Today is the first day of February.
But have you ever wondered where the name of month comes from?
You might know January is named after Janus. He was the Roman god of the doorway, (the Latin word for door is ianua), which is fitting given January is the entrance to the year.
March is also named after a god: Mars, the Roman god of war, as the beginning of Spring marked the start of the military campaigning season.
But what about February?
It may surprise you to learn that February was named after the Roman purification ritual of Februa, an ancient rite which was later subsumed by the purging and fertility festival of Lupercalia.
The 1st century historian Plutarch described Lupercalia like this:
“At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.”
These thongs, leather whips cut from sacrificed goats, were also called Februa. Look closely at the central figure in the mosaic depicting the Roman month of Februarius above, and you’ll see a whip.
In other words, the roots of February’s name are in an ancient naked whipping festival.
Isn’t it funny how countless millions around the world will see and write the word February this month, and never wonder about its origins. The kinky secret hidden by the ancients in plainsight.
Of course, those in on the secret have long appreciated the virtues of flogging; for us, it has always been worth celebrating.