Behind the name of the months
Posted by Fredsvenn on May 8, 2016
Aries (March 21th – April 20th)
Taurus (April 20th-May 20th)
Gemini (May 21st-June 20th)
Cancer (June 21st-July 22nd)
Leo (July 23rd-August 22nd)
Virgo (August 23rd-September 22nd)
Libra (September 23rd-October 22nd)
Scorpio (October 23rd-November 21st)
Sagittarius (November 22nd-December 21st)
Capricorn (December 22nd-January 19th)
Aquarius (January 20th-February 18th)
Pisces (February 19th-March 20th)
January and Februar
Ianuarius and Februarius were supposed to have been added by the semi-mythical successor of Romulus, Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, originally at the end of the year in 713 BC, so that the calendar covered a standard lunar year (354 days). Julius Caesar decided in 46 BC to move the start of the calendar from the beginning of March to the beginning of January.
On the ancient Roman calendar, mensis Februarius or Februarius (“February”) was the second and shortest month, from which the English name of the month derives. It was preceded by Ianuarius (“January”) and followed by Martius (“Mars’ month”, March).
Although March was originally the first month in the old Roman calendar, January became the first month of the calendar year either under Numa or under the Decemvirs about 450 BC (Roman writers differ). In contrast, each specific calendar year was identified by the names of the two consuls, who entered office on May 1 or March 15 until 153 BC, from when they entered office on January 1.
Februarius was the only month in the pre-Julian calendar to have an even number of days, numbering 28. Ancient sources derived Februarius from februum, a thing used for ritual purification. Most of the observances in this month concerned the dead or closure, reflecting the month’s original position at the end of the year. The Parentalia was a nine-day festival honoring the ancestors and propitiating the dead, while the Terminalia was a set of rituals pertaining to boundary stones that was probably also felt to reinforce the boundary of the year.
Many Roman festivals and religious observances reflect the Romans’ agrarian way of life in their early history. In his treatise on farming, Varro divides the agricultural year into eight phases, with Spring beginning officially on February 7, when Favonius the west wind was thought to start blowing favorably and it was time to ready the fields. The grain fields were to be weeded, vineyards tended, and old reeds burned. Some kinds of trees were pruned, and attention was given to olive and fruit trees.
The agricultural writer Columella says that meadows and grain fields are “purged” (purguntur), probably both in the practical sense of clearing away old debris and by means of ritual. The duties of February thus suggest the close bond between agriculture and religion in Roman culture. According to the farmers’ almanacs, the tutelary deity of the month was Neptune.
January (in Latin, Ianuarius) is named after the Latin word for door (ianua) since January is the door to the year. The month is conventionally thought of as being named after Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions in Roman mythology, but according to ancient Roman farmers’ almanacs Juno was the tutelary deity of the month.
Inanna was associated with the eastern fish of the last of the zodiacal constellations, Pisces, the twelfth astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the Pisces constellation, spanning the last 30 degrees of celestial longitude (330°≤ λ <360°).. Her consort Dumuzi was associated with the contiguous first constellation, Aries (meaning “ram”), the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, spanning the first 30 degrees of celestial longitude (0°≤ λ <30°).
Under the tropical zodiac the sun transits the Pisces on average between February 19 and March 20, and under the sidereal zodiac, the sun transits this area between approximately March 13 and April 13.
Under the tropical zodiac, the Sun transits Aries mostly between March 20 and April 19 each year. Under the sidereal zodiac, the sun currently transits Aries from April 15 to May 14. The symbol of the ram is based on the Chrysomallus, the flying ram that provided the Golden Fleece. According to the Tropical system of astrology, the Sun enters the sign of Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, which occurs around March 21.
April is commonly associated with the season of spring in parts of the Northern Hemisphere and autumn in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, where it is the seasonal equivalent to October in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa.
The Romans gave this month the Latin name Aprilis but the derivation of this name is uncertain. The traditional etymology is from the verb aperire, “to open”, in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to “open”, which is supported by comparison with the modern Greek use of άνοιξη (ánixi) (opening) for spring.
Since some of the Roman months were named in honor of divinities, and as April was sacred to the goddess Venus, her Veneralia being held on the first day, it has been suggested that Aprilis was originally her month Aphrilis, from her equivalent Greek goddess name Aphrodite (Aphros), or from the Etruscan name Apru. Jacob Grimm suggests the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.
April was the second month of the earliest Roman calendar, before Ianuarius and Februarius were added by King Numa Pompilius about 700 BC. It became the fourth month of the calendar year (the year when twelve months are displayed in order) during the time of the decemvirs about 450 BC, when it also was given 29 days. The 30th day was added during the reform of the calendar undertaken by Julius Caesar in the mid-40s BC, which produced the Julian calendar.
The Anglo-Saxons called April ēastre-monaþ. The Venerable Bede says in The Reckoning of Time that this month ēastre is the root of the word Easter. He further states that the month was named after a goddess Eostre whose feast was in that month. It is also attested by Einhard in his work, Vita Karoli Magni.
St George’s day is the twenty-third of the month; and St Mark’s Eve, with its superstition that the ghosts of those who are doomed to die within the year will be seen to pass into the church, falls on the twenty-fourth.
In the oldest Roman calendar, which the Romans believed to have been instituted by their legendary founder Romulus, March was the first month, and the calendar year had only ten months in all. Traditionally, the original Roman calendar consisted of 10 months totaling 304 days, winter being considered a month-less period.
The month May (Latin Maius) is considered the season of the beginning of new life. Already in Greek culture, May was dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of fecundity. In Roman culture, May was dedicated to Flora, the goddess of bloom, of blossoms.
The Romans celebrated ludi florales (literally: floral games) at the end of April, asking the intercession of Flora for all that blooms. This is also related to the medieval practice of expelling winter. May 1 was considered the beginning of growth.
The month of May was dedicated to Mary in many cultures. At one time, the custom of having a Mary-month was independent from the month of May as such, but since medieval times, we have had the combination between Mary and the month of May.
