February comes from the Latin februa, literally “tools of purification”. In ancient Roman times the term februa indicated a large variety of purification implements, such as the clothes used to asperse the blood of sacrificial victims, the toasted spelt focaccia salty buns held by the priest during the purification of homes, and whatever was employed for purification purposes. From februa comes the verb februare, “to purify”.
Februus was also the Roman god of purification.
Imagine that you had gone all your life without ever washing, and then one day you decide to take a shower. You start scrubbing away, but then watch in horror as the dirt begins to ooze out of the pores of your skin and stream down your body. Something must be wrong: You were supposed to be getting cleaner and all you can see is grime. You panic and fling yourself out of the shower, convinced that you should never have begun. But you only end up even more dirty than before. You have no way of knowing that the wisest thing to do is to be patient and to finish the shower. It may look for a while as if you are getting even dirtier, but if you keep on washing, you will emerge fresh and clean. It’s all a process, the process of purification. Whenever doubt arises, see it simply as an obstacle, recognize it as an understanding that is calling out to be clarified or unblocked, and know that it is not a fundamental problem but simply a stage in the process of purification and learning. Allow the process to continue and complete itself, and never lose your trust or resolve. This is the way followed by all the great practitioners of the past, who used to say: ‘There is no armor like perseverance’.
The first two days of February have since ancient times been celebrated as a midwinter sacred festival in honour of the upcoming return of the Sun. This is the decisive time of midwifery, when the divine mother enters into the final gestation for spring. It is also Candlemas, a celebration devoted to candles (for our article on Candlemas please click here)
Image: John William Waterhouse, 1896, Hylas and the Nymphs