If you were born on a Wednesday, then the story you might tell yourself, on repeat, is that those sad, dark, dramatic feelings are your birthright. You’ll never be happy. How could you be? You’re the child born full of woe, as the poem goes. If only your mother had gone into labor just a few hours sooner, you’d be full of grace.
Fun fact: The original Addams family daughter, invented and drawn by Charles Addams for his cartoons in The New Yorker, did not have a name until the television series was created. By her own account (written in a letter to The New Yorker in July 2018), a woman named Joan Blake gave Addams the idea for the name, saying (again, by her own account), “Wednesday’s child is full of woe.”
For those who count Sunday as the first day of the week, Wednesday’s smack in the middle. It’s also, of course, smack in the middle of the work week, or what we used to call the work week, before the pandemic.
The English name for this day, Wednesday, is a nod to the Norse god Odin (Anglo-Saxon name Woden), god of wisdom and divination (among other things). Like Janus, Woden/Odin could see the past and the future. Like Mercury (mercredi…), Woden/Odin could travel through all worlds and was a bit tricky to deal with.
So, back to the start: How did Wednesday’s child become full of woe in that silly poem that may have been written only as an exercise to teach the names of the days of the week?
What I found, when poking around wasn’t much help, either.
The “Monday’s Child” poem, in the form that survives today (and the version that I learned from my mother) first appeared in A.E. Bray’s 1838 Traditions of Devonshire. But a different version, printed in the 1870s, puts all that woe on Thursday and gives Wednesday a very different outlook.
But the “Wednesday woe” version is the one that endures, the one people still read/recite today, even though telling a child they’re full of woe is a completely shitty thing to do, ever. Period.
You’re wondering what the point is, right?
Simple: The stories we choose to tell ourselves, the stories we choose to believe, are just that. They’re stories. And this story about Wednesday is a way of illustrating how easy it is to give meaning to meaningless ideas, how an unhelpful myth about moodiness could lead to unhealthy mental gymnastics.
Know who feels those Wednesday-themed sad, dark, dramatic feelings?
Feelings are normal. Having feelings is normal. Recognizing feelings as feelings is healthy, no matter what day of the week you entered this fine, funky world.
So, happy Wednesday.
Want to read more about why Wednesday is called Wednesday, and about Woden’s/Odin’s daughter, Night? Here’s a fun post about it — and the writer makes proper use of the word “myriad.” Swoon….
Try this one, an oldie but goodie (and super easy) (and in season): Pappardelle with Pancetta, Broccoli Rabe, and Pine Nuts (Bon Appetit)