Time and Meaning Two.. of Love, Freedom and Friends

As seen here...

The Sun
The Moon
Light, War, and Gods
Fury, Knowledge, and The Gallows
Sound, Thunder, Storms and Strength
Love, Freedom, and Friends
Time, Planting, and The Harvest

These are the days that rule our lives.’

Today is Friday.. It is the free day in many senses of the word, but, to most of the Western world, it is the last day of the standard work week and the onset of the Weekend.. where people get to unwind from the winding up that happens at their jobs.

But Friday is also the “free” day in its linguistic roots.  Like other days, the Germanic weekdays often are connected to the gods of the Roman pantheon but with interesting alterations.

First, let us wander off into the Latin/Roman origins of the day before coming back to our Germanic words. In Roman times, this was the day of Venus–who was the Roman goddess of love, beauty, and fertility and who became closely associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite.  It is also speculated that she was originally the Roman goddess of the Dawn–which is also when the Planet Venus can best be seen–and which is also one of those times when love, lust, and assorted physical manifestations of such often take place..

Interestingly, the word “Venus” in Latin means “love, physical love” etc., but it’s foundation comes from the indoeuropean root  *wun-/*wen-/*won- which generally meant ” to strive after, wish, desire, be satisfied” and which is found in closely related Latin-based words like “venerate”==to worship, but also in other Germanic verbs like “to wish” and perhaps “to win”.

Mythologically, Venus’s origins are hard to separate from those ascribed to Aphrodite, because much of the Roman nobility came to become Hellenized (amazing how to “become associated with Greece” is described as being like the woman Hellen from the Illiad in such an otherwise patriarchal society!) and closely associate the two, and thus sources about Venus tend to reflect the stories told about Aphrodite.  In any case, Venus/Aphrodite’s origins don’t generally fit well within the standard Greek Mythology of the Olympians and the most common stories are that she was generated when Chronos (Saturn to the Romans and Zeus/Jupiter’s Titanic father) defeated his own father, Uranus–the original sky god and husband of Gaia (=mother earth)–cut off his willy, and threw it into the ocean.  Venus/Aphrodite apparently rose from the sea foam at that point fully formed as an infinitely desirable adult woman.

In other words, mix divine sky penis with sea water and get love goddess.

Think about that.

Humans are weird.

Returning from Mediterranean mythologies back into the forests of Central and Northern Europe, the Germanic tribes linked their goddesses Frigg, who was the wife of Odin/Wodin/Wotan, to Venus.  Frigg was the goddess of married women and childbirth and her name attests to this as it is based on the Germanic root *frijaz, which means “beloved” and often became the root of verbs meaning “to woo” or “to take a wife” in plattdeutsch or low German (what the Angles and Saxons spoke…).

Now.. the mythological context here becomes fairly interesting if you start poking around a bit.  In particular, there are a couple of interesting facts that come up that make the chosen correspondence between Venus and Frigg rather odd.  To wit:

1. Frigg is not the only Germanic goddess related to love.  Indeed, the main Germanic goddess of love, beauty, fertility, war, and death (think Valkyries), is Freyja. She also appears to be the wife of Odin, or at least one manifestation of Odin in the soley Scandinavian Norse Mythologies.  Some have speculated that Frigg and Freyja are two manifestations of an earlier primal feminine goddess of the Proto-Germanic tribes, but this is still tentative and disputed.

2. Significantly, Freyja matches up far better to Venus than Frigg does in terms of attributes (even if she also seems to have a bit of Athena, although not Minerva, in her..). Frigg, in comparison, seems much more like Juno/Hera, in the fact that not only is she clearly the wife of the chief god, but she is the goddess of married women and committed love rather than primarily of carnal lust and sex.

3. Freyja, however, is not etymologically connected to Friday (as I once thought), but is related to the German word, Frau, which originally meant “female lord” and comes from an indoeuropean root linked to the meanings of “master, judge,” which itself is based on a deeper indoeuropean root -*per meaning “through, beyond.”

Now–it interests me–although one could just assume that it is purely arbitrary chance–that Frigg rather than Freyja got chosen for the weekday that we are now enjoying.  If Freyja had been the choice, then the meaning of the day may have included love, but it would have been more about mastery, power, and even a touch of death than freedom and friendship.

Instead, we are left with Frigg, and it is now that I will elaborate a bit more about the root at the basis of her name.  Specifically, the germanic root *frijaz- is also the root of our English word “free” and “friend.” Free, originally had the meaning of: “free, exempt from, not in bondage,”and “noble, joyful,” and the even deeper root of Frigg, Free, and Friend is from the indoeuropean root, *prijos which meant, “dear, beloved” and “that which had to be protected.”

Importantly, this understanding of “love” and its connection to “free/freedom” had everything to do with the social structure of the early German tribes.  Being “free”–meaning, being beloved–was something that came about because you were within your own little clan.  A “free” person was someone, according to a person’s perspective, who was part of your own little in-group, and was not, for example, a captured or conquered person from another tribe.  Freedom, then, had everything to do with one’s own personal connections and acquaintances and was an intimate thing.

The connections then between “love,” “Free,” and “Friend” are very tight.  A friend was a free person who was generally going to be close to you–someone beloved.  Your relationship was infused with a sense of “freedom” in that it was not hierarchical in any kind of master/servant way.

Overall, these connections between “love” and “freedom” are fascinating to me, for while they make sense on some very deep levels, they are also quite different than current understandings of “freedom” or what it means to be “free.”  Modern connotations of freedom are not associated with “love” per se, but rather a vast expansion what is considered our “in-group/clan” to include everyone in our country and, in many cases, assumed to include everyone in our entire species.

And yet, Freedom also takes on a very “individualized” sense–perhaps most strongly in the United States–that harkens back to a more intimate understanding of freedom.  These old germanic understandings of freedom–that one was free amongst equals–but that this freedom was a fragile thing–because some other tribe could conquer you and take away this freedom–I find that this sense of what it means to be free has a resonance with a lot of the more libertarian ideals that pervade this country–but also more generally pervade the  liberal tradition of “individual rights.”  A person’s freedom, in this sense, has to do with their own capacity to make friends with other free individuals rather than being focused on more universal understandings of the overall group.

Quite ironically, one might note that the words “liberal” and “liberty” derive from a very different idea of “freedom,” one that is actually much more community oriented, at least etymologically.  Both of these come from the Latin root “liber”==free, but that, itself comes from an indoeuropean root leudho– which meant “people.” Freedom was something that “belonged to the people,” as a whole rather than something specific to individuals.  (One might note that the German word Leute, which means “people” and often derivatively, “rabble” comes from this root.. )  This sense of “freedom” is something different then–it is not necessarily the rights of an individual, but rather the freedom of action of the people overall that is referenced.

In any case, these are the thoughts in my head on this day of love, freedom, and friends, and now it is time to enjoy these things.

Happy Free day everyone!


About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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6 Responses to Time and Meaning Two.. of Love, Freedom and Friends

  1. Ms. Doesn't-Need-an-Excuse Danson says:

    I’m going to take this as encouragement to have lots of sex with beloved ones on Fridays. Works for me.

  2. Keith Graves says:

    “In other words, mix divine sky penis with sea water and get love goddess.”

    Nah. Balance order and chaos and you are whole.

  3. Pingback: Time and Meaning Three–Tearing the day to shreds… | The Philosophy of NOM

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