The Norse days of the week have an interesting history that goes back many centuries, starting with the Greeks. Using the planets and their gods, they used these to name each day of the week.
Over time, the names were also used by the Romans, who similarly used their planetary gods as a basis for the days of the week.
As the centuries progressed, the names were passed down to other civilizations and other languages. The result of this is that there are still similarities between the names of centuries past to the Viking days of the week and the English names that we use today.
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What were the Old Norse days of the week?
In Old Norse terminology, the seven days of the week are named as follows:
- Monday – Manadagr
- Tuesday – Tysdagr
- Wednesday – Odinsdagr
- Thursday – Þórsdagr
- Friday – Frjadagr
- Saturday – Laugardagr
- Sunday – Sunnudagr
Overview of the names of the week in ancient Rome
Throughout the centuries, the names of the week have remained connected and similar in some ways. For example, the Romans used the names of the sun, the moon, and five planets, which they had already named after their gods. The Latin origins of the days of the week that the Romans used were as follows:
- Sunday, known as dies Solis, translates to Sol’s Day. Sol was the sun god of the ancient Romans.
- Monday, known as dies Lunae, translates to Luna’s Day. Luna was the moon goddess of the ancient Romans.
- Tuesday, known as dies Martis, is Mar’s Day. Mars was Rome’s god of war.
- Wednesday, known as dies Mercuri, is Mercury’s Day. He had the dual role of being the Roman god’s messenger and being a god of commerce.
- Thursday, known as dies Jovis, is translated as either Jove’s Day or Jupiter’s Day. He also had a dual role. He was king of the Roman gods and also a god of thunder and the sky.
- Friday, known as dies Veneris, translates to Venus Day. She retained the title of the goddess of love for the ancient Romans.
- Saturday, known as dies Saturni, translates to Saturn’s Day.
Beginning origins of naming the days of the week
Credit for the origins of naming the days of the week goes to the ancient Babylonian calendar. The process they used involved the lunar cycle, the seven celestial bodies the Babylonians could see at night, and the earth’s rotation around the sun.
The Babylonians broke down the lunar cycle, which took 28 days, into four weeks, and determined seven days per week based on the seven bodies they had observed and named them. The calendar’s influence on cultures to follow, including the Greeks and Romans, was significant.
What are the days of the week named after Norse gods?
In Norse mythology, each of the seven days of the week is associated with a particular Norse god or goddess. Saturday is the one day that is a little different as explained below. The Norse days of the week in mythology are named as follows:
1. Monday (Manadagr)
As the first of the Viking days of the week, Norse history notes this day as being the day of the moon. Norse lore notes that Mani, the moon god, was condemned to ride through the sky in his horse-drawn chariot throughout eternity.
The general consensus for his lifelong chariot ride and pursuit is that his parents naming him after a god was too bold and because of this, Mani had to forever guide the course the moon would take each night.
He is pursued by Hati Hrodvitnisson, a wolf, who chases him every night across the sky and ultimately catches him. This determines the end of the night so the sun can rise and begin a new day. Along with being the moon god, Mani is also brother to Sol, who is the goddess of the sun.
2. Tuesday (Tysdagr)
The Norse chose Tyr, son of Odin, to be the god Tuesday is named after. Tyr was designated as the god of the sword and considered a patron of all warriors.
Tyr was not only a god of war, but he was also considered a primary figure who focused on upholding justice and the law. While being the god of law and war might seem to be conflicting, the two were intertwined by the Norse people.
One of the beliefs about the second day of the week was that if a war was to be started with opposing forces, Tysdagr was the day to initiate it.
3. Wednesday (Odinsdagr)
The mighty Odin was the god of war. He was the most powerful and influential of all the Viking gods. He was also known to be wise and also held the designation as the god of wisdom, poetry, magic, death, and divination, according to Norse Mythology.
4. Thursday (Þórsdagr)
Thor, son of Odin, who is best known for wielding his hammer and creating the sound of thunder as he rode in his chariot across the sky, was the powerful god selected to name a day of the week.
A belief during this time was that Thursday (Þórsdagr) was a magical day. and it was a good day to plan important meetings or to make decisions.
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5. Friday (Frjadagr)
Two goddesses in Norse mythology are associated with Frjadagr – Freya and Frigg. Both Norse goddesses are associated with several areas, such as love, fertility, femininity, lust, blessings, motherhood, magic, war, and death.
6. Saturday (Laugardagr)
The history or myths surrounding Saturday is a little confusing because there is an ongoing debate about Loki’s status as a god.
One of the questions under discussion is when Loki became a god, (at birth or later) and if he is a true god or a companion to the gods. For most, Loki is considered a trickster god of mischief and mayhem.
7. Sunday (Sunnudagr)
In Norse mythology, the sun is represented by the goddess Sol, the sister of Mani, the moon god. The two siblings represented the sun and the moon and throughout eternity, they guided their horse-drawn chariots across the sky.
Sol was continuously pursued by the wolf Skoll, who would devour her, which marked the end of the day prior to her brother, Mani, and his horses and chariot taking to the night sky.
What did the Vikings call Saturday?
Saturday, or dies Saturni, in Roman times, was designated as Saturn’s Day. This was in honor of the Roman god, Saturn. In Norse mythology, Saturday was named “Laugardagr” which was derived from two things: wash day (“laugardagen”) and Loki’s day.
The Vikings were known for being an exceptionally clean culture and took pride in the way they looked, which resulted in taking great care of their appearance.
This is why, in Old Norse mythology, they chose to call Saturday “Laugardagr”. The day was designated as laugardagen, or “hot water day”, which translates to washing day or washing your clothes day.
And this has lived on today in the various Scandinavian languages. This is clearest in Icelandic, where the word for Saturday is “laugardag” and thus shows how the name of the Norse day of the week for Saturday is clearly evident. However, even in the other languages in this part of the world, which are considered Germanic, it’s the Norse version that has retained influence.
That is, in German, the word for Saturday is “Samstag”, similar to English. However, it’s “lørdag” (Danish), “lördag” (Swedish) and “lørdag” (Norwegian) in the Nordics, showing how the old Norse influence continues to this day.
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What day is Loki’s Day?
Saturday (Laugardagr) is Loki’s Day (Loki Dagr). In Norse mythology, the god of agriculture, Sataere, which translates to the thief in ambush, is associated with Loki because of his reputation as a trickster god and being evil and responsible for creating mischief and discord.
Although his lineage on his mother’s side is debated, it may have meant he was considered a god from the day he was born. The debate about his parentage has resulted in no definite agreement on how he attained god status. Other scholars contend his association with Odin and Thor combined with the magical powers he inherited naturally and some of the things he was taught may have promoted him to god status.
One thing that stands out is the number of times Loki is mentioned in Old Norse texts and myths. Also, he was frequently in the company or presence of truly designated gods. It is also generally agreed upon that Odin’s wife, Frigga, was Loki’s mentor in the area of magic.
His close association with Norse gods, his easy access to them, and the attention he received from Odin’s wife have led to a lot of speculation and debate. These situations have led to many questions that remain unanswered as to how and when Loki became a god.
As a trickster god, Loki was at the top of the list in Norse mythology. He was mischievous as well as devious and deceptive, regardless of who his antics were aimed at. A good way to describe the trickster god is that no one ever knew who, if anyone, he was loyal to or if his antics were going to be good or bad.