February – Februa’s Month
Middle English: Februarius
Latin: Februarius (of Februa)
Latin: Februarius mensis (month of Februa)
Latin: dies februatus (day of purification)
Februarius had 28 days, until about 450 BC when it had 23 or 24 days on some of every second year. The Julian calender counts 28 days, and 29 days on every fourth year.
Februa is the Roman festival of (ritual) purification, held on February the 15th.
From The Stories of the Months and Days
By Reginald C. Couzens, 1923
CHAPTER II –
February–The Month of Purification
This month was originally the last month in the year. The name is taken from a Latin word, februare, meaning “to make pure”.
In the Palatine Hill, another of the seven hills of Rome, was a cave dug in the rock, and in it stood an image of the god Lupercus covered with a goat’s skin. Lupercus was the God of Fertility or springing into life, and on the 15th of February a great festival was held in his honour. Sacrifices of goats and dogs were made; then the priests cut up the skins of the goats, twisted the pieces into thongs, and ran through the city striking all who came in their way. As in the very earliest times it was the shepherds who held this festival, it is thought that this running about with thongs meant the purifying of the land. The idea of the whole festival seems to have been one of purifying, of a new life, so the name chosen for the month in which it was held was one formed from a word meaning “to make pure”.
There are some who think that Lupercus was the same as Pan, the God of the Shepherds. The Greeks and the Romans imagined the mountains, the valleys, the woods, and the rivers to be peopled with lesser gods and goddesses, whose task of caring for the trees, the flowers, and the grass was appointed them by Jupiter. The woodland gods were known as Satyrs, and like their leader, Pan, were half man and half goat. Another famous satyr was Silenus, who was put in charge of Bacchus, one of Jupiter’s sons, and the God of Wine. Silenus taught Bacchus, and accompanied him on his travels on the earth. The God of Wine rode in a chariot drawn by wild beasts, Silenus following him on an ass, and with them a merry company of nymphs and satyrs crowned with ivy leaves, who danced and sang and made music in praise of Bacchus.
It is interesting to note that just as the Romans held a ceremony of purification during the month of February, so the Christian Church holds the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary on the second day of the month. The feast is called by Roman Catholics, Candlemas, because it is the custom to have a procession in which candles are carried, and it is on this occasion that the candles to be used in the church during the year are consecrated.
The weather at Candlemas is said to show what the weather will be like during the year, and an old proverb says:
“If Candlemas is fair and clear,
There’ll be twa winters in the year”.
The Old English name for February was Sprout-Kale, since the cabbage begins to sprout at this time of the year. It was later changed to Solmonath–sun month–because it is the time when the sun rises higher in the sky and begins to drive away the chill of winter with its glowing rays.