Both Mary and the month of May are greeted, welcomed and celebrated on specific days in May. Later, the whole month of May became the month of Mary. On each day of this month, special devotions to Mary were organized. This custom originated in Italy, but was spread widely during the nineteenth century, a century well-known for its monthly devotions (Heart of Jesus in June; Rosary in October).
God as Mother is the earliest known concept of the divine. The Great Mother was worshiped as early as 30,000 BC., dating from The Earth Mother of Willendorf. Later she was known as “Inanna in ancient Sumeria, Ishtar in Babylon, Anat in Canaan, Isis in Egypt and Aphrodite in Greece, and remarkably similar stories were devised to express her role in the spiritual lives of the people”.
When monotheism was on the rise, “goddesses like Ashera, Ishtar or Anat . . . still had a great following among the Israelites, particularly among the women”. This is evident in this Old Testament passage:
“…we shall burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, and shall pour her libations as we used to do, we, our fathers, our kings and our princes, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and we all were well and saw no evil. But since we ceased burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and to pour libations, we have wanted everything and have been consumed by sword and famine”. (Jeremiah 44:15-19).
Later, in The Coronation of the Virgin, Mary would come to share the title Queen of Heaven with Inanna, Isis, and other goddesses who were worshiped before her. “In the earliest recorded act of homage paid to Mary, she was honored with customary offerings to the Goddess.”
Women offered the Virgin “cakes and wine at the shrine where their ancestors had worshiped the Goddess Ashtoreth.” “Epiphanius, the late fourth-century patriarch of Constantinople, ‘noted with outrage’ ” that the women “wishing to exalt the Ever-Blessed Virgin, have put her in the place of God.”
Similarly, when Christianity was brought to the British Isles, “peasants saw in the story of Christ only a new version of their own ancient tales of the Mother Goddess and her Divine Child who is sacrificed and reborn,” a tale which had “held sway for 30,000 years”.
“In habits of devotion, especially those of women, there may have been no great discontinuity between the worship of the Virgin and that of the Goddess.” Many shrines, statues and festivals, originally belonging to other Goddesses “were rededicated to the Virgin”.
In Norse mythology, Freyja (Old Norse for “(the) Lady”) is a goddess associated with love, sex, beauty, fertility, gold,seiðr, war, and death. Freyja is the owner of the necklace Brísingamen, rides a chariot pulled by two cats, keeps the boar Hildisvíni by her side, possesses a cloak of falcon feathers, and, by her husband Óðr, is the mother of two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi. Freyja’s husband, the god Óðr, is frequently absent. She cries tears of red gold for him, and searches for him under assumed names.
Along with her brother Freyr (Old Norse the “Lord”), her father Njörðr, and her mother (Njörðr’s sister, unnamed in sources), she is a member of the Vanir. Numerous theories have been proposed for the etymology of Vanir. Scholar R. I. Page says that, while there are no shortages of etymologies for the word, it is tempting to link the word with “Old Norse vinr, ‘friend’, and Latin Venus, ‘goddess of physical love.'”
Freyja rules over her heavenly afterlife field Fólkvangr and there receives half of those that die in battle, whereas the other half go to the god Odin’s hall, Valhalla. Within Fólkvangr is her hall, Sessrúmnir. Freyja assists other deities by allowing them to use her feathered cloak, is invoked in matters of fertility and love, and is frequently sought after by powerful jötnar who wish to make her their wife.
Scholars have theorized about about her connection to the valkyries, female battlefield choosers of the slain, and her relation to other goddesses and figures in Germanic mythology, including the thrice-burnt and thrice-reborn Gullveig/Heiðr, the goddesses Gefjon, Skaði, Þorgerðr Hölgabrúðr and Irpa, Menglöð, and the 1st century CE “Isis” of the Suebi. Freyja has numerous names, including Gefn, Hörn, Mardöll, Sýr, Valfreyja, and Vanadís.
The name Friday comes from the Old English Frīġedæġ, meaning the “day of Frige”, a result of an old convention associating the Old English goddess Frigg with the Roman goddess Venus, with whom the day is associated in many different cultures. The same holds for Frīatag in Old High German, Freitag in Modern German, and vrijdag in Dutch.
The expected cognate name in Old Norse would be *friggjar-dagr. However, the name of Friday in Old Norse is frjá-dagrinstead, indicating a loan of the week-day names from Low German. The modern Scandinavian form is Fredag in Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish, meaning Freyja’s day.
The distinction between Freyja and Frigg in some Germanic mythologies is problematic. Scholars have theorized about whether Freyja and the goddess Frigg ultimately stem from a single goddess common among the Germanic peoples.
The word for Friday in most Romance languages is derived from Latin dies Veneris or “day of Venus” (a translation of Greek Aphrodites hemera), such as vendredi in French, venerdì in Italian, viernes in Spanish, divendres in Catalan, vennari in Corsican, andvineri in Romanian. This is also reflected in the p-Celtic Welsh language as dydd Gwener.
Freyja’s name appears in numerous place names in Scandinavia, with a high concentration in southern Sweden. Various plants in Scandinavia once bore her name, but it was replaced with the name of the Virgin Mary during the process of Christianization. Rural Scandinavians continued to acknowledge Freyja as a supernatural figure into the 19th century, and Freyja has inspired various works of art.
In Germanic mythology, Frigg (Old Norse), Frija (Old High German), Frea (Langobardic), and Frige (Old English) is a goddess. In nearly all sources, she is described as the wife of the god Odin. She is associated with the goddesses Fulla, Lofn, Hlín, and Gná, and is ambiguously associated with the Earth, otherwise personified as an apparently separate entity Jörð (Old Norse “Earth”). The English weekday name Friday (etymologically Old English “Frīge’s day”) bears her name.
She dwells in the wetland halls of Fensalir, and is described as a goddess associated with foreknowledge. The children of Frigg and Odin include the gleaming god Baldr. She was probably associated with sexuality and fertility by her worshippers. Due to significant thematic overlap, scholars have proposed a particular connection to the goddess Freyja. She is the Anglo-Saxon equivalent of Freya.
