Months of the Year
When the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve and December
Passes into January, we say farewell to the year just gone and we hail the New Year ahead. It is fitting that first month should be called January, for the Roman god Janus who gave this month its name was always represented with two faces, one that gazed at the past and one that looked to the future. However, before the name January was adopted in English, this month was called Wulf-Monath, or “wolf-month”, because at this time of the year the bitter cold brought wolves into the villages to forage for food.
The middle of the month of February was marked in ancient Rome for a religious ceremony in which women were beaten for barrenness. This was called the festival of Lupercalia and was held in a cave by the river Tiber. Two youths were selected to play the leading role in the celebration. After the goats were sacrificed, thongs were cut from their hides and given to the youths.these thongs were called februa, or “instruments of purification”, and should they strike a women, she would no longer be barren. The two young men in question would run around the city with the sacred thongs and give smart and “curative” slaps to any barren girls they saw. No one knows just how they knew whom to hit although the barrenness of a women would probably be common knowledge in any village. However this may be, the magic power of the thongs came from Juno, whose epithet as the goddess of fertility was Februaria, and from this word we took the name of our month. February had 29 days, but the Roman Senate took one away and gave it to August, so that August would not be inferior to July. It’s a long step down from all this romance to the original native name for February. The factual English simply called it SProte-kalemonath because the cabbages were sprouting.
Before the time of Julius Caesar, the Roman New Year began with the month of Marth. This was not only the beginning of the year but was the open spring season for the waging of war, so the month was dedicated to mars, the god of war, and was named sfter him. Its Old English name was Hlyd-Monath, that is, “boisterous-month”, because of the winds. And, by the way , the expression “mad as a March hare “ comes from the fact that March is the mating season for hares, and are supposedly full of whimsy all month.
This was the month of the first flowers in ancient Italy, as it is with us, and the opening spring buds gave the month its name. The Rome name was Aprilis, based on the Latin word aperio with means “open”. The early Britons, on the other hand, lacked the poetry of the Mediterrancen. They rather flat-footedly called April Easter-Monath, or “Easter-month”, Of course, April brings in April Fool’s Day, and this recalls the festivities held by all ancient peoples at the vernal equinox, beginning on their New Year’s Day, March 25th, and ending on April 1st . It was not until the 18th century in Great Britain that April Fool’s Day, as we know it, was created. The theory about this day traces the tradition back to the medieval miracle plays that used to represent the sending of Christ from Pilate to Herod.
This is when “the time of the singing birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land”. Sir Thomas Malory called it “the lusty moneth of May”. It is strange that the romantic time of May has always been considered unlucky for marriage. The Romans objected to it for the quite understandable reason that it contained the feast in honor of Bona Dea who was the goddess of chastity. Also the festival of the unhappy dead fell in the month of May. The name May, in Latin, Maius, is believed by many to have come from Maia who was the mother of the god Hermes. The native English had a less romantic but much more practical name for the month . They called it Thrimilce because , in the long , spring days , the cows could be milked three time between sunrise and evening .
This name is probably form Junius , the name of Latin family to which the murderers of Julius
Caesar belonged . Some scholars believe , however , that the name June came form the goddess Juno who was the protectress of women since June has been the favorite month for marriages all the way down form earliest Rome . It can be that the ancient taboos against May marriages are responsible for our modern June rush to the altar . The English name for June was Sere-Monath . or “dry-month .”
The name of this month was proposed by Mark Antony , the Roman general and famous lover of Cleopatra . Antony suggested that this birthday month of Caius Julius Casesar be named Julius in his honor , and the name came into use the year of Caesar’s assassination . In English , the spelling became first Julie , then July . But before the English adopted the Latin name , they had called the month Mad-Monath , or “meadow-month ,” since the meadows were in bloom and the cattle were in pasture .
Octavian ,the first Roman emperor ,was the nephew of Julius Caesar , and longed to gain the fame and power of his uncle . He wanted , among other things , to have a month named after him . His birthday was in September , but he selected what is now known as August , for this particular month had been a fortunate one in his career . The Senate had given Octavian the official title of Augustus in honor of his distinguished sercices to the state , so the month he had chosen became Augistus , which we have shortened to August . The prosy and downright English had called this the Weod-Monath , or “weed-month ,” although , in fairness , the word “weed” yhen applied to greenery in general .
Inasmush as the Roman year originally started in March ,September was their seventh month , and the name is taken from the Latin word septem which meant “seven .”When the calendar was changed and September became the ninth month , the name was not altered . Charlemagne , who was Emperor of the West at the beginning of the 9th century , refused to accept the Roman name and called September the “harvest-month .”England followed suit , and for a long time September was konwen as Harfest-Monath .The harvest then was largely barley , which the thirsty English promptly converted into ale .
