Some time ago, I got an email asking for help with naming a new support group. The group was for parents who were or had become single for any reason.
Nice to get a chance to help some folks out. But here's the Internet-age twist: the group was forming in Bosnia, which with Herzegovina comprises the region of the now-former Yugoslavia that in the nineties hosted the war on European soil we thought we'd never see again. Those of us who read the headlines and prayed for wounded places like Sarajevo, Tuzla, and Srebernica and will appreciate the need there for a single parent support group.
I suggested the name Hestia. Hestia is the goddess of the hearth in Greek Mythology. She never marries or has children, but she embodies the hearth fire, which was the center of the Greek family-- acting as heating system, cook stove, and television (or imagination generator) for the stories told in the family. I thought Hestia would be a good name because a single parent has so many roles, and must be the focus for so many family activities.
Dusica, the leader of the group and a professional translator, kept in touch with me faithfully about the process of naming the group, and they finally settled on Norne (Norns in English). This will take you to the homepage written in Bosnian; here is the English version. You can also click on the tiny British flag on the top right of the Bosnian version.
The group gives a thumbnail description of the Norne:
In Nordic mythology, NORNE are the goddesses of fate – sisters Urd (the past), Verdandi (the present) and Skuld (the future). They come from the titan Ymir, whose brothers Ve and Vili used his body to make the world. By the old belief, NORNE make a string in their loom as a destiny for each of us - the length of the string, shows the length of our lives, as well as our happy and less happy moments. Thy live beneath the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree at the centre of the cosmos, close to the fount of Urd, from which they spray the tree every day, never letting it dry.
The site does not, as far as I can tell, connect this description with the job of a single parent-- but the central and anchoring position of the Norns in the Nordic mythological world, as well as their nourishing function, make it a good choice for the members of this group.
(Also, I find very attractive the idea of people's lives as pieces of string that can be knit together into a fabric. A very important metaphor in a land that has been war-torn.)
Female spirits of childbirth are also called norns (full entry here):
When it comes to the individual, the thought that his fate is shaped in his moment of birth appears. At this crucial moment his families female protective spirits, the dísir, take action. One of the dísirs function -and not the least important one- was to assist the woman in labour and help her to deliver her offspring. This particular function has given the dísir a peculiar and important position as agents of destiny. In their function of agents of destiny the dísir have received a special name: nornor.
In Greek Mythology, The Fates (Greek Moirai [rhymes with toy-sigh]) are the closest parallel to the three Norns. These also are sisters, and they deal with the length of a person's life as a piece of string: Clotho (the spinner), Lachesis (the apportioner), and Atropos (the cutter). They are even more powerful than the main father god Zeus, who must bow to their decisions.
But the anchoring position and nourishing function of the Norns also correspond with that of Hestia, who is the focus of the family for warming, cooking, and imagination.
Norne the group has already generated positive buzz in their home country, and with a leader like Dusica, I'm sure it will be a success. Click on over and give the site a look.
My warmest wishes to you, Dusica and Norne, in your goal of reknitting the strands of people's lives into a thriving, loving community.