Scholars have proposed theories about the implications of Fensalir, including that the location may have some connection to religious practices involving springs, bogs, or swamps, and that it may be connected to the goddess Sága’s watery location Sökkvabekkr. In Norse mythology, Sága (possibly meaning “seeress”) is a goddess associated with the wisdomSökkvabekkr (“sunken bank”, “sunken bench”, or “treasure bank”). Sága may be another name for Frigg.
The name Freyja is not attested outside of Scandinavia, like the name of the group of gods to which Freyja belongs, the Vanir. This is in contrast to the name of the goddess Frigg, who is attested as a goddess common among the Germanic peoples, and whose name is reconstructed as Proto-Germanic *Frijjō.
Evidence does not exist for the existence of a common Germanic goddess from which Old Norse Freyja descends, but scholars have commented that this may simply be due to the scarcity of surviving sources.
In Norse mythology, there were two distinct goddesses who have been compared with the Anglo-Saxon Frige: Freyja, who was associated with sexuality, magic, fecundity and violent death, and also Frigg, who was associated with childbirth, wealth and power over the household.
Following the Christianisation of England in the 7th and 8th centuries, Frige’s worship was eradicated, but she left an influence on the English language. She provided the basis for a number of place names across the country, including villages like Froyle, Freefolk and Fretherne.
Throughout the ages, many leaders in Christianity have attempted to de-emphasize the role of Mary and (at times violently) suppress her worship, yet devotion to the Holy Mother has only increased. Apparitions and “attendance at her pilgrimage centers” are on the rise. Many Christians envision her as Co-Redemtrix. She has a dedicated following of millions, within and outside of the Catholic Church, around the world. Mary is a real, vital, dynamic force in the personal lives of everyday people.
The month of May was supposedly named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was identified with the Roman era goddess of fertility, Bona Dea, whose festival was held in May. However, ancient etymologists also connected it to the maiores, “ancestors,” again from the adjective maius, maior, meaning those who are “greater” in terms of generational precedence.
On the first day of May, the Lares Praestites were honored as protectors of the city, and the flamen of Vulcan sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia, a customary offering to an earth goddess that reiterates the link between Vulcan and Maia in the archaic prayer formula.
In Roman myth, Mercury (Hermes), the son of Maia, was the father of the twin Lares, a genealogy that sheds light on the collocation of ceremonies on the May Kalends. On May 15, the Ides, Mercury was honored as a patron of merchants and increaser of profit (through an etymological connection with merx, merces, “goods, merchandise”), another possible connection with Maia his mother as a goddess who promoted growth.
Because Mercury was not one of the early deities surviving from the Roman Kingdom, he was not assigned a flamen (“priest”), but he did have his own major festival, on 15 May, the Mercuralia. During the Mercuralia, merchants sprinkled water from his sacred well near the Porta Capena on their heads.
Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan (Odin), by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples. It is assumed that Tîwaz was overtaken in popularity and in authority by both Odin and Thor at some point during the Migration Age, as Odin shares his role as God of war.
Odin has been a frequent subject of study in Germanic studies and numerous theories surround the god. Some of these focus on Odin’s particular relation to other figures, such as that Freyja’s husband Óðr appears to be something of an etymological doublet of the god, whereas Odin’s wife Frigg is in many ways similar to Freyja, and that Odin has a particular relation to the figure of Loki.
In the Roman syncretism Mercury was equated with the Celtic god Lugus and in this aspect was commonly accompanied by the Celtic goddess Rosmerta, a goddess of fertility and abundance, whom attributes being those of plenty such as the cornucopia.
Although Lugus may originally have been a deity of light or the sun (though this is disputed), similar to the Roman Apollo, his importance as a god of trade made him more comparable to Mercury, and Apollo was instead equated with the Celtic deity Belenus.
Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) was a divinity in ancient Roman religion. She was associated with chastity and fertility in women, healing, and the protection of the Roman state and people. According to Roman literary sources, she was brought from Magna Graecia at some time during the early or middle Republic, and was given her own state cult on the Aventine Hill.
Her rites allowed women the use of strong wine and blood-sacrifice, things otherwise forbidden them by Roman tradition. Men were barred from her mysteries and the possession of her true name. The rites remained a subject of male curiosity and speculation, both religious and prurient.
Bona Dea (“The Good Goddess”) is both an honorific title and a respectful pseudonym; the goddess’ true or cult name is unknown. Her other, less common pseudonyms include Feminea Dea (“The Women’s Goddess”), Laudandae…Deae (“The Goddess…to be Praised”), and Sancta (“The Holy One”). She is a goddess of “no definable type”, with several origins and a range of different characteristics and functions.
Given that male authors had limited knowledge of her rites and attributes, ancient speculations about her identity abound, among them that she was an aspect of Terra, Ops, the Magna Mater, or Ceres, or a Latin form of Damia, which Georges Dumézil sees as an ancient misreading of Greek “Demeter”.
Based on what little they knew of her rites and attributes, Roman historians speculated her true name and identity. In the late Imperial era, the neoplatonist author Macrobius identifies her as a universal earth-goddess, an epithet of Maia, Terra, or Magna Mater, worshiped under the names of Ops, Fauna and Fatua.
The Christian author Lactantius, claiming the late Republican polymath Varro as his source, describes her as Faunus’ wife and sister, named Fenta Fauna, or Fenta Fatua (Fenta “the prophetess” or Fenta “the foolish”).
Most often, she was identified as the wife, sister or daughter of the god Faunus, thus an equivalent or aspect of the nature-goddess Fauna, who could prophesy the fates of women.
The goddess had two annual festivals. One was held at her Aventine temple; the other was hosted by the wife of Rome’s senior annual magistrate, for an invited group of elite matrons and female attendants.
Bona Dea’s cults in the city of Rome were led by the Vestal Virgins, and her provincial cults by virgin or matron priestesses. Surviving statuary shows her as a sedate Roman matron with a cornucopia and a snake. Personal dedications to her are attested among all classes, especially plebeians, freedmen and women, and slaves.
