Let us now consider the subject of Friday as an alleged dies mala. The seven week-days were originally named after Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Mercury, Venus, and the Moon, in the order given, and these names are found in the early Christian calendars. The Teutonic nations, however, adopted corresponding names in the Northern mythology,--the Sun and Moon, Tyr, the Norse God of War, Wodan, Thor, Freyja, and Saturn; and our early Saxon ancestors worshiped images representing all these deities until Christianity supplanted paganism in Britain. It has been suggested that our Friday may have been named after Frigga, the wife of Odin and the principal goddess of the ancient Scandinavians. But it is much more probable that the day derives its name from Freyja, the Goddess of Love, a deity corresponding to the Roman Venus and the Grecian Aphrodite. Freyja, the most easily propitiated of the goddesses, was wont to listen favorably to all who invoked her aid, and was especially tender-hearted to disconsolate lovers. She dwelt in a magnificent palace, and journeyed about in a car drawn by two cats.
It has been hinted that Freyja's character was not irreproachable, and that thence arose Friday's ill-repute, but such an hypothesis is wholly untenable.
From the prose "Edda" we learn that this goddess was the wife of one Odur, and had a daughter named Hnossa, who was wonderfully beautiful. Sad to relate, Freyja was abandoned by her husband, who went away to visit foreign lands, and she has since spent much time in weeping, her tears being turned into drops of pure gold.
The fish was an emblem of Freyja, and as such was offered by the Scandinavians to their goddess on the sixth day of the week. The fish was also held sacred b the Babylonians and Assyrians, and by the ancient Romans as a symbol of Venus.
The generally accepted theory is that the crucifixion of our Lord on Good Friday was the origin of the widespread superstitions regarding the sixth day of the week. It is highly probable, however, that these beliefs originated at a much earlier epoch; for similar ideas are current among the inhabitants of heathen countries, as in Hindostan, for example. According to an ancient monkish legend, Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit on a Friday; and in the Middle Ages many inauspicious occurrences of history or tradition were thought to have happened on that day.
In a French manuscript of the year 1285, preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, entitled "Recommandation du Vendredi, the following events are alleged to have occurred on a Friday: Adam's creation his sin and expulsion from Eden, the murder of Abel, Christ's crucifixion, the stoning of Stephen, the massacre of the Innocents by Herod, the crucifixion of Peter, the beheading of Paul and that of John the Baptist, and the flight of the children of Israel through the Red Sea; also the Deluge,, the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel, and the infliction of the Plagues upon the land of Egypt.
The following extract from a translation of a Saxon manuscript of about the year 1120 may serve to illustrate the credulity of that epoch in England, and the odium attaching to Friday:
Whoever is born on Sunday or its night, shall live without anxiety and be handsome. If he is born on Monday or its night, he shall be killed of men, be he laic or be he cleric. If on Tuesday or its night, he shall be corrupt in his life, and sinful and perverse. If he be born on Wednesday or its night, he shall be very peaceable and easy and shall grow up well and be a lover of good. . . . If he be born on Friday or its night, he shall be accursed of men, silly and crafty and loathsome to all men and shall ever be thinking evil in his heart, and shall be a thief and a great coward, and shall not live longer than to mid-age. If he is born on Saturday or its night, his deeds shall be renowned, he shall be an alderman, whether he be man or woman; many things shall happen unto him, and he shall live long.
Although the superstitions of the dark ages may seem to us so childish, it may yet be affirmed with reason that, in proportion to the enlightenment of the times, the beliefs then current regarding day-fatality were no more absurd than those of our own era. In the "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry," by Thomas Percy, D. D., is to be found the following "excellent way to get a fayrie:"--
First, get a broad square christall or Venice glasse, in length and breadth three inches. Then lay that glasse or christall in the blood of a white hen, three Wednesdayes or three Fridayes. Then take it out and wash it with holy aq; and fumigate it. Then take three hazle sticks or wands of an yeare groth; pill them fayre and white; and make them so longe as you write the spiritt's name, or fayrie's name, which you call three times on every stick being made flatt on one side. Then bury them under some hill, whereat you suppose fayries haunt, the Wednesday before you call her; and the Fridaye followinge take them uppe and at eight, or three or ten of the clocke which be good planetts and houres for that turne: but when you call be in cleane life and turn thy face towards the east, and when you have her bind her in that stone and glasse.
Whiston, the translator of Josephus, publicly proclaimed in London that the comet of 1712 would be visible on October 14 of that year, and that on the Friday morning ensuing the world would be destroyed by fire. In the resulting panic, many people embarked in boats on the Thames, believing the water to be the safer element, on that particular Friday at least.
Mr. Charles Godfrey Leland, in his "Etruscan Roman Remains," says that in certain mediaeval manuscripts the Goddess Venus was represented as the Queen of Hearts and a dealer of lucky cards. Therefore Friday, the Dies Veneris, was sometimes considered a lucky day, especially for matrimony. This opinion finds favor in Glasgow, where a large proportion of marriages take place on this day; whereas, in the midland counties of England, less than two per cent of the weddings occur on the sixth day of the week.
References to the popular sentiment regarding Friday are frequent in the works of English writers. Sir Thomas Overbury, in his description of "a faire and happy Milk-mayd," says: "Her dreams are so chaste that shee dare tell them; only a Fridaie's dream is all her superstition: that she coneeales for feare of anger." Again, in the play of "Sir John Oldcastle" is this passage: "Friday, quotha, a dismal day, Candlemas Day this year was Friday." And in Scott's "Marmion" is the following:--
The Highlander, whose red claymore
The battle turned on Maldas' shore,
Will on a Friday morn look pale
If asked to tell a fairy tale.
He fears the vengeful Elfin King,
Who leaves that day his grassy ring;
Invisible to human ken,
He walks among the sons of men.
As a refreshing instance of independence of thought in a credulous age, we may quote from a letter written by Sir Winston Churchill, father of the Duke of Marlborough, and printed in a tract of 1687. The letter, though ungrammatical is given verbatim:--
I have made great experience of the truth of it, and have set down Friday as my own lucky day, the day on which I was born, christened, married, and which, I believe, will be the day of my death. The day on which I have had sundry deliverances from perils by sea and land, perils by false bretbren, perils of law-suits, etc. I was knighted (by chance unexpected of myself) on the same day and have several good accidents happened to me on that day; and am so superstitious in the belief of its good omen, that I choose to begin any considerable action that concerns me, on the same day.