In the belly of February we lie, existing in a liminal space where sighs of spring and the waxing light blossoms in-between snowflakes. Like goddesses in mythology, our bodies are stretching, awakening limbs, muscles, senses and hearts from underneath the layers of winter’s necessary hibernation.
In ancient Roman times, February marked Februalia or Februa, the month of ritual purification of body, home, and city. Another type of ritual purification occurred February 13-15th with Lupercalia, where the Lupercai, priests of the god Pan, would run around drunk and usually nude, whipping women with strips of leather hide with the intention of cleansing—and to increase fertility. Sacrifices of goats and dogs in honor of Juno would also take place, their hides turned into proper whips, and the Roman streets became filled with nude and intoxicated citizens: a thoroughly pagan purification rite. Valentine’s Day on February 14th may or may not have replaced Lupercalia after the martyrdom of two different Valentines not long after Lupercalia’s demise.
Despite being the shortest month, February is a time of igniting, stoking and illuminating one’s internal, eternal flame. While many associate February with the equally beloved and dreaded Saint Valentine’s Day, my vision of love is restored, clarified and re-envisioned every February with invocations to Celtic goddess and saint Brigid. Goddess of fire, purification, fertility, crafts, midwifery, poetry and more, Bride, Brighid, Brig, or Brigantia, means “high or exalted one,” and her lore can be found throughout Ireland, the United Kingdom and parts of Western Europe. As a goddess, Brigid is one of the oldest, primordial and greatest in Celtic mythology, part of the pantheon Tuatha DeDanann, and “tribe of the gods,” of a Gaelic Pre-Christian Ireland.
Allegedly born by the town of Kildare in 451AD, young Saint Brigid cared for the poor, became a nun, and her monastery at Kildare called the Church of the Oak was build above a pagan shrine dedicated to the goddess Brigid. At this monastery, Saint Brigid built a communal religious and spiritual life for other women and also created a school of art. At Kildare, nuns tended to an eternal flame, a tradition dating back to the pagan priestesses who burned an eternal flame to protect herds and bring about a plentiful harvest season.
While many of us are not interested in vows of chastity much like Saint Brigid and her sisters, there is something to be said for the purity of dedication to one’s calling. February’s Full Moon, a Supermoon on the 19th, is in Virgo, the sign of the maiden, an energy that requires significant alone time to hone its detailed crafts. With these final moments of winter, what part of your body, mind and heart needs such precise focus, attention and purification before welcoming in another’s energy to commingle?
In the seminal book on trauma, The Body Keeps The Score, author Bessel Van Der Kolk M.D. writes, “Our imagination enables us to leave our routine everyday existence by fantasizing about travel, food, sex, falling in love, or having the last word—all the things that make life interesting. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships.”
Van Der Kolk may not be a witch, yet his writings of imagination are so aligned with how important visualization is to witches when practicing magic. Before we can entwine ourselves with another soul, our vision of love, and how we desire to be loved, originates from within the heart of our private imagination. Like Brigid, tending to her eternal, sacred flame, the remainder of February is a love letter to ourselves, encouraging rites of purification large and small to prepare for the lush romantic stirrings of spring.
Image Credit: Lady Frieda Harris for the Thoth tarot deck, 1943