This is the season when the smoke of burning leaves is apt to be in the air . Even the Roman poet Martial called October “fumosus ,” or “smoky ,” because the time for lighting fires was at hand . Officially though , the name remained October from the Latin octo , “eight ,” for this month was the eighth on the list before the calendar was altered . The Roman general Germanicus Caesar wanted the month named after him , but he never got very far with his wish . The English first gave the name Win-Monath , or “wine-month ,” to October , and probably a little elderberry wine and such were concocted , but the real preoccupation was the “Brown October Ale “ that we still sing about today .
Since the Emperor Augustus had his month and Julius Caesar his , the polite and politic Romans thought it only proper to propose that November be renamed for the Emperor Tiberius . But Tiberius objected and said rather wittily , “What will you do if you have eleven Caesars?” So the name remained Novernber , from the Latin novem ,”nine .” To the forthright English November was the Blot-Monath , or “sacrifice-month” as it was the time when the heathen Anglo-Saxons
sacrificed cattle to their gods . Sometimes they also called it the Wind-Monath , for obvious reasons .
Lucius Aelius Aurelius Commodus , Emperor of Rome toward the end of the 2nd century , once asked his mistress how she would like to see her name on the calendar . “Amazonius ,” was the name the emperor had in mind ,since the lady had once been painted as an Amazon , but the Senate was not sympathetic and apparently told him to gao watch the gladiators and lions instead . So December went on being called by its old name from decem , “ten,” since December was originally the tenth month . The common name among the English for December was Mid-Winter-Monath , although the Christians of the day called it Haligh-Monath , or “Holy-Month ,”because of birth of Christ .
In mythology ,, the moon was the wife of the sun , and so had to have her day in the week , which in Old English was Monandag , or “moon day ,” a translation of the Latin lunae dies ,”day of the moon .” In the superstitious England of theose times people believed that the phases of the moon affected crops and disthe potency medicine , and they were sure too that bacon killed on the old of the moon would shrivel in the pan .
In Norse mythology there was a god named Tyr . A wolf spirit called Fenrir was troubling the world and Tyr volunteered to bind him . He used a chain made of strange substances , the footstep of a cat , the beards of women , the roots of stones , the breath of fishes . Tyr put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth and bound him , but his hand , in the , was bitten off . In Old English the god’s name Tyr appears as Tiw . He was really a Germanic deity , one very much like Mars , the Roman god of war , and his name gave us the Old English word Tiwesdag ,”the day of Tiw ,” OUR Tuesday , which is a rendering of the Latin dies martis , “day of Mars .”
In Old English Wednesday was spelled Wodnesdag , which was the day of the great Germanic god Woden , who corresponded to the Roman divinity Mercury . Both were swift in movement and noted for their eloquence . Woden was the father of Tyr ,who gave us the name Tuesday , and was the god of storms . He welcomed brave warriors to the heaven of Valhalla and treated them to the pleasures that they most loved on earth . He also slew Chaos and created earth from his body , his flesh making the dry land , his bones the mountains , his blood the sea , his Mercurii dies , the “day of Mercury ,” and the French took this over as Mercredi , their name for Wednesday . THURSDAY
Thor was the strongest and bravest of the Norse deities , and corresponded in the heavenly hierarchy to the Roman god Jupiter , who also handled the lightning bolts . Thor , you see , was the god of thunder which he made with a chariot drawn by he-goats across the sky .Thor owned a massive hammer which the giant Thrym once stole from him and refused to give up unless Freya , the goddess of love , would marry him . Thor dressed up in her clothes wheedled the hammer from Thrym , and then slugged his host . It was the name of this same Thor that formed the Old English word thuresdag , or Thursday , “the day of Thor ,” which equals the Roman dies jives , or “day of Jupiter .”
In Old English , Friday was frigedag , the day of the Norse goddess Frigg , wife of Woden and the
goddess Venus , and her day , Friday , was like the Latin dies Veneris , or “day of Venus .”Wednesday and Thursday had been named for her husband Woden and her son Thor , so Friday was assigned to her as appeasement . The Norsemen regarded Friday as their luxky day , but not so the Christians since the Crucifixion took place on Friday .
In Old English saternesdag , merely “Saturn’s day ,” is half-translation and half-adoption of the Latin Saturni dies , or “day of Saturn ,” the Roman god of sowing .
Sunday replaced Saturday as the Sabbath because the Resurrection took place on a Sunday .It was around the 4th century that the church made it a holiday and forebade anyone to work . In old English it was spelled sunnandag , literally the “sun’s day ,” a translation of the Latin dies solis , or “day of the sun .”