Helena Frith Powell (pictured) says she draws the line at naming a child after the devil
By Helena Frith Powell
When our son was born, I tried to get several ridiculous names past my husband: Raphael, Salvador, Angelo, even Gabriel. But not at any moment in my postpartum confusion did it occur to me to suggest Lucifer.
I admit it has a certain melodic quality. It trips off the (forked) tongue quite nicely. But the fact that my child would be sharing the name with Satan would have put me off.
Yet, according to the Office for National Statistics, 15 women in England and Wales named their child Lucifer last year. I know 2020 was a bad one, but the fact Lucifer is now more popular than Nigel, Trevor and Gordon is shocking.
Do these 15 women know the origins of the name? Or are they just basing their choice on the pretty dismal Netflix TV show?
I was at university with a friend called Arthur. He was so embarrassed by his name that when friends called out to him in the street, he would look around as if to say, ‘Who’s the poor sod with that silly name?’
Funnily enough, Arthur has shot up 200 places in the past 20 years and is now number three on the list of most popular boys’ names, after Oliver and George.
Imagine calling Lucifer in a crowded supermarket. I, for one, would run for cover. Or what about in church? At a christening or in cherished wedding vows at the altar? That would be sacrilegious.
When our daughter Bea was given a furry toy dog as a confirmation present, she named it Lucifer as a joke, since this was meant to be the day she renounced evil for good.
But if you search on the internet for Lucifer, all you get is the TV show starring the devilishly handsome Tom Ellis.
Imagine calling out ‘Lucifer!’ in a supermarket
There is no mention of John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost published in 1667, which also stars a flawed hero. Hailed as the greatest English poem ever written, Lucifer rebels against the tyranny of Heaven, declaring it is ‘better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven’.
I have nothing against unusual names. Although my husband vetoed my choices for our son, he did end up with an uncommon name inspired by a real hero: Leonardo.
But I draw the line at naming a child after the devil. Especially a boy who would presumably have to answer to the shortened form, Lucy.
For while a rose by any other name might smell as sweet, a child called Satan is just wrong.
Kate Spicer (pictured) argues the word Lucifer does not hold the reflexive horror it once did
By Kate Spicer
Growing up, I had a cat called Lucifer. In the 1980s, the word had strong associations with Satan. But also with Disney.
We didn’t think our dear little black puss was the personification of evil or a witch’s familiar. Our Lucifer was named after the cat in the animated film of Cinderella.
Back then, the word Lucifer was a spooky thrill for teenage boys who scared themselves by doing Ouija boards in their bedrooms and by listening to the music of Judas Priest and Motorhead backwards (apparently the source of hidden Satanic lyrics, as any school kid of the time knew).
But the way we think about both language and religion is constantly evolving. The word Lucifer does not hold the reflexive horror it once did when we were a significantly more God (and devil)-fearing society.
If your reference points are Dante’s Inferno and the King James Bible, you probably won’t choose Lucifer as your child’s name.
But if you enjoy British actor Tom Ellis in the TV show of that name, and skipped RE classes at school, you wouldn’t think twice.
It’s time it had a rebrand — no one’s a total angel
The origins of the word and name Lucifer are ancient, and varied. In Roman folklore, Lucifer was the name of the planet Venus, known as the morning star. In 4th-century Italy, there were bishops with the name. Its actual meaning as a word is ‘light bringer’.
It is not a word exclusive to the Bible. The first baby Lucifer was not the fallen angel that became the devil. That’s just an opinion, and we all know how very wrong interpretations of religious texts can be. In fact, it’s about time Lucifer had a rebrand. No one’s a total angel.
Most of us aren’t scared of the occult any more, we know what it is. Just superstition.
Witchcraft doesn’t hold the same horror it once did either; indeed, since a very justifiable rebrand by feminist historians, we know the witches of history were mostly persecuted herbalists and healers.
So let’s grow the hell up (no pun intended) and bring Lucifer back into our lives.
There is always a rash of babies blessed with weird names after a popular TV show. Remember the number of baby Chardonnays in the wake of Footballers’ Wives (51 in 2003, 65 if you include the misspelt Chardonays).
Rather Lucifer than Chardonnay, any day. It’s simply not the devil of a name any more.