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Every Monday at work, I hear people complaining that they wish it would be Friday already. Everyone waits for this last day of the working week with excitement and eagerness. Friday represents the completion of the week, and at the same time, the beginning of the weekend. The origins of the word "Friday" take their roots from Norse mythology, when this day signified rejuvenation, and at the same time loss, death or completion. In various cultures, this day has numerous meanings and is perceived both positively and with anxiety. The meaning of Friday was preserved through centuries, and today we still use the pagan name of Friday as well as pagan names for other days of the week in the English language.
Friday has come a long way from the Anglo-Saxon frigedaeg or from the Old High German Freyja, a goddess of love and fertility. In Germanic mythology Freyja was portrayed as the goddess of youth, beauty, and sexual love. She was married to Odur, but he left her to travel around the world. Afterward, Freyja was depicted weeping, and her tears were drops of gold. Freyja's most famous possession was her necklace, Brising ("necklace of the dwarfs"), given to her by the dwarfs in exchange for her having sexual intercourse with them. Often in myths Freyja is accused of having sexual intercourse with many men and gods. Also Freyja is known as a patron of married couples and "is very fond of love ditties, and all lovers would do well to invoke her," according to the Prose Edda (Mercatante 264). However, besides being the patron of marriage and goddess of fertility, Freyja is portrayed as the goddess of battle and death. She claimed half of the dead warriors killed in battles and received them in her realm of Folkvang. Odur, her husband, received the other half of warriors at Valhalla. The fact that Friday was held sacred to this goddess of fertility and death signifies that inhabitants of ancient England perceived this day as the beginning and at the same time as the completion of their weekly activities, or possibly life.
Although in various cultures the meaning of Friday differs, there are numerous similarities, which can be traced down to the common source. In Norse mythology, where paganism dominated religious and cultural settings, Friday was considered to be the day of love and a good day to put a beginning to various activities such as farming or a conception of a child.
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We use the names of the weekdays every day in our language. However, we do not often realize that these names are the remains of the pagan culture left to us by Anglo-Saxon ancestors. It is already known that Friday was held sacred to Freyja, the goddess of love, fertility and death. Furthermore, Thursday is another day of the week, the name of which was used in pagan England. Thursday was dedicated to Freyja's son, god of thunder - Thor. Wednesday is also related to Friday and Thursday, for this day was named after Freyja's husband Odur or Woden. Tuesday was "named for the Norse god of war, Tiu, or Tyr, the son of Odin, or Woden" (Funk & Wagnalls). The rest of the weekdays have similar pagan origins. They were all held sacred to one pagan god or another. For example, Saturday was dedicated to the god of time, Saturn. Sunday celebrated the sun, the giver of life and light, and Monday was the day of the moon. Therefore, the names of the weekdays that are used in Anglo-speaking countries have emerged from the pagan culture of Angles and Saxons.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: we use these words every day without thinking where they come from and what they signify. Yet these words are the artifacts of the long-gone pagan culture, which existed in Anglo-Saxon England. The meaning of each day has come from things and objects that these people have held sacred. Here, a proverb comes to my mind, which says that everything new is something long-long forgotten.
Blackburn, Bonnie, and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. The Oxford Companion to the Year: An Exploration of Calendar Customs and Time-Reckoning. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1999.
Hatch, Jane M. The American Book of Days. 3rd ed. Ed. George William Douglas. New York: Wilson, 1978. Mercatante, Anthony S. "Freyja." The Facts on File Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend. 1988.
"Tuesday." Funk & Wagnalls Knowledge Center. 1998. 24 Sep. 2000.