The ancient polytheistic faiths
were well-stocked with deities
, and so a considerable degree of veneration
towards an especially small handful was required for that group to become the limited set for which entire days of the week would be dedicated
, week in and week out -- much less entire months of the year. Modernly, then, it presents something of a surprise that in our monotheism-dominated theistic traditions, we continue to venerate the ancient gods -- who would be classed as 'pagan
' by the current dominant faiths -- by retaining their honorific name days
. And yet, with every pronouncement of the names of certain days of the week and months of the year, we sub rosa
declare fealty to the gods for whom those divisions of time have been dedicated.
The Days of the Week:
So let us begin with the days of the week. In the English language, Sunday
, the first day of the week, is the Day of the Sun
(and, we must remember that earlier generations believed the Sun itself to be a God, requiring veneration lest it be angered and hide its face). Likewise Monday
, the second day of the week, is Moon Day, the Day of the Moon
(as well, once classed as a god). This is most apparent in Romance languages where the name is Lundi (evoking Moon goddess Luna
) or some variation on that theme. Those two done, we get to the most interesting run of days.
, the third day, is Tue's Day, named in worship of the the Norse God of War
, whose name is variously translated as Tiu or Tyr. This is an interesting artifact from the Teutonic influence on English, for in the Romance languages the second day is more often something akin to Mardi -- the Day of Mars
, War God of the Roman pantheon. Literally, then, Mardi Gras
translates to 'The Fat Day belonging to Tyr.'
The fourth day, Wednesday
, is Woden's Day, named in worship of Woden (or in other translations, Wodan or Odin
), God of the Sky
and (like his Greek and Roman parallels Zeus
of the Norse Gods. An oddity is that in Romance languages, the fourth day is named for the Roman messenger God Mercury
, not at all analogous to a God-King -- though it is suggested that the equivalency is through Mercury's role as a messenger, and Odin's ravens being messengers as well.
The fifth day is Thursday
, Thunor's Day or the Day of Thor
, named in worship of the Norse God of thunder
(and frequent Marvel Comics
character). This explains the oddity of Wednesday going to God-King Odin in English and messenger-God Mercury in Romance languages, for it is this day which in Romance languages is named for God-King Jupiter
); reason being that in Greek and Roman myth, that God was the one which not only ruled the sky, but hurled the thunder as well.
, the sixth day, is Frige's Day (or Freya's or Freyja's or Friga's or Frigg's, whichever works), in worship of the Norse Love
Goddess. There is another slight misalignment here, for Frige was the loyal wife of Odin, while the Romance analogue would be Juno, the not-so-loyal wife of Jupiter, who gets no day (don't worry, she gets taken care of later); instead, the Romance day name is Veneris, for Venus
(herself sometimes claimed as a daughter
of Jupiter, and other times of Cronus
), who was the Love Goddess of that group.
And finally there is the odd man out of Saturday
, the seventh day. It is Saturn
's Day, named in worship of Saturn
, the Roman God of the Harvest
-- analogous to Greek Cronus
(for whom popular legend errantly holds that timekeeping itself -- chronography
-- is named). This is the only day whose English name worships a Roman God. And, it is as well particularly strange in relation to the Romance languages' naming of this day for the Sabbath
, it being the day which the Judeo-Christian Bible
commands as a Day of Worship (though virtually all adherents to faiths of that book now ignore that commandment, except for Seventh Day Adventists
The Months of the Year:
Even the word month
is claimed (dubiously) by some to be named for an Theban deity, Munt. But it is not at all dubious that many other months were and are named for deities of other realms -- or, even, for men venerated as deities. To begin with there is January
, the Month of Janus
, named in worship of that Roman God of Gates
with his two watchful faces to see all comings and goings; such was the authority given to Janus over beginnings that all men in his days of prominence would pray first to him before making their dedications to another God, so as to gain favour in the venture of beginning the prayer to the other God.
, a traditional Roman period of purification
, gave name to February
, but March
is named in unmitigated worship of Mars
, the War God -- and note above how the Romance cultures give already Tuesdau, Mardi, to Mars, so that a Tuesday in March is the Day of Mars in the Month of Mars.
, like February, is named for no God, but simply reflects the Latin apeire, 'to open.' But May
is named in worship of Maia
, a Roman Earth-Goddess with provenance over Spring time planting of the harvest, roughly equivalent to the Greek Demeter
. And remember how poor Juno was passed over in naming the days of the week? Well, she worshipfully keeps a whole month in June
are special cases. The Roman heads of state
tended to try to put themselves on the godhood pedestal, and two of them, Julius Caesar
and Augustus Caesar
, were so successful in this venture that they ended up being worshipped with months named in their honor, July
for Julius and August
for Augustus. But messing with the calendar was nothing new to the Romans, whose previous shifting around of the months led to the off-count names of the remaining four months: the ninth month September
(literally Latin meaning 'seventh month'); tenth month October
('eighth month'); eleventh month November
('ninth month'); and twelfth month December
('twelfth month'). So, not only do we maintain the worship of the two great Caesars in their month names, but we continue to call, for example, the twelfth month the tenth, for the long-dead convenience
of Roman calendar-modifiers.
One final point of interest takes us back to the Spring, when some of us hold a holiday
originally named in worship of the Germanic Goddess of Springtime, Eostre
, modernly spelled what else but Easter
-- an oddity reflected in the fact that the English and Germanic languages alone names this holiday for the Goddess, Romance languages using variations of pesach -- Passover
And on into the future:
And so, in passing from Odin's Day to Thor's Day, and from the Month of Augustus to the once 'Seventh Month,' we must continue to consider in wonderment that on most days of the week and many months of the year we acknowledge the power of an ancient God simply by noting the name of that date. And all the while, there remains no weekday nor month named for those monotheistic deities currently in vogue, nor any suggestion that these ancient Gods ought to be at all usurped from their traditional thrones of day and month dedication.