The name February comes from Februa - a ritual purification or purging--particularly with water-- that happened from the 13th - 15th of this month. Februa was observed in many areas throughout the ancient Mediterranean. Lupercalia was one of the most popular festivals celebrated by the ancient Romans. The celebrations were meant to send evil spirits packing and purify the city-- thus clearing the way for health and fertility. Makes sense. Apparently, clearing the gunk made folks mighty giddy: descriptions of the festival sound carnival-like. Plutarch described Lupercalia as follows:
Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
Well, naked for them, anyway. Other descriptions say the youths were "naked save for a goat pelt". In part, Lupercalia honored Lupa, the She-Wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. The festival was centered around her cave on the Palatine Hill, the hill where Rome was reportedly founded. Two male goats and a dog--symbols of fertility-- were sacrificed at the beginning of the festival, and the "shaggy thongs" that were used by the streaking youths to strike the women & girls lining the streets came from the hides of the sacrificed animals. Vestal virgins prepared savory mealcakes that were burnt as an offering. All the rituals revolved around bringing forth and purifying the new energy of spring.
There was a love lottery during Lupercalia. Girls' name were put in a jar and drawn by the boys. The pair would be "coupled" during the festival. Many matches fared so well they ended up lasting much longer.
As you can imagine, the Church wasn't pleased with many aspects of this festival that has also been identified with Faunus/Pan, but they knew they couldn't put an outright ban on something so popular. They began to make changes that eventually ended up with the Valentine's that we know today.
I had my doors open yesterday here in Arizona, and spent the morning in the garden pulling weeds. It seems my spirit is already aligned with the idea of spring cleaning. Since Mercury is in Retrograde through the rest of the month, this is a good time to clean out, reflect, and recharge. What do you need to clear away to facilitate health and creative fruit in your life and your relationships? What do you need to clear away to meet your goals for this year?
Februa's cleansing is water-based. Water--the birth place and sustainer of all life-- is a symbol for emotions. Are there emotions you need to release and let wash through you? Doing so frees us from weights that have been pulling us down and seals up the gaps that get us hooked and triggered. What fruit would you be able to nourish and bear if you let go?
Take some time to love you and yours deeper, truer, and more fully this season. What does that look like for you?