February 15 – Lupercalia

Posted on February 15, 2018

Today's holiday, Lupercalia, is so ancient, it may have been celebrated before the Ancient Roman Empire!

The name seems to harken back to the Ancient Latin word for "wolf," which was lupus. Some scholars think the celebration was linked to a wolf festival in Ancient Greece, but it's difficult to get enough evidence to be sure.

The main thing about Lupercalia had nothing to do with wolves; instead, it was all about cleaning or purifying the city of Rome. Back then, people believed that there were evil spirits; by getting rid of the evil spirits, people could ensure health and fertility (lots of babies!) in the coming year.

The ancient religious ceremony is disturbing to most modern folks. It involved the sacrifice of a goat, an offering of salty cakes, smearing the faces of two young priests with blood from the goat, and finally cleaning their faces with wool soaked in milk. Then there was a feast. Finally, young men ran with goatskins, and the women who touched the goatskins as they ran by were thought to be magically helped in getting pregnant or (if already pregnant) giving birth.

Another name for the holiday will seem familiar to you: it was also called dies Februatus, which translates to "februated day."

Since the day is smack in the middle of February, we think that the month got its name from the holiday.

So...what does "februated day" mean?

It refers to the "instruments of purification" - in Latin februa (plural) or februum (singular) - which means the materials and objects used during a purification ceremony. Apparently, a bit of wool soaked in milk, used to wipe the faces of young priests, is one example of a februum.

I have always wondered where the name February comes from. Most months are named after Roman gods or goddesses (Janus, Mars, Maia, Juno), or great leaders (Julius, Augustus), or numbers (septum, octo, novem, decem). April and February were the puzzling ones...

February is winter in the Northern Hemisphere...

In February of 2015, Canada was hit with a major cold streak.
Above, Niagara Falls.
Below, there were so many snowed-in cars on the streets...

...that an artist decided to carve a car out of snow.
A police officer pulled over to give a ticket, realized it was just snow,
and wrote a note instead of a ticket:
You made our night! Ha ha ha!
Above, Finland
Below, Russia

Along the equator, winter and summer aren't as important...

Above, Ecuador
Below, Indonesia

Apparently this is the only time it snowed in the Sahara in recorded history!

February is summer in the Southern Hemisphere...

Above and below, Australia


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