Today I had a wonderful, magical, linguistic epiphany.
Many people will know that there is a kind of imaginary line that goes across Europe from east to west, dividing the Northern languages from the Southern languages. The Northern languages are all very similar to each other; English, German, Norwegian, Swedish, etc. The Southern languages are all very similar to each other; Latin, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese. But the North and South are very different from one another.
OKAY SO… about the names for the days of the week in the North vs South.
Mani is the old viking name for the goddess of the moon. Mani is also where the word Monday (Montag, Mandag, etc.) comes from in all the Northern languages. In latin, and all the Southern languages, the word for Monday (Lunae dies, Lunedi, Lunes, Lundi) comes from the name of the Roman goddess of the moon, Luna.
Tyr was the old viking god of war. Tyr’s Day is the root for Tuesday (Tirsdag, Tisdag, Dienstag which was originally mis-transliterated from the rune thurisaz and should really have started with a TH, not a D). In Southern Europe, the god of war was Mercury, and Tuesday is Martis, Martedi, Mardi, Martes.
Wotan is one of the original pronunciations of Odin, whose ravens send messages to all the other gods and spy and tell him their secrets. Wotan’s day goes without saying, and in the north, it’s still spelled Wednesday or Onsdag (With German being the odd one out and using the literal phrase “mid-week” for Wednesday.) In the South, the god of secret messages and spying was Mercury. And the words for Wednesday are Mercurii, Mercoledi, Mercredi, and Miercoles.
Thor was the strongest and manliest god in the north, and Thor’s day hasn’t changed much in English. It’s Torsdag in Norwegian and Swedish, again missing the H when it was transliterated from the elder futhark into modern letters. In German, thurisaz is again transliterated as a D instead of the more accurate TH sound, and they get Donnerstag. In the south, The strongest, manliest god was Jove, or Jupiter. And Thursday is called Giovedi “Joe-veh-dee,” Jueves, Jeudi.
Freyr was the god of the harvest, the spring, and renewal. In the North, Freyr’s Day is called Friday, Freitag, and Fredag today. In the south, the corresponding goddess is Venus, and Friday is called Venerdi, Vendredi, Viernes.
Saturday and Sunday are less interesting…
Saturday seems to be basically the same in the North and South, a reference to Saturn, one of the Southern gods.
Sun was the Viking sun god or more accurately the personification of the sun. In the North, Sunday is called Sonetag, Sondag, and Soendag. In the south, The name for Sunday is based on the literal word for a slave master in Latin, Domenicus; Domenica, Dimanche, and Domingo.
I spoke about this observation I had made to a friend who majored in classics. Apparently there is a whole field of research called Interpretatio Germanica which is dedicated to understanding how this happened. It seems we have essentially no idea, and yet it also happened in Egypt in a very similar way.
I find it super interesting that the root words for most of the days of the week come from various local versions of gods that represent similar ideas, and that despite the thousands of years of the Christian dark ages, not a single one of these gods — whose names have been spoken every day by countless billions of people throughout history — is the Christian god. All of the days of the week were named after pagan gods, and those icons somehow survived the rise and fall of Christianity.