Purification Festival, to Fertility Ritual, to Valentine’s Day: The Month of February

Wyatt and Gavin are apprehensive about this “purification” festival.

February, “the month of cleansing,” is derived from februa, the name of a Roman purification jubilee held on the 15th of this month.

The poet Ovid of Roman times believed, the Latin word februa (“the means of purification”) is derived from the older Etruscan word purgamentum, meaning “purging.” The Roman god Februus, named after the month, was the personification of purification.  {Sort of like a wash day effort without going to the laundromat.}

Februa was later incorporated into Lupercalia, a pastoral fertility and purification festival meant to purify the city by banishing evil spirits, associated with the god of shepherds Lupercus (“he who wards off the wolf’).  {The pagans preferred to celebrate fertility than worry about purification.}

After Lupercalia’s fertility rites were conducted, men drew the names of women from a jar to determine partners for the rest of the celebration.  {One might see the drawing of names from a hat as an early form of a on-line dating app on the computer.}

The early Christians wanted to get away from the idea of fertility gods.  However, the Christian faithful were romantics at heart.  So, because of this romantic partnering, Lupercalia is often seen as an early version of Valentine’s Day.  {Less about gods of fertility and more about saints of romance.}

In the 5th century, however, pagan customs began their decline as Christianity took hold in Rome. Eventually, these rituals would no longer be observed. {Today, all we have left of Roman purification festivals and pagan fertility rituals is the sharing of heart-filled greeting cards on Valentine’s Day.}