It can often seem rather daunting attempting to get to grips with the more in-depth material used to illustrate the underlying cultural unities between the Indo-European peoples … so we thought we’d start with something different. Something simpler. Something so sufficiently common-place that you encounter it every day.
Literally, in fact – for we’re talking about the Days of the Week. (And will thence begin to build into some Comparative Mythography proper).
Let’s start with English. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.
Many people know that these come to us from the Germanic names for their days of the week; and that connected to each one (with one exception) is a Nordic deity or personification, whose Day it was supposed to be.
You can clearly see this in the Old Norse renderings for same: Manadagr, Tysdagr, Odinsdagr, Thorsdagr, Frjadagr, Laugardagr, and Sunnudagr.
But what’s less well known is that the Germanic peoples likely got their names for the days of the week from the Romans, who’d themselves named each of the seven days of the week after deities sacred to them. In Latin, they are: Dies Lunae, Dies Martis, Dies Mercurii, Dies Iovis, Dies Veneris, Dies Saturni, and Dies Solis.
And straightaway, you can see that the names of the days of the week in Latin aren’t just those of Gods – but also, as it happens, those of *planets* (or other celestial objects, in the case of the Moon and Sun). That’s important for where we’re about to head next.
In Hindi, the days of the week are rendered thus: Somavar, Mangalavar, Budhvar, Guruvar, Shukravar, Shanivar, Ravivar.
This may seem a little strange at first … but it’s actually pretty much exactly the same system of Divine/Celestial Object naming that we’re relatively familiar with from both English and Latin. And when I say “exactly the same” system, insofar as the planets and other celestial bodies [‘Graha’] in question and their order goes, I’m actually not kidding. “Vara” connotates the idea of it being someone’s turn or ownership. “Soma” (in addition to being the name of the sacred elixir mentioned in the Vedas) is in this context a virtual synonym for “Chandra” – referring to the Moon. Mangala is the planet Mars .. and also, as a point of interest, a red-coloured Vedic-era War God Who rides upon a ram. Budha (no relation to “Buddha”, before somebody asks) is Mercury (also linked in some texts to Vishnu), a Vedic-era deity cited for His intelligence and possession of knowledge. ‘Guru’ in this context refers to Brhaspati – another Vedic-era deity, Who acted as a sage or wise-man dispensing counsel for the Gods [i.e. their Guru], and is reckoned as Jupiter in the NavaGraha system. Shukra, meaning “Bright” in Sanskrit, offers us no surprises in being the planet Venus – the brightest “star” in the night sky. Shani, meanwhile, means “slow-moving”, in reference to the seriously long time it takes Saturn to orbit – and in a manner similar to the names the Greeks and Romans affixed to Saturday [Chronus and Saturn respectively], refers to a rather ‘dark’ deity of potentially malign import. And given the schema thus far, the Solar identity of “Ravi” ought be patently obvious 😀
So as you can see, exactly the same planets as rendered by the Romans. And, indeed, it has been speculated by some scholars that the reason for this in India is a direct importation of Roman astrology and such at some point mid-way through the first millennium A.D. – although the plain fact that the Grahas [‘planets’] and associated Deities appear to turn up *many hundreds of years before that* in Hindu texts puts that in quite some doubt.
But it is the Deity associations with days that may arguably prove the most remarkable. You see, in addition to the Graha, for we Hindus each day *also* has a major deity strongly connected to it in our reckoning. In order, They are: Lord Shiva (Monday), Lord Hanuman (Tuesday), Lord Vishnu – although also often Lord Shiva (Wednesday), Lord Indra (Thursday), Mother Durga (Friday), Lord Shani (Saturday), and Lord Surya (Sunday). These are the connections that I was taught by my family; although other regions can differ somewhat and so you will occasionally see Durga associated with Tuesday, Hanuman with Saturday (warding off the baelful influence associated with Shani), Ganesha with Wednesday, Vishnu with Thursday, and quite often Lord Skanda/Kartikeya connected to Tuesday.
Why is this ‘remarkable’? Well, look at that list of deities, and then correlate them with the Roman and Nordic deities occupying largely the same positions. Take Mangala and Skanda/Kartikeya on Tuesday, for instance. This is the Day of Mars in Roman reckoning, so we should find it absolutely no surprise that that it is two Hindu War Gods Who are thought of as presiding over this day. Durga, too, as the foremost warrior and war-leader of the Gods, is almost self-explanatory in Her positioning here. Hanuman, meanwhile, is at least partially connected to Tuesday due to a belief in His ability to keep the … potentially unbalanced influence of Mangala in check; although there is also something else going on here which we shall explore in future posts in connection with an archetype of the 2nd Function deity.
