Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Belphoebe & Amoret

Yes, you read that right - Belphoebe, not Phoebe. Pronounced bell-FEE-bee. I must apologize in advance, because I studied English and could write a ten page paper on this name if I don't cut myself off. Edmund Spenser used Belphoebe in his allegorical poem The Faerie Queene, and he had great taste. In fact, he invented Belphoebe, as there is no other record of the name before that. The History of Christian Names (Yonge, 1884) lists the meaning as "far light," composed from Latin words, but The Spenser Encyclopedia tells us it is one part bel ("beautiful") and one part Phoebe, the so-called goddess of the moon, meaning "bright, radiant." which is more accurate when given her character and what Spenser modeled her on. Considering names used at the time, such as Christobel, the second meaning of Belphoebe is backed up. Spenser even said her name "refers to the goddess of chastity." To elaborate, Phoebe was a Titan associated with the moon and Diana/Artemis (Latin/Greek, respectfully) was goddess of the moon. In Spenser's Faerie Queene, Belphoebe is an Arthurian character very similar to the goddess Artemis, and intended to, in part, represent Queen Elizabeth I. She is strong and independent, a hermit-like hunter, and the picture of noble chastity, which was spot-on as a tribute to/version of Artemis and the Virgin Queen. Not to mention that Belphoebe and was adopted by the goddess Diana, so...

Belphoebe spends her time in the woods avoiding potential suitors and lusty men. She comes across a wounded squire of King Athur named Timias who had just avenged a damsel in distress, and Belphoebe heals him in her home (hut). When he wakes up he immediately falls in love with her. However, Belphoebe is so chaste and pure, intending to stay that way, that Timias cannot hope to win her over. It takes him a long time to win her love.

As described above, Belphoebe was directly based on the Queen and Artemis in character and the goddess Phoebe in name, but there were several names for "the moon goddess," in which many stories were told with the same basic idea. Two other moon goddess names from Greek and Roman myth are Selene (Greek) and Luna (Roman). Even Juno was sometimes identified as a moon goddess, and in most worldwide mythology, the sun and the moon are the foundation of the religion. Each moon goddess shares many aspects, but usually has one characteristic or something about her story that is just a little different than the other, and the story changes depending on who is telling it. For you smart cookies/nerds out there, the base plot of Sailor Moon was modeled on the story Endymion and Phoebe, also known as Endymion and Selene. It was told with Luna for the Romans, Selene for the Greeks. Endymion is credited with being the first man to study the moon. Selene fell in love with him as he fell asleep watching the stars, and visited him every night as he slept. She had fifty daughters by Endymion called the Menae, one of which was Pandora. I'm not quite sure how they had kids, considering Endymion was put into eternal sleep at Selene's request, since she said he looked so beautiful when he slept. In a different version of the story, the god Hypnos was jealous of Endymion's looks and cast a spell on him to sleep with his eyes open, so that creepy Hypnos could enjoy looking at his entire face.
Britomart and Amoret by Mary F. Raphael

Now, Belphoebe's twin sister Amoret has her own story, which takes less time to explain. They were twins of Chrysogone, born of immaculate conception (she was impregnated by sun beams...yeah). The goddess Diana adopted Belphoebe, and the goddess Venus adopted Amoret. Spenser uses the twins to represent "chaste love and virginity," each representing one virtue. Amoret was supposed to marry Scudamour but was kidnapped on her wedding night, then the female knight Britomart saves her. Where Belphoebe represents virginity, Amoret represents married love, or chaste love. She is also another portrayal of the Virgin Queen. She is loyal to the one she loves, eventually reunites with him, and they marry. Amoret means "little love," and likely that it is a Spenser-style variation of the Italian word amore, meaning love, with a possible French twist (the T at the end). Occasionally the name is spelled Amoretta, making it seem more Italian.

Amoret in the Garden of Adonis by John Dickson Batten

Overall, Belphoebe and Amoret are great antique finds that sounds fresh today, would fit right in, have literary value, and Belphoebe can also appease a love of both Belle and Phoebe at the same time, all while being legit. If anyone wants the link to the blog of one the only two living people I can find with the name Belphoebe, comment and I'll respond with it. In 2011 there were 14 baby girls named Amorette, no Amoret, and no Belphoebe. For the record, Whitepages said there's only one Belphoebe in the U.S. and 48 named Amoret. How's that for a rare name?



  1. totally know an Amorette - she also has a sister Diamond.

  2. I love both names, albeit Amoret a tad more. Great post.