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Articles and Bullitens

Druidic Meaning of Words

From Druid Journal - "Word of the Day"

by Jeff Lilly, posted and edited by Magickal Winds


November 14th, 2007

Wednesday is named after the Anglo Saxon god Woden, otherwise known as Odin (the Scandinavian form of his name). In Roman times, Wednesday was known as dies Mercurii, “day of Mercury”, and classical theorists equated Mercury with Odin because they both led the Dead to their final homes. Of course, this is only one of Odin’s many roles — he is also the king of the gods, the god of battle and hosts, wisdom, magic, poetry, prophecy, and the hunt. He thus combines characteristics of Mercury, Jupiter, Apollo, Pluto, and Mars. Evidently those classical theorists needed to get out more.

Odin (or Woden)’s name comes from Proto Indo European wet, meaning “carried away” — either with anger, insanity, or inspiration. Wet also referred to “breath”, reflecting the ancient Indo European belief in the breath as a source of inspiration and spiritual connection (still reflected in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, etc.). His name was Wodenaz in Proto Germanic, “he who brings wod; the Inspirer”.

The energy of Wednesday is one similar to that of the word win: a willful strength that initiates a rising, tight power, narrowed and targeted. In Wednesday, the result of that targeting is a flourish of directed power.


October 18th, 2007

The tomato plant is native to the New World, either to the west coast of South America, or possibly Mexico. It is not known whether it was domesticated and eaten by native peoples: there is no evidence that it was, but a huge amount of horticultural information was lost in the upheaval of the Spanish invasion. In any case, the Spanish certainly enjoyed it, and it became a staple of Italian cooking by the late 1500’s; but in England and its colonies, it was thought to be unfit to eat, because it contained glycoalkaloids (which are indeed poisonous, but the fruit is safe to eat). Tomatoes gradually became acceptable fare there during the 1700’s.

The word tomato comes ultimately from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word tomatl, literally “the swollen fruit”. It entered Spanish as tomate, and English as tomate in about 1600. By 1750, it had become tomato, perhaps by analogy with the closely related potato.

The central syllable of tomato is a manifestation of expansive, elastic energy, fitting its plump shape. The manifestation arises from a movement of earthy energy, and the result of the manifestation is more movement of earthy energy.


October 5th, 2007

From Proto Indo European bhlewas, meaning “light colored”, applicable to anything from yellow to light gray to pale blue. In Proto Germanic this became blæwaz, and descended into Frankish as blao and Old French as bleu; this was borrowed as bleu or blwe in Middle English (when spelling was a creative art). Old English already had a perfectly good word for blue — blaw – but the French term was preferred. It’s uncertain exactly when the word changed from meaning “light colored” to “blue”, but color words tend to be slippery in that way — in Scandinavian languages, for example, it came to mean a deep black, while in Middle High German it meant “yellow”.

Energetically, blue is much like a fountain of water — a burst of liquid energy, flowing, fast-moving. Compare it to its homophone blew, and remember the music named after it, the Blues – these words have the same energy.


October 4th, 2007

Is there anyone who doesn’t know that Thursday is Thor’s Day?

Thursday was named after the Norse thunderer because, in the minds of the Anglo-Saxons and many other learned people of the late first millennium, Thor was equated with Jupiter, the Roman thunderer. The Roman name for Thursday was Jovis deis, “Day of Jupiter”, so when the Anglo-Saxons adopted the Roman (and Christian) seven-day week, Þurresdæg (Thor’s Day) was a logical choice — even though Thor and Jupiter have almost nothing in common beyond their knack for lightning.

Thor’s name may originally have been imitative of thunder (originally Proto-Germanic thunraz), and energetically it indicates a rounded, earthy strength surging along a difficult path. The “Thur” in Thursday is more relaxed, roomy, and expansive, but still powerfully channeled.


September 28th, 2007

Here in Massachusetts the leaves are starting to turn amazing colors… Our second spring, my favorite season.

