Februa

The ancient Romans called the tools used for purification Februa and the purification rituals performed during the festival of Lupercalia (Also called dies Februatus, the day of purification or purging, February 15th.) were named for these tools, though februa of other sorts were used in other rites as well. The name for these tools was given also to the month in which it takes place, February (On the 15th). The Luperci priests would offer a goat in sacrifice and cut thongs from its flesh, these thongs were the februa. Then they circumambulated Palatine hill striking those that they met along the way with the thongs, which purified them. According to Plutarch1, women of childbearing age especially sought out this purification in hopes of increased fertility and easy childbirth.

It is probable that more material or practical activities like clearing fields for agriculture also took place during this time.

It is believed that this particular Februa ritual predated Rome considerably and may have been adopted from the Sabine culture. The word Februa means “to purge” or “to purify” and may be related to the word “fever” or febris, which is associated with purification by sweating.

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