Shiny... (and Happy Wednesday!)

Afternoon, all.

Odin has decided to honour His day by sending us His book, freshly sent by the printers. Pretty...

Which has also started a bit of a Twitter conversation about the origin of this most auspicious of days. So your editor has been doing a bit of reading...

Interestingly, the majority of north-European and Germanic languages call this day "Odin's Day" (or Oðinn/Woden/Wotan or whatever you call him), including English (Wednes = Woden's), while German, Icelandic (which I'll admit surprised the Hell outta me), and a load of eastern-European languages call it, roughly, "Midweek" or "Centre-day." French, Spanish and a load of south-European languages, meanwhile, call it "Mercury's Day."

Fair enough, you may think. Northern Europeans have Germanic ancestors, while southern Europeans have Roman ancestors.

But check it out. There's a direct correlation:

Tuesday (after Tiw/Tyr, the Germanic god of war) is to Mardi (after Mars, the Roman god of war)
as Thursday (after Thunor/Thor, the Germanic god of thunder) is to Jeudi (after Jove, the Roman god of thunder)
and Friday (after Friga/Frigga, the Germanic goddess of fertility) is to Vendredi (after Venus, the Roman goddess of fertility).

So what's the connection between Mercury the Swift, nipping about and taking the piss, the original cheeky chappy of Roman myth, and Odin the Gallows God, the somberest, meanest mo-fo in the Germanic pantheon?

They're both psychopomps. That is, both are considered responsible for the souls of the dead.

Some medieval scholar comparing the two religions decided that the Germans basically worshipped the same gods as the Greeks and Romans (which everyone believed all the way back to Tacitus, to be fair), and the Germans had just gotten confused and put Mercury in charge and consigned Jupiter to second-string. Somewhere along the line, this got enshrined in the two week-naming schemes. Probably by the Church, I dunno.

Cool, huh?

The really weird punchline is that the English week preserves the Roman god Saturn on the day the French (and pretty much everyone else's) week honours the Sabbath (Samedi is apparently "Sabbath-Day"). So with our four German gods, we get one Roman god, on a day the Romans don't even remember him any more...

Anyway, just thought I'd share that with you.



Weirdmage said...

...And in Norway we have Lørdag, from Laugardag, or washing day.
-So how is Saturn connected with washing did you say? :-P

-Just kidding, interesting post. And an interesting conversation over on Twitter.

-Oh, we also have mandag-månedag (Moon Day) and søndag-soldag (Sun Day-actually søn is pronounced exactly like sun).

Yagiz said...

Very interesting indeed.

David Moore said...

As we have Sunday and Mo(o)nday, of course. And the Dutch, the Germans, the Danes, the Icelanders, and a load of others are with us.

The French have Lundi (Lune-di, or Moon-day), but their name for Sunday is Dimanche, which I'm informed translates as "Day of the Lord" (somehow derived from "Dominica"). They got most of the other Romance languages with them on that.

Eastern Europe goes all weird on us, here. You get some cool moments, like the Russian "Day of Resurrection," but most of them refer to Sunday as "Do-Nothing Day," and Monday as "(The Day) After Do-Nothing Day." I guess that's pretty direct.

Mieneke van der Salm said...

Yup as David said we have zondag and maandag too. And our Saturday is zaterdag, so I'm guessing that's Saturn related too. And it was a fun convo on Twitter indeed, always nice to learn something new!