February is the month for purification among other things
Legend has it February is the shortest month of the year due to it being shorn a day to assuage the ego of Augustus Caesar who felt 31 days in his month was necessary for him to be on a par with Uncle Julius.
Historical evidence, however, suggests it got shortchanged for other reasons as the Romans bumbled through the task of creating a calendar that accurately kept track of the earth’s revolution around the sun as well as the moon’s treks around the earth.
An unintended result is that, with only 28 days, February is the only month that can boast it is in sync with the moon’s phases, which is what a month is supposed to be all about.
With January being the coldest month of the year, it stands to reason that things will get better in February. And they do. The National Weather Service notes, “February stands out as having relatively uneventful weather and joins September and October for the quiet months of the year.”
That means we can chill while warming our cockles, heart-shaped—note the valentine motif—little mollusks, knowing that it is getting warmer even if the thermometer suggests it is still freezing-butt cold.
Astrologically, February is the primary month of Aquarius, ruled by Uranus, which drives change and shatters traditions. Accordingly, February lists several rabble-rousers, including our two greatest presidents—Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, whose birthday is on the Aquarius-Pisces cusp—and your local liberal columnist, on its docket.
Two other celebrated dates are Groundhog Day, which correlates to Imbolc, and Valentine’s Day, which correlates to Lupercalia, a Roman festival.
Imbolc, the first day of spring for Pagans, is celebrated in anticipation of the regeneration of life. The old crone of winter gives way to the maiden who begins to blossom near the vernal equinox around March 21. Persephone is permitted to leave the gloomy underworld for a six-month stay with her mother Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.
February gets its name from the Latin word februa, which means purification. For the Romans and other cultures like the Etruscans before them, personal cleansing of the spirit and the body was timely after a winter of indolence.
Lupercalia, the festival of purification, was celebrated on February 15, the ides of the month. Young men would run through the town donned only in goat skins, striking women as they sped by. It was symbolic of fertility, drawing on the archetype of the time for the demise of the crone and the arrival of the fertile maiden.
Valentinus, according to legend, was a third-century CE (common era) priest who decided to defy the emperor and continued to marry young lovers. The emperor ostensibly had declared a ban on young guys marrying because he believed that married young men did not serve as well in the military as unmarried ones.
The myth also makes sense from an astrological point of view, for Valentinus was exhibiting a key Aquarian characteristic: challenging authority.
As they did with the Roman feast of Saturnalia to be the birthday of Jesus, early Christians hijacked the February events to rid them of their pagan heritage.
The Catholic Church, for example, celebrates the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus on February 2nd, timed to be, not so coincidentally, 40 days after his birth. Mosaic Law and custom, rooted in the cycle of the moon, also called for purification practices.
Since the prudish old bishops were aghast at the sight of buff young buffs running nearly in the buff through the public square, Valentine was elevated to sainthood and rewarded with the accompanying feast day to replace Lupercalia.
For Americans, February is black history month, which found its beginning in 1926 when folks decided to honor African Americans who contributed mightily to the unfolding of American history but had been ignored like runaway slave Crispus Attucks, the first American to die for our independence in the Boston Massacre in 1770.
In 1976, at the bicentennial of the country, the full month of February was dedicated to that purpose.
Over time, February has become a period of hope, the symbolism of which has been magnified with the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Interestingly enough, this year, three days prior to the Ides of February, we will be celebrating the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.
It would be great if we could get Mr. Obama to come to Clear Creek to share with us his insights on all this, but since he is busy trying to save our economic backsides, Brock Cureton, one of our Clear Creek African American neighbors, Studebaker aficionado, and story-teller extraordinaire, has agreed to join me on KYGT on Saturday, February 7th at 3:00 to share his.
In the meantime, consider doing a detox by wrapping yourself in a goat skin and doing a brisk run around the town. It just might help melt off your winter fat and give your neighbors a chance to see you from another perspective.