Friday, September 18, 2009
What’s in a Name?
Much can be learned about a folk culture by the names it ascribes to its days, weeks, months, and seasons. They are often based upon the weather conditions, beliefs or activities of community life that take place.
September, for example, is known as the month of abundance. Originally it was the seventh month of the Roman Calendar (Romulus Calendar) which started in March (spring) and in time was converted to the Julian Calendar. According to HyperDictionary, September’s Latin name was Septem (seven).
Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and orchards, was its patroness.
The French Republican calendar referred to September as Fructidor (fruit month) which lasted from August 18 through September 21. No doubt this was in recognition of the time of year that a majority of available fruits ripened.
Martin P. Nilsson, author of Primitive-Time Reckoning (Oxford University Press, 1920) collected other names of interest from Europe for this time of year. Here are a few examples. Notice how the month names chronicle food cultivation activities:
Bulgarian: Sowing month, gathering month.
Slovakian: Time when the goats rut or gadfly mouth.
Swedish: Harvest Month.
They suggest how important food cultivation was to everyone’s survival; important enough to be the basis of how the days, weeks, and seasons were measured.