All in a Month’s Etymology

Noon was originally 3pm.

[Noon is a corruption of the Latin word for ninth, “novem,” and originally referred to the ninth hour of the Roman day – reckoned by modern clocks to have been around 3pm. Noon was first used in this sense in the Old English period, before it finally came to refer to midday in the early Middle Ages. Precisely what motivated the change from 3 to 12 o’clock remains a mystery.]

I was studying Paul Anthony Jones’ Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities, (which is a wonderful incitement for all logodaedaluses) when this extract caught my attention. I was intrigued at why noon became midday, but what really made me struck was “novem.” November is the eleventh month of the year yet its name is derived from ninth? Then I looked at the other months. September – “Sept” means seven in French thus “Septem” meaning seven in Latin, the same applies to October (eight) and December (ten).

My research started.

The original Roman calendar was said to be invented by King Romulus, the first king of Rome, at around 753 BCE (Before Common Era). The calendar started in Martius (March) and consisted of ten months, with six months of 30 days and four months of 31 days. The winter season was not assigned to any month, so the calendar year only lasted 304 days with 61 days unaccounted for the winter.

Calendar of Romulus
1. Martius – 31 days (March)
2. Aprilis – 30 days (April)
3. Maius – 31 days (May)
4. Junius – 30 days (June)
5. Quintilis – 31 days (July)
6. Sextilis – 30 days (August)
7. September – 30 days
8. October – 31 days
9. November – 30 days
10. December – 30 days

The 304 day calendar did not work for long because it did not align with the seasons. King Numa Pompilius reformed the calendar around 700 BCE (53 years later) by adding the months Januarius (January) and Februarius (February) to the original ten months, which increased the year’s length to 354 days or 355 days.

The addition of January and February meant that some of the months’ names no longer agreed with their position in the calendar (September – December). The month Quintilis was renamed July in honor of Julius Caesar in 44 BCE and Sextilis was renamed August in honor of Augustus in 8 BCE.

Right, one would assume that I would be content with my findings and at peace with this whole Roman calendar knowledge – Well, not exactly. Being the intense thinker I am, I asked, “If September, October, November and December had their meanings, what came about of the other months?” I typed in “what is the meaning of Aprilis” and I was pleasantly surprised of what I had discovered.

Even though the real origin of Aprilis is lost, the most common theories is that Aprilis is derived from the Latin verb, “to open,” as the opening or blossoming of trees and flowers. Secondly, since the Romans often named months for gods and goddesses, April was sacred to Venus, the Roman goddess of love (Aphrodite in Greek mythology).

Currently intrigued, I searched March. Martius (“Mars” + “us” – suffix) was the original beginning of the year and the time for the resumption of war. Mars is the Roman god of war – identified with the Greek god Ares… If anyone is as fascinated with astrology as I am, you would have probably noticed a couple of “coincidences”.

• Aries is the first sign of the zodiac year which falls in March. People that are an Arian are ruled by the planet Mars and are generally prone to having an aggressive demine about them.
• Taurus is the second sign of the zodiac year which falls in April. Taureans are ruled by the planet Venus and are labelled as being loving and dependable.

Maius (May) can be translated to “the great one” in Latin and is derived from the name Maia. To the Italians she is the goddess of spring, but to the Romans/Greeks, she is the mother of Mercury/Hermes.
• Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac year which falls in May. Geminis are ruled by the planet Mercury and are known for being expressive and quick-witted.

Note: Virgo is also governed by Mercury but there is a story that we can interpret.

Demeter, goddess of harvest, had a virgin daughter: Persephone – she was also seen as a vegetation goddess as well as an icon of innocence. One day the god of the Underworld, Hades or later on known as Pluto abducted Persephone. Zeus sent Hermes to go and rescue her but failed due to her need for power when she became queen of the Underworld. She does, however return home when the summer months return to the earth. It is a myth that Demeter initiates the winter months when she misses her daughter the most…As if the earth suffers from the winter as she suffers from her grief.

With Junius (June) is derived from the word, “Juno,” who was once thought to be the Moon goddess. But she is rather best known to be the queen of the gods or the goddess of marriage and childbirth, which, for the record, are some of the intangible things that the Moon represents. Femininity, emotion and perception are other examples.
• Cancerians are ruled by the Moon and the Moon goddess is now known as Selene/Artemis.
Juno actually put Cancer in the constellation. It is the myth of how Juno ordered a giant crab to attack Hercules’ foot. (Juno was not fond of Hercules because he was the offspring of one of her husband’s –Zeus/Jupiter – affairs with mortals.) Even though the crab’s efforts were in vain, Juno admired the crab and she was extremely grateful for his obedience, she placed the crab’s figure in the heavens along with the other heroic symbols.

In ancient Rome, July was dominated by the Ludi Apollinares (games in honor of Apollo).
• Apollo is the sun god. Leo is the sixth sign of the zodiac year and falls in July. Leos are ruled by the Sun.

Here’s my favourite discovery: If one isimages (3) born a Pisces, they are governed by the planet Neptune, Neptune previously known as Poseidon the retiarius god of the sea. Even planet Neptune’s symbol is a trident that represents, “Becoming, Being and Passing away” on its three points. I found that Februarius (February) – which when the Sun reaches the sign of Pisces, is derived from “Februus,” the Roman god of purification. “…changeable and illusory in nature. Dreams, illusions, abstract thought and the mysterious are all governed by Neptune. NEPTUNE INVITES US TO LET ITS ENERGY WASH OVER US and to use a meditative state to gain insights and heightened awareness.” Neptune is associated with cleansing and purifying one’s self.

So one has to ask, “Did the Romans intend to align their months with the Zodiac year initially?” Or, “Did the formation of the Zodiac Calendar follow the Roman calendar?”



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