Thursday, June 30, 2005

July Ahoy - Poetry Hides in Plain Sight

I love the meanings of words – they are like riddles or, perhaps, flowers that, being very familiar with, we take for granted. The ways in which we tell time is laden with a rich history and a surprising use of metaphor. How surprising that we still use the ancient Babylonian base 60 number system to tell time – 60 seconds in 1 minute, 60 minutes in one hour and so on. And how many of us know the origin of our names for the days of the week? Sunday meaning Day of the Sun; Monday meaning Day of the Moon; Tuesday named for the Germanic war god Tiu; Wednesday named for the Norse god Odin or Wodin, the All-father; Thursday named for the Norse god Thor, god of thunder; Friday named for the Norse goddess Frigg, goddess of the hearth; and Saturday meaning Saturn’s Day which was perhaps originally Etruscan.

Our months, similarly, hold stories. January named for the Janus the Roman god of doors for we enter each new year through a new door; February from the Sabine word februo meaning to boil or purify as this was the month that rituals of purification were practiced; March named for the war god Mars (the time when wars could recommence after winter); April from the Roman Aprilis which came from the Etruscan name (Apru) for Greek Aphrodite for this was the month trees opened their leaves; May from the Roman Maia goddess of growth; June from the Roman goddess Juno; July from Julius Caesar who created the Julian calendar; August from Augustus Caesar; and September, October, November and December meaning, respectively, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months since the old Roman calendar had ten months beginning with March.The ancient Babylonian calendar included month-names that meant flight, healing, Tree of Life and nothingness. The Hebrew calendar includes month names that mean first fruits, rosette blossom. The Mayan calendar included 20 different names for days including ones that meant waterlily, corn, snake, death head, venus, dog, jaguar and storm cloud; and months that meant new sun and owl. And native north American nations’ lunar calendars include such descriptions as Moon when the geese come home, Wolf moon, Moon when the leaves break forth and Moon of the Popping trees.

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