Thanks to Kristi for suggesting Rosmerta as our Baby Name of the Day.
Eons before JK Rowling created a single character in her wizarding world, there was a goddess.
Rosmerta was a fertility goddess in ancient Gaul. When the Romans moved in, they paired her up with Mercury, the messenger god.
The Gauls were Celts to begin with, but after the Romans invaded, their language, religion, and culture all became a smoosh of the two.
There aren’t rules about how these things work. In some cases, an existing Gaulish god was given a Roman equivalent. The Romans adopted Epona as one of their own. And more than one Gaulish goddess was paired with a member of the Roman pantheon. The existing Gallo-Roman culture persisted even after the Western Empire crumbled, so Rosmerta might have had a good run. In any case, there are over two dozen inscriptions to Rosmerta recorded, and plenty of depictions of the goddess, too. The picture shows a carving of her and Mercury together.
She’s sometimes equated with Abundantia – the personification of abundance in ancient Rome. Abundantia and Rosmerta were both pictured holding a cornucopia.
It seems incredibly appropriate that the goddess of plenty would end up an innkeeper in the world of Harry Potter.
Madam Rosmerta is the proprietor of The Three Broomsticks, the Hogsmeade watering hole where underaged students stop for butter beer, and older wizards head for firewhiskey. She’s quite a looker, and provides some ties to history as she’s been working at the pub for ages.
She’s manipulated by Draco Malfoy in the later stories, but eventually fights on the side of right – or so we believe.
But back to the name.
Plenty of Rose names have nothing to do with flowers. Hros was a Germanic element referring to horses, and Rosalind and Rosamund originally refer to equestrian matters, not botanical ones.
Rosmerta has yet another origin. Ro means great, and the middle element means provider. The -a ending is feminine. Put it together, and Rosmerta is The Great Provider goddess.
Laurel K. Hamilton used her for a minor character, too.
But here’s the thing – almost no real women have ever answered to Rosmerta. Certainly not five in any given year, the number required for Rosmerta to register in the Social Security database. And I can’t find her in US Census records, either.
Add it up, and Rosmerta is the rarest of the rare, a name not bestowed on anyone in centuries. Maybe she’s always been reserved for the goddess alone.
And yet, wouldn’t this name work in 2013? She’s a little bit clunky, but so is Edith. She shortens to Rosie or Romy, an unexpected formal name for two appealing diminutives.
The association with the boy wizard hasn’t hurt Luna any. Perhaps Rosmerta is so obscure that few would recognize her. For those that do, there’s nothing negative about the connection. And if you wanted to say, “Yes, well, she’s actually named after a Celtic fertility goddess, not the innkeeper in Harry Potter,” you certainly could. Rowling is known for her spot-on naming, so that’s not a negative.
If you’re after something quirky, clunky, and different – a name that stands out for miles, but really isn’t all that out there – this is one goddess name with literary ties to ponder.