Days of the Week: Saturday

The seventh day is Saturday – the only day in English named for a Roman deity (Saturn) and not a Germanic/Norse one.  Saturn has no parallels in Viking lore – except perhaps to the Jötnar (giants) since Saturn was king of the Titans.  It is also unusual that Saturn would be left standing, even as a throwback to Roman culture, since he was a strange god and more feared than loved.  Since Saturn was the god of time and renewal, though, it may be appropriate that his name is retained for the last day of the week.

The Vikings had their own name for Saturday – and it had nothing to do with gods or goddesses.  The Vikings called Saturday Laugardagur, which means “Pool Day” or bathing day.  Saturday was the day that Vikings took a bath (whether they needed it or not).  This custom, peculiar for its time, was remarked on by observers from England to the East.  In Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, Saturday is still called a form of this name.

Our names of days tell a story of how our various ancestors interacted with each other. Modern peoples are blended from many different cultures. This is especially true of English speakers, whose language and customs still carry the signs of the dozen or so major groups that formed that island nation. Every day is an intrinsic memory of Roman themes interpreted through a Viking lens, then sieved through the medieval church before being more-or-less taken for granted by most people today. When we look at the days’ names, we see an example of how things change and how they remain the same.

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