Wednesday, 12 July 2017

# in the name of Mercurius!

Wednesday wishes to you in the name of #Mercurius!

In Scotland, before we had 'Wednesday' (our mid week day whose name was acquired from Wodens Day of the Anglo/Saxon era) I'm not sure what it would have been called in the pre-historic Celtic language of my characters in my Celtic Fervour Series. 

The current Scottish Gaelic for Wednesday would be Diciadain ( ji-KAY-den) . Sadly, I don't speak Scottish Gaelic so can't corroborate this translation. However, it's believed that the current Scottish version of Gaelic is linked to the modern Irish version, and to the Manx version  - all of which have evolved from the old Irish version of the Celtic language - as in the Goidelic basis sometimes referred to as Q-Celtic. 

On the other hand, the P-Celtic or Brythonic Welsh version of Wednesday is  Dydd Mercher.  It's possible that my Celtic characters would have said something closer to the Welsh version because it's thought that what was more likely to have been spoken in north east Scotland would have been a P-Celtic version, as in a Brythonic version, back in AD 84.

Further south in the Britannia of AD 84 some of the already Romanised and educated tribes people would already have been speaking some Latin and would have been referring to the mid-week day as being dies Mercurii, the day of  Mercury (current French  Mercredi and other Latin based languages similar).

As I write my current WIP, questions for myself to answer are regularly thrown up which lead to nice little coffee-time digressions. Presently writing scenes with Gnaeus Julius #Agricola as the main character, I'm thinking about how he would have referred to his days of the week in Latin and would he have known how his Gaulish ancestors would have named the day?

It's easy enough now to find the Latin for Wednesday but the earlier Celtic form is much harder to deduce.

It's also important for me to think about which which gods or goddesses #Agricola might be appealing to in order to sort out his current predicaments and this leads me to some lovely research. I might think I have a general gist of some basic functions of some Greek and Roman gods but there's always more to learn and sometimes that little bit of extra detail can lead to interesting additions to my story. 

Since today is Wednesday, here's a little about... Mercury...a multi-function god who must have done a fair bit of multi-tasking!  

Mercurius (essentially the same as the Greek god Hermes) has the acclaim of being one of the major Roman gods.

He is the patron god of financial gain and commerce (the name Mercury possibly connected to the Latin derivation merx as in merchandise).

He's also associated with trade, particularly the grain trade which made him popular in places like Gaul and Britannia where he was also teamed up with commercial success and abundance.

As god of eloquence he is linked to the art of poetry and in music the invention of the lyre  is attributed to him (originally as Hermes).

The fastest of the gods, he is god of messages, communication (including divination), travellers and boundaries.

Being a trickster, he is also the god of luck, trickery and thieves.

A darker aspect to Mercury is that he is the guide of souls to the underworld, though he does this in the role only as a guide rather than with any judgmental input. It was through this role that he was asked to guide Larunda to the underworld but he fell in love with her and the result was that she gave birth to twins named the Lares. 

In general terms, lares were invisible household gods who protected the local environment (usually inside the house). The lararium, a small dedicated household shrine area where statues of deities could be placed, was very important in daily Roman life.

Creating a lararium was not confined to the interior of a house. It's believed that in forts along Hadrian's Wall niches in the plaster walls of the contubernium barrack rooms were used as a lararium, tiny statues of favoured gods and goddesses having been placed there for praying to, possibly on a daily basis as well as in times of extra need.  (contubernium rooms housed approx.  8 men, some of whom guarded on a rota system so not all used the beds at the same time)

In my WIP, perhaps my Roman soldiers on campaign in northern Britannia and staying in contubernium tents in temporary camps also laid out a tiny area of the tent as a lararium- even though space would have been extremely limited. I think it would have been much easier for Gnaeus Julius Agricola, or his senior officers, to do this if they had larger tents though it's a big question for me to decide who of the army would have been the most devout. Would it have been the educated officer class or the lowliest of soldiers whose life was gruelling and a strong faith kept them going?

More about Mercury

The messenger god Mercury is generally described as wearing the clothes of a shepherd. He has winged sandals and most often wears a winged hat. He generally carries a caduceus, a staff entwined with two snakes. (There are plenty of stories available about the two snakes!)

The Unicode Astronomical symbol for Mercury

may represent the caduceus staff. The circle might be Mercury's head and the two "horns" might be the wings on his head.

In classical art he is often accompanied by a cockerel (herald of the new day), a ram or goat (symbolizing fertility), and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell.

In the Bellini painting, I'm not entirely sure about the helmet which to me (Philistine that I am) looks a bit like another upside down bowl with no obvious wings. The sandals don't look entirely practical for a shepherd and the wings seem to flown off? However, in this painting Mercury is clothed, appropriately or otherwise, which is not the case for many others.

Corregio's hat does have interesting wings but the detail of the helmet and the sandals might be overlooked as the viewer takes in the tender scene between Mercury and Cupid.
Venus' thoughts seem to be a little bit elsewhere though if I looked at the classical symbolism of her stance and demeanour it'd probably tell me something else. She exhibits a sensuality that Correggio seems to find easy to portray. For modesty she does have a cover draped at hip level but it leaves almost all exposed. Similarly Mercury's drape covers the important bits of a physique that seems very realistic for a young man.

This one by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542) is an interesting scene. Jupiter painting butterflies, Mercury and Virtue. Jupiter seems uninterested in the goings on between Mercury and Virtue but what Mercury is shushing Virtue about just might be very interesting to know. Is Virtue begging for something less than virtuous? I don't know but I don't personally think she's particularly alluring or sensuous. Mercury, on the other hand, does have quite a feminine face on a fairly robust male body.

I think I just might have to find out more about the symbolism of Jupiter painting butterflies means beyond the idea of him as supreme deity bringing them to life through painting them. Perhaps the scene is quite empty because as he begins a new one the previous ones are becoming more lifelike and flying free from the canvas?

Mercury, according to this link , is shushing Virtue saying that creativity is much more important than virtue is.

Jupiter definitely seems to have put aside his more ferocious tendencies and looks very comfy as he creates.

What do you think Mercury is telling Virtue to be quiet about? 

This one I like for its realistic portrayal of a young man. I can see this Mercury being a lot more capricious and mischevious than the statue at the top of this post. Note the cockerel at bottom left looking quite chirpy as well. The winged helmet is a great shape but the lack of winged shoes just might mean this Mercury doesn't fly so swiftly as the messenger of the gods!

How fast do you think he will fly?


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