We all know the rhyme, but what does it mean?
Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay
Remembering this verse, I did a little poking around the web this morning to learn more about it. Originally thought to be a Mother Goose nursery rhyme from the 1700s, as it turns out this little ditty can tell us a lot about our ancestors. It goes quite a bit farther back.
It was common for wives and older women to predict the fortunes of a child based on the day of the week they were born on. Most did this by rhyme, and there were dozens of such rhymes, of which only a few have come down to us intact. Because these go so far back, you can hear the old gods in the verse if you listen closely.
Monday – the second day of the week, day of moon goddess, Selene, Luna
and Mani. “Derived from Lunae Dies, day of the moon, the name reflects
the ancient observance of feast days dedicated to moon goddess or
Hence, “Monday’s child is fair of face”
Tuesday – the third day of the week, the day of Mars, associated with
Ares. Graceful and swift. “Tuesday’s child is full of grace” Graceful and swift in this context mean graceful and swift in battle, and some Tuesdays definitely feel this way!
Wednesday - the fourth day of the week, Woden (Odin), chief god of
Norse mythology, who was often called the All Father. “Wednesday’s
child is full of woe.” Odin’s responsibilities were such that he was
never attributed with any cheerful disposition.
“Woe” as used in the English language today is an expression of grief,
regret, distress, etc. (Every dictionary, take your pick, uses those
words to describe the word “woe”.) In the 17th and 18th centuries, it
was more an expression of deep concern, and heavy responsibilities,
and it has been suggested that “woebegone” might be more accurate; but
“woebegone” wouldn’t rhyme, instead we get “Wednesday’s child is full
of woe” You can also think of “woe” as just meaning Odin himself. Wednesday is full of Woe-din.
Thursday - the fifth day of the week, “… derives its name from the
Middle English Thoresday, or Thursdaye, corresponding to the Roman
dies Jovis. “Thursday’s child has far to go,” much like Thor, the only
god who couldn’t cross from earth to heaven upon the rainbow.
Friday - the sixth day of the week, named after the Odin’s mother,
Frigga (Roman equivalent Venus). Frigga means loving or beloved,
hance, “Friday’s child is loving and giving”. You can draw your own conclusions about the exact nature of “loving and giving” as it is intended here.
Saturday - the seventh day of the week, “corresponding to the Roman
dies Saturni, or day of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. Those
who worked the earth worked hard, hence “Saturday’s child works hard
for a living”
Sunday - the first day of the week. “From prehistoric times to the
close of the fifth century of the Christian era, the worship of the
sun was dominant. Sunday celebrates the sun god, Ra, Helios, Apollo,
Ogmios, Mithrias, the sun goddess, Phoebe. “But the child born on the
Sabbath day, Is fair and wise and good and gay.” Correspondingly,
sunny, fun, and loving – bringing joy to other people.
Here’s a version that’s believed to be a bit older. Note the changes in Wednesday, the elimination of Sunday, and the addition of Christmas Day.
Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is sour and grum,
Thursday’s child has welcome home,
Friday’s child is free in giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for his living.
And the child that is born on Christmas Day
Is great, and good, and fair, and gay
Finally, here’s more of a chant version of the same type of thing:
Born of a Monday,
·Fair in face;
Born on a Tuesday,
·Full of God’s grace;
Born of a Wednesday,
·Merry and glad;
Born of a Thursday,
·Sour and sad;
Born of a Friday,
Born of a Saturday,
·Work for your living;
Born of a Sunday.
·Never shall we want;
·So there ends the week,
·And there’s an end on’t
Who knows? Maybe in another few hundred years there will be rhymes about what kind of person you are from your IP address. I hope not — IPv6 is going to be very hard to rhyme.If you've read this far and you're interested in Agile, you should take my No-frills Agile Tune-up Email Course, and follow me on Twitter.