Tuesday, September 08, 2015

September 8, 2015--Tīwesdæg and Feverer

I know it is not politically correct to claim we are a Christian nation.

But we are.

According to the Pew Center On Religion & Public Life, Christians (Protestants and Catholics) represent 70.6 percent of America's population; Jews 1.9 percent; Muslims 0.9 percent; Buddhists 0.7 percent; and Hindus also 0.7 percent.

Then there are varieties of non-believers: Agnostics 4.0 percent, Atheists 3.1 percent, "Nothing" 15.8 percent, and my favorite, "Don't Know," 0.6 percent.

But, still, by our founding and the numbers, like it or not, we are pretty much a Christian nation.

Except for one very important thing--in the names of our days and months. Pretty much all of them are named for Roman or Germanic gods. Pagan gods.

Take Tīwesdæg for example. It means "the day of Tiw," the Germanic god of war and the sky and is the obvious root of our Tuesday.

Then there is Frīgedæg, Old English for "day of Frigga," after another Germanic goddess Frigga, wife of the supreme god Odin and goddess of married love, which in turn became our Friday.

One more day name, also derived from Old English, this time a day with an astrological etymology--Sunnandæg, clearly meaning "day of the sun."

When we get to the months we fare no better as we are still far from our Judaeo-Christian roots.

Our shortest month, February, has an interesting origin. From the Middle English feverer, based on the Latin februarius, the name of a pagan purification feast held during this month.

And, our current month, September, descends from the Late Old English via Latin septum, which means  simply "seven,"our September originally having been the seventh month of the pre-Christian Roman year. Or octo, Latin for eight, and the root of October. With novem, Latin for nine as the basis for our November. All denote their place in the Roman calendar.

These latter three are not that fascinating but are indicative of the fact that none of the names of our months or days are derived from Christian, much less Judeo sources.

And, thus, when we wake up on a Mōnandæg, Old English for "day of the moon"; or on the Old English Thunresdæg, "day of thunder," named after Thor; or arise on the Old English Sæternesdæg derived from Latin, meaning "day of Saturn; these days and all the others as well as all of our months have pagan roots.

I confess to liking these etymologies (but then I fit in the Agnostic category), but why haven't we heard from evangelical fundamentals about this? Perhaps they are too busy focused on banning evolution from the curriculum and fighting same-sex marriage to get around to calendar matters.

I would think they would want one of our days to be Maryday, say, in place of Monday; Francisday for the current Friday; and even throw in one for the Jews, perhaps Shabbos instead of Saturday.

As for the months, I can see one named for Paul. and another for Luke. Luke, a forceful name so wintery and blustery could replace January (originally from the Latin Januarius, meaning the "month of Janus," who faced both ways and is thus the god who presided over beginnings. Nice.).

We could dump June (Middle English derived from the Old French juin ultimately from Latin junius, meaning "scared to [the goddess] Juno") and alliteratively replace it with Judas.

I know, a nonstarter.

And then, what about April? Since it is the cruelest month why not the month of Job? But since April, or the Latin Aprilis, is the only month or day for that matter that has a mysteriously unknown derivation maybe we should just leave it alone. Let April be April. Among other things, as a reminder of our pagan origins. And current literally day-to-day reality.

Happy Tīwesdæg.

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