The Two-Faced God


January is named after a very ancient Roman god, Janus. He is, without a doubt,   the ideal namesake for the opening  month on the Gregorian calendar. Janus had two faces, one looking back and one looking ahead.  Just what we tend to do as we begin the new year.  Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions. And of entrances, doorways, and portals.  Some of the areas that fall into the workspace of a "janitor", who, in a sense, is an unwitting etymological votary of the god.

Because of his 'double  vision', Janus was dubbed "Bifrons"---"Two-Faced".  Cicero and Ovid believed his name derived from the Latin verb, 'ire', 'to go'.  Scholars think his name  ultimately stems from the Sanskrit word 'yana' meaning 'a going or passing'.  And Janus ,coincidentally, is  tied to the momentous western passage of European civilization to America led by Christopher Columbus.  Janus , in the Middle Ages, was the symbol of Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus . So the similarity of Genoa and Janus is no accident.

January and Janus remind us  today to reflect on the past and to  imagine the future.  The ancient language that ultimately gave us both January and Janus, Sanskrit,  had something to say about all stages of time. "Look to this day. For yesterday is but a dream; and tomorrow is only a vision. But today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

Happy today and every day of the rest of the year!

Leave a comment