The connections between the Thursday Gods – Indra, Thor, and Jupiter – are similarly directly apparent. Each is what we might term a ‘Storm Lord’, a ‘Jovial’ figure [in both the figurative and apparently rather literal senses) armed with a percussive weapon that is a Thunderbolt, and two out of three are both the rulers of their respective pantheons (sort-of in the case of Indra – things change a bit over the course of our mythology; although with Jupiter, it’s the result of this also being the localized representation of “Dyaus Pitar” – the Sky Father).
Friday’s Deities are a little more complex. There are obvious and well-founded coterminities between Freyja/Frigg and Durga – in both instances, warrior goddesses of fearsome import and well-founded combative reputation, Who are also regarded as possessing a more ‘tender’ side and unparalleled beauty. The difficulty arises in the ‘intermediate’ cultural-religious complex between ‘Vedic’ and ‘Eddic’ that both are “supposed” to have been influenced by according to certain academics – i.e. the Greco-Romans, and their identification of Friday with Aphrodite/Venus. Although despite what one may initially think due to the pop-cultural understandings of the Divinity in question, the connection is not nearly as strained as it may first appear. Venus, for instance, was *also* worshipped as a Goddess of military victory by the Romans – whether due to the patronage role of Venus over one particular Patrician line that eventually gave us both Caesars Julius & Augustus, or possibly due to incorporation via syncreticism of Eastern deities; and we can also find support for Mother Parvati (Durga as Wife rather than Warrior in focus) having functions as a Goddess in connection with love, fertility, and marriage. There is even a speculated etymology which may connect all three sets based around a Proto-Indo-European root “Priho” [‘dear one’] – although while this definitely stands at the origin-point of “Freyja”, and may very well link to “Aphrodite” in a similar manner, the extent to which it may link to “Parvati” is somewhat questionable due to the reasonably well-supported derivation of this name from Proto-Indo-European “Peru” [stone]. Tantalizing hints around the Hittite “Pirwa” must, unfortunately, remain just that for the moment.
The various “Sun-days” need no further explication. In each instance, it is the Sun that is remembered upon this occasion; with the only serious divergence being the female personification of the Sun in Nordic cosmology, as compared to the male iterations more commonly found in both Hindu and Classical civilization. However, against this it is important to weigh the speculation around the ‘original’ Indo-European Sun Divinity potentially being female – something that still echoes in various places, and in particular with the Hindu Aspect of MataJI, Kushmanda.
The Moon-Day is similarly straightforward; although with two caveats. First, that once again, it is hypothesized that the ‘original’ Proto-Indo-European pantheon had a *male* lunar personification (with the female association with the Moon so common in popular-culture largely the result of the profusion of such regardings in Greek civilization (many of which may tie back to a far fewer range of origin-points), to the point that we no longer seriously think of a ‘masculine’ Moon here in the West beyond folk-traditions pertaining to the “Man in the Moon”); and second, that once again, it is both the Nordic and Vedic traditions that manage to keep this awareness alive – with the Mani of the Norsemen joined by Soma/Chandra of the Hindus as a male lunar personification … thence associated with Lord Shiva due to the ‘Moon-Crown’ [Chandrasekhar] which His brow is adorned with, along with the Soma associations of said deity.
Wednesday, however, is probably one of the most complex of the set, as it evinces and addeuces the fundamental difficulties of reconciliation to be found between Greco-Roman and Nordic civilizations via the Interpretatio Romano; and, further, another underlying and perhaps unexpected parallel betwixt the Nordic and Indic religious planes. You see, the position of “Woden’s Day” in Nordic atop the “Mercury’s Day” of the Romans is the result of the Interpretatio Romano prioritizing various of Odin’s features over others in such a way as to establish an equivalency that the modern reader might not immediately have leapt to.
