The Entrance of Abraxas

baby name, abraxas, 1970s, music, album
Abraxas (1970) by Santana

In August of 1969, Latin rock band Santana played a career-launching set at Woodstock and (a few weeks later) released its debut album, Santana.

In September of 1970, the band followed up with a second album, Abraxas, which included the popular songs “Black Magic Woman” and “Oye Como Va.”

Abraxas ended up becoming the #1 album in the U.S. for six weeks at the end of 1970. The very next year, right on cue, the baby name Abraxas debuted in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1973: unlisted
  • 1972: unlisted
  • 1971: 5 baby girls named Abraxas [debut]
  • 1970: unlisted
  • 1969: unlisted

Where did the name of the album come from?

Carlos Santana discovered it in Hermann Hesse’s 1919 novel Demian, which he quoted in the liner notes of the album:

We stood before it and began to freeze inside from the exertion. We questioned the painting, berated it, made love to it, prayed to it: We called it mother, called it whore and slut, called it our beloved, called it Abraxas…

In the book, Hesse used Abraxas — an obscure Gnostic deity — as a symbol of unity/totality, saying that Abraxas contained “both the bright world and the dark world,” and combined “the godlike and the devilish.” (He contrasted Abraxas with Jehovah, who represented only divine things — the rest being “ascribed to the Devil” and “swept under the table and buried in silence.”)

Little is known about the Gnostic god, and the etymology/origin of “Abraxas” remains a mystery (though we do know that the original spelling was “Abrasax.”)

After debuting in 1971, the name dropped back out of the SSA data and didn’t return until the 2010s — this time as a boy name.

While we’re talking about Santana, I’ll also mention that the baby name Santana started seeing higher usage for both baby boys and baby girls in the early ’70s, thanks to the band’s success.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Abraxas? How about Santana?

P.S. A few years after Abraxas came out, Carlos Santana, as Devadip Carlos Santana, created the album Illuminations with Turiya Alice Coltrane.

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