquests.

Under Russian Czar Alexander I, serfdom was abolished in Estonia in 1816, and in Livonia (which consisted of southern Estonian and northern Latvia) in 1819. The German nobles still controlled all the land, but new laws were established beginning in the 1840s allowing Estonian peasants  to move freely, own property, and govern their own local affairs. Between 1822 and 1835 Estonians acquired surnames for the first time.