To those few people who harken back and actually celebrate the traditional western holidays, today is the third day of purification. On the 15th of Februarius, the ritual cleansing took place, Februa.
The connection between the names Februa and that of our contemporary month of February is obvious. February or Februarius was named after the festival. A later Roman God, Februus, was also named after the festival, as well. This is unusual in that other months were named after gods or important leaders. For instance the month of January (Januarius) was named for Janus and March (Martius) honors the god of war, Martus.
The Februa festival ran from the 13th through the 15th of Februarius. Interestingly, these are the same dates of the Lupercalia festival. Sometimes the sheer number of Roman holidays caused these overlaps. The reason for this overlap is that the founding of the temple to Lupercus was on the 15th of Februrarius.
The god Lupercus was the Roman incarnation of our old friend, the Greek god Pan. This coincides with the more ancient holiday Februa.
A colorful description of Lupercalia comes down to our time through the writings of Plutarch. He wrote: “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.”
Lupercalia, of course, was the precursor to our contemporary Valentine’s holiday. The Lupercalia festival was established by the Sabine tribe of central Italy many years before the establishment of the kingdom and republic of Rome. The significance of Lupercalia is further complicated by the fact that the holiday also partially commemorates the she-wolf Lupa. Lupa is the legendary wolf who suckled the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.
The cave where Lupa nurtured the two orphans goes by the name Lupercal. It is at the site of the Palatine Hill where legend states that Rome was founded.
In many respects, not only are Februa and Lupercalia physical, ritual holidays, they honor the importation of the Olympian Pantheon, Greek culture and laws, along with the founding of Rome. These are very important contents of the foundation of our own culture.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hopes you enjoyed this flashback to these earthy holidays.