Maia in ancient Greek religion is one of the Pleiades and the mother of Hermes. She is the daughter of Atlas, the Titan god of endurance and astronomy, condemned to hold up the sky for eternity after the Titanomachy, and Pleione the Oceanid. She is the eldest of the seven Pleiades.
The Pleiades, companions of Artemis, were the seven daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. They are the sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Hesperides. They were nymphs in the train of Artemis, and together with the seven Hyades were called the Atlantides, Dodonides, or Nysiades, nursemaids and teachers to the infant Bacchus.
Artemis was one of the most widely venerated of the Ancient Greek deities. Her Roman equivalent is Diana. Some scholars believe that the name, and indeed the goddess herself, were originally pre-Greek. Homer refers to her as Artemis Agrotera, Potnia Theron: (“Artemis of the wildland” or “Mistress of Animals”). The Arcadians believed she was the daughter of Demeter.
In the classical period of Greek mythology, Artemis was often described as the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. She was the Hellenic goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and protector of young girls, bringing and relieving disease in women; she often was depicted as a huntress carrying a bow and arrows. The deer and the cypress were sacred to her. In later Hellenistic times, she even assumed the ancient role of Eileithyia in aiding childbirth.
Many depictions use a female version of the widespread ancient motif of the male Master of Animals, showing a central figure with a human form grasping two animals, one to each side. The oldest depiction has been discovered in Çatalhöyük.
Inara, in Hittite–Hurrian mythology, was the goddess of the wild animals of the steppe and daughter of the Storm-god Teshub/Tarhunt. She corresponds to the potnia theron (“The Mistress of the Animals”) of Greek mythology, better known as Artemis. Inara’s mother is probably Hebat and her brother is Sarruma.
The mother goddess Hannahannah promises Inara land and a man during a consultation by Inara. Inara then disappears. Her father looks for her, joined by Hannahannah with a bee. The story resembles that of Demeter and her daughter Persephone, in Greek myth.
In Greek mythology, Persephone, also called Kore or Cora (“the maiden”), is the daughter of Zeus and the harvest goddess Demeter, and is the queen of the underworld. Homer describes her as the formidable, venerable majestic princess of the underworld, who carries into effect the curses of men upon the souls of the dead. In Roman mythology, she is called Proserpina, and her mother, Ceres.
Persephone was abducted by Hades, the god-king of the underworld. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which shoots forth in spring and withdraws into the earth after harvest; hence, she is also associated with spring as well as the fertility of vegetation. Similar myths appear in the Orient, in the cults of male gods like Attis, Adonis and Osiris, and in Minoan Crete.
Persephone as a vegetation goddess and her mother Demeter were the central figures of the Eleusinian mysteries that predated the Olympian pantheon and promised the initiated a more enjoyable prospect after death. Persephone is further said to have become by Zeus the mother of Dionysus, Iacchus, or Zagreus, usually in orphic tradition. The origins of her cult are uncertain, but it was based on very old agrarian cults of agricultural communities.
Persephone was commonly worshipped along with Demeter and with the same mysteries. To her alone were dedicated the mysteries celebrated at Athens in the month of Anthesterion. In Classical Greek art, Persephone is invariably portrayed robed, often carrying a sheaf of grain. She may appear as a mystical divinity with a sceptre and a little box, but she was mostly represented in the act of being carried off by Hades.
In the mystical theories of the Orphics and the Platonists, Kore is described as the all-pervading goddess of nature who both produces and destroys everything and she is therefore mentioned along or identified with other mystic divinities such as Isis, Rhea, Ge, Hestia, Pandora, Artemis, and Hecate.
The Puranic Shiva is a continuation of the Vedic Indra. Shiva forms a Tantric couple with Shakti, the embodiment of energy, dynamism, and the motivating force behind all action and existence in the material universe. Shakti is his transcendent feminine aspect, providing the divine ground of all being. Shakti manifests in several female deities. Sati and Parvati are the main consorts of Shiva. She is also referred to as Uma, Durga (Parvati), Kali and Chandika. Kali is the manifestation of Shakti in her dreadful aspect.
The name Kali comes from kāla, which means black, time, death, lord of death, Shiva. Since Shiva is called Kāla, the eternal time, Kālī, his consort, also means “Time” or “Death” (as in “time has come”). Various Shakta Hindu cosmologies, as well as Shākta Tantric beliefs, worship her as the ultimate reality or Brahman. She is also revered as Bhavatārini (literally “redeemer of the universe”).
Kālī is represented as the consort of Lord Shiva, on whose body she is often seen standing or dancing. Shiva is the masculine force, the power of peace, while Shakti translates to power, and is considered as the feminine force. In the Vaishnava tradition, these realities are portrayed as Vishnu and Laxmi, or Radha and Krishna. These are differences in formulation rather than a fundamental difference in the principles.
Both Shiva and Shakti have various forms. Shiva has forms like Yogi Raj (the common image of Himself meditating in the Himalayas), Rudra (a wrathful form) and Nataraj (Shiva’s dance are the Lasya – the gentle form of dance, associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava – the violent and dangerous dance, associated with the destruction of weary world views – weary perspectives and lifestyles).
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. In theProse Edda book Gylfaginning, Hel is described as having been appointed by the god Odin as ruler of a realm of the same name, located in Niflheim. The Prose Edda details that Hel rules over vast mansions with many servants in her underworld realm and plays a key role in the attempted resurrection of the god Baldr.
Scholarly theories have been proposed about Hel’s potential connections to figures appearing in the 11th century Old English Gospel of Nicodemus and Old Norse Bartholomeus saga postola, that she may have been considered a goddess with potential Indo-European parallels in Bhavani, Kali, and Mahakali or that Hel may have become a being only as a late personification of the location of the same name.
Ḫaldi, also known as Khaldi or Hayk, also known as Haik Nahapet (“Hayk the Tribal Chief”) is the legendary patriarch and founder of the Armenian nation. Of all the gods of the Urartian pantheon, the most inscriptions are dedicated to Khaldi. His wife was the goddess Arubani. He was portrayed as a man with or without wings, standing on a lion.
