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Days of the week

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Stressed parent
45322.  Thu Jan 12, 2006 5:42 pm Reply with quote

I found this which may be QI

Origin of the Seven-Day Week
For a long time in human history, people thought that our Earth was flat, and at the universe's center. They believed that all celestial objects circled around us.
Some Mediterranian peoples also believed that each hour of the day was ruled by either the Sun, Moon or one of five then-known planets. The sequence in which they thought hours were governed was the inverse order of distance they perceived these objects to be from Earth.
During this time, Egyptians thought that the most distant (using English names) was Saturn, then closer were Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and closest, the Moon. So they believed that the first hour was ruled by Saturn, the second by Jupiter and so on.

The source is from a school website and mentions much more.[/url]

45332.  Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:38 pm Reply with quote

The table at

makes the link to the day names a lot clearer but there is a schism. Thursday is named for Thor, god of thunder, strength etc but not the chief deity who was Odin after whom Wednesday is named. Mercury would be a lot closer to Loki (making Wednesday ‘Lokiday’) and Jupiter would be closer to Odin (making Thursday Wednesday) obviously the prevalent inclination in Britain at the time was ‘nuts to that’.

I’m guessing but does the German ‘Mittwoch’ mean mid-week?

45333.  Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:41 pm Reply with quote

It does, Celebaelin.

45334.  Thu Jan 12, 2006 6:55 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
It does, Celebaelin.

As I would have realised if I'd read the whole of the article before posting!

The table in the wiki article is quite revealing about how unusual English, German and Old High German are in not following this pattern.

45417.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 7:35 am Reply with quote

This is a very interesting area. All the most QI things are those things that are right under our noses (and I'm not necessarily talking moustaches).

To ask a question about something blindingly commonplace is a great step to be able to take.

Slightly related, but in China, they have no names for months (a very westernised idea), so instead they call March '3-month' and August '8-month' etc. It does make it easy to remember the names...

45420.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 7:43 am Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
but there is a schism. Thursday is named for Thor, god of thunder, strength etc but not the chief deity who was Odin after whom Wednesday is named. Mercury would be a lot closer to Loki (making Wednesday ‘Lokiday’) and Jupiter would be closer to Odin (making Thursday Wednesday) obviously the prevalent inclination in Britain at the time was ‘nuts to that’.

I don't think this needs to be much of a schism. Thor and Jupiter are close in that they are both thunder gods, so it is quite logical to have the same day named after them. Mercury, I agree, seems a lot closer to Loki, but the Romans, at least, may not have seen it that way. Both Mercury and Woden (or Odin) were concerned with death, I think, which I seem to recall is the reason for a link that was made in antiquity. Tacitus, in his Germania says that the chief god of the Germans is Mercury, and he must have been referring to Woden when he said this. This also makes Jupiter/Woden identifications less likely, clearing the path for Thor and his thunderbolts.

45432.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 8:09 am Reply with quote

It all gets frightfully muddled. Odin's one eye was the result of a sacrifice for wisdom/precognition but the one eye of Balor and the subsequent incarnations of Belenos/Beli Mawr and to a certain extent Lugh are all associated with lightning (I'm thinking of Lugh's spear which is also connected with Lugh's Sling ie the Milky Way). Boss god connotations anyway.

The function of Hermes as a psychopomp (a guide to lead the souls of the dead to the underworld) is distinct from the function of Odin as reciever of the dead fallen in battle to the hall of Valhalla although

Less is known about the role of Odin as receiver of the dead among the more southern Germanic tribes. The Roman historian Tacitus probably refers to Odin when he talks of Mercury. The reason is that, like Mercury, Odin was regarded as Psychopompos, "the leader of souls".

For the Anglo-Saxons, Woden was the carrier-off of the dead, but not necessarily with the attributes of Norse Odin - there do not appear to have been the concepts of Valkyries and Valhalla in the Norse sense, although there is a word for the former, Waelcyrge. Woden is also the leader of the Wild Hunt.

The Woden/wild hunt stuff is interesting, it seems to be a comment on the Odin version of "Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam" but that would still imply a closer link for Woden with Mars or Saturn with only the psychopomp aspect to link to Mercury. Perhaps there was a more cynical idea about "where you go when you're dead" in the Anglo-Saxon concept.

45453.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:14 am Reply with quote

Gosh, this is all more complicated than I remembered. I've been forced to get a few facts, now, rather than rely on an imperfect memory. Damn you and your efficient research.

Right, non -psychopompic Woden/Odin/Mercury links are as follows, and are culled from Gods and Myths of Northern Europe, by H.R. Ellis Davidson.

They all wore hats. (Not one that Davidson puts much importance on, but I quite liked it).

Mercury was a god of trade, and Roman period German inscriptions to Mercury bear titles such as Mercator and Negotiator. Odin's Scandinavian titles include Farmantyr, which means "god of cargoes", apparently.

Mercury was associated with learning, and Odin/Woden was credited with the invention of runic letters. There is another suggestion of ancient identification here, as "Mercurius the Giant" is given the credit for this in the Old English poem "Solomon and Saturn".

Mercury had his winged sandals and got about a bit, and Woden/Odin also travelled a lot, on Sleipnir and in the various stories about him turning up disguised as a human. This one seems a bit weaker to me, but I duly report it, nonetheless.

Hope this all makes more sense of Woden/Odin as Mercury, even if links to other deities seem more convincing. The Romans were funny like that.

45454.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 10:34 am Reply with quote

Going the other direction, who did the Romans believe created mankind.
The Vikings believed that Loki, not Odin created mankind.
Loki was the god of men
Frey was the god of elves
Odin was the god of gods

45460.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:01 am Reply with quote

I thought the Roman Jupiter was the equivalent of the Greek Zeus - ie the Boss God.

45461.  Fri Jan 13, 2006 11:04 am Reply with quote

I could not find any particular one being that is credited with man's creation in Greco-Roman Myth. However, Prometheus stole fire to give man knowledge of medicine, astronomy, metal working, navigation and other crafts. He is sometimes credited with creating man from the Earth, and using the fire he stole to give man intelligence and creativity.




Colonel Krummhorn
45811.  Sun Jan 15, 2006 12:58 pm Reply with quote

The French days of the week best reflect the relation to the planets.

lundi - Moon, Luna
mardi - Mars
mercredi - Mercury
jeudi - Jupiter
vendredi - Venus

The weekend goes a bit odd (samedi and dimanche), but all is saved with the English weekend...

Saturday - Saturn
Sunday - Sun

Only Monday in English seems to directly reflect the moon aspect. It is the same in German with Monday as Montag and Sunday as Sonntag, the Saturday is the like the French with the 'sam', samedi and Samstag.

Does anyone know why the 'sam' is there?

45813.  Sun Jan 15, 2006 1:54 pm Reply with quote

There are cases of the b in "Sabbatum" (Sabbath) eventually becoming an m, so the 'Sam' of Samedi and Samstag could be traced back to 'Sambati dies' from which the old French 'Sambedi' was derived.

There's quite a thorough article looking at the various origins here.

Colonel Krummhorn
46043.  Mon Jan 16, 2006 1:44 pm Reply with quote

Thankies very much so. It looks quite interesting. I shall read it when I have a little more time upon my hands.

46325.  Tue Jan 17, 2006 12:28 pm Reply with quote

No problem!


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