One of the unexpected perks of guiding is on the job learning. I’m not talking about observing wild ways and adding that to the repertoire of guide speak – I’m thinking more about what you, the guest, teaches us.
Klaus and Renate, for example, have given me a wonderful insight into German life. Possibly I have learnt more about Wiesbaden, trauma surgery and wild pigs in the forested surroundings of Frankfurt than they have learnt about lion. They have also left me with a wonderful German saying:
“In Germany we have the watch and clock, in Africa you have Time.”
So this got me thinking about time in that unsleepable hour whilst the elephant pushed and shoved his way through the Sandpaper Fig outside my house. Your lives are very different to ours. I am mostly indifferent to what day of the week it is and the only dates I am concerned with are the red ringed days i go on leave, hamburger day at the canteen (Wednesday) and the kids’ birthdays. It is a wonderful thing to be so blissfully unaware of punctuality whilst actually being on time for most things and I’m sure most of you begin to unwind in such circumstances.
So round about the time the fig had been pruned again and Jumbo moved on to the Wild Date Palm, my thoughts shifted to the origins of the days of the week. (Admittedly that is as random as the elephants feeding habits!) Anyhow – by dawn my head was turning with dozens of unanswered questions. Why are their 7 days in a week and where on earth did the names come from? Unfortunately the internet is neither concise nor precise in these matters but I’ll leave you with my favourite answers.
A controversial explanation for the 7 day week has a celestial origin. There is some mathematics to follow so read carefully!
The ancient observers would have separated the planets, sun and moon from their fixed starry background. They ordered them according to their speed across the sky and came up with following sequence: slowest – Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon – fastest.
This they would have transmuted into a 7 hour clock which they would have used 3 and a bit times a day. So at dawn on day one the first hour would be Saturn hour (and hence the day would be named after its first hour: Saturnday or Saturday). Following the rest of Saturdays’ hours will look a little like this:
1=Saturn, 2=Jupiter, 3=Mars, 4=Sun, 5=Venus, 6=Mercury, 7=Moon, 8=Saturn, 9=Jupiter, 10=Mars etc., 22=Saturn, 23=Jupiter, 24=Mars, 25=Sun, 26=Venus etc.
Because of the difficulty of fitting a 7 hour clock into a 24 hour day the first hour of every day subsequently changes. If you follow this shifting pattern throughout the week and look at the planets assigned to the first hour of each day you arrive at the following order: Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus.
Saturnday , Sunday and Moonday are fairly self evident in their correlations to the english name days Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The English then abandoned the planets for the remaining days of the week and turned to mythology whilst the French stuck with the planetary assignation.
The remaining Tuesday through Friday apparently owe their names in english to:
This day was named for the Norse god Tyr.
The day named in honor of Wodan (Odin).
The day named after the Norse god Thor. In the Norse languages this day is called Torsdag.
The day in honor of the Norse goddess Frigg.
All of this new found knowledge is a wonderful thing. Sadly its wasted on me. Here in the bushveld it still makes no difference to man or beast whether its Tuesday or Sunday. I’ve kicked the idea around a little bit in the rangers room and we have renamed the days of the week after the canteen food. This is obviously only applicable here so please don’t try this in London or Los Angeles!
Monday – Potato Day, Tuesday – Tuna Day, Wednesday – Hamburgers Day! Thursday – Chicken Pita Day, Friday – Hotdog Day, Saturday – Fish Day, Sunday – Macaroni Day.
Klaus and Renate- thank you for laughs, giggles and learning. I hope you had as much fun as I did!
Written by: Tom Imrie
Photography: Rich Laburn