Khaldi was a warrior god whom the kings of Urartu would pray to for victories in battle. The temples dedicated to Khaldi were adorned with weapons, such as swords, spears, bows and arrows, and shields hung off the walls and were sometimes known as ‘the house of weapons’.
Caelus or Coelus was a primal god of the sky in Roman myth and theology, iconography, and literature (compare caelum, the Latin word for “sky” or “the heavens”, hence English “celestial”). The deity’s name usually appears in masculine grammatical form when he is conceived of as a male generative force, but the neuter form Caelum is also found as a divine personification.
The name of Caelus indicates that he was the Roman counterpart of the Greek god Uranus, who was of major importance in the theogonies of the Greeks. Varro couples him with Terra (Earth) as pater and mater (father and mother), and says that they are “great deities” (dei magni) in the theology of themysteries at Samothrace.
Taurus hosts two of the nearest open clusters to Earth, the Pleiades and the Hyades, both of which are visible to the naked eye. The Pleiades were closest to the Sun at vernal equinox around the 23rd century BC.
In Greek mythology, the stars of Pleiades represented the Seven Sisters. The name “seven sisters” has been used for the Pleiades in the languages of many cultures, including indigenous groups of Australia, North America and Siberia. This suggests that the name may have a common ancient origin.
Her name is related to μαῖα (maia), an honorific term for older women related to μήτηρ (mētēr) ‘mother’. Maia also means “midwife” in Greek. In ancient Roman religion and myth, Maia embodied the concept of growth, as her name was thought to be related to the comparative adjective maius, maior, “larger, greater.”
In an archaic Roman prayer, Maia appears as an attribute of Vulcan, in an invocational list of male deities paired with female abstractions representing some aspect of their functionality. She was explicitly identified with Earth (Terra, the Roman counterpart of Gaia) and the Good Goddess (Bona Dea) in at least one tradition.
Her identity became theologically intertwined also with the goddesses Fauna, Magna Mater (“Great Goddess”, referring to the Roman form of Cybele but also a cult title for Maia), Ops, Juno, and Carna, as discussed at some length by the late antiquarian writer Macrobius.
This treatment was probably influenced by the 1st-century BC scholar Varro, who tended to resolve a great number of goddesses into one original “Terra.” The association with Juno, whose Etruscan counterpart was Uni, is suggested again by the inscription Uni Mae on the Piacenza Liver.
Juno is an ancient Roman goddess, the protector and special counselor of the state. As the patron goddess of Rome and the Roman Empire, Juno was called Regina (“Queen”) and, together with Jupiter and Minerva, was worshipped as a triad on the Capitol (Juno Capitolina) in Rome.
She is a daughter of Saturn and sister (but also the wife) of the chief god Jupiter and the mother of Mars and Vulcan. Juno also looked after the women of Rome. Her Greek equivalent was Hera. Her Etruscan counterpart was Uni.
Juno’s own warlike aspect among the Romans is apparent in her attire. She often appeared sitting pictured with a peacock armed and wearing a goatskin cloak. The traditional depiction of this warlike aspect was assimilated from the Greek goddess Hera, whose goatskin was called the ‘aegis’.
Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin, and its symbol is ♍. Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second largest constellation in the sky (after Hydra). It can be easily found through its brightest star, Spica.
According to the Babylonian Mul.Apin, which dates from 1000–686 BCE, this constellation was known as “The Furrow”, representing the goddess Shala’s ear of grain. One star in this constellation, Spica, retains this tradition as it is Latin for “ear of grain”, one of the major products of the Mesopotamian furrow. The constellation was also known as “AB.SIN” and “absinnu”. For this reason the constellation became associated with fertility.
According to Gavin White the figure of Virgo corresponds to two Babylonian constellations: the “Furrow” in the eastern sector of Virgo and the “Frond of Erua” in the western sector. The Frond of Erua was depicted as a goddess holding a palm-frond – a motif that still occasionally appears in much later depictions of Virgo.
The Greeks and Romans associated Virgo with their goddess of wheat/agriculture, Demeter-Ceres who is the mother of Persephone-Proserpina. Alternatively, she was sometimes identified as the virgin goddess Iustitia or Astraea, holding the scales of justice in her hand as the constellation Libra.
Astraea or Astrea (“star-maiden”), in ancient Greek religion, was a daughter of Astraeus and Eos. Astraeus was an astrological deity and the Titan-god of the dusk. Some also associate him with the winds, as he is the father of the four Anemoi/wind deities.
Appropriately, as god of the dusk, Astraeus married Eos, goddess of the dawn. Together as nightfall and daybreak they produced many children who are associated with what occurs in the sky during twilight.
She was the virgin goddess of Innocence and purity and is always associated with the Greek goddess of justice, Dike, the daughter of Zeus and Themis, and the personification of just judgement.
Astraea, the celestial virgin, was the last of the immortals to live with humans during the Golden Age, one of the old Greek religion’s five deteriorating Ages of Man. According to Ovid, Astraea abandoned the earth during the Iron Age.
Fleeing from the new wickedness of humanity, she ascended to heaven to become the constellation Virgo. The nearby constellation Libra reflected her symbolic association with Dike, who in Latin culture as Justitia is said to preside over the constellation. However, according to legend she will one day come back to Earth, bringing with her the return of the utopian Golden Age of which she was the ambassador.
Another myth identifies Virgo as Erigone, the daughter of Icarius of Athens. Icarius, who had been favoured by Dionysus, was killed by his shepherds while they were intoxicated and Erigone hanged herself in grief; Dionysus placed the father and daughter in the stars as Boötes and Virgo respectively. In the Middle Ages, Virgo was sometimes associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Virgo is often portrayed carrying two sheaves of wheat, one of which is marked by the bright star Spica. The name Spica derives from Latin spīca virginis “the virgin’s ear of [wheat] grain”. It was also anglicized as Virgin’s Spike. Johann Bayer cited the name Arista. Another alternative name is Azimech, from Arabic al-simāk al-a‘zal ‘the Undefended’, and Alarph, Arabic for ‘the Grape Gatherer’. Sumbalet (Sombalet, Sembalet and variants) is from an Arabic sunbulah “corn ear”.