In particular, they have emphasized Oden [or, in this case, “Woten”, more properly] as “Wanderer”, as possessor of hidden wisdom, and rather directly connected to the Wind [indeed, the very word “Wind” and “Woden” likely share a common origin-point amidst the Proto-Indo-European lexicon of roots – along with, as a point of interest, “Voice”, and a particular Latinate term – Vates – for a sort of prophet or seer] [Also consider the clear linkage, via the “Va-” particle common to both “Vatain” and “Vata” and “Vayu” [names in Germanic, Iranic, and Indic languages respectively for a Wind God], the direct connection between the Indo-Iranian and Nordic elements here; as a point of interest, this also forms the root of the word “nirvana” [meaning ‘to blow out’] – although Mjolniryana Buddhism will have to wait for another time 😛 ]. This makes for a clear and eloquent fit with Mercury, the fleet-footed wanderer who moves with the speed of the wind, and who speaks with the silver-tongue of one who is not always who he seems in both divination and to divinities or men.
Admittedly, this eschews the connections between Odin and the ‘Sky Father’ portfolio position so common to the Indo-Europeans peoples [which will be expanded at greater length in a future piece; but suffice to say that the father of the Storm Lord position is invariably such a being, shaft-weapon armed, and married to an Earth Mother figure, inter alia] ; but as noted above, the ‘confusion’ that has taken place in Greco-Roman religion to result in their Storm Lord and Sky Father figures becoming conflated is perhaps responsible for such an oversight.
As applies the connections between the Deities of Wednesday in Occident and Orient, we have put quite some work into sketching out the *direct* nature of the parallels betwixt Odin and Rudra/Shiva – indeed, to the point wherein it is de rigeur within both our Research Institute and its related Monastic Order [the Nordic-Aryan Sangha] to refer to them as two perceptions for two peoples of the same being. This will be elaborated upon in subsequent materials, however given the well-established connection of Vayu and Shiva in the Vedic-era and more especially, Puranic texts, it is not hard to see where one might begin to look when it comes to ‘bringing back together’ deities of the howling storm wind connected with wolves, with poetry, with lances and spears and tridents, and with mad, ecstatic, frenzied fighters.
In terms of the *other* common Hindu belief pertaining to Wednesday – that it is tied to Sri Vishnu – I am not a Vaishnava, so will leave any greater explication as to the potential linkages of symbolism to commentators more well-versed in the relevant symbology; although it does occur that the Vedic-era materials placing Vishnu at the high apex of the heavens may have some bearing here.
Saturday, meanwhile, presents serious difficulties. Not only due to the Nordic ‘Saturday’ simply being a direct calque from the Latin Saturn’s Day (or, for that matter, its occasional displacement by terms meaning “Washing Day” or “Sunday-Eve”) as a result of the Nordic pantheon lacking an easy direct equivalent; but also due to the ongoing contentiousness of the identification of Saturn with Cronus – the precise ins and outs of which are far too lengthy and arcane to be gone into in this brief introduction (suffice to say i) there’s strong potential for the character of Saturn to have changed quite a bit between potentially Etruscan origins and subsequent ‘cultural encounter’ with the Greeks by the Romans; ii) the nature of Cronus is rendered additionally opaque due to his position in Greek myth basically being a jumbling of the likely ‘original’ order of the Proto-Indo-European structure of things; iii) it being somewhat questionable in both cases as to how much of what we *think* we know about symbolism, and suchlike, is actually authentic from the time). Still, as noted above, the linkage of Shani with Saturn is, in a planetary sense at least, not in any serious doubt – although we yet have much work to do in this area to chase up some intriguing leads by which Shani and Cronus might be connected – not least of which, is the potential linkage of Crows between them.
Now obviously, much of the material above is subject to a certain threshing of academic debate from time to time, particularly as applies Proto-Indo-European etymologies and the curious insistence of some writers in questioning whether we Hindus actually had many of the planetary associations aforementioned prior to the spread of the Roman and/or Greek elements we’ve touched upon into the East.
The Divine Equivalencies sketched out above are also, clearly, not perfect – both because different cultures have interpreted the same origin points differently in light of clime and happenstance and character, but also – perhaps more pressingly for this account – because I have been forced to leave out so very much for reasons of brevity [and I apologize for getting a bit carried away in some areas with etymological concerns and illustrations and suchlike].
But in any case, the above piece ought provide a few sparks for the imagination; both serving to briefly illuminate some of the sorts of research we do, as well as the fact that the coterminities betwixt the Indo-European Cultures and Religions have actually been existing there in plain sight this whole time … just waiting for those with the right pairs of eyes and dispositions to start uncovering and popularizing them.
If you’re interested in seeing more or more depth and detail about anything raised in the above commentary, please don’t hesitate to ask a question in the comments or fire us a direct line via the message function. You should also stay tuned for future articles touching on these matters in far greater scope than has been possible here.