From Saturn comes Saturday. From the sun comes Sunday. From the moon comes Monday. But what is the origin of Tuesday? Wednesday? Thursday? Friday? The answer takes us to the mythology–known variously as Teutonic, Norse, Viking and Germanic–that dominated North Europe for centuries before the arrival of Christianity. The Germanic tribes who subscribed to this mythology were the barbarians who constantly threatened the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire. The Vikings of Scandinavia who also subscribed to it plundered the monasteries and settlements on the coast of England and France in the 9th and 10th centuries.
The principal god of this mythology was the one-eyed Woden, the god of wisdom and divination, whose crows told him everything that happens in the world and who with his rune stones could always see the past and the future. His day, Woden’s Day, is now called Wednesday. The day before Woden’s Day, Tuesday, belonged to Tiw, the brave god of war, who placed his arm in the mouth of a giant wolf so that he could be chained by the dwarfs and thus restrained from destroying the world. The day after Woden’s Day belonged to Thor, the great hero, lord of thunder, Woden’s son by Friia, the love goddess who gave her name to Friday. Tiw was associated with the planet Mars, Woden with Mercury, Thor with Jupiter and Friia with Venus. India had no contact with the Germanic or Viking tribes. Yet, in the Hindu calendar of India, Tuesday is called Mangal-vaar or the ‘Day of Mars’, Wednesday is called Budha-vaar or the ‘Day of Mercury’, Thursday is called Brihaspati-vaar or the ‘Day of Jupiter’ and Friday is called Shukra-vaar or the ‘Day of Venus’. The practice of naming days after planets has been traced to the Ramayana, a Sanskrit epic, dated between 200 BC and 200 AD.
A day was reserved for each of these seven astrological deities in sequence creating a ritual cycle of seven days which became known as the week.
The day that many people consider to be the first day of the week, Monday, is the first planet and does begin the sequence of planets.
Devdutt Pattanaik is an Indian physician turned leadership consultant, mythologist, author and communicator whose works focus largely on the areas of myth, religion, mythology, and management.