Friday, January 24, 2014


I seem to have a trend of calling most nature names unisex (as I feel most are). Well, if you are looking for a balls-to-the-wall, badass girl name, look no further than this gem.
Artemisia is a large (200-400 species!!) and diverse genus of plants in the Asteraceae family (also known as the daisy family). The plants range from hardy flowering plants to shrubs and are pretty well known for their chemical properties. Some notable species include those commonly known as mugwort, sagebrush, sagewort, wormwoos, tarragon, and southernwood. These things are everywhere and can survive in most climates. Most species have strong, sweet aromas, but have a bitter taste when consumed. All species are used as a food source for insects in the Lepidoptera family, including the Monarch butterfly and the Luna moth.
The name Artemisia is properly pronounced ar-te-miz-eeah and comes from the widely worshipped goddess Artemis of the Greek pantheon (also known as Diana in Roman mythology).  Some scholars actually believe that her name and the goddess herself pre-date ancient Greek culture. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and the twin sister of Apollo (the sun god). She was the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth (in the Hellenistic time period-prior the goddess Eileithyia had this role), and virginity. She was called upon as a protector of young girls and to bring relief to ailing women. Artemis was typically depicted as a youthful, athletic huntress with bow and arrow. Deer, cypress trees, amaranth, and asphodel were her sacred symbols.
Wormwood and tarragon are probably the most commonly known species of Artemisia. Tarragon is a popularly used culinary herb that is especially important in French cuisine. Tree wormwood (known as sheeba in Arabic) is Middle Eastern bitter herb usually blended with mint to make tea. Other subspecies of wormwood are used to make/flavor different alcoholic beverages including vermouth (though it is no longer commonly used and has been replaced with a different blend of herbs), Malort, and absinthe. Absinthe in particular has a pretty colorful history and has been historically banned in several countries as it has been thought as a highly addictive psychoactive drug. It has since been shown to not be any more dangerous than any other spirit drink. It has long been associated with bohemian culture and was a favorite drink of Hemingway, Baudelaire, Verlaine, Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, and Aleister Crowley (interesting fellow, you should look him up if you are interested in the occult). Another species, Artemisinin, is used to treat malaria.
Different species of Artemisia, notably wormwood, are referenced throughout the Torah and the Bible and is always used to implicate bitterness. Wormwood is mentioned 7 times throughout the Torah and once in the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, the star that is cast by the angel and falls into the Earth’s water, making them undrinkable is named Wormwood. In Hamlet, the words “Wormwood, wormwood” are used by one character to imply the bitterness of the queen has just said. C.S. Lewis used the name Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters for a young, inexperienced demon who was tasked with guiding a man to Satan.
Historically, there have been two queens named Artemisia. Atermisia II of Caria was a constantly in mourning queen for only 2 years and is known for the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world) which she constructed to perpetuate the memory of her dead husband/brother Mausolus. Equally as melodramatic was Artemisia I of Caria who reigned in the 5th century B.C. Renowned as a warrior queen who joined Xerxes in his battle against the Greeks at Salamis, she later convinced him to abandon his invasion of Greece. After the war, she fell in love with a man who did not return her feelings, so she jumped from a cliff to her death. Apparently ancient Greece was a gloomy place to be a woman. Luckily, the name was also worn by a botanist and medical researcher in the mid-3rd century B.C. and the 17th century Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi and they were a lot less dreary.
Artemisia (and Artemis and Wormwood, since they were also sort of profiled) has never been a popular name, though I have found some use during the Victorian flower name craze. I think it is a great blend of dark mystery and princess. If I could associate anything with this name, it would be a medieval princess dressed as knight. It is a particularly frilly name, so if that is your style, this is definitely a wonderful choice.

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