The Suitcase Lady


September 17, 2013, 9:06 pm

The week is a human invention. Years, seasons, months and days are not our creations. Earth’s orbit around the sun, earth’s tilted axis, moon’s orbit around earth and earth’s rotation exist without us mortals.

What pressing need caused our species to invent the week? The best hypothesis is a simple one….shopping. The phrase “born to shop” is not newly minted. The ancient Babylonians needed another division of time, longer than a day yet shorter than a month. They needed a measure of time between market days. Seven days was their choice. West Africans held a market every four days so their week was four days long. The Romans had an eight day week but dropped it in the fourth century in favor of a seven day one.

People can’t resist naming everything in their sphere, so once the week was invented, the days were named. The first day is literally the sun’s day or Sunday. Early civilizations worshipped the sun, an understandable belief since we would all be nonexistent without it.

The moon gets day number two. The Romans called the day “lunae dies” or moon’s day. The Saxons in the Middle Ages called it Moneday.

Tuesday, day number three, was believed by the Babylonians and Romans to be ruled by Mars, the god of war. Many European countries still invoke Mars: Mardi in French, Martes in Spanish and Martedi in Italian. We English speakers get the Saxon version from “Tiu” the Saxon god of war. Tuesday started out as Tiwesdaeg.

Day four, Wednesday, gets more complicated. The Romans called it “dies mercurie” or Mercury’s day. It remains Mercury’s day in French, Mercredi; Spanish, Miercoles and Italian, Mercoledi. The Germans sensibly call it Mittwoch or midweek. English speakers get to honor the chief god of the Anglo Saxons, Woden, on Wednesday.

Think of thunder on Thursday. The Romans gave the day to Jupiter, the ruler of all the gods and the god of thunder. The Anglo Saxons chose powerful Thor, also the god of thunder, who brought rain to their crops. The Normans called Thor “Thur” getting us to Thursday.

On day six, we finally get the feminine perspective. The Romans dedicated it to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty. Venus remains in the French, Venredi; Spanish, Viernes and Italian, Venerdi. The Anglo Saxons went for love as well, naming the day after Frigga, the goddess of married love, housewives, sky and clouds. Frigga was Woden’s wife and was responsible for spreading knowledge and justice.

The seventh and last day of the week belongs to the Roman god Saturn, father to Jupiter, Pluto, Neptune and Juno. Saturn remains firmly lodged in our word Saturday.

I’m grateful to the ancients for fabricating the week and giving character to its days. Who would want to live in a world without Fridays?


1 Comment for this entry

  • eve

    Mary–Saturday is feminine because when I grew up, Saturday was the day one spent helping your mother clean the house. I never enjoyed Saturdays as a child, unless I could escape to the lake. You know which lake I mean . . . evie