Theon hemerai

I figured I’d explain a little more about how I came up with the associations for each day.

Originally the ancient Greeks divided their months into three weeks, each of which was comprised of ten days. One of the earliest accounts ascribing days to respective deities is found in Hesiod’s Erga kai Hēmerai though different poleis had their own systems and sometimes these could even vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, as we find within the assorted demotic sacrificial calendars.

The innovation of a seven-day week seems to have happened in Hellenistic Egypt as a result of the rise of interest in Babylonian astrology and contact with the Jews. The days of the week were named after the Sun and Moon and the five planetary bodies which in turn were named after various Greek deities. Thus we find hemera Heliou “day of the sun”, hemera Selenes “day of the moon”, hemera Areos “day of Ares”, hemera Hermu “day of Hermes”, hemera Dios “day of Zeus”, hemera Aphrodites “day of Aphrodite”, and hemera Kronu “day of Kronos.” This system passed into Roman usage with the Julian calendrical reforms  though with the Latin names of the gods substituted. Later on a further alteration was made, with the days being given to Germanic deities such as Tyr, Woden, Thor, Frigg or Freyja, etc. which passed into English providing us with the mixed system we presently employ.

All of this was in the back of my mind when I came up with the Bacchic Orphic system though I also incorporated other traditional symbolism.

For instance, the reason that Monday has been assigned to Persephone is because the lunar region was often considered to be the abode of the dead and under the dominion of this goddess (Varro, De Lingua Latina V.68; Porphyry, De Antro Nymph. 18; John Lydus, De Mensibus, IV.149; Martianus Capella, II.161‑162; Plutarch, De Facie quae in orbe lunae apparet 942d). It is also the second day of the week and the number two to the Pythagoreans signified division and material manifestation – a central theme in the myth-cycle of Eleusis.

Tuesday was given to Ariadne for a number of equally esoteric reasons. It’s the third day of the week and three is a number associated with fertility, the balancing of polarities and the starting of new cycles – all concepts that are important to her. In earlier systems this day was dedicated to gods of war (Ares) and justice (Tyr) and Nonnos relates that one of the deaths Ariadne suffered was while leading the army of Dionysos to depose the haughty king of Argos (Dionysiaka 47.666).

The fourth day of the week already belonged to Hermes so no modification was required there.

I needed a day for the Heroes since I already intended to dedicate Friday to the Heroines (previously belonging to Aphrodite and the Norse goddesses of love and the feminine realm; additionally, beyond the obvious symbolism of this day Frigga is a goddess of weaving and that is a very prominent theme for a lot of the Aletides ) so it seemed appropriate to give the Heroes the preceding day. Another factor in the decision was that both Thor and Zeus are gods of lightning and one of the deaths claimed for Orpheus was that he was struck by a thunderbolt for revealing the mysteries to men. (Death by lightning is also a common theme in the golden lamellae.)

Honoring the Nymphai and Satyroi on Saturday was arrived at through metathesis – thus dies Saturni “the day of Saturn” becomes dies Saturi “the day of the Satyrs” and everyone knows Satyrs love to play with Nymphs. Furthermore, in Pythagorean cosmology Kronos presides over the cold, moist element – the same realm that Orphic Hymn 51 assigns to the Nymphai.

There are a ton of sources within the more Pythagorean side of Orphism that equate Dionysos with Helios and Apollon – Macrobius’ Saturnalia argues this point exhaustively – plus Dionysos is King (Anax, Basileios) and Tyrant (Tyrannos, Aisymentes) thus giving him the Day of the Lord seemed appropriate, especially in light of all of the points of contact between him and Jesus. (Though Jesus arguably has more in common with Melampos.)

But!

Things aren’t quite as haphazard as they may seem. Note the progression of the days in this system. The week begins with Dionysos, and appropriately so as he is the primary deity of this pantheon and all things, according to a certain strain of Orphic thought, began with the primordial Dionysos, also called Eros or Phanes. It then progresses through his mother Persephone to his wife Ariadne to his brother and companion Hermes. Hermes, as guide of souls, leads us into honoring the Heroes and Heroines and from there we revel with his nurses and instructors, the Nymphai and Satyroi, who sheltered him in his infancy from the implacable wrath of Hera. Thus there is intimation of a new beginning even in the midst of the old cycle’s end. Or as they expressed it at Olbia: Bios-Thanatos-Bios.

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2 thoughts on “Theon hemerai

  1. Hearing the whole thought process makes it pretty easy to remember actually.

    I’m going to intentionally start misspelling Saturday as Satyrday in random, everyday contexts…

  2. Pingback: The thiasos of the Starry Bull is both egalitarian and authoritarian | The House of Vines

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