Q. Why was the number seven held in especial reverence by all the nations of antiquity?
A. The mystic number seven was held sacred by our ancient brethren for reasons which had a purely astronomical origin. The reasons for this will lead us to inquire into the origin of the division of time into days, weeks, months, and years. We were naturally induced to divide our time into periods called days, because the sun makes his apparent diurnal revolution in that time. The Egyptians used to watch for the heliacal rising of the dog-star (Sirius), which, like a faithful guardian, gave notice of the approaching inundation of the Nile, a period of the greatest importance to them, as their harvests depended upon it. By this means a definite period of time was marked off, corresponding to the apparent revolution of the sun in the zodiac. This period was denominated in a year, a word which, in our language and all northern tongues, whether "gear, " "jaar, " "jaer, " or as in the Persian, "yare, "signifies a circle. In Latin, also, the words annus, a year, and annulus, a circle, are synonymous. Thus the very word "year" alludes directly to the great circle of the zodiac, and points out the origin of that division of time. This period was further divided by the revolutions of the moon about the earth. These latter subdivisions were naturally called "moons," from which is derived our word "month. "Among the ancient Egyptians the hieroglyphic sign for a month is the crescent of the moon. In the Hebrew the same intimate connection between the words moon and month exists as in English. It was also still further observed, by these early students of the skies, that in each lunar month that planet assumed in regular order, at fixed periods of seven days each, four distinct phases—the new moon, the first quarter, the full moon, and the last quarter, the "month" was therefore divided into four equal parts of seven days each, called weeks.
All our divisions of time, whether of days, weeks, months, or years, have therefore an astronomical origin, and are but measures of the observed motions of the moon, for the year itself was originally lunar, the solar year having been subsequently adopted on account of its greater accuracy and convenience. The moon, among the nations of antiquity, was the object of universal adoration. Next to the sun in beauty and splendor the moon leads all the hosts of heaven. It may be that the awful majesty and solemn silence of that starry vault, in the midst of which she is seen, caused her to appeal more strongly to the imagination of the early Oriental nations than even the meridian sun itself. It is certain, however, that from ancient Egypt to the distant plains of India, or those far-off lands where the Incas ruled, altars were erected to the worship of the moon, and the goddess adored under a multitude of names, with rites as splendid and awful as those instituted in honor of the sun.
As on every seventh day the moon assumed a new phase, therefore on every seventh day a festival to Luna was celebrated. The number seven was thus sacred because it was dedicated to the moon. The day set apart for the worship of the moon was known among most northern nations as "moon-
day"—whence is derived our name for the second day of the week, Monday. The first day of the week being in like manner set apart to the worship of the sun, called "sun-day." In fact, each day of the week was set apart to the special worship of some one of the heavenly bodies: Sunday to the sun; Monday to the moon; Tuesday to Mars; Wednesday to Mercury; Thursday to Jupiter; Friday to Venus; and Saturday to Saturn. A strange reminiscence of this fact is found in the modern names of all the names of the week, each of which, like Sunday and Monday, has derived its name from the planet or god to which it was anciently sacred.
Tuesday is derived from the Scandinavian name of Mars. The name of the day in French is Mardi, derived directly from the Latin, and meaning "Mars's day"
Wednesday is from the Scandinavian Mercury, Woden; hence Woden's day, or Wednesday. The French name of this day is Mercredi, from the Latin, meaning "Mercury's day."
Our Thursday is from the Scandinavian Jupiter, Thor; hence "Thor's day," and Thursday. The German name is Donnerstag, meaning the "Thunderer's day," in allusion to Jupiter Tonans. The French call it Jeudi, meaning "Jupiter's day."
Friday is named after the Scandinavian Venus, Fria. The German name is Freitag, with the same derivation and meaning. The French call this day Vendredi, which means "Venus's day."
Saturday is derived from Latin, and means "Saturn's day." The days of the week may, therefore, be just as well designated by the planetary signs as by their names; thus—
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