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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Janus, Februm, Mars… Do you know the divine names of the months?

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Who names the months and how?

Several thousand years passed until the world united around a common way of counting time. Yes, thousands.

As early as five and more millennia ago, ancient civilizations discovered ways to track and record the transition of life from one cycle to another. When the sun will set for the moon to rise, when is the time to sow the crop and how long it will be ready to harvest.

To count time in the modern world, we use a calendar of 12 months, the names of which have been given since ancient times. They sound quite similar in most European languages, and even if you don’t speak German for example, you can’t help but know which month December is.

Who names the months and how?

Because of their inaccuracies, even ancient calendars underwent numerous changes, including the addition of more months and days, increasing the length of the year. As strange as it is, there were also days in them that did not fall into any month – they were just a “hole” in the year.

• The first month of the year is named after the Roman god Janus. The god is depicted with two faces facing in opposite directions – one looking to the past and the other to the future.

In ancient times the gates of the temple of Janus were opened in times of war and closed in times of peace. This is why the Roman god is considered the patron of gates and new ventures. The first day of the month was a holiday and was also named in his honor.

• Known nowadays as the month of love and wine, “February” comes from the Latin word Februae – purification, and from the name of the god Februum.

The ancient Romans called the month a feast of cleansing the body during this time of year. Many of you at this moment will guess why exactly in February the followers of the teacher Petar Danov observe the so-called a regimen for purifying the soul and body.

• The ancient calendar of the Roman Republic had 10 months and only 304 days, and the year started from the current third month in the Gregorian calendar – the month of March. It is named after the Roman god of war Mars (Martius).

In ancient times, military campaigns that had been interrupted during the cold winter months were resumed in March. After the reform of Julius Caesar, March was shifted and two more months were added before it, and every fourth year was considered a leap year and had an extra day.

• The name of the fourth month of the year – April, is taken from the Latin word for “to blossom” – aperio.

By the same logic, the ancient Bulgarians gave the name of the month before the adoption of the Latin equivalent. They called the month birch – after the birch that bloomed at that time of the year.

• We can say that the months of May and June are the gentle months because they bear the names of ancient goddesses.

May from the ancient Greek goddess of greenery and flowers – Maya (Maius), and June – from the Roman goddess Juno, patroness of marriage, the welfare of women and childbirth.

• After the tender months, come two, bearing the names of two of the greatest, most influential and significant men in the history of mankind.

July is named after a politician, strategist and writer – Julius Caesar, and August – after the first Roman emperor and his successor – Octavian Augustus.

It was Julius Caesar together with the mathematician Sosigenes in 46 BC. reformed the Roman calendar used until then. Thus, with the new improvements, the use of the Julian calendar, named after Gaius Julius Caesar, was introduced.

• Despite the changes in the now new and more accurate Julian calendar, the names of the last four months of the year were preserved.

Most likely, there were attempts to find other names for September, October, November and December, but nevertheless they kept their previous names for the numbers 7, 8, 9 and 10, left over from the ancient Roman calendar. You remember – in it, the year starts from March, respectively, September is the seventh month, and December is the tenth.

Photo: Roman Forum view from Capitoline hill / Photo by Katie Kalmykova on Unsplash

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