Sunday, May 02, 2010

Sunday Supplement ~~ MAY

Of our 12 calendar months, four are named for Roman or Greek deities (Janus, Mars, Maia, Juno); two for Roman rulers (Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar); four numerical, according to ancient calendars the 7th to 10th months (Septem, Octem, Novem, Decem); and two represent the essence of the months in question: February, last month of the Roman calendar, a month of purification and atonement, from the Latin word februa, to cleanse. April isn't quite as clear - could come from the Latin word aperio, to open (as in buds opening because this is when they do so); or April could be another month named for a goddess - Aphrodite.

Current month, MAY, named (according to most sources) for Maia, goddess of spring and one of the mythical Seven Sisters of the Pleiades, a star cluster 400 light years distant from Earth in the constellation of Taurus. Maia, eldest of the seven sisters, became a lover of Zeus and brought forth Hermes (aka Mercury). Those Greeks certainly had vivid imaginations!

Pleiades in Greek mythology were the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, daughter of Oceanus. They were Electra, Maia, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Sterope, and Merope. After their death, or metamorphosis to doves (according to which myth one prefers), they were transformed into stars, and pursued across the sky by Orion, the constellation.

There are alternative theories about the origin of MAY's name, involving a different goddess, or that the name comes from the Latin maiores = elders, because the month might have been a time when senior citizens were honored. In which case June, the next month, Junius, could have been a time for honoring the young, the juniors: iuniores. That theory would dispense with two deities, and I'd guess that it's not the origin of MAY.


R J Adams said...


anthonynorth said...

Sounds good to me.

Wisewebwoman said...

What a creative, inventive time it all was!

Twilight said...

RJ/AN/WWW ~~~ Hi y'all, and thanks for reading.