Art by Elsa Beskow

Origin: Finnish
Gender: Male
Meaning: "Bear"
Pronunciation: ott-SOH
Other Forms: N/A

Today's name is a favorite nature name of mine -- Otso!

In Finnish mythology, Otso, also sometimes called Ohto, Kontio, mesikämmen (honeypalm), or metsän kuningas (the king of the forest), is a bear spirit that is never given an official name. Some traditions remembered the bear spirit as a relative that fled into the forest and was transfigured by its powers. If a bear was to be killed, a sacred ritual called Peijainen was performed, wherein a feast was held for a slain animal. It's skull, which was believed to house its spirit, would then be kept in a sacred clearing, where it would bring tributes to it. The bear was the most revered figure in ancient Finnish culture.

Throughout history bears have been both worshipped and feared. In several Native American cultures, the bear is a symbol of rebirth because of its long hibernation and eventual re-emergence. In North America and some northern Asian cultures, it was associated with shamans, possibly because of their relative solitude. Thus, they are sometimes believed to be able to predict the future.

Artio, also known as Dea Artio, was an ancient Celtic bear goddess, though little is known about her. The Greek goddess Artemis was sometimes thought to take on a bear form, and there was even a specific cult to her in this form, in which young girls would pass an initiation rite called arktoi. They would then become "she-bears".

A wonderful symbol of strength, I think a name meaning "bear" is beautiful for a little boy, in any form, but this one would be especially poetic for a person with ties to Finland.

What are your thoughts on Otso?


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