January celebrated Janus, the Roman god of fences and doorways, who is depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions, hence Janus, a ‘two-faced person’.
February: day of purification, a Roman celebration in that month.
March: from Mars, the Roman god of war.
April: from Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. My birthday month. Rather lovely.
May: from the Greek goddess Maia associated with spring and fertility.
June: from Juno, the Roman goddess of marriage and the well-being of women.
July: From Julius Caesar, who named this month after himself. Such arrogance!
August: From Augustus Caesar, who tweaked the Julian calendar, and had to stick his nose in it as well. Seriously?!
September, October, November and December: obviously by this time they were having troubling thinking up a name (or were bored) as these stand for the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth months of the March-beginning calendar year.
Some British people were unhappy about the continuing influence of the pagan gods. The Quakers (John Tawell, the subject of The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable, was a Quaker) were so affronted by the link between the month names and the pagan gods that they refused to use the names, instead saying ’first month, second month …’. They also refused to use the days of the week for the same reason (Thursday, for example, celebrates the Norse god of thunder, Thor, and Sunday the mighty Sun God—which is why Sunday came to be treated as a special day). Accordingly, the Quakers called the days of the week ’first day, second day’.
When I was researching Tawell through the Quaker records, I had to mentally ‘translate’ these dates. Very confusing. No wonder the custom did not spread more broadly. Yet, in some ways it has: we often write dates in the form 2/1/2013. It’s still confusing though. To some this represents 2 January and to others 1 February. I made the most of this ‘loophole’ when holidaying in America when aged 20. A bar served me a drink and congratulated me on turning 21—a month before my actual birthday. In fact, I think they gave me a free drink. I didn’t correct them. Calendar confusion—sometimes very handy!