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Myths of May
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MYTHS OF MAY
The fifth month of the Gregorian calendar, May, is defined as “the fifth month of the year, containing 31 days.” Got it. But where did this name come from?
The name for the month of May—along with the rest of the months of the year—comes from Latin. We can thank the Romans, from emperors to popes, for instituting the modern calendar.
May entered English in the 1050s. It developed from the Old English Maius, borrowed directly from the Latin Maius, short for Maius mēnsis, “Maia’s month.” But who is this Maia?
The Greek goddess Maia was one of the Pleiades, the companions of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. This Maia was the mother of Hermes, the messenger of the Gods. But the Romans had yet another goddess named Maia, who just happened to share a name with the Greek goddess.
The Greek goddess became conflated with the Roman Maia Majesta, a goddess of fertility and spring—appropriate for the growth and increase we see in the month of May.
Want to dig a little deeper? The Greek name Maia comes from a root meaning “mother, nurse, midwife.” The Roman Maia appears to be related to magnus, meaning “great” and source of such words as magnify.
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