Yesterday I got carried away talking about Leap Year and the old calendar customs that we have kept in our era. I discussed Friday (Frigga) and Thursday (Thor’s Day), two wild and crazy gods. The three interpretations of Sunday (Sun’s day), Monday (Moon’s day) and Saturday (Saturn’s day) are easy to reason out.
Most of these ancient gods chosen to honor for our months and days were Norse gods, and their lives, loves and exploits merged into Germanic gods and Roman gods. The names changed slightly and the exploits grew larger.
Tuesday comes from tiwesdaeg, the day of Tiw, the Norse god of combat, victory and heroic glory. The Roman Latin translated this god into Mars so you may choose either for the 2nd day of the week. Wednesday, Wodnesdaeg, is named for the god, Woden. Now I like this dude because he was seen as a manifestation of ecstasy, associated with manic states, fury, and poetic inspiration…yeah, baby.
So there are the gods of each of our days in the week. The months are really strange names too.
January is the celebration of the god, Janus. He is the god of beginnings so that makes sense to start the year off. February is named for Februa, the ritual of purification that would take place during the full moon. It used to be the last month of the year until 450BC and it was moved to 2nd. If you had a birthday in 450BC you got two presents two months apart…cool. March was named for Mars or Ares, the Greek god of war. For the Romans, it was the first month of spring and the start of another military season to increase the size of the empire. April is of course named for Aphrodite, the goddess of love. She was another Greek god and the Romans changed her name to Aprillus. The Anglo-Saxon nations called this month Eoster-month. The goddess Eoster died, descended into hades, and rose again 3 days later. We now pronounce that Easter and the Pope decided that would be a great idea to call the occasion of the Christ rising after 3 days. May is named for Maia, the Greek god of fertility. The Latin for that month is Maius mensis and now we see how that’s all connected to our modern language. June is for good old Juno, the Queen of all the gods. Her husband was Jupiter. She was the goddess of marriage and in ancient times it was considered good fortune to marry in her month. Are you getting the picture of our modern traditions?
July was first called Quintillis (5th month) but it was moved in the 5th century to the 7th month and Augustus named it July to honor Julius Caesar. August is even more complicated. It was originally called Sextillis, because it was the 6th month until the 9th century. That’s when January and February were added to the calendar and Sextillis changed to August, named for the Emperor Augustus.
So, the calendar went from 10 months a year to 12. However the last four months of the original year were not changed so here we go.
September (our 9th month) means 7th month. October (our 10th month) means 8th month. November (our 11th month) means 9th month, and December (our 12th month) means 10th month.
Enjoy this extra day of the year today and appreciate evolution. Even though we’ve come a long way, we’re still deeply connected to our ancestors.