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What’s februum, you may ask? A means of ritual purification. Censorinus claims that 'anything that consecrates or purifies is a februum,' while februamenta signifies rites of purification. Items can become purified, or februa, 'in different ways in different rites.' The poet Ovid concurs on this origin, writing in his Fasti that 'the fathers of Rome called purification februa'; the word (and maybe the rite) was of Sabine origin, according to Varro’s On the Latin Language. Purification was a big deal, as Ovid mockingly quotes, 'Our ancestors believed every sin and cause of evil/Could be erased by rites of purification.' The sixth-century A.D. writer Johannes Lydius had a slightly different interpretation, stating, 'The name of the month of February came from the goddess called Februa; and the Romans understood Februa as an overseer and purifier of things.' Johannes stated that Februus meant 'the underground one' in Etruscan, and that deity was worshipped for fertility purposes. But this may have been an innovation specific to Johannes’s sources...
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