Tag Archives: Wulfmonath

The Heart of Winter

1 Jan

Happy New Year! Or should I say ‘Happy Tammikuu’, the rather evocative Finnish name for the month of January, meaning ‘the month of the heart of winter’ in that language. It is perhaps unsurprising that most of the names for January in the Northern Hemisphere countries have wintry associations, given that in this part of the world it is usually the coldest month of the year. The name for this month among the Anglo-Saxons was Wulfmonath (‘Wolf month’), since it was the time of year when the wolves were unable to find food and their hunger made them bold enough to come into the villages of ancient Britain. The word January, however, comes from the Roman god Janus or Ianuarius, whose name is derived from the Latin word for door (ianua) – appropriately enough given that January is the door to the year. Janus is usually depicted as a two-faced god since he looks to both the future and the past and is the god of beginnings, transitions and endings. It is sometimes suggested, as a result of January’s association with the Classical god of doorways, that a number of New Year’s festivities are founded on pagan traditions. The mystical side of the New Year is given further weight by the variety of other names that the month of January has around the world – such as The Gate of New Beginnings, The Wolf Moon and the Coming of the Dark.

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