The etymology of month names gives some healthy tips
In a time when we’re trying to get closer to nature and its cycles, it would be interesting to look at how we name months and where these names come from. And maybe, we might follow the healthy suggestions they give us.
For instance, I recently learned that January is named after the ancient Roman god Janus. He had two faces, each looking in opposite directions. His two glances could look at the future and could keep on looking at the past. That’s why he was invoked in times of passage from one period to another. In the ancient Roman Empire, the new year started in March, but with its several revisions, our calendar starts with January: a moment when we look at the future, and still, we keep on remembering our past.
What suggestion might we take? If we are thinking about starting journaling, January might be the perfect moment.
Skimming the calendar, we find February. For the ancient Romans, it was the last month of the year and was dedicated to purification, before entering a new year. It’s amazing how many cultures link a new life phase with a cleansing ritual, often using fire as a key purifying element.
The name of February has its clear origin connected to the fever, which is not just a symptom of illness, but also a healing tool. It’s our body’s initial defense, raising our temperature quickly to try and burn germs. A study confirms that February is the month with the highest relevance of cases of flu. That’s why Ancient Romans dedicated the last month of their year to the goddess Febris, to ask for protection against diseases in the new year, and to tribute her with purifying ceremonies.
The climax of these ceremonies was on February 14th, the day of great celebrations named Lupercalia. When Christianity spread in Europe, the same date was consecrated to Saint Valentine, the patron of those in love. And what’s love if not a burning fever?
Whether you are in love or not, February suggests starting some purifying practices. It might be useful to start our morning with some milk and turmeric, for example. Otherwise, we might follow the suggestions in this post:
March is the month dedicated to the ancient god Mars. He is known to be the god of war, and we still find this name in some modern words, such as martial and marchall, in the name of the planet Mars and Martian. But Mars was also the god of rain and thunder, and it’s known that March is the month with the first spring storms.
Besides, I remember when I read a book about the history of the Celtics. In that ancient culture, they had decided that boys born in March had to be warriors. They were supposed to be stronger and healthier than others, as they had been conceived in Summer when light and warmth are stronger. In our culture, the zodiac sign is Aries; and people under this sign are known to be strong and resolute. My son was born in March and …he is definitely the most determined guy I have ever met.
How could we reconnect to nature in March? Maybe modern martial arts might be undertaken now with a new sport, or a weekend full-immersion course.
What’s next? April, of course. The origin of this name is uncertain. It might derive from the goddess Apro, who was the Etruscan name for Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty; otherwise, it might derive from the Latin verb aperire, which means opening. Indeed, it’s the month of the re-opening of flowers. Ester, which is generally celebrated in April, has its symbol in eggs, which are the perfect metaphor for the new life opening to the world.
Whatever this name comes from, in Italy we have an adage that sounds like “April, sweet sleeping”. It’s a month in which it is easy to feel a bit tired by the change of season, as our body comes from months of cold. Wouldn’t it be the right moment to have a short rest? The Ester holidays arrive at the right moment.
Then May arrives. It’s my month: my birthday and my marriage anniversary are both in May. This month owes its name to the goddess Maia, the nurturer of the Earth and living creatures. Her ability to take care of life made Christianity overlie this goddess with the cult of the Lady. In the Catholic world, Mays is the Marian month.
As notoriously roses blossom in May, we might start to grow a little rose bush, even on our balcony. Otherwise, we might treat ourselves with a delicious rose marmalade pie. Hungary produces the best rosehip jam.
June is the month of women. It was dedicated to goddess Juno, who was protecting women and marriages. Still today, the greatest number of marriages in Italy is celebrated in June. It’s not due only to the nice weather, it’s also a long tradition.
Even if we do not intend to get married, we might take this moment to reconnect to our female ego. Maybe, this is what the month of June is suggesting.
Juy and August
July and August are both dedicated to emperors. Julius Caesar and Octavian Augustus. They had been great emperors, and they were famous for building the Roman Empire bigger and stronger. Augustus is also well-known for establishing one of Italy’s major holidays: Ferragosto (feriae augusti) the Augustinian holiday. It’s August 15th, and everything is closed in Italy, if not involved in tourism.
Summer is the time for swimming in the Mediterranean or the sea you have near your home. July and August are months for family reunions, lunch with relatives, for sports in Nature. Mainly, it’s the moment to enjoy light and sun.
September, October, November, December
As Ancient Romans started their year in March, September was the seventh month (septem in Latin). October, November, and December are the following numbers. No one decided to rename these months, despite Nature giving its great show of late harvests and red leaves.
During the French Revolution in 1789, they named the Autumn months based on their main features and activities. So September 22nd was the beginning of the month of grape harvest (Vendémiere), then Brumaire arrived, it was the month of mist, and then it was the turn of Frimaire, the month of fog. Despite these names having no ancient roots, and despite the years after the French Revolution being known as the “Terror Regime”, these names suggest peaceful activities. We might not all be winemakers, but who doesn’t love a good wine tour, or a misty morning photo shoot at the red foliage?
Besides, November is a time for reflection: what are some lessons we’ve learned in the past year that you’re thankful for? And, as we approach December, I guess we’re all setting goals for the new year.
Regardless of what the months are called, as the year progresses, we can find many opportunities to rediscover our true selves and strengthen our connection with nature. No matter if we live in town, the countryside or wherever. It’s important to remember that thousands of years ago, our ancestors left us traditions, legends, and suggestions for a life full of wellness and love for our environment.