Tree is from Proto Indo European deru or doru, which meant “oak tree”. The oak tree was so central and sacred to the ancient Indo Europeans that in many of the daughter languages, including English, the word for “oak” was simply extended to mean all trees everywhere. It’s also the root of true, truce, betroth, truth, trust, dryad, rhododendron, and of course druid. The oak tree itself may have been too holy to have its name spoken; in any case, its name oak has an unknown origin — see oak.

Meanwhile, deru/doru became trewan in Proto Indo European, and treo in Old English; it was simplified to tree in Modern English.

The word tree seems to be concerned with growth and endurance: powerful energy moving along a path, with stamina and determination.

Thanks to Nio for suggesting this word of the day!


September 24th, 2007

The Greek god of medicine and healing, light, truth, archery, colonists, prophecy, herds and flocks, music, poetry, and the sun. The origin of his name is uncertain, though there are many possibilities — apollumi, “the destroyer”; apolusis, “redeem”; apolousis, “purification”; aploun, “simple” or “unity”; aei-ballon “ever-shooting”; and apella “assembly”. The name may also be from the ancient Hittite diety Aplu, a god of healing, who may in turn have come from the Akkadian sun god Aplu Enlil, whose name meant literally “son of Enlil”, Enlil being one of the chief Sumerian gods. If this is the case, Apollo’s worship goes back to the dawn of Middle Eastern civilization.

Apollo’s name indicates Source energy that expands from a point to fill volume, like light; the result is a grounded, wholesome power.


Thanks to Mahud for the beautiful illustration!


September 18th, 2007

Week comes from Proto Indo European weik, “to bend, to turn”, also the ancestor of wicket, wicker, weak, and vicarious. The idea apparently was that a week was a “turn” of the calendar. The word became wikon in Proto Germanic and wice in Old English; and it was in Old English times, under influence from the Romans, that wice was first used to mean “week”. It is not known whether the ancient Germanic tribes had any unit of time corresponding to a “week”, though the undoubtedly had months (based on the moon) and years (based on the sun). A Norse calendar from about 800 AD has been discovered with five-day weeks called fimmts, with six fimmts in each of twelve months, plus five ceremonial days not part of any month; but the fact that there are twelve months (rather than thirteen) shows probable Roman influence.

The Roman week — with seven days, each named after a Roman deity — began around the same time as the rise of the Imperium of Rome, and seems to have been adopted from the Egyptian seven-day week. Around the same time, Christianity was beginning to spread, and it had a built-in seven-day week as well; but even when the Roman Empire became officially Christian, the weekday names were never divorced from the heathen gods. The seven-day week was in use in Egypt and throughout the Middle East and India for thousands of years before the Romans arrived; apparently it was based on one fourth of the 28-day lunar cycle.

When the Anglo-Saxons adopted the Roman week, they tried to map the Roman deities on to their own. Unfortunately, the two pantheons had quite different structures, so the mapping is rather strained in places. For example, the Roman dies Martis, “Marsday”, was “translated” into Tiwesdæg, “Tiw’s Day”, even though Tiw wasn’t really a war god, but a god of sacrifice, honor, and swordsmanship. The real god of war, Woden (Odin), however, was also the ruler of messengers and divine inspiration; so he was matched up with Mercury for Wednesday.

The modern word week indicates a period of challenges, endurance, and the will to overcome them. It might be best considered a self-contained cycle of worldly effort.


September 17th, 2007

From Latin honorem, “honor, dignity, reputation”. No one knows where honorem comes from. The adjectival form was honestus, which became honeste in Old French, and honest in English around 1300.

Honest is one of the few words in the standard North American English dialect group that is spelled with an initial silent “h” (others are honor, herb and heir). Dropping initial “h” is common in most modern dialects of English, but there are a few dialects — like American English — that hold on to it for most words. (However, standard American English does pronounce the final “r” in honor, while most other English dialects do not — leaving honor to be pronounced “ON-ah”.)

Energetically, honest begins with Source energy that is directed, narrowed toward a target of communication, with an aspect of directed, purposeful energy. This seems like a marvelous fit: the Source energy is the Truth, which, in the honest person, is the goal of communication.

Thanks to Nio for suggesting this word of the day!

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