So where does the name “February” come from?

I started wondering about this yesterday (Thor’s Day as I discussed with a friend) and then realized I didn’t know the source of February, perhaps the oddest month-nomen in our set of 12.

Here’s what I found:

Middle English Februarius
Latin Februarius “of Februa
Latin Februa(s) “Februa” + -arius “ary (pertaining to)”
Latin Februarius mensis “month of Februa”
Latin dies februatus“day of purification”

Februarius had 28 days, until circa 450 BC when it had 23 or 24 days on some of every second year, until Julius when it had 29 days on every fourth year and 28 days otherwise.

Februa is the Roman festival of purification, held on February fifteenth. It is possibly of Sabine origin

Some sources connect the Latin word for fever (febris) with the same idea of purification or purging, due to the sweating commonly seen in association with fevers.

And this from Morbid Outlook:

As a rite of spring and the oncoming fertility brought to all of nature, the early Romans chose February 15th as a proper day to honor Lupercus, Faunus, and other gods and goddesses of fertility and protection. The ritual was named Lupercalia and involved two naked young men slaughtering a dog (symbolic wolf?) and a goat.
In addition to the blood sacrifice, vestal virgins affixed cakes of grain from the previous year’s harvest to the very fig tree believed to be the spot where Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf. The naked young men were ritually smeared with the blood of sacrifice, then wiped clean with milk-drenched wool.
Our symbolic Romulus and Remus then donned loincloths made from the skins and ran about the altar and into the city. The young women of the city proffered their flesh to the young men as they passed, for which they were lightly lashed with goatskin flails made from the sacrificial goat.
These whips were named “februa”, and give us the name of our current month. The lashing ostensibly promoted great fertility among the women and it was a joyous moment when the goatskin struck their flesh.
So if you got lashed with a Februa on Valentine’s Day, consider yourself historic ally accurate. :)
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About btchakir

Retired Theatre Producer, Graphic Designer, Usability Tester and General Troubleshooter with a keen interest in Politics and The Stage. Currently heard on WSHC, 89.7 FM (on line at www.897wshc.org) and occasionally dabbling in Community Theatre.

Posted on February 17, 2012, in Arts, creativity, Education, event, Family, funny, history, humor, Internet, Opinion, quote, Religion, Satire, wild things, Word from Bill, World News and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off.

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