Weekly Gods (The Myths Behind the Days of the Week)

Arkane Curiosities

The passage of weeks shape our lives in so many ways. But the story of how we settled on seven days and the names of the days dates back thousands of years. 

Why Seven Days?

The Babylonians had remarkably good astronomical knowledge. In addition to the sun and the moon, they knew about the five closest planets. Add those up and you get seven celestial bodies — one for each day of the week. 

Seven days also matched the cycles of the moon — the time it took to transition from one phase to the next. 

The names for the days of the week corresponded with different Babylonian gods, each associated with a planet. 

  • Sun: Shamash
  • Moon: Sin
  • Mars: Nergal
  • Mercury: Nabu
  • Jupiter: Marduk
  • Venus: Ishtar
  • Saturn: Ninurta

The Greek Gods Take Over the Week

As the Greek civilization grew to dominate the Mediterranean, they were influenced by the Babylonians. They, too, named two days after the sun and the moon, calling them day of the Sun (Hemera Helio) and day of the moon (Hemera Selenes). Hemera was the goddess who personified the day.

All the other days of the week were named for Greek gods, instead of the visible planets. 

  • Tuesday became hemera Areos after Ares, the merciless god of war 
  • Wednesday was named hemera Hermu for Hermes, the messenger for the gods
  • Thursday was hemera Dios or Zeus’ day, the king of the gods and the lord of sky and thunder
  • Friday was named hemera Aphrodites after Aphrodite, goddess of love
  • Saturday became hemera Khronu from Kronos, the lord of the Titans, and Zeus’s father

The Romans Rename Everything

The Romans were famous for taking what someone else had done and slapping their own name on it. They simply took the Greek gods and replaced them with the Latin name.

  • Tuesday became dies Martis (after Mars)
  • Wednesday became dies Mercurii (after Mercury)
  • Thursday became dies Jovis (after Jove, also called Jupiter)
  • Friday became dies Veneris (after Venus)
  • Saturday became dies Saturni (after Saturn). This was also a winter festival called Saturnalia, where enslaved people traded places with their masters for a few festive days

The Romans continued to honor the sun and the moon, making “dies Solis” (for Sunday) and “dies Lunae” (for Monday).

Same Days Different Gods

The folks living across the Rhine River had continual contact with the Romans and adopted many of their customs. When the Roman Empire collapsed, Germanic tribes spread out over Europe. They kept the same days of the week, simply swapping out their own Norse gods for the Roman counterparts. 

Sunday
In German, this started as sunnon-dagaz “day of the sun”. The Norse mythology called the Sun Sunna. As it migrated into English, it became Soneday.

Monday
The Germanic tribes preserved this as a moon day. The “mon” in Monday represents the Moon.

Tuesday
This day was named after the Norse god Tyr, a god of warriors and combat (the closest to the Roman Mars). Tyr’s name was sometimes spelled Tiw, giving us Tiwesday.

Wednesday
The Germanic tribes associated their chief god, Odin, with the messenger god Mercury (both traveled to earth to deliver wisdom). If it seems a strange leap from Odin to Wednesday, we need to understand he was also called Woden, giving us Wodnesday.

Thursday
Just as the Romans and Greeks honored the king of the gods, the German tribes did the same, but with Thor rather than Zeus. There were two names to this day. We have the literal thunresdæg for “thunder’s day” or thorsdagr for “Thor’s day”.

Friday
This marks the biggest shift from the Greek/Roman system and what we know in English. Instead of the goddess of love, they opted for Odin’s wife Frigg (or Freda). The day was known as frigedæg and later simply fridai.

Saturday
The Germanic tribes didn’t assign a god to this day of the week. Instead, they kept the Roman name of Saturni, shifting to sæterdæg and later saterday.

Every time you mark a date on your calendar, you’re actually honoring ancient gods and goddesses that go back thousands of years. 

Tim Kane

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Reality Shifting (Manual or Automatic)

I never turn down a good pun. I imagine most reality travelers wish shifting were this easy. There’s been a lot of talk about reality shifting going around these days. For me, it’s hard to seperate from lucid dreaming, but maybe it’s just my lack of expertise.

In terms of the locations for this comic, I tried to pick the ones that popped up the most on search engines (listing the place rather than the “world”). Hogwarts of course represents Harry Potter. Hawkins is for Hawkins, Indiana (home of the Stranger Things crew). Wonderland, I think, needs no introduction and I’m happy to see such a classic is still a fav amongst the modern crowd. Finally, the Pink Place Apartments refers to Coraline, the world created by Neil Gaiman.

Tim Kane

Anatomy of a Latte

So how many tears, exactly, do into a latte? All I know is this, Starbucks isn’t really in the coffee business. For on, their java is terrible. Dark and burned. What they really sell is caffeine, sugar and image. You get a Starbucks because everyone has one. Maybe there’s some convenience thrown in. They have dominated the planet. Personally, I prefer to churn up my own java creations.

Though I have been known to indulge.

Tim Kane

Tower of Jargon

Not only am I an ancient history fan, I’m also obsessed with words. Particularly idioms and puns. I can’t say that I’m an expert at any of the millennial or Gen Z jargon, but I love running across it.

Words are like cars. Each one has a different feel. And although I may never been a race driver, I do enjoy stepping into the seat of a new phrase and seeing how it handles. Sort of like a Top Gear for vocabulary.

Tim Kane

Inside Your Cup of Coffee

I can’t live without my cup of Joe, but as I read through the book Uncommon Grounds, I find out more and more about this mysterious beverage.

Coffee

Like how a goat herder in Ethiopia discovered it when his goats went missing. He found them jumping around, buzzed off the red coffee berries. Fast forward a few centuries, and we have coffee in every store on the planet. But what exactly is in a cup?

coffee-berry

It all starts with a coffee berry. Too bad what we really want is nestled deep inside. Two seeds surrounded by a silver skin that’s hard to remove.

Acording to Al Rayan, there are many grades of roasting you can get from a bean. (Side note, when Americans first got hold of these beans, we liked them green. Then we’d roast them right before making a cup.)

roasts

The bitterness associated with coffee comes from the roasting. Think about licking a singed hunk of wood. Yeah, not so great.

The bitterness comes from O-caffeoylquinic acids, present in raw coffee beans. A light or medium roast dehydrates the acids to create various lactones and a pleasant bitterness that most coffee lovers adore. Keep roasting, and the lactones break apart to from 4-vinylcatechol, which goes through some more chemical steps to create compounds that give a harsh bitter that lingers on the tongue.

Once roasted, coffee beans can stay fresh for months. Once ground, however, and you have only about two weeks to make your coffee (key here, grind your own). But even after being brewed, the chemistry of coffee changes. Lactones become free acids, dropping the pH from between 5 and 5.2 down to a 4.6. This shifts the acidity from a green bean level to that of a tomato.

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The longer you keep your coffee hot, the more sour and bitter it will taste.

Although many studies have found antioxidant qualities in coffee, you could be canceling these out by adding cream or sugar. A study by a fella named Crozier showed that adding cream to strawberries slowed the absorption of antioxidants. So if you want the best health benefits from java, drink it black.

This fun video shows you some of the more interesting compounds in the aroma of coffee. Check it out.

Happy drinking, and check out my Pinterest collection of all things coffee.

Tim Kane