Spica, along with Denebola or Regulus depending on the source and Arcturus, is part of the Spring Triangle asterism involving an imaginary triangle drawn upon the celestial sphere, and by extension, also of the Great Diamond together with Cor Caroli. This triangle connects the constellations of Boötes, Virgo, and Leo. It is visible rising in the south eastern sky of the northern hemisphere between March and May.
Due to the effects of precession the First Point of Libra, also known asthe autumn equinox point, lies within the boundaries of Virgo very close to β Virginis. This is one of the two points in the sky where the celestial equator crosses the ecliptic, the other being the First Point of Aries, now in the constellation of Pisces. This point will pass into the neighbouring constellation of Leo around the year 2440.
The equinox is known under different names. Spring equinox and fall (or autumn) equinox are colloquial names based on the seasons. However, these can be ambiguous since the northern hemisphere’s spring is the southern hemisphere’s autumn, and vice versa. The Latinate names vernal equinox (spring) and autumnal equinox (fall) are often used to the same effect.
March equinox and September equinox are names referring to the months of the year they occur, with no ambiguity as to which hemisphere is the context. They are still not universal, however, as not all cultures use a solar-based calendar where the equinoxes occur every year in the same month (as they do not in the Islamic calendar and Hebrew calendar, for example).
Northward equinox and southward equinox are names referring to the apparent direction of motion of the Sun. The northward equinox occurs in March when the sun crosses the equator from south to north, and the southward equinox occurs in September when the sun crosses the equator from north to south. These terms can be used unambiguously for other planets.
First Point of Aries and first point of Libra are names referring to the astrological signs the sun is entering. Due to the precession of the equinoxes, however, the constellations where the equinoxes are currently located are Pisces and Virgo, respectively.
One of the most important goddesses of reconstructed Proto-Indo-European religion is the personification of dawn as a beautiful young woman. Her name is reconstructed as Hausōs (PIE *hewsṓs- or *hausōs-, an s-stem), besides numerous epithets.
Derivatives of *hewsṓs in the historical mythologies of Indo-European peoples include Indian Uṣas, Greek Ēōs, Latin Aurōra, and Baltic Aušra (“dawn”, c.f. Lithuanian Aušrinė). Germanic *Austrōn-, from which descends the Common Germanic divinity from whom Ēostre and Ostara are held to descend, is from an extended stem *hews-tro-.
The name *hewsṓs is derived from a root *hwes / *au̯es “to shine”, thus translating to “the shining one”. Both the English word east and the Latin auster “south” are from a root cognate adjective *aws-t(e)ro-. Also cognate is aurum “gold”, from *awso-. The name for “spring season”, *wes-r- is also from the same root.
Besides the name most amenable to reconstruction, *hewsṓs, a number of epithets of the dawn goddess may be reconstructed with some certainty. Among these is *wenos- (also an s-stem), whence Sanskrit vanas “loveliness; desire”, used of Uṣas in the Rigveda, and the Latin name Venus and the Norse Vanir.
The name indicates that the goddess was imagined as a beautiful nubile woman, who also had aspects of a love goddess. As a consequence, the love goddess aspect was separated from the personification of dawn in a number of traditions, including Roman Venus vs. Aurora, and Greek Aphrodite vs. Eos.
The name of Aphrodite Άφροδίτη may still preserve her role as a dawn goddess, etymologized as “she who shines from the foam [ocean]” (from aphros “foam” and deato “to shine”). J.P. Mallory and Douglas Q. Adams have also proposed an etymology based on the connection with the Indo-European dawn goddess, from *abhor- “very” and *dhei “to shine”. Other epithets include Ἠριγόνη Erigone “early-born” in Greek.
The Italic goddess Mater Matuta “Mother Morning” has been connected to Aurora by Roman authors (Lucretius, Priscianus). Her festival, the Matralia, fell on 11 June, beginning at dawn. Morning star is the most commonly used as a name for the planet Venus when it appears in the east before sunrise. Venus is also the Evening Star.
The dawn goddess was also the goddess of spring, involved in the mythology of the Indo-European New Year, where the dawn goddess is liberated from imprisonment by a god (reflected in the Rigveda as Indra, in Greek mythology as Dionysus and Cronus).
The abduction and imprisonment of the dawn goddess, and her liberation by a heroic god slaying the dragon who imprisons her, is a central myth of Indo-European religion, reflected in numerous traditions. Most notably, it is the central myth of the Rigveda, a collection of hymns surrounding the Soma rituals dedicated to Indra in the New Year celebrations of the early Indo-Aryans.
Ushas (Sanskrit for “dawn”) is an exalted goddess in the Rig Veda but less prominent in post-Rigvedic texts. She is often spoken of in the plural, “the Dawns.” She is portrayed as warding off evil spirits of the night, and as a beautifully adorned young woman riding in a golden chariot on her path across the sky.
Due to her color she is often identified with the reddish cows, and both are released by Indra, who is celebrated as a demiurge who pushes up the sky, releases Ushas from the Vala (“enclosure”) cave, and slays Vṛtra (“enveloper”); both latter actions are central to the Soma sacrifice.
In the early Vedic religion, Vritra is a serpent or dragon, the personification of drought and adversary of Indra. Vritra was also known in the Vedas as Ahi (“snake”). He appears as a dragon blocking the course of the rivers and is heroically slain by Indra.
The motif of Chaoskampf (German for “struggle against chaos”) is ubiquitous in myth and legend, depicting a battle of a culture hero deity with a chaos monster, often in the shape of a serpent or dragon. The same term has also been extended to parallel concepts in the religions of the Ancient Near East, such as the abstract conflict of ideas in the Egyptian duality of Maat and Isfet.
The origins of the Chaoskampf myth most likely lie in the Proto-Indo-European religion whose descendants almost all feature some variation of the story of a storm god fighting a sea serpent representing the clash between the forces of order and chaos.
Early work by German academics such as Gunkel and Bousset in comparative mythology popularized translating the mythological sea serpent as a “dragon.” Indo-European examples of this mythic trope include Thor vs. Jörmungandr (Norse), Tarhunt vs. Illuyanka (Hittite), Indra vs. Vritra (Vedic), Fereydun vs. Aži Dahāka (Avestan), and Zeus vs. Typhon (Greek) among others.
