THE name of the last month of the old Roman year is derived from the word februum, usually understood as an instrument of purification1. This word, and its derivatives were, as we shall see, best known in connexion with the Lupercalia, the most prominent of the festivals of the month. Now the ritual of the Lupercalia seems to suggest that our word 'purification' does not cover all the ground occupied by the 'religio' of that festival; nor does it precisely suit some of the other rites of February. We are indeed here on difficult and dangerous ground. Certainly we must not assume that there was any general lustration of the whole people, or any period corresponding in religious intent to the Christian Lent, which in time only is descended from the Roman February. Assuredly there were no such ideas as penitence or forgiveness of sins involved in the ritual of the month. Let so much be said for the benefit of those who are only acquainted with Jewish or Christian history.
What at least is certain is that at this time the character of the festivals changes. Since the middle of December we have had a series of joyful gatherings of an agricultural people in homestead, market-place, cross-roads; now we find them fulfilling their duties to their dead ancestors at the common____________________