In February, Romans prepare for the coming of spring by purifying themselves, their homes, and their regions. “February” comes from februum (purgation), and the februa (expiatory rituals). Ceremonies for the Dead abound, since a part of purification is fulfilling the obligations to the Dead. For example, the Lupercalia and Quirinalia have specific purifications rites as a part of their rituals. In addition, the Terminalia and Fornacalia are a part of the worship of the Di Parentes (Parents). Meanwhile, the Feralia focused on all the Dead and the Parentalia on the Lar Familiaris (family spirit).
For Roman Polytheists, the focus on the Dead puts them outside the norm of Pagans, who usually follow the Wheel of the Year. For these Pagans, Samhain, held in October, is when the Dead walk the earth. Meanwhile, Imbolc, which is held in February, is the fire festival of Brighid. This time of restrained joy focuses on the returning of new life. In contrast, for Romans, February is the time that the Dead walk freely amongst the living.
Fornax and Quirinus
The Fornacalia is held between February 5 and 17. At this time, in ancient Rome, people brought grain to the communal ovens to be parched in the ancient manner of their fathers. Fornax, the Goddess of Bakers and Ovens, was invoked to keep the wheat from burning. The last day of the Fornacalia is the Quirinalia, also known as “The Feast of Fools.” This is the time that people who delayed bringing their grain came to fulfill their civic duty. Modern observances involved making bread from scratch, and making offerings to Juno Curitis (Juno of the Curia (Wards)).
Quirinus is thought to be the deified Romulus, and represents the Romans in their civic sense. “Quirites” is what officials addressed Roman citizens as. In their military capacity, Romans were called “Romani.”
Die Parentes and Di Manes (The Dead)
The Parentalia starts February 13 and runs through February 21. The Caristia on February 22 officially ends this period of venerating the Dead. During this time, the Lupercalia and Feralia are held. Each ritual focuses on a different aspect of purification, families, and the Dead. The Parentalia is a private ceremony that the family does to honor their dead. The Feralia entails visiting the graves and making offerings. The Caristia is a family feast, where all quarrels between family members are settled. Family unity is then cemented with the household Lars.
Faunus and Inuus
On February 15, the Lupercalia is held. Traditionally, sacrifices were made at the Lupercal Cave in Rome, where the She-Wolf nursed Romulus and Remus. This was followed by the Lupercii (young men) running through the streets striking women with the februa (goatskin whips). This was to insure fertility in the women. Traditional Gods of Fertility, Faunus and Inuus preside over the Lupercalia. Modern observances entail prayers for purification and fertility, the cleaning of the house and self, and offerings left in secluded areas.
The Terminalia, held on February 23, honors the God of Boundaries. It is a time of purifying the land and redefining the boundaries between homes. The “beating of the bounds” which entails walking around the perimeter reestablishes the boundaries for another year. Cakes and wine are offered to Terminus during this activity.