It was mainly to do with it being the topic (set by me) for our writing group that I researched and then wrote about Janus, the god of January. However it was also to do with being the New Year, and also my birthday month. Now with a different writing group, one that I lead, I am thinking about what to set them to write for their next assignment, and as writing about Janus/January produced such interesting things from the other group, I’ve decided that I will ask them to do something similar. Similar… but not the same, because I’m going to get them thinking about February!
February, the second month of the year, the last month of winter and unique because it only has twenty-eight days, except when it has twenty-nine. This suggests individuality, inconsistency, going its own and different way from the other months. However, it was named by the Romans after the Latin word februum; which means purification and in turn comes from, a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral annual festival. The actual festival was Lupercalia, which became known as dies Februatus, i.e. februated day, because the instruments of purification were called Februa. It was observed in the city of Rome on February 15, to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. By the way, Lupercalia is not the same as the she-wolf, Lupercal, who was the foster-mother of Romulus and Remus.
As with many gods, festivals and observances, the church took over and Christianised many of those things associated with February… St Valentine of course… and the origins of St Valentine’s Day was probably Lupercalia! Between 13th and 15th of February, sacrifices were made, often a goat and a dog. All sorts of stories abound about what happened during that crazy time, with people striking each other, and something which sounds like an ancient version of keys on the coffee table in which unmarried men had a lottery – the names of unmarried women were drawn from a jar… and I leave the rest to your imagination! Emperor Claudius II executed two men on the same day but different years, February 14th, and the church created a saint with the men’s name, Valentine… convenient The other Christian festival which has very ancient roots is what is now known as St Brigid’s Day, February 1st, was originally Imbolc, an ancient Celtic festival which has been celebrated in one way or another for over six thousand years.
Here’s an interesting article about St Brigid:
February now is associated with the astrological signs, Aquarius, the water carrier, and Pisces the fishes. The water-carrier was Ganymede, the beautiful cup-bearer to the gods. The two fish of Pisces are a very ancient symbol, going back in Greek, Egyptian any Sumerian mythology. The month’s flower is the violet, the common primrose and Iris, and if you believe in birthstones, it’s the amethyst, symbolising piety, humility, spiritual wisdom, and sincerity.
So February… purity and purification, averting evil spirits, releasing good health and fertility, crazy love fests, names in a jar/keys on the coffee table, execution, love, romance, birth, babies, children, individuality, self-reliance, dreamy, imaginative….
For the last month of winter, February has a lot going on!