In one recent Hindu interpretation, Sri Aurobindo in his Secret of the Veda, described Ushas as “the medium of the awakening, the activity and the growth of the other gods; she is the first condition of the Vedic realisation. By her increasing illumination the whole nature of man is clarified; through her [mankind] arrives at the Truth, through her he enjoys [Truth’s] beatitude.”
In Mesopotamian Religion, Tiamat is a primordial goddess of the ocean, mating with Abzû (the god of fresh water) to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation, depicted as a woman she represents the beauty of the feminine, depicted as the glistening one. Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon.
It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a “Sacred marriage” between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second “Chaoskampf” Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.
Puruli (EZEN Puruliyas) was a Hattian spring festival, held at Nerik, dedicated to the earth goddess Hannahanna, who is married to a new king. The central ritual of the Puruli festival is dedicated to the destruction of the dragon Illuyanka by the storm god Teshub. The corresponding Assyrian festival is the Akitu of the Enuma Elish. Also compared are the Canaanite Poem of Baal and Psalms 93 and 29.
Akitu or Akitum (Sumerian: ezen á.ki.tum, akiti-šekinku, á.ki.ti.še.gur.ku, lit. “the barley-cutting”, akiti-šununum, lit. “barley-sowing”; Akkadian: akitu orrêš-šattim, “head of the year”) was a spring festival in ancient Mesopotamia.
The name is from the Sumerian for “barley”, originally marking two festivals celebrating the beginning of each of the two half-years of the Sumerian calendar, marking the sowing of barley in autumn and the cutting of barley in spring. In Babylonian religion it came to be dedicated to Marduk’s victory over Tiamat.
Hieros gamos or Hierogamy (“holy marriage”) refers to a sexual ritual that plays out amarriage between a god and a goddess, especially when enacted in a symbolic ritual where human participants represent the deities.
Sacred prostitution was common in the Ancient Near East as a form of “Sacred Marriage” or hieros gamos between the king of a Sumerian city-state and the High Priestess of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love, fertility, and warfare.
Along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers there were many shrines and temples dedicated to Inanna. The temple of Eanna, meaning “house of heaven” in Uruk was the greatest of these. The temple housed Nadītu, priestesses of the goddess. The high priestess would choose for her bed a young man who represented the shepherd Dumuzid, consort of Inanna, in a hieros gamos or sacred marriage, celebrated during the annual Duku ceremony, just before Invisible Moon, with the autumn Equinox (Autumnal Zag-mu Festival).
Conversely, the Roman poet Ovid provides a second etymology, in which he says that the month of May is named for the maiores, Latin for “elders,” and that the following month (June) is named for the iuniores, or “young people” (Fasti VI.88).
Taurus and Gemini
The zodiac signs for the month of May are Taurus (until May 20) (Latin for “the Bull”: ♉), the second astrological sign in the present Zodiac, originating from the contellation of Taurus, and Gemini (May 21 onwards) (Latin for “twins”: ♊), the third astrological sign in the present Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Gemini.
Taurus spans the 30–60th degree of the zodiac. In tropical astrology, the sun is considered to be in the sign Taurus from April 20 – to May 21, and in sidereal astrology, from May 16th to June 15th.
Taurus was the second sign of the zodiac established among the ancient Mesopotamians – who knew it as the Bull of Heaven – because it was the sign through which the sun rose on the vernal equinox. Due to the precession of the equinox, it now follows Aries. The Bull represents a strong-willed character with great perseverance and determination.
In Egypt, Taurus was seen as the cow goddess Hathor. Hathor was the goddess of beauty, love, and happiness, and she represented all of the riches seen in cattle as the providers of nourishment. Roman astrologers considered Taurus ruled by Venus, the goddess of beauty.
Gemini spans the 30–60th degree of the zodiac. As of 2008, the Sun appears in the constellation Gemini from June 20 to July 20. In tropical astrology, the sun is considered to be in the sign Gemini from May 21 to June 22, and in sidereal astrology, from June 16 to July 15.
In Babylonian astronomy, the stars Castor and Pollux were known as the Great Twins (MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL). The Twins were regarded as minor gods and were called Meshlamtaea and Lugalirra, meaning respectively ‘The One who has arisen from the Underworld’ and the ‘Mighty King’. Both names can be understood as titles of Nergal, the major Babylonian god of plague and pestilence, who was king of the Underworld.
June is the sixth month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and one of the four months with a length of 30 days. June contains the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, the day with the most daylight hours, and the winter solstice in theSouthern Hemisphere, the day with the fewest daylight hours (excluding polar regions in both cases).
June in the Northern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent to December in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa. In the Northern hemisphere, the beginning of the traditional astronomical summer is 21 June (meteorological summer begins on 1 June). In the Southern hemisphere, meteorological winter begins on 1 June.
At the start of June, the sun rises in the constellation of Taurus; at the end of June, the sun rises in the constellation of Gemini. However, due to the precession of the equinoxes, June begins with the sun in the astrological sign of Gemini, and ends with the sun in the astrological sign of Cancer.
The Latin name for June is Junius. Ovid offers multiple etymologies for the name in the Fasti, a poem about the Roman calendar. The first is that the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the goddess of marriage and the wife of the supreme deity Jupiter; the second is that the name comes from the Latin wordiuniores, meaning “younger ones”, as opposed to maiores (“elders”) for which the preceding month May (Maius) may be named.
In ancient Rome, the period from mid-May through mid-June was considered inauspicious for marriage. Ovid says that he consulted the Flaminica Dialis, the high priestess of Jupiter, about setting a date for his daughter’s wedding, and was advised to wait till after June 15. Plutarch, however, implies that the entire month of June was more favorable for weddings than May.
In the ancient Roman calendar, Quintilis or Quinctilis was the month following Junius (June) and preceding Sextilis (August). Quintilis is Latin for “fifth”: it was the fifth month (quintilis mensis) in the earliest calendar attributed to Romulus, which began with Martius (“Mars’ month,” March) and had 10 months. After the calendar reform that produced a 12-month year, Quintilis became the seventh month, but retained its name.
Quintilis was under the guardianship (tutela) of the Romans’ supreme deity Jupiter, with sacrifices made particularly to Neptune and Apollo. The importance of agricultural festivals directed at the harvest gradually lost their importance, and the month became dominated in urban Imperial Rome by the Ludi Apollinares, games (ludi) in honor of Apollo. Ten days of games were celebrated in honor of Julius Caesar at the end of the month.
In Roman mythology and religion, Quirinus is an early god of the Roman state. In Augustan Rome, Quirinus was also an epithet of Janus, as Janus Quirinus. His name may be derived from the Sabine word quiris “spear.” Quirinus is probably an adjective meaning “wielder of the spear” (Quiris, in the Sabine language, cf. Janus Quirinus).
Other suggested etymologies are from the Sabine town Cures, from curia, i.e. he was the god of the Roman state as represented by the thirty curies, first proposed by Krestchmer. A. B. Cook explains Quirinus as the oak-god (quercus), and Quirites as the men of the oaken spear.
Quirinus was originally most likely a Sabine god of war. The Sabines had a settlement near the eventual site of Rome and erected an altar to Quirinus on the Collis Quirinalis Quirinal Hill, one of the Seven hills of Rome. When the Romans settled there, they absorbed the cult of Quirinus into their early belief system — previous to direct Greek influence — and by the end of the first century BC Quirinus was considered to be the deified Romulus.
He soon became an important god of the Roman state, being included in the earliest precursor of the Capitoline Triad, a group of three deities who were worshipped in ancient Roman religion in an elaborate temple on Rome’s Capitoline Hill (Latin Capitolium), along with Mars (then an agriculture god) and Jupiter. Varro mentions the Capitolium Vetus, an earlier cult site on the Quirinal, devoted to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, among whom Martial makes a distinction between the “old Jupiter” and the “new”.
In later times, however, Quirinus became far less important, losing his place to the later, more widely known Capitoline Triad (Juno and Minerva took his and Mars’ place). Later still, Romans began to drift away from the state belief system in favor of more personal and mystical cults (such as those of Bacchus, Cybele, and Isis).
In the end, he was worshiped almost exclusively by his flamen, the Flamen Quirinalis, who remained, however, one of the patrician flamines maiores, the “greater flamens” who had precedence over the Pontifex Maximus.
Two distinct Capitoline Triads were worshipped at various times in Rome’s history, both originating in ancient traditions predating the Roman Republic. The one most commonly referred to as the “Capitoline Triad” is the more recent of the two, consisting of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The earlier triad, sometimes referred to in modern scholarship as the Archaic Triad, consisted of Jupiter, Mars and Quirinus and was Indo-European in origin. Each triad held a central place in the public religion of Rome during its time.
Religious historian A. Brelich has argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity which was split into a founder hero and a god when Roman religion became demythicised. Among the features of Romulus that make of him the human equivalent of Quirinus is his death at the hands of the patres which occurred on the date of the Quirinalia, February 17, also the last day of the Fornacalia or Stultorum Feriae according to Ovid’s Fasti.
Brelich maintains the equal identity of a god and founder hero with a staple food of a community, spelt in this case, is a well-known theme in anthropology, as shown in the myth of Hainuwele, which Jensen named as dema myth. The possible presence of the flamen Quirinalis at the festival of Acca Larentia would corroborate this thesis, given the fact that Romulus is a stepson of hers, and one the original twelfth arval brethren (Fratres Arvales).
According to Brelich the identity of Quirinus and Romulus would find a further point of support in the parallel with Vofionos, the third god in the triad of the Grabovian gods of Iguvium. Vofionos would be the equivalent of Liber orTeutates, in Latium and among the Celts respectively.
In 45 BC, the Roman general Julius Caesar instituted a new calendar (the Julian calendar) that corrected astronomical discrepancies in the old. After his death in 44 BC, the month of Quintilis, his birth month, was renamed Julius in his honor, hence July, by the Roman Senate. July is the seventh month of the year (between June and August) in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars and one of seven months with the length of 31 days.
It is on average the warmest month in most of the Northern hemisphere (where it is the second month of summer) and the coldest month in much of the Southern hemisphere (where it is the second month of winter). The second half of the year commences in July. In the Southern hemisphere, July is the seasonal equivalent of January in the Northern hemisphere.
In the Northern Hemisphere, “Dog days”, refering to the hot, sultry days of summer, originally in areas around the Mediterranean Sea, and as the expression fit, to other areas, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, are considered to begin in early July, when the hot sultry weather of summer usually starts. Spring lambs, born in late winter or early spring, are usually sold before July 1.
The coincidence of very warm temperatures in the early civilizations in North Africa and the Near East with the rising, at sunrise (i.e., the heliacal rising), of Orion’s dog, the dog star Sirius, led to the association of this phrase with these conditions, an association that traces to the Egyptians and appears in the ancient written poetic and other records of the Greeks (e.g., Hesiod and Aratus) and the later Romans (including Homer, in The Iliad).
The dog days are the hottest, most uncomfortable part of the Northern summer. Jay Holberg observes that the Greek poets Hesiod (ca. 750-650 BCE) and Aratus (ca. 310–240 BCE) refer in their writings to “the heat of late summer that the Greeks believed was actually brought on by the appearance of Sirius,” a star in the constellation that the later Romans and we today refer to as Canis Major, literally the “greater dog” constellation.
He notes: “The Greeks possessed an elaborate lore associated with Sirius… [Its] first appearance… in the morning skies during the final days of July and early August indicated the arrival of the sweltering heat of late summer… [and was] associated with heat, fire, and even fevers.” Homer, in the Iliad, references the association of “Orion’s dog” (Sirius) with oncoming heat, fevers and evil, in describing the approach of Achilles toward Troy.
The dog days continued through the early 19th century to be perceived as foreboding a time of evil, wherein “the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies,” as described by Brady in his Clavis